Omforme, Norwegian for “To Transform,” is a perfectly suitable name for Carter Averbeck’s recently launched design store. And “transform” is exactly what he manages to do with previously owned furnishings, taking each piece and restyling it with a modern twist, ready to settle back into your home as a functional work of art.
Averbeck, who is half Norwegian in heritage, is passionate about refurbishing old furniture into something new and beautiful. “I see all of the excess that just gets thrown out. All of it is beautiful, it’s just that as far as the public is concerned, they don’t realize how much is thrown out,” says Averbeck. “So I figured if I could take these beautiful pieces and transform them into something gorgeous, and keep them out of the landfill, then that’s great.”
The problem, Averbeck says, is that consumers always think in terms of new, making his challenge to create something that looks new and exciting in their eyes. He is critical of the common mindset that setting something by the garbage magically makes it disappear, when in reality it goes somewhere as landfill.
“Economically, it’s probably better to just restyle it, revamp it, and redo it,” Averbeck says. “So there is a whole paradigm shift in that way of ‘If I’m buying something new for my house let’s make sure it’s something that’s restyled, where I’m saving it from the landfill’ instead of buying brand new. We just don’t have the resources.”
Averbeck, who does his own design work, also partners with other artists in multiple capacities. First, Omforme serves as a showcase of new items made by artisans, designers, and craftspeople from salvaged and reclaimed materials. In addition, Averbeck will work with charitable organizations to transform a piece and, when it sells, donations go back to the organizations. These partnerships, Averbeck says, are easy-going in nature and keep an open format. His partnerships are with people who, he claims, demonstrate a sense of urban chic, trend, and think outside of the box. This ensures that what customers find at Omforme isn’t available at any other boutique; they’re usually one-offs for very limited runs.
With the recent surge of the DIY mentality, Averbeck is quick to mention that some things may require the help of a professional. Not everything looks good as a shabby chic piece of furniture, he says, citing two reasons that set him apart from the average DIY homeowner. “I have a long history of how to refinish things. I also have an editing eye for what a piece can turn into. I grew up doing it. My family did it. That whole idea of ‘making a silk purse from a sow’s ear’ is pretty exciting for me. We grew up rehabbing houses, turning ugly houses into beautiful houses, and so this just kind of goes along with all of that.”
Although in-store products will include everything from sculptures to chairs and from tables to lamps, Omforme’s services go beyond the pieces you’ll see when entering the Uptown store. Averbeck will do package deals for design consultation on everything from a simple color consultation and room planning to “full-on design services.” Custom redesign of individual pieces is also a common occurrence.
“People are beginning to realize that a chair they had up in their attic or in the basement can now be redone,” Averbeck says. “And a lot of them are heirloom pieces that they got from family members, and they don’t want to get rid of them because of the nostalgic value. Bringing them here is a way of transforming them into the taste that they have now, today, instead of them sitting in a basement.”
Averbeck, whose design work can be seen in restaurants, hotels, and boutiques all over downtown Minneapolis, subscribes to the philosophy of “Go bold or go home.” To him, this means being unafraid in your design choices. “Painting your room red – it isn’t going to bite you when you go to sleep at night,” he says. “And if it’s your favorite color, you’ve got one life, paint your room red. Don’t be afraid of putting color into your house at all; it will do nothing but enhance who you are.”
It’s this design aesthetic and passion for re-purposing that landed Averbeck a slot at the American Craft Council Show. Held at the St. Paul RiverCentre, the show is a three-day celebration of hand-made design, featuring artists designing jewelry, clothing, furniture, and home décor. Being invited to participate in the show isn’t something Averbeck takes lightly. “It’s just an absolute great honor,” he says. “They ask very well-known people to be a part of it and, since I’m fairly new in the world of people knowing who I am as Omforme, it’s a big honor to be a part of it.”
613 W. 24th St., Minneapolis
All photos by Hubert Bonnet.