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Urban Home: budget decor store on the move

July 30, 2012|By Alexandria Abramian Mott
  • Urban Home, the Oxnard-based decor chain, has brought its mix of budget-minded furniture, lighting and decorative accessories to West L.A. Plans call for further expansion to Pasadena and Orange County.
Urban Home, the Oxnard-based decor chain, has brought its mix of budget-minded… (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles…)

It may be the biggest home store you’ve never heard of, but Urban Home is getting harder not to notice. The company, whose first five stores are in the San Fernando Valley and points north, has opened its sixth location in the 30,000-square-foot Westside Pavilion space at the prime corner of Westwood and Pico boulevards.

It’s a big expansion for the Oxnard-based company, and yet the West L.A. store is not even the company's largest. That title would go to the 35,000-square-foot Urban Home at the Sherman Oaks Galleria.

So who — or what — is behind this growing behemoth? Is it the illegitimate stepchild of some other national chain? Or perhaps a repository for overstock merchandise, as some have speculated?

No and no. Urban Home is owned by Constantino Papanicolaou, a 50-year-old business man who, after 20 years in the restaurant business, said he wanted to shift into  “a commodity manufacturing model” (although he still owns the Napa Tavern in Westlake Village).

Twelve years ago, Papanicolaou took the retail plunge with a store in Santa Barbara. He stocked it with sofas, tables, chairs and storage that he designed himself and had manufactured in the U.S. and Mexico.

He has since expanded the business, taking over mega-store spaces formerly occupied by retail giants such as Pier 1 Imports, Tower Records, FAO Schwarz, Levitz and, now, the three-story Westside Pavilion location that used to be a Barnes & Noble.

According to Papanicolaou, the Urban Home business model is simple: “I want to create a Crate & Barrel product with Ikea prices,” he said. “That’s the niche I’m trying to fill.”

Urban Home’s portfolio has grown to include more than 3,000 products, all designed in-house. The company has 200 employees and a customer base focused on the affordable. At the Westside Pavilion store, movie-goers can be seen killing time perusing sunburst mirrors and faux leather tufted sectional sofas. The mix feels less like Crate & Barrel and more like a Z Gallerie-Cost Plus World Market mash-up: a hint of sparkle here, a shot of ethnic patterning there -- and price tags that elicit double takes. Dining tables that seat six start at $79. The chairs to go with that? They go for $29 a pop.

Though some pieces are manufactured in L.A., many items are made in Asia or Brazil and then given names such as the Hampton Dining Table, the Chadwick TV Stand ($200) and the La Croix Lounge, a tufted, faux leather seat that's just $139.

Papanicolaou said plans call for further growth: “We’re looking to expand in Orange County and Pasadena next,” he said.

And as for that name that’s emblazoned outside the storefront in a very Pottery Barn-esque font?

“I racked my brain and then I came across the name Urban Home,” Papanicolaou said. “Although we’re actually more suburban, less urban. But that’s how it ended up happening. Sometimes working backwards really works.”

Corrected: An earlier version of this post misspelled Schwarz as Schwartz.

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