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With New CEO at Design Within Reach, Is Redemption Within Reach?

Design Within Reach

Design Within Reach, the modern furniture retailer that developed a nasty habit of knocking off famous designs, has taken one more step toward reviving its ailing business and repositioning itself as a trustworthy brand with authentic products.

john edelman(Read Fast Company's recent account of DWR's rise and fall here.) The company just announced the appointment of John Edelman (left) as CEO and John McPhee as COO. Prior to joining DWR, both men held the same titles at Edelman Leather, and before that, both worked at Sam & Libby, the shoe brand best known for affordable ballet flats.

The arrival of these two new execs—both will start on January 3—would seem to signal a welcome change for DWR. In the press release announcing his hiring, Edelman said that he and McPhee look forward to "helping shape the new future of DWR." "When you're trying to take a business from where it's been to something new, fresh blood is definitely a way to do that," says Neil Stern, retail analyst with McMillan Doolittle.

The question, of course, is where the fresh blood is coming from. Forget the fact that both Edelman and McPhee used to sell ballet slippers; their more relevant experience came from leading Edelman Leather, a company started by Edelman's parents to supply high-quality leathers to the fashion industry in the 1950s. Eventually, the company won the Coty award and the Neiman Marcus Award—and even hired Andy Warhol to do their graphic design. In the 1980s they began focusing on leather upholstery, and in 2007, Knoll Inc. purchased the company.

Edelman and McPhee obviously already know how to work as a team, and coming from a company that is respected throughout the industry leads us to hope Design Within Reach is getting back on the right track. What do you think? Success ahead, or more doom for DWR?