Planning a trip to Boston anytime soon? Here’s a tip for you: For Bostonians in the know about sustainable modern design that’s unique and tells a great story, Lekker Home is the ultimate destination. And not just for great home décor finds. It’s also a place to connect with a smart, passionate team that knows the details and thinking behind every piece in the collection, as if they’ve met the makers personally (in many cases, they have).
We stopped by the gorgeous showroom – located in Boston’s historic South End neighborhood, home to some of the city’s best restaurants, shops, galleries, and enchanting streets lined with brick row houses – to meet with Lekker’s Co-Founder and Creative Director, Natalie van Dijk. On YUME’s mission to foster a global community of like-minded sustainable design pioneers, Lekker turned out to be an ideal first stop – and Natalie a kindred spirit.
The Amsterdam-born founder talked about being on the front lines of modern in a traditional town, how the sustainable design conversation is changing – and what gets Natalie and her team excited to go to work every day.
YUME: What finally prompted you and your husband Curt to close up corporate shop and embark on this new design store adventure?
Natalie: I had worked in corporate retail at Ralph Lauren in NYC before moving up to Boston. Curt was working in sales in the IT sector, dealing with fortune 500 companies. We got married in Amsterdam, went on our honeymoon, and Curt’s first day back at work was an all-day sales conference call full off buzz words that he realized didn’t mean a thing. So that night he literally said to me,
“I am going to quit my job tomorrow, I don’t want to be doing this for the rest of my life.”
And so he did! We started really working on our business plan that same day. We opened the store 9 months later and never looked back.
How do you discover and select your products?
It’s a combination of things: Trade shows, trips to Holland, magazines, conversations, and inspiration from other shops. Then the decision becomes personal: Does it fit with what we’re trying to do? We have a great, diverse portfolio of companies and products now, so we’re much more selective about what we add to the collection.
Selective in what sense?
Well, sustainability comes back again and again. We ask ourselves: Is it durable? Honest? And is there a good story? If the designer behind the piece is interesting, that helps the conversation we have with our customers. They want to know who they’re aligning themselves with, and we want to learn something from the process. Customization options are of course, important as well. And whether it’s unique or available all over. We don’t believe in living room sets. Just as we search for unique pieces for our collection, we encourage our customers to cherry-pick what fits with their lifestyles. It needs to be designs that are well-made and will last a long while.
Has the conversation around sustainability changed in recent years?
Sustainable design has definitely become more mainstream. Of course, disposable furniture is doing well, too. It’s all part of the conversation – and sustainability is coming up earlier and is more important today. Our customers already know about FSC certification, about green fill. They know to ask specific questions, about topical chemical treatments, for instance. No one wants to bring a chemical cloud into their home.
Boston is modernizing. We’re seeing a younger audience, and a changing neighborhood that’s more international. It all makes for a diverse clientele that’s very savvy, engaged, and receptive to our values.
What is FSC Certification?
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international non-profit, multi-stakeholder organization established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. The FSC does this by setting standards on forest products, along with certifying and labeling them as eco-friendly. You can learn more here.
What sustainable materials are you most excited about?
Right now, it has to be the recycled PET plastic bottle fibers that are being used to make things like outdoor/indoor rugs. You would never, ever guess – looking at these rugs – that they came from drinking bottles.
How do you give back?
Giving back is incredibly important to us – and it’s not just about design. It’s easy to stay in the bubble of high-end furniture with the small demographic we serve in Boston. We do a quarterly team event in the community, and try to go wherever our help is most needed – primarily doing work that focuses on women, kids, and education. We’ve worked with the Franklin Park Zoo, the women’s shelter Rosie’s Place, and More Than Words – a fantastic bookstore run by inner city kids. And we’re planning to do a Boston harbor cleanup event in the spring.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
It might not be particularly profound, but here goes: My mother, a born-and-raised retail and fashion buyer, still says,
“Don’t be afraid.”
I’ve tried to really take that to heart. We’re a team of 11 people now, and intend to keep growing.
You can learn more about Natalie, her team, and Lekker Home’s portfolio of sustainable modern design here.
From The YUME Edit: How we choose our stories
We choose stories for The YUME Edit the same way we choose products for the YUME portfolio: We actively seek out companies, places, products and concepts that make us feel excited about the future of sustainable modern living and design. We look for stories that we think our readers will find inspiring. Stories that educate, excite, and give us all more options for making thoughtful choices in our day-to-day lives. Our goal, first and foremost, is to create a global community of like-minded companies and individuals who feel passionate about sustainable living. So YUME Edit content is never sponsored. We strive only to provide information and spark conversation.
Is there a person, design store or other destination near you that you think would like to join our global sustainable living community and appear on The YUME Edit? Let us know on the YUME TipLine!