I’m in the market for furniture. I’ve been carefully ploughing through the stores and websites of local retailers in Barbados and also heading to websites of overseas retailers for inspiration and ideas. On the local front, I’ve had 3 main challenges.
Limited colour options
With the exception of accent chairs, there’s not much variety to the colour choices a picky buyer can get. I know more colour may seem risky for a big retailer who estimates that most buyers will play it safe and go with the regular cream, beige, and grey neutrals but in chatting with sales reps on the floor of these retail stores more and more customers are asking about new colours for living, dining, and other spaces.
Right style, wrong finish
Again, call me picky, but when you picture a piece in your home, you’re usually seeing how the texture and tones of the finish will integrate with everything else and it’s hard when you look at a piece that is the perfect style but the finish just won’t fly. Admittedly, there are some retailers with design centres where you can, for instance, have your choice of soft furnishings and even have re-upholstering done. If you wanted a quick visual of your options online though, that’s another story.
Product display without product dimensions
This applies to both in-store shopping and online shopping with many of the retailers on the island. At least when you’re in-store, you can whip out your handy measuring tape (if you’ve had the foresight to bring it along) or have a sales rep measure up for you. But I became frustrated with furniture retail websites where I could see only one image of the product and the description never even gave the dimensions of the piece, which is key when you want to know how that piece would fit into your space.
Enter Living Bliss Barbados
So anyway, I’d started thinking about how I could possibly work with a local joiner to produce the pieces that I envisioned when I saw an ad on Instagram that I’ll admit got me pretty excited. Part of the caption read, “Living Bliss Barbados is the first and only furniture retail company in Barbados to offer you a full 3D image of your furniture online. We also offer customization options online and a price is generated right at your fingertips.” The accompanying video was a demo on a product page of the website showing a bed, the 3D imaging and customisation options including choice of colour, type of wood, and size.
Although I don’t need a bed I wanted to see what other pieces this Living Bliss Barbados had to offer. But more so, I found myself applauding because it checked my boxes for buyer experience, personalisation, and the opportunity to buy local.
So, of course, I had to find out who was behind this new Bajan brand and luckily I found her. Ashlee Joseph-Ifill is the owner of and the brains powering the Living Bliss Barbados concept. She grew up watching her father, owner of Regal Furniture Manufacturing Co. Ltd., grow his furniture manufacturing business. His company has survived despite the steady decline of the industry over the years - back in 2007 a report on the industry by Dr. Jochen Statz and Dr. Christian Held had already cited a decade-long contraction of that commercial sector.
But Living Bliss has come out of a need for something new for a new generation of which Ashlee is very much a part. As she faced challenges of her own when trying to furnish her home, she worked with her father to have custom pieces made. Seeing how that turned out eventually led her to the Living Bliss Barbados concept. I met up with Ashlee late last year, just a month after the company’s launch, to find out more about the business which is now on my list of “favourite emerging Barbadian power brands”. The full conversation can be found on season 3, episode 1 of the Backstage with Bajan Brands podcast.