Monday, November 23, 2009

Magic With Metals - Gratz - The Quiet Giant

Think of Donald Deskey's metal work at Radio City / or Mies van der Rohe's famed Barcelona chair: those legs-- two perfect shining arabesques flowing through each other like water or air. Let's keep going: the metal frames in the Four Seasons restaurant at Mie's Seagram Building; Noguchi's Rocking stool; designs by Le Corbusier and the Eameses.

These were all created by the strong silent Gratz Industries - masters of metal work and imagination. Today we visit with David Rosencrans, principal and go -to- guy for his take on the Magic of Metal.

1. I find it amazing that with all our 2009 technology so much of what is created is stock goods. Artisans and craftsmen are almost a lost and forgotten breed. As an insider what do you remember about factory life and creations 15 years ago as compared to now?

* The difference is that small craft based artisans and fabricators here in the USA are now competing with chain stores and designer products made available through global marketing. Well designed “craft” products are increasingly manufactured in Asia, Eastern Europe and Mexico.

2. In parts of Europe there is still pride and quality among those who work with their hands. Do you think here in America there will come a time when there are no more custom fabricators?

* I think there are a lot of American craftsmen, and artisans that pride themselves in high quality production. There are many shops here in New York / Brooklyn where talented artisans create and make great stuff but in general there is less interest in hand making products and more emphasis on technology here and of course Europe has the long history of guild and apprentice craftsmen in wood, ceramic, metal, glass and furniture fabricating.

3. What metals are currently the most popular?

* Brass and bronze appear to be desirable and nickel plated finishes are often specified

4. Do current projects often combine metals, say 2, 3 or 4 in the attempt to create something radically new or different?

* Very few projects combine the metals in compelling ways , In one of the great New York spaces, the 4 Seasons Restaurant, Mies van der Rohe was heavily criticized for combining stainless steel , brass and aluminum and to some degree designers still appear to reluctant to do so

5. At Gratz and elsewhere, reaching back to the '90's, 80's, 70's & maybe even the 60's, in your mind what, when and where were the creative explosions?

* I have only been at Gratz for 4 years but have been a designer fabricator working in New York since the mid 1980s and there have been numerous “movements” but none that I would classify as explosions. Treitel Gratz our parent company was a big part of Minimalist sculpture fabricating of Walter De Maria, Donald Judd, Barnett Newman and Sol Lewitt

6. Considering the last 5 years, the present and say the next 10 years- - -did you or do you see a creative resurgence among designers, architects and builders?

* I think that the resurgence will be driven by Green Design, sustainability and alternative materials and means and methods of construction

7. Do you see now or predict any iconic metal creations that will have the kind of enduring appeal akin to the Barcelona chair or Noguchi's rocking stool?

* It’s hard to say as there are wonderful current furniture designs but it’s hard to predict what will endure

8. Do you think custom metal work is rarer these days because of the instant gratification factor?

* I think custom hand metal work will continue to some degree production based design and instant gratification dominate but again through technology metal fabrication will always need to compliment the designer’s vision.

9. I understand that Gratz's other financial mainstay, Pilates exercise equipment, has been a division since the 1960's. In New York I recall a Pilate’s explosion in the 2000's, maybe even the late '90's - - who was buying this equipment for the prior 30 years? Was it sold in lots or individually? Were your consumers mainly Americans or Europeans?

* Pilates has grown as a physical fitness niche market and is now in many gyms and there are studios all over the world Initially small studios were outfitted with the original equipment that we made for Joseph Pilates and his disciples and now a lot of derivative equipment and teaching amalgams have developed …so we are strongly linked to Classical Pilates methods and teaching organizations. Equipment is sold in lots and individually depending on the client’s needs and now many orders are from Europe as Pilates proliferates and gain popularity

10. Following up on question 2 - -do you think we'll ever again enjoy the artistic imagination, beauty and fine craftsmen ship of years gone by? Do you know of any parts of our country where there exists this pride and know how?

