When Brisbane husband and wife team Jason Tan and Christina Agustina launched their designer furniture brand, North Hem, their vision promised to change the face of online shopping forever.

Their unique proposition saw them locate ‘living showrooms’ across Brisbane’s cafes and galleries, where buyers can road-test their designer furnishings.

Allowing them to house statement pieces within settings that match the design aspirations of their buyers, Jason said that “furniture showrooms are the antithesis of what drives our brand”.

“The experience you have in a gallery or coffee shop is a world apart from labouring through a warehouse packed with rows of sofas and tables.

“Home design nowadays is about so much more than being satisfied with a matching colour or a comfortable shape – it’s a 360 degree, sensory experience. It was immediately clear to us that we’re selling a lifestyle and, as such, we needed to help people tap into what that looks and feels like for them.”

Working with cafes and galleries across their home city, and with negotiations underway to expand their reach across Australia, Jason says that their strategy is paying dividends for North Hem and for their partner businesses.

“I called into one of our living showrooms the other week and saw someone reading their newspaper with a child curled in their lap, just like at home, and I thought to myself, ‘yep, we’re on to something here’.

“They weren’t afraid to touch or damage – they were living with the piece. That’s exactly the experience we’re looking for.

“And it’s not just North Hem that benefits – the cafes and restaurants we’re working with are reporting increased footfall and access to customers who might not normally come their way.”

Practical as well as experiential, he said that the goal was to inspire confidence in the product while sparking people’s design imagination.

“We’re in an interesting time, commercially speaking. Internet shopping has meant a decline in footfall for the majority of retailers, but still there’s a need for people to feel really comfortable about quality and value before they press the button to buy.

“Now if you visit Duo Restaurant and Bar in West End and fall in love with our Nico series, you can check out the tag, visit our website there and then, and order it. And the added bonus is that we reward you on the spot with discounts only available in our Living Showrooms.

“Our pieces are affordable luxury – amazing designers at realistic prices. And we achieve that precisely because we’ve moved away from the traditional business model, without asking people to take a complete leap of faith.

“Love it before you buy it. It’s obvious really.”

Duo Restaurant and Bar 2/27 Browning Street, West End