The idea came to Brent Dorrah while he was managing Abode Home, the home furniture and furnishings store that closed last summer.
"We'd have people come in and say, 'My husband's new office, we're going to redo it.' That's kind of when the light went on — commercial."
Shortly after, Abode Home owner Bill Jackson gave Dorrah the go-ahead to start ACI Design Studio. The initials stand for Abode Commercial Interiors. ACI operated out of another Jackson business, Furniture Options, until moving across Douglas to its current location in the old Domestic Laundry building in October. Abode Home, meantime, has been transformed into a venue for live entertainment and other events.
Fans of Abode Home will feel right at home at ACI, which like its predecessor carries many out-of-the-ordinary pieces displayed in a stylish setting.
There's a free-flowing 110-inch conference table, a black leather curved desk, an 11-foot-high screen made of roots from a rain forest. There's a driftwood sculpture, a vintage red leather chaise lounge and a silk pom-pom tree.
ACI has kept all of its catalogs from Abode Home and still carries residential items on one side of its showroom, while the other is devoted to commercial furnishings.
ACI deliberately opened without a lot of fanfare, Dorrah said, instead opting for "a kind of a guerrilla-style marketing. Then I try to kill these people with service. We really pay attention to those $5,000 projects, where if they walk into a big place they might not get it."
There's still no prominent sign out front directing people inside.
"There's something about a place that doesn't have a big 'we're open' sign," Dorrah said. "It kind of sets a mood. It's not a busy, hustle-bustle showroom. A designer can bring in a client and have a good environment."
ACI also hasn't had a grand opening, although it recently hosted an open house for about 75 designers and architects. Commercial clients so far include the Kansas Humane Society (for its new headquarters on north Hillside), the Linkhaus restaurant, Oeno Wine Bar, several car dealerships and doctors' offices.
ACI offers its own design services as well, with a full-time designer on staff. Asked to describe ACI's style, Dorrah says it's "a really clean, cool executive feel."
Dorrah, who's worked for Jackson for 20 years, said it took him several years to become passionate about the furniture business. He is now, smiling as he tells about his recent discovery that his father once worked in a furniture store.
"I've never been more excited about design and furniture in my life," he said.