* Again... There are great woodworkers, metalworkers, ceramic and glass artists hand making incredible objects but production and marketing will focus on the larger companies and production for the masses.

David - Thank you so much for your valued insights. I would personally encourage interior designers, both residential and especially commercial, and architects to consider and explore working with the endless possibilities of metals.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fabulous Fabric Forecast

Today we are with John and Nick Lomangino, star sales reps at the major Interior Design fabric houses of Kravet and Lee Jofa. What we really want is to hear "what's going on NOW?"

1. What exactly are your clients asking for in today's design climate?
As you know, Kravet offers a wide range of product. Designers are asking for fabric that is in stock, furniture and carpet with quick delivery and a price point that is desirable.
2. We all hear so many things...since September '08 how has the fabric and furniture market really fared? Did nesters keep spending regardless?
The Luxury Market declined right after September 2008. Our top designers in metro New York were able to hold their own all through 2009. Our smaller designers had more difficult. However, many remained positive and made adjustments to their businesses. Designers still had loyal customers and projects through 2009 to keep them afloat. Overall, we were able to make it through the worst and are starting to see an upward incline of projects and sales. 2010 will be a better year and we will see a much larger increase in sales in the Luxury Market.
3. Honestly - -how many of your clients insist that their purchases be green?
Many designers have clients asking about Eco-Friendly fabric. We offer a small collection of Green Fabric which is truly all Green. We are seeing an increase in sales every month in Green product. We feel it's an important category to be in!
4. Of course the other stir is that blue is the new green (our oceans); have you heard of any or is there any product development in that direction now?
As of now there has been no discussion of Blue. We are usually leaders in the industry when it comes to trends. Maybe in the near future!
4A. What colors are really hot now? Which ones are over?
Right now many designers are using naturals, earth colors and blues. They are looking to freshen up the home atmosphere and make it a more relaxing, comfortable setting. It seems that dark colors such as browns, reds, blacks, etc... are a fading trend. Designers are looking for an optimistic approach when decorating. To make the client's home a place of rest, ease and grace; separating the outside world from the inside.
5. We all depend on our repeat clients; the question is how do YOU grow your client base?
Growing our account base is difficult. We service NYC, Westchester, Rockland, and Greenwich CT. We concentrate on our accounts regularly. We try to build a rapport and provide the best service possible. We offer them a wide range of assorted product and price points. As Barbara Berry stated in an interview with Kravet's Newspaper Inspired, "she is looking to grow deeper with her existing clients." That's what we do on the road. As for finding new accounts, networking and spending time in the Kravet / Lee Jofa showroom will enhance our account base. If you are loyal to your client, they too will be loyal to you!!!

6. Is there any pressure for you to sell to those who do not have a designer?
We only sell to the trade. Designers, Architects, Upholsters. If the end user tries to purchase our product we will direct them to a designer in their area.

7. How is the "product in demand today" different from 5 years ago?
Designers want product to be in stock. To wear like iron and to be reasonability priced. Clients (end user) are more savvy and are looking for quality. They are thinking twice before purchasing. They want to make sure they are paying for what they are getting.

8. Do the major fabric house consult with each other (forecasting / product development) or is all kept very close to the vest? Do you think there are industry spies?
As for Kravet, It's all in house. It’s a family owned business... fourth generation… over 90 years in business. We have a large design team, product development department, marketing department and sample book department. The Kravets travel the world to different mills and countries looking for new product, ideas and designs. We don't relinquish our secrets! However, I'm sure it gets leaked once in awhile!

9. What kind of efforts these days do you make to hang on to your loyal clients?
Every effort! We offer our top accounts concierge privileges, discounts, rebates, free sampling, free sample books, free marketing items, etc. We also offer our smaller accounts similar privileges. We make every attempt to services them to their every need and provide tools needed to complete the project.

