Ross Bonetti, founder of Vancouver’s Livingspace, loves the West Coast lifestyle, and the work-life balance it brings.
“I’m 60 years old now, [and] I’m super-healthy,” he says. “It’s part of the Vancouver lifestyle. I encourage people to stay healthy and stay active. I have no real plans of retiring.”
Bonetti describes himself as “casual,” and enjoys sports and boats. Though he enjoys the laidback Vancouver lifestyle, he says achieving success is not all fun and games.
“In any profession or anything you do, you need discipline where you get up in the morning,” he says. “For 30 years, a lot of hard work goes into a company, so you have to get up in the morning and get to work.”
Livingspace is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and has grown ten times larger since its inception. It now inhabits a five-level, 30,000-square-foot retail space in the chic design-focused Armoury District.
It’s family-run, and one day, Bonetti will pass the reins to his children. He’s tried to instill the same work ethic that his father instilled in him.
“Our kids have grown up in a good environment, had lots of things in their life, lots of fun and also lots of material things; but they have noticed that their mother and I work very hard, and still work very hard,” Bonetti says.
His two sons now work at Livingspace, so they can see even more intimately how much effort Bonetti puts in “to get it right for the customer,” he says.
One of the services his company offers is Livingspace Homes, which designs and supplies furniture for the entire home. Bonetti is currently building his own 6,300-square-foot home using this world-class service. Livingspace will supply everything inside his new home, including the kitchens, closets, bathrooms, flooring, and tiling.
Mind for design
“My father jokes now that when I was a baby, I would feel my baby blanket for thread count,” Bonetti says with a laugh.
Bonetti has always appreciated design, including anything from furniture to cars to hockey gear. When he got older and travelled with his parents, he would usually end up in a modern furniture store, exploring.
Back in 1952, Bonetti’s father opened a retail appliance store on the North Shore. That retail background inspired Bonetti to establish Livingspace, his own retail furniture store, instead of becoming a designer.
Since 1988, Bonetti has taken a different approach with Livingspace. His focus has been to not only bring the world’s best modern design to Vancouver, but also to give his store a new atmosphere.
“I think for a long time, modern furniture stores had this art-gallery feel to them, where if you didn’t know about the art or the furniture, you weren’t really invited to the store,” he says. “With Livingspace, we want to be a very, very friendly design store.”
He welcomes people into his store who may know very little about modern design.
“We need to be able to educate people and explain [why our furniture] is expensive, and the difference in these pieces compared to going to a regular furniture store,” he says.
The layout of Livingspace is also unique. Its “shops within a shop” concept allows each brand to have its own aesthetic and represent itself just as it would in its own showroom in Milan or New York.
Bonetti is also extremely detail-oriented in his eye for design, which influences the ambiance of the store. On his store shelves, for example, the books and other objects are painstakingly chosen.
“These pieces are giving the room a feel,” he says. “It gives you a feel of how you can display things in your own house, because you don’t have to fill every shelf. It’s all about the unit. It’s about the lighting. It’s about the whole feel of the units.”
Inspiring and educating people in Vancouver is what Bonetti believes he was born to do.
“Livingspace is the house, and we’re hosting all our brand partners in the house,” he says. “I want my staff to get up when people come in the door and greet people… I just want our staff and the store to be very, very engaging for people.”