CTC&G's Design Salon
(artwork pictured left to right) Frank Stella, Hagmatana III 1967. Fluorescent acrylic on canvas. H 120” X W 180”. Frank Stella, Effingham II, 1966. Fluorescent alkyd and epoxy on canvas. H 127-1/2” X 132”.
The Glass House in New Canaan recently served as a fitting modern-day salon for interior-design industry experts gathered for CTC&G’s Design Salon. The Glass House is a National Trust Historic Site, and its 49-acre campus honors the legacy of Philip Johnson and David Whitney. Cottages & Gardens Editorial Director D.J. Carey moderated the event and posed questions to the panel.
Terri and Crans, tell us a little about where your businesses are today.
Terri Eagle: Over the past couple of years, we have been enjoying the pleasure of technology. Facebook, Twitter and blogs have given us the opportunity to speak with designers, to be able to work with them on their collections and projects, and feature them in our contests. We are also enjoying our partnerships with individual designers on new collections that are bringing in a whole new customer. And service is essential. We are experiencing less traffic in the showrooms, so we are increasing our team coverage out in the field to be able to work with designers outside the showroom, to be closer to you in your world. We are looking at extensions of our collections so we can offer additional accessories: mirrors, lighting, etc. And we have a lot of heritage; we are 125 years old.
Crans Baldwin: From what I see, the one percent is happily buying again, but is going international. And the two percenter, the credit-card young money that wanted to look like old money, is over. There’s a large audience of people out there who are confused. A lot of people who have money did not grow up with interior design and don’t really understand why it’s important. There’s a huge need for educating the next generation of client so that they understand what your talent can bring to their lives.
Social media is transforming everything. Designers used to get business by referral. Now some designers are everywhere: They are tweeting, on YouTube, on panels. And it is almost incumbent upon every designer to think about that. People are running by you because of social media.
What is the future of showrooms?
Crans Baldwin: Look what’s going on in the design centers. Washington Design Center is becoming the Museum of the Bible. The Pacific Design Center is more than half empty. But La Cienega Design Quarter is growing into a design district that is really exciting.
Thom Filicia: I think in some ways that New York is more protected. The D&D is full; 200 Lex is full. So I think that New York will be immune for a certain amount of time. Do you think that Boston will rely on New York?
Crans Baldwin: In Boston, I hear that they want to create a cultural district of art galleries, showrooms and restaurants.
Thom Filicia: You could have a day-to-night experience in the same area.
Philip Gorrivan: More of a cultural experience that will introduce people to design.
What do you think about opening
to-the-trade showrooms to the public?
Thom Filicia: I think it makes more sense to have two separate showrooms: a to-the-trade showroom and then a second one under another name that offers a different or similar product at a retail price. They can educate retail consumers about other products that they don’t have access to—that are available just to the trade.
Anthony Baratta: For our industry, I think it is a disaster. We sit here and are watching our careers go down the tubes.
Thom Filicia: When you create relationships with Stark, for example, there should be a stipulation in the contract that these rugs are for this market only. Then if they want to bring them into another market, the quality, design and colors have to change.
Who are your clients today? And how do you build their trust?
Philip Gorrivan: There has to be transparency. We used to just mark up things and that was that. Now I show the client all the paperwork.
Patricia Healing: The time for full disclosure is at the start. It’s not about paperwork. It’s about the relationship with the client. Do they trust you? Are they doing the shopping or are you?
Linherr Hollingsworth: There is massive confusion out there. Our best client is the most well-educated consumer.
Amanda Nesbit: Clients can buy everything they want at One Kings Lane or West Elm, and when they can’t figure out how to put it all together, they come to us.
Catherine Cleare: I take clients to the showrooms and teach them low, medium and high. I take time to educate them.
Thom Filicia: Educating the consumer is key, telling them what we do and why we do it.
Do you find there’s a trust issue between you and manufacturers or suppliers?
Anthony Baratta: I think there is. I’ve had manufacturers go out of business literally overnight—without any communication.
Crans Baldwin: But I’d like to give credit to Kravet. When Brunschwig went under, they stepped up. And Scalamandré did it right, too. That’s what we as manufacturers can do.
Philip Gorrivan: But sometimes you order fabric and they say it’s in stock, but it takes three weeks. It’s in stock in Europe!
Let’s talk about the young designers coming out of school.
Matthew Patrick Smyth: I had a design student who was very good, savvy and smart. But remember when the Marie Antoinette movie came out? I went to the party at Christie’s that was based on the movie. The next day the student asked, “Was she there?” I said: “Do you know who Marie Antoinette is?” She said: “She was in a movie, right?” (Laughter)
Crans Baldwin: I overheard in the Donghia showroom that the opposite of railroading a fabric is Federal Expressing it. (Laugher)
Charlotte Barnes: I hired one young person who graduated from the New York School of Interior Design. She was very well prepared technically and had interned at a big design firm in New York City. I thought she would bring a lot of experience and knowledge. But she didn’t know what a work order was and wasn’t taught that in school. And now she is one of the best employees I’ve ever had.
Linherr Hollingsworth: I think there’s a generation issue. I’m finding that the young people coming out of school have the technical skills, but not the people skills that we need. I need people who are personable, can think on their feet and have common sense.
Thom Filicia: When we say that we want people to understand our business, part of that responsibility is ours. Whether it’s a client or a student, it’s our job to educate them.
Anthony Baratta: I have a young assistant who is very talented and is the future of design, who is going to the New York School of Interior Design. I respect what he has learned and what he brings to me. The speed at which he works has transformed my life, and I’m lucky to have him. I was taught the ropes by my partner—how to dress, how to work with clients, how to shop, how to focus. If you aren’t being a teacher, then how can you expect the people who work for you to work at the capacity that you demand? It’s an investment.
What would be a headline about the design business for today’s paper?
Catherine Cleare: It’s technology based.
Thom Filicia: It’s an exciting time for design.
Amanda Nesbit: Give your designer a hug. Love your designer.
Barbara Hauben-Ross: Interior design lives!
Philip Gorrivan: How the role of the interior designer is changing—from holding the keys to the D&D Building to an advisory role.
Terri Eagle: Pretty. Quality, craftsmanship, custom and pretty.
D.J. Carey: I love pretty, too!
Anthony Baratta: I love pretty and I love custom. To create beauty is what we are all about.