THE OPEN ROOM

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Our new reality of social distancing has us rethinking how we entertain. While we may not be comfortable bringing guests inside our homes, outdoor spaces allow us peace of mind that we are being responsible and putting enough fresh mountain air between ourselves and our guests. Our need for social connection is arguably stronger than ever, and The Open Room in Ketchum stocks an assortment of high-end outdoor furniture and accessories to bring the indoor experience outside.

Heather Newhouse, owner of The Open Room, has a vision for outdoor living that brings people together. In the time of social distancing, Heather offers optimism for a future of entertaining tastefully and stylishly in the comfort of our own outdoor spaces.

For Heather, her work is about being part of the community. She has owned the Ketchum-based business since 2011. She remembers clients’ names and what color umbrellas they have bought. At the crux of her work is her innate desire to create personalized spaces that make everyone feel good.

“We want people to enjoy their homes and in the best possible way,” she says. “Our job is to find products that can withstand our intense sun at elevation and our winters. We make sure our pieces fit your lifestyle, budget, and style.”

“People are spending a lot more time in the Sun Valley region than usual. they’re settling into their homes and there’s a desire to make them more comfortable. Umbrellas are popular during the day because of our intense sun at elevation. Then, when the sun goes down and it gets cold, firepits and patio heaters come into play.”
–Heather Newhouse, Owner, The Open Room

Visiting The Open Room is enjoyable because it is a small, family-owned business. Levi, Heather’s older son, was ten when they moved to Ketchum. Now 19, he and his younger brother, Sawyer, help Heather’s team deliver furniture around the Sun Valley region. Heather says, “We’re small and it’s real.”

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Refreshing the Outdoor Space

Heather is selling a lot of firepits and umbrellas lately. She explains, “People are spending a lot more time in the Sun Valley region than usual, some having been in town since March. Instead of spending only a few weeks here a year, they’re settling into their homes and there’s a desire to make them more comfortable. Umbrellas are popular during the day because of our intense sun at elevation. Then, when the sun goes down and it gets cold, firepits and patio heaters come into play.”

Another timeless way to incorporate firepits into an outdoor space is to set four Adirondack chairs around a big bowl pit. Heather has also seen an uptick in people wanting firepits with flat covers. They serve a dual purpose of functioning as a coffee table during the day, and then providing warmth at night.

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Recently, Heather “brought the indoor out” for a patio that had previously been completely empty. After an initial consultation on-site, Heather’s team loaded up their truck with pillows, a firepit, and a sectional sofa, and styled the patio.

The home had neutral colors, so Heather had asked what the homeowner’s favorite colors were. They gave him two options, one neutral with grays and beiges, and one with pops of his favorite colors, which were blue and green. “We did two reveals,” recalls Heather. “It was a lot of fun, and he ultimately picked the one with the color.”

Business Outside

The Open Room’s business has propitiously evolved in the wake of COVID-19. Outdoor furniture is meant to be outdoors, which is exactly where Heather is showing much of her assortment. Customers are still able to see and touch furniture in its intended space.

“The other day we had a customer shop for a table from her car. She asked if we had any square dining tables and we told her we had some on display in our backyard. She drove down the alley where we receive shipments to see the tables out back, and went home to measure her space without ever getting out of the car,” Heather says. “It was our first drive-by consultation!”

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The Open Room uniquely serves the local community because people can see, feel, and touch quality outdoor pieces right in Sun Valley. They do not have to shop solely from a picture online or in a catalog. Instead, they can shop in person and have it delivered immediately. Unlike a big city-based chain, Heather frequently sends people home with her fabric books to see what will feel right to them in their homes.

House Calls

In-home consultations have always been a part of The Open Room’s services. They are more popular now. “My work is about creating environments where people are comfortable. Curbside delivery meets that comfort level for some people. Other times, it’s best for me to stand in your backyard or patio so we can discuss what would work in the space,” explains Heather.

Heather has been making roughly two at-home visits a day this season. She’ll sometimes go at sunset to help figure out where an umbrella should be placed or how big it should be.

Field trips are another exciting evolution of The Open Room’s business. Heather recently took one customer, with permission, to another customer’s backyard to look at large cantilever umbrellas they were considering buying. The potential buyers were concerned that they would not be able to move the 400-pound umbrellas across their flagstone pavers. Heather had recently sold one of the umbrellas to another client, and was able to facilitate a demo that turned into an introduction for two neighbors.

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“We walked over and the neighbor who owned the umbrella showed it to the neighbor who was considering it. He showed them how it worked and let them push it around his backyard, which also had similar pavers. The clients who were considering buying the umbrellas felt more confident ordering it after that experience, and they got to meet new neighbors too,” says Heather.

The connections Heather makes become long-term relationships. Customers know they can reach out to The Open Room if they have any issues. Customer service is personalized as much as design and planning individual spaces.

A touching story from The Open Room’s recent business is how creating an outdoor living space brought generations of a family back together for weekly family dinners. A grandmother came to Heather and told her that she normally would have family dinner every Sunday, but since COVID-19, they had not done dinner. She was missing her kids and grandkids. “I think if I have a nice table and chairs outside, my kids will come,” the customer told Heather.

They sat and planned the space for two hours, and ultimately delivered a statement dining table to her deck. Heather called the following Monday to check in. “She was so overjoyed that she’d had her family dinner. They’ve done it every week on the deck since,” beams Heather. “The family didn’t feel comfortable coming indoors, but they were ok with dining outside at a distance.”

The Open Room is an uplifting place that supports our evolving lives. Heather is an expert who knows how to pick exactly the right pieces for the right place. Her raw instinct could not have been more spot-on, recently, when a cat with a collar came into the shop and insisted on sitting in a chair in Heather’s office. The chair had pillows from Elaine Smith with hangtags that read, “Drool on me,” advertising their durability and that they were pet-friendly.

“We’re all still learning every day, and it’s evolving,” reflects Heather. “The one thing we can all agree on is that being in the open space of our backyards is the way to socialize.”

To have a custom consultation for your outdoorspace, or to learn more about The Open Room,call Heather at 208.622.0222 or visit openroomfurniture.com