Urban Collective: Realty Meets Design

A real estate agent, a boutique owner and a florist all walk into a bank…well, it used to be a bank. So what do they have to do with each other? Quite a bit, actually – once you add entrepreneur Solveig Johnson into the mix.

Urban Collective has taken up shop in the rapidly growing Barkley Village district. Photo credit: Hannah Zoe.

Urban Collective arose from Johnson’s desire to bring all three arms of her life long passions under one roof. There’s the Muljat Group real estate office, where Johnson is a broker. Her decor boutique, which captures her style as a designer and also offers chic home goods and her staging services which is an extension of both businesses. Olio Flowers & Plants rounds it out and keeps the space fresh. Each business ties into one another in an organic symbiosis. Therein lies her unique model.

“I actually borrowed the idea from salons,” Johnson says, noting how many salons (she used to be a salon rep for many years) have created their own culture that arises from a boutique in the reception area. It always seemed to help the stylist connect on an even more personal level and she really liked that concept.

This time last year, Johnson was busy running her boutique, Helene & Co. In the spring, she rolled her business into the new space in Barkley Village, and rebranded it Urban Collective. It’s a nod to its collaborative intentions with the involved businesses.

The boutique’s interior sets the stage for Solveig’s contemporary design taste. Photo credit: Hannah Zoe.

“I felt Bellingham needed something different than what we had as far as home decor,” she says. “And when I was connecting staging with realty, I thought it would be so much easier if it was under one roof. This whole concept is a great way for me to connect my passions and share that with the community.”

Johnson’s space in Urban Collective is a boutique, but more importantly, it’s an intimate portrait of her style. She feels continuously inspired by what she surrounds herself with, and the shop is curated with only objects she finds beautiful. As a staging client enters the space, they immediately get a sense of her taste.

Having furniture staged in a home helps potential buyers visualize the space and assess how their own belongings would lay out. Photo courtesy: Solveig Johnson.

She keeps a collection of furniture, textiles and art objects in the wings as well, so she has a variety to choose from for her clients. “I have different collections of inventory that can speak to each style of home,” Johnson explains. “The key to staging is that you keep it neutral, but it’s ok to add in a little twist; as long as you allow the buyers to still be able to see themselves in the space.”

Juggling three different professional roles clearly seems like an armful. Luckily, Johnson has the skills and calm confidence to make it doable. In fact, for her, there’s little separation. Each facet of her business feeds the next. “Having the store allows me to have the organic real estate relationships I want,” she explains. “My approach to sales, whether it’s real estate or staging, is all educational based. My job is really to answer questions and be myself. Everything falls into place after that.”

Solveig’s staging service is on display throughout this craftsman home. Photo courtesy: Solveig Johnson.

The Muljat Group realty office of Urban Collective is currently home base for ten agents. Their office is visually separate, yet a clearly intentional element of the space. What was once a bank vault has been craftily turned into a quiet consultation room for client meetings. And when the closing papers are signed, flowers and small gifts for the lucky homeowners are just steps away.

From a real estate perspective, staging services add value to a home and quicken a sale. Johnson shared the story of a past client whose house sat on the market for 64 days before she staged it. The home was pending five days later. “People think you don’t need to stage because it’s a seller’s market, but a lot of buyers are coming from places where they’d expect that service,” she explains. “Having furniture in a staged home helps the buyers visualize how their own belongings would fit in that space.”

Tatum Brown, who grows and arranges many of her own flowers, behind the counter of her Olio Flowers & Plants shop in Urban Collective. Photo credit: Hannah Zoe.

Olio’s fresh cut arrangements are the icing on Urban Collective’s three-layered cake. Owner Tatum Brown joined Johnson during Helene & Co. “I grow a lot of the flowers I use,” Brown says. Dhalias, zinnias, scabiosa, amaranth, artichoke leaves; they all began in her home garden and were gracefully united at the shop.

“I think our businesses work well together,” says Brown. “I’m excited about the woman power that has gone into getting this off the ground. Now we’re just working on getting the word out.”


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