Photos by Cameron Flaisch
When Scott Edwards lost his job in manufacturing due to the business closing, he decided he was finished being someone else’s employee. A few twists and turns later, and Edwards and his wife Francine opened Unique Interiors in 2015 to provide farmhouse and modern-farmhouse furnishings to Rome and the surrounding area. Since then, the couple have found their groove and made their mark with one-of-a-kind, high-quality furnishings coupled with down-home customer service that builds and sustains their clientele.
Drive north out of Rome’s river valley and ascend the rise on Martha Berry Boulevard past Berry College to find a sleepy shopping center on the right. Unique Interiors occupies a large, inconspicuous space. From the outside, visitors might be tempted by the lively window display of cotton stalks, welcoming signs and the promising warmth of solid wood. Edwards says they lucked into the farmhouse aesthetic on the cusp of its recent resurgence, managing to open shop ahead of the shiplap and rustic craze evident in every big box store around.
There’s a world of difference between what they carry and what spills over the aisles in big retail chains. From the beginning, Scott and Francine wanted to take a customer-focused approach which informs every other decision they make, from what to carry to how to stage it and even when to be open.
“I can’t choose only stuff I like, and it can be hit or miss,” Scott says. But over time, he has honed both his eye and his ordering science so he can keep his inventory on trend, or even ahead of the curve.
Both approach buying selections with intention and care, opting for solid wood and real leather pieces rather than particle board. They know this means customers expect to pay more for quality pieces that will stand the test of time. Still, their prices are lower than some of the other local furniture retailers. That has not deterred their steady growth.
Scott cut his rustic furniture teeth selling in antique malls. Over time, he and his wife realized that the bigger items, sofas, tables, bars and bigger decorations, drove both traffic and sales. As they focused on adding these bigger items, they outgrew the parameters of antique mall booth space and finally settled two years ago into the space they now occupy.
According to Scott, the beauty of the farmhouse style is its chameleonic quality, “these pieces can fit in to a variety of home styles.” Pairing a rustic bar with more modern appliances creates one look, while adding a giant white bed in a more traditionally decorated setting has another effect all together. In other words, even if (or when) trends shift, Edwards expects his pieces to hold longer aesthetic value.
Francine handles all the staging, and her work makes a visit to the store “more of an adventure, a sensory experience,” Scott says. When the couple first moved into the building, they quickly realized that to make the most of the opportunity, they needed to use every available to space to display products. Francine set about adding framed art, custom die-cut steel art and other accessories to the walls. She also created defined spaces, so as a guest wanders, they get a sense of how that particular piece might segue into their own home. Around the big white pickled bed, she has arranged mirrors and dried flowers, fluffy towels and fun signage. She’s added homey touches like inviting bedding and lighting. “Rather than rows and rows of recliners,” Scott prefers his customers take their time wandering, envisioning, finding new treasures at every turn.
Perhaps the biggest advantage Unique Interiors has over other home goods stores is the couple’s top-down commitment to serving the customer. Scott says he didn’t really know he “had a knack for helping people find what they were looking for,” until he started the antiques business. “I remember my customers. I am focused on them and I treat them like family.” He also understands that “if I treat this guy right, he’s more likely to return.” Talking with him, one gets the sense that this isn’t merely salesmanship. Having spent the first part of his working life as a plant worker, always under a series of managers and bosses, Scott gives the impression that he is out to do something different, to create a more pleasant experience, shaped by his own experiences.
Aside from regular store hours, Unique Interiors is open every day but Sunday and Monday, Scott and our staff will often open early or stay late to meet with customers from out of town or who just happen to show up. He will also provide after-hours individual shopping experiences by appointment. While their business is usually cash and carry, he has shipped smaller items across the country. They have customers from as far away as California, who found them on the internet, to a couple of regulars who roll through Rome every couple of months, always making time to stop at Unique Interiors.
Scott and Francine have indeed managed to create something unique in their retail space stocked with treasures.
To schedule a private showing call 706-233-1769 or drop by at 3144 Martha Berry Hwy, Rome 30165