10. When do you think we'll see chintz in a big way again? I mean, really - -just look at those wings upon wings in the Old Guard showrooms - -does it move? (If so who's buying it?)
Chintz does sell! Lee Jofa has a large library of hand blocked/ hand screened chintzes. Right now chenille's, textures, solids....any staple are more popular with designers. The look right now is modern/transitional. I'm sure in the next 10-15 years chintz will make a splash once again. We see a repeat in trends every 10-20 years.
Thank you so much, guys. Anytime a colleague needs a crack sales rep you KNOW I'll be pointing to you!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Home Now Finally! by Glenn Lawson Interior Design

Welcome Interior Design enthusiasts. Today's blog is Chapter One for Home Now Finally! by Glenn Lawson Interior Design. Each Chapter will explore exactly what's going on Now in this exciting ever-changing industry.

So - - -let's be real and start from the ground up. We walk on it, stamp on it and hopefully admire it every day. It's our rugs, it's our carpets. They tend to stick around for a long time, so let's make sure we get it right the first time.
Today I interview three celebrated sales reps from three premier New York carpet and rug sources: Fred Hall of Einstein Moomjy: handles both retail and wholesale; Mike Blechner of Stark Carpet: handles wholesale in stock and custom goods; Mark Nelson of Mark Nelson Designs: handles high end wholesale goods, primarily custom.
The question begins "what gives under foot?"

GL: What are people really looking for these days:
FH: Style, luxury, beauty and value in that order.
MB: New designs, more modern designs and by named decorators.
MN: People are looking for value. They want to feel like their money is being well spent.

GL: How is this different from a year or two ago?
FH: The economy has changed the way people purchase home goods. They are not so impulsive. They want the best BANG for the buck!! Value!
MB: No change.
MN: A year or two ago people were on the Wall street money train. Conspicuous consumption. the higher the price, the higher the appeal. Everything was about showing wealth and good taste. Now people are selecting high end goods but without all the sizzle. People are more apt to buy a very expensive worsted wool custom piece instead of the silk and wool, or even viscose and wool for that matter. It's all about restraint, good taste and being understated.

GL: What colors are now on the A list?
FH: There is a wide range of color requests. Color is in the eyes of the beholder. Most customers request the color of their eyes: blue, brown, classic greys are at the top of the list. However it's important to note that clarity in color is number one. That real silky look in natural or artifical light is what customers look for today.
MB: Beige and browns.
MN: This year I am finding the soft greys to be very popular and the very muted jewel tones like lavendar, green and pinks.

GL: Which ones are so 2 years ago?
FH: The muted straw colors are currently OH SOO 2 years ago.
MB: Dark colors.
MN: 2 years ago everything was brown and beige.

GL: Let's settle the debate: what wears longer? wool, nylon or blends? and which cleans best?
FH: Wool by far wears better, looks better longer, ages gracefully, cleans better and oxidizes at a slower rate than nylon. However it is true that nylon is stronger - but eventually uglies out.
MB: Wool.
MN: I am a firm believer in 100% wool. Period. Every different manufacturer will extoll the virtues of what they make. I recommend wool.

GL: Why should people consult with an interior designer before purchasing a rug or carpeting?
FH: A good interior designer is like a good doctor: they ease the pain of decorating. They know the current trends. They have all the knowledge and resources to solve your decorating needs. More importantly a good interior designer can reflect the client's personality throughout their home.
MB: The designer has a better idea of how to put everything together.
MN: A designer most importantly will size the rug, give the room texture and set the tone for the atmosphere that he or she is trying to create. The most common problem with people buying rugs themselves is that they buy them too small. For the most part a rug shouldn't go in front of a sofa and loveseat and under the coffee table. To make the room look bigger the seating arrangement should be partially on the rug.

GL: On a scale of 1 to 10 when you enter a room how much impact should the carpet have?
FH: Between 5 & 7. It really depends on the space. For example a beautiful wood floor acts as a picture frame for Oriental rugs. A nice wall to wall carpet acts as the backdrop for beautiful fabrics and appointments.
MB: 9
MN: I'm in the I say a 10!!

I'd like to roll out the red carpet and thank our three celebrated participants - -and thank YOU for joining us.

HOME NOW FINALLY! by GLENN LAWSON Interior Design - Chapter One