Bradly Rakowski, owner of Bradlys Home and Garden in Lansing. Photos courtesy of Bradly Rakowski

Bradlys: Home Decor & More

By Jerome Stuart Nichols

Sometimes, it's just the threat of change that makes great ideas come to life. For Bradly Rakowski, owner of Bradly's Home and Garden in Lansing, the constant threat of a layoff made him take the leap into becoming his own boss.

"I always loved the little ma-and-pa shops we'd go into when my husband Chris and I would travel," Rakowski says. "I had come home one day - after a bunch of layoffs - and I asked him if he would mind if I got started on one of the ideas I had."

Armed with a loan from his 401k and a passion for decor, Rakowski made his dream come to life.

In 2011, he started with a few furniture lines he picked up from a merchandising trip to Chicago and rented space in an existing business. By March 2013, after about 16 months, he was able to get a shop of his own. In August of this year, he held the grand opening for Bradly's relocation and expansion.

In a market overpopulated by national chain home, garden and gift stores, Bradly's has stood out by offering top-notch and one-of-a-kind pieces. Perhaps that's due to the fact that Rakowski still hand-picks the store's inventory.

"I'm looking for things unique to the market," Rakowski says. "It's all very high quality and has styling different from Art Van, Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel."

He says he's only looking for items of a quality he'd be happy to buy or bring into his own home. That translates to a store full of unique pieces from local and national boutiques and limited-run collections. Those include Noir furniture, Tessoro jewelry and handmade Lead Head Glass terrariums.

One will also find a distinct lack of particle board items cluttering the shop, as Bradly's specializes in hardwood furniture.

With every move or expansion, the store has been able to increase the number and variety of items available. At this point, Bradly's offers thousands of items in the furniture area alone. They also offer giftware, jewelry, indoor plants, pillows, cards, seeds and scents along with almost everything else needed to decorate almost any space, starting at just $1.

"It's a really cool store," Rakowski says. "People come in here and they feel good. Whether you're buying something for a kid, a card or furniture, it all has a cohesion and an innate unique flavor."

While Bradly's offers a bunch of options for the eager designer, the options can be overwhelming. For those people, or those who just want to borrow Bradly's eye, they offer in-home design consultations. They will also help with wedding decor and home staging.

Among the more recent line acquisitions, Bradly's was able to secure a deal to handle the retail side of world-renowned glass artist Craig Mitchell Smith's business. As Rakowski relocated Bradly's to a space just a few feet away from Smith's 4,000-square-foot production facility in Lansing's Old Town neighborhood, Smith said it understandably seemed like a "good fit."

"It opens me up to another clientele," Rakowski says. "Craig gets to have his art displayed in a living environment rather than just on pedestals in a gallery. So, you can see how a sculpture or a lamp works in a room of furniture."

Smith is mostly known for his wild and imaginative custom commissions, though that can be costly. For the first time since closing his own retail front, Smith's sculptures will be available to more consumers with items priced from $30-$5,000.

"I am happy to make the work available to a much broader audience," Smith says. "I invite people to experience and see what they think and feel about it."

For more information on Bradly's Home and Garden/Craig Mitchell Glass, located at 117 E. Grand River Ave. in Lansing, visit http://www.bradlyshomeandgarden.com.

Fall Design Tips

Bradly Rakowski, owners of Bradly's Home and Garden in Lansing, on getting your home festive for fall:

Colors: "I always really like using fall colors in my home; a lot of people think that's just brown, gold and orange. If you look at a tree, you get the deep burgundy and the plum colors. I like to play around with that pallet, mixing it in with different pillows for the season. That's a great way to bring a bit of autumn color into your home."

Bring nature inside: "I always like doing fresh gourds. Just put them in a bowl. Bowls help keep the look organized and keep your furniture safe if the gourds start to go bad. Bring in sticks or branches and prop them up in a corner or in a vase."


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