In 1971, Michael Sowers taught himself how to throw clay in a high-school art class. The classroom had a functioning pottery wheel, but the instructor didn't know how to use it, so Michael began checking out instructional books from the library to support his fledgling interest.
Ever since, he's been molding masses of clay into plates and vessels, preserving their shapes with the heat of a 2,350-degree kiln. His work is as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing—subtly hued french butter dishes hold a quarter pound of butter in water, keeping it fresh for up to a month, and grater plates come equipped with a built-in shredder for garlic, ginger, parmesan cheese, or CIA documents. Sowers seals each piece with a lead-free glaze used by potters since the time of the Ming dynasty, ensuring that customers can safely send his pottery through a dishwasher or heat them in a microwave or oven.
Like fancy suits, sofa sets are sewn from the same cut of fabric. These matching sets provide a well-rounded look in living rooms, but near misses tend to clash due to their small differences. At 20 show rooms throughout the western US, Mor Furniture for Less arranges complete-room sets so customers can envision the collections in their own homes. Furniture for living rooms, dining rooms, and children's rooms can be found in each store along with individual lamps, tables, and entertainment centers. The stores also carry complete sets of beds, dressers, and nightstands so that homeowners don’t receive criticism from design bloggers in their dreams.
The brand-new Import Outlet furnishes homes with luxe leather furniture, eclectic works by local artists, large bronzed mirrors, and consignment memorabilia from rural Idaho. Import Outlet groups together corresponding accessories throughout the store and highlights them with professionally arranged floral displays ($5–$150) and mini ticker-tape parades. Chocolate walls set off local artist Keith Couch's photography and the store's popular large wooden signs by Americana Comfort, such as the cheeky "Girls Just Want to Have Wine" sign ($35.99). Myriad decorative knickknacks—including 3"x6" scented candles ($7.40), 20-inch wrought-iron candlesticks ($12), and hen-in-a-basket sculptures ($18.78)—sprawl out across the store's various tabletops and bookshelves. Ongoing in-store specials and an extensively stocked half-off display make browsing never boring, unlike reading editor’s letters in National Geographic back issues.