The Living Modern showroom on Oak Lawn Avenue is, at first, unassuming: an uncluttered, welcoming space filled with hundreds of pieces, large and small, representing each of its five category lines (living, bedroom, dining, office and accents). You immediately note the interior’s use of a neutral palette—warm fields of gray, beige and taupe—which allows your eye to absorb the sizable inventory without feeling overwhelmed. Like everything else at Living Modern, the showroom’s visual organizing principals were not happenstance, but a strategic choice that reflects the owners’ business philosophy.
Living Modern is a labor of love and passion that Evan Gerstein began with his wife, Norma, the company’s creative director and designer. Together, they have brought a mix of cultural influences and many years of institutional knowledge in the design and retail furniture space. Both come from retail backgrounds: Born in Miami, Evan Gerstein’s business acumen and feel for the design industry was his birthright. His parents owned a retail furniture concern and, for several decades, one of Miami’s premier interior design companies.
Norma Gerstein, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, also grew up in and around a successful retail furniture business that her parents founded in 1962. After studying design in Italy, she returned to the states, met her husband and began a series of successful enterprises, culminating in the creation of Living Modern in 2015. Together, they have made a valuable contribution toward elevating Dallas as a serious design city. More locally, in a neighborhood more comfortable with a traditional design sensibility, the Gersteins have brought a welcome element of clean lines and modernism.
Living Modern offers a full range of products and the unique ability for customers to see what they want in the showroom and have it delivered immediately. “Most companies put in an order that can take 30, 60 or even 90 days to arrive. Our customers appreciate being able to circumvent those long waiting periods,” Evan Gerstein says.
Additionally, Living Modern is one-stop shopping, offering an exceptional selection of high-quality rugs, artwork and accent pieces to complete a room’s décor.
Gerstein prioritizes industry trends, such as strategic partnerships, which are an integral part of Living Modern’s service-oriented approach. He is particularly proud of their alliance with anchor brand American Leather, a manufacturer that is notable for offering what Gerstein believes is the finest sleeper sofa available. “It uses a spring-less system that is revolutionary in the product category,” he notes. “The sleeper sofas can also be configured into different sectional combinations, making it the ultimate dual-use product.”
Additionally, American Leather’s Style-in-Motion collection “puts a new spin on reclining sofas and sectionals … featuring a whisper-quiet reclining mechanism that can be built into any chair, sofa or sectional,” Gerstein says. The technology offers reclining functionality and a streamlined, modern aesthetic that in no way resembles your father’s massive, bulky recliner.
American Leather’s most unique attribute is its ability to allow customers to order any piece with either a leather, fabric or high-performance textile and receive it in about 30 days; a very organic marketing choice for the Gersteins’ service-centric approach.
“We began working with American Leather two years ago,” Gerstein notes. “We’re the only dealer in this market to feature its entire product line, and there is always at least one example of each of its product categories in the showroom at all times.”
Living Modern is also proud of its extensive offering of high-performance textiles. Gerstein explains that years ago, they would treat fabric with products to avoid staining and microbial problems. Now, because of advanced technology, the advantages that were once the province of patio furniture have been perfected and tailored for indoor use. “These fabrics are virtually indistinguishable from standard fabric,” Gerstein says.
A salesman to his core, Gerstein shares a bit of old-fashioned retail showmanship, saying: “Our motto is, ‘We don’t sell furniture, we sell service.’” At Living Modern, there is one tradition that will never be superseded by tech: There is no substitute for superior service and the company/client relationship.
David Munk, a recent transplant from New York City, is a content creator and storyteller. His blog is stargayzing.com.