There's Nothing Generic About Somerton Dwelling

By Duke Ratliff

Somerton Dwelling1 The Soignee Boulevard Buffet is highlighted with the collection's signature floral design on the front. 2 The Milan Console table has contemporary European styling. 3 The Sophisticate Dining group offers geometric patterned accents on oak veneers and upholstered side and host chairs. 4 Rita Ho-Bezzola has put her stamp on Somerton.

Rita Ho-Bezzola, the CEO of Somerton Dwelling, is not the average furniture industry executive.

She grew up in the business, helping out in the furniture factory her parents founded in Dongguan City in southern China. Now, she's overseeing the rebranding of the company. In addition, she's a classically trained pianist; she owns an organic cafe in Fullerton, Calif., and she's passionate about the environment.

It's not surprising that she has put her stamp on Somerton Dwelling since being named CEO last year.

"Somerton Home Furnishings (the company's previous name) was low key, kind of generic," Ho-Bezzola said. "It was more focused on being in a supportive role for the factory. We marketed whatever the factory was making."

Under Ho-Bezzola's direction, the company has undergone a name change, a new logo, a new tagline, "Live the life you love," and new showrooms in Las Vegas and High Point, N.C.

"Our biggest challenge in the short term is to get our story out," Ho-Bezzola said. "We want retailers to see that what we're doing is really on trend."

Ho-Bezzola describes the change as "an intrinsic remodel" of the whole business.

"Now we're looking at what's trending and what the consumers want," Ho-Bezzola said. "Then we communicate that with the factory. We have to keep in touch with the marketplace and that's what makes us competitive for the long run."

Ho-Bezzola describes the American furniture market as much different compared to when Chinese importers such as Somerton first entered the market with lower priced items.

"There is just so much more information out there for the consumer," she said. "They've got the Internet, the Wayfairs and Pinterest boards. It's evolved so much--and that's the direction that we're taking the company. It's more fun, fashionable--and durable too."

At the most recent furniture shows in Las Vegas and High Point, N.C., Somerton Dwelling has focused on stylish lifestyle offerings, many of them with versatile, multifunctional uses. For instance, the Freestyle Living modular shelving concept is designed to stack to suit any room in the home. Pieces in the Improv Collections feature flip-down doors to create hidden writing desks.

"Life is messy," Ho-Bezzola said. "Kids are going to be doing their homework on the dining room table. People are going to eat off the cocktail table.

"We think it's important for furniture to fit a person's lifestyle rather than the other way around."

Ho-Bezzola also thinks its important to be an environmentally conscientious manufacturer. All finishing processes use water-based formulas; woods are sustainable and packaging is made of recycled materials.

"We're looking to see what else we can do going forward," Ho-Bezzola said.

Somerton clearly takes its corporate responsibilities seriously. A few years ago, the company opened a roof-top garden on the roof of one of its factories. Employees "adopt" a strip of a garden bed; the company provides water and equipment; the employees provide their own seedlings.

"There's really no cost to the company," Ho-Bezzola said, "but the benefit is boundless."

Ho-Bezzola said she thinks its good to bring a different perspective to her position.

"How does it benefit Somerton? Ask me in a year," she joked.

Duke RatliffDuke Ratliff | Editor-in-Chief

Duke Ratliff, the editor-in-chief of HFN, has reported on the home furnishings industry since 1993. He oversees HFN’s print edition and online coverage of the retail industry, as well as trends in furniture and lighting, mattresses, tabletop, housewares, floor covering and textiles. He enjoys traveling to numerous domestic—and occasionally, international—trade shows. He feels that the perfect combination of a great product and a creative, attention-getting marketing plan is a thing of beauty. He lives in Westchester County, N.Y., with his wife, two children, two dogs, five chickens, two finches, three lizards and a five-foot-long corn snake.


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