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Size matters

This Beaverton furniture store specializes in pieces that fit comfortably in retirement or assisted care facilities
by: Mikel Kelly, Carol Director demonstrates the size and comfort of the “tight-back sofa,” which is 75 inches long, including the curl of the arms. Typically, a couch runs from an average of 85 inches to 92 or 93.

Everything but cell phones is getting bigger these days - kitchens, SUVs, restaurant portions, you name it. But Carol and Scott Director have discovered a need for something smaller.

Furniture.

The owners of Scott Director's ('The Custom Furniture Company') at 9340 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway have become specialists at serving customers moving into much smaller quarters, especially retirement and assisted living facilities.

They started noticing some time ago that people were coming in looking for smaller-scale couches, chairs, tables, lamps and other accessories.

'What we have discovered,' says Carol, 'is either the retired couple moving to Claremont or the single, older woman in assisted living' needs to downsize their furniture. It is, she says, 'a broad category of what we call retirement.'

'Most of the product out there is oversized - big arms, deep seats,' says Carol, walking toward the section of the 6,000-square-foot store where they display their 'gracious retirement living' pieces.

'You take an older woman, who's maybe 5-foot-3,' says Carol, sitting on a light green sofa with a low back, short seat depth and small, rounded arms at each end. 'The big furniture is just too big.'

This 'tight-back' model, Carol explains, is a mere 33 inches from the wall to the front - a significant difference from the typical couch, which measures a whopping 36 to 38 inches, or even more.

On this piece, she says, 'They can sit down, and they can get up.'

Sound like a minor thing to you? Well, it's not, according to the Directors. And older buyers are noticing it, too.

'We have seen over and over that this is not being addressed,' said Carol. 'And it's not out there on the market.'

Another variation on the same theme is what's being experienced by baby boomers suddenly saddled with having to care for older parents. Their furniture is too big for wherever they're going, she says, and there's a cost issue as well.

Number one seller

'They move the parent here from Texas, and at that point it's not cost-effective to move the furniture.'

The Directors' solutions to this need is an assortment of quality furniture that will fit in the retired person's new space.

Like the low-profile sofa, the Directors offer a scaled-down (but still well-made and comfortable) recliner. 'The William' is a scant 32 inches wide, it's easy to get in and out of and, of the many models the store carries, says Scott, 'This one is our number one seller, by far.'

One special feature of The William is that it only needs 1 inch of clearance from the wall to operate, saving valuable floor space.

'If you go into the retirement community spaces, everything is against the wall,' says Scott, sliding into the dark brown leather model on his showroom floor. 'And, as I like to tell our customers, all you need is just your pinkie.'

With that, he extends the little finger on his right hand, reaches down to a lever at the side of the chair and, with no visible exertion, raises the foot rest. And, because the chair floats in the reclining position to whatever position is comfortable, says Scott, 'You can personalize it.'

The store has tables, lamps and other accessories that are sure to fit in a small assisted living unit, too.

Carol points out a multi-purpose folding table with two smaller tables folded and tucked underneath it.

'When they're moving from a 4,000-square-foot home, their end tables are always too big,' she says.

Not small, traditional

And there's a small tea table that looks like a food serving tray with legs, thanks to the handles on either end. It's easy to pick up and move, even for an older person without a lot of upper body strength, she says.

'If there's a common thread throughout all of this program that Carol is detailing,' said Scott, 'it's the scale.'

The smaller dimensions keep a small room in balance, and it just feels better.

'Visually, it's comforting to them,' he says.

Ironically, says Carol, 'This is the scale that furniture used to be. It's not small, it's just traditional.'

Bear in mind, says Scott, that this older furniture customer is going to do most of his or her living in one small area.

'They've got to make their rooms multi-purpose because they don't have the living room and the family room. They've got the one room, and that's it.'

The Directors almost discovered this market by accident.

'People would come in after having shopped, and they were just forlorn,' says Scott.

Something else their older shoppers appreciate, says Carol, is the care they take to anticipate the buyer's worries and frustrations, beginning with the trouble it can take for an older person just to visit a store. So they don't need to climb in and out of their car a half-dozen times, like they would if they were visiting furniture stores all over town.

'We've got all of them right here to look at,' she says.

'And once an older person in a retirement home has made a purchase, that's not the end of it,' she adds, explaining that Scott Director's will take care of all the arrangements for delivery and set-up, even taking into account when mealtimes are, to avoid stressing out easily-stressed buyers. 'We work really hard to be accommodating.'

'A huge part

of our business'

One final touch that distinguishes Scott Director's from the competition is the assortment of fabric styles and colors, many of which appeal to older buyers but are not readily available everywhere.

'This is the other thing we do, a huge part of our business,' says Carol, spreading swatches of contrasting colors and patterns on a table. Rather than the plain, dark, modern colors and fabrics found elsewhere, she adds, the store carries a full line that includes 'tradition florals, mixed in with a lattice pattern or a stripe or a plaid.'

'This is what they want, and you can't find these fabrics anywhere else out there,' she says.

The store's reputation for filling the need of retirement living has just sort of spread, say the Directors, to the point where they were approached by the folks at the Beaverton Lodge to outfit their common area with furniture.

'It was a huge endorsement that they came here, got our product and put it in their lobby,' says Carol.

'The thing is, we can help people,' she insists. 'If they come in and say 'I've got 8 feet,' 'I've got 6 feet,' we can come over here and see how this looks.'

Carol offers one other tip to furniture shoppers: Bring in measurements of the space you're working with, or the vase you want to coordinate colors with or an example of whatever you're trying to accomplish.

'If they bring stuff, it just makes it easier to see the colors, the textures, an angle,' she says. 'We give a lot of help, a lot of help.'

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Scott Director's, The Custom Furniture Company, is open Monday through Saturday10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The phone number is 503-292-9411.