Modern Venture

You and [business partner] Pui Panich have worked in design for a long time. What made you want to open (context)?
Pui and I, with this whole venture, want to be more like curators, to help educate people coming in [the store] about design, and about the reason for purchasing this type of modern design. I think that people are more influenced by the environment, are more world traveled, they’re not just buying what their next-door neighbor has.

What is the meaning of (context)?
It means putting design in context, to be able to relate to design. I went through probably about 100 names, and (context) was just one of those names that was so easy to relate to.

What do you think is a common misconception about modern design?
Contemporary [design] is a lot easier to live with than you think, because with this type of furniture, less is more. You really don’t need a lot of furniture, whereas in other environments you have sofas with skirts, end tables with lamps on each side, and it just kind of goes on and on. But people are seeing they just don’t need all that. It’s like that with your wardrobe. If you could just have two really nice dresses, two suits and some accessories, you’d wear them every day and feel awesome about yourself, rather than having this huge wardrobe and never finding anything to wear because it’s all lost.

I’ve noticed there are no price tags in here. Why is that?
I don’t want people to come in and feel like it’s a stuffy environment. We want people to feel comfortable. I don’t want them to see an $18,000 price tag and bust out of here. That’s not what we’re about. Yes, one couch may cost $18,000 at the most, but it can also be $1,200, depending on the fabrics and other options. We can tell them the range, teach them about the construction and educate them, so they can work a few pieces into their home and still pay their bills that month.

How else is your philosophy different than others in the design business?

We started this business to work one-on-one with customers. It will always be Pui and myself dealing with the customers. Today in the industry, service has gotten so horrible. They just want to sell you a product and make a sale. I’m not going to sell you a whole house of furniture. I might sell you a few select pieces, but I can also direct you as to where you can go to buy other pieces.

What’s in store for (context)?

Now that I live and work downtown, I realize how much goes on here. Every weekend there’s some huge event going on, and we’re starting to get involved with the downtown civic community. In cultivating our store we are in turn cultivating these events.

75 John Wesley Dobbs Ave. NE,(404) 477-3301,