Home furnishings retailer West Elm closed its Leawood location in 2010 after just 18 months of business.
But now the company is back in the area with Thursday’s opening in the 11,000-square-foot former Pottery Barn space at 400 W. 47th St. on the Country Club Plaza.
West Elm, a subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma Inc., which also owns Pottery Barn, sells an assortment of home products, including furniture, bedding, bathroom accessories, rugs, curtains, lighting, decorative accessories, dinnerware, kitchen items and gifts.
But in the last few years, it has been focusing on collaborations with artisans from around the world — offering a “large-scale platform for small-scale artisanal production.”
It is currently collaborating with more than 20 artisan groups in 15 countries — ceramics from Peru, capiz mirrors from the Philippines and rugs from India. West Elm’s “handcrafted stamp” indicates manual contribution by the artisan. Through 2015, the company said it will purchase $35 million in handcrafted products, a 40 percent increase from $25 million in 2013.
But West Elm also is featuring area artisans in one section of its store, called West Elm Local. For Kansas City’s new store, that includes throws by Roeland Park’s Happy Habitat by Karrie Kaneda, letterpress coasters and art prints from Lawrence-based Ruff House Art, and limited-edition screen prints by Kansas City’s Tad Carpenter Creative.
“For me, a big name like West Elm believed that my product fit into their products — one of my throws on one of their beautiful pieces of furniture,” said Kaneda, who founded Happy Habitat three years ago. “And it’s great exposure, another outlet. It gets my name out there.”
Consumers also can nominate artisans for the West Elm Local sections.
The winner of West Elm’s new contest, the We Love Local Small Business Grant, also will get a $25,000 prize and ongoing business support. Artisans can enter at westelmlocalgrant.com.
West Elm also does designer collaborations, currently with Coyuchi, a premium organic textile company known for its embroidery. It is creating an “accessible collection” of bedding and pillows for West Elm, while fashion designer Steven Alan is expanding his reach with a collection of bedding, pillows and rugs.
An increasing number of West Elm’s products are marked “West Elm Green” to indicate that they are responsibly produced, organic, recycled, nontoxic and rapidly renewable.
Customers also can sit down for free consultations with its home stylists in the store’s design lab or in their home. The home stylists will help them pick paint colors and fabrics or design a furniture plan.
But West Elm also wants to be more than a home goods store and plans to offer craft workshops, floral design, art night and other events.
“We really let the community dictate. The goal is to be a really community-driven space,” said Kendall Coleman, spokeswoman for West Elm.
West Elm is based in Brooklyn in New York. The new Plaza store is No. 61 for the chain.