Twice a year for the past 12 years I have traveled to North Carolina for the High Point Furniture Market, a large international trade show for the home furnishings industry. My first visit introduced me to the market and to the furniture company Hickory Chair. I later developed my first furniture collection for them and have gone back every Spring and Fall since then to help set up and style the showroom. Over the years I have collected accessories from shopping in both New York and North Carolina, and have also developed collections with my other licensing partners: lighting for Visual Comfort & Co., rugs for Safavieh, and tabletop accessories for Reed & Barton. Each of these collections is blended with my designs for Hickory Chair to help create a showroom space that is designed to feel lived-in and peaceful.
Hickory Chair moved their showroom into a new building in Fall 2010, and since then my area has moved to the other side of the showroom. The space changes each market, and there is a constant re-balancing of the more modern and traditional elements of the collections. When we arrive, the furniture is gathered in the rooms and the accessories are stacked high. In short order we organize them all and I begin to choose final placement for all the pieces. These photographs are a behind the scenes look at that work.
I use a collection of accessories and artwork to keep the space feeling intimate and familiar. Some of the items I have been collecting in the showroom since my first launch, and they help create a sense of continuity and history for me:
The Picasso print on the left has been in the showroom from the start. Here I have it placed in a more modern room, alongside an hourglass from Aero.
My collection of framed artwork has also grown over the years, and each piece has a special significance to me. The collection includes prints of patterns developed for Target bedding and other textiles, my own cell phone photographs taken at my apartment and in Central Park, vacation snapshots from Mexico, modern figure drawings, and even finger paintings by my goddaughter. Her paintings have been blown-up and printed at a large scale and have a wonderful abstract quality – they are among my favorite pieces in the showroom:
On the final set-up day before the showroom opens, I style the rooms with flowers and branches that I get shipped from the flower market on 28th Street in New York. They are the finishing touches in the space.
In a way, the showroom is a source of reference for me, as all of my collections and projects inform each other in various ways. A custom-made bed for a client became the inspiration for the 5th Avenue bed seen above, patterns developed for sheets and textiles hang on the walls, and pieces from my very first collections sit beside my newest designs. There is a referencing within the world of all of it that keeps building the new settings, the new designs, and the new spaces.
[Click here to browse the complete Thomas O'Brien Collection for Hickory Chair.]