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HD, Las Vegas, and Neocon

May 21, 2012

We have just concluded HD 2012. For those of you who do not know what HD is, it stands for Hospitality Design, the largest show in the US for those companies who supply furnishings to hotels, cruise ships, restaurants, stores, and other public facilities, even churches. This show happens in May in Las Vegas, and is a typical convention in one sense. However, since it is a “hotel” show in a hotel, many of the attendees are obsessed with running around Las Vegas- not to hit the hot clubs or the more prurient aspects of “The Strip”, but to look at edgy new interiors by designers from all over America. So while your basic Vegas conventioneer spends time, I suppose, enjoying those things that Vegas is famous for, HD attendees wander hotels looking at the layering of interior architecture and design, studying color palettes and the use of texture, with maybe a little partying thrown in.

HD, as a barometer of the non-residential interior design industry, indicated that the domestic hospitality industry is coming back at last. American hotels are busy again, and that is a very good sign for us all, just as is the fact that UPS and FedEx are busier. When hotels are busy, the economy is surely picking up!

At Donghia, we not only displayed the textiles and furniture we are known for, we demonstrated capability- the ability to solve problems for clients through our capabilities as a custom product design & manufacturing company rather than with our existing line of products. Whether it be custom furniture for retail stores or custom textiles for hotels, Donghia (and Bergamo) were able to demonstrate the breadth of the products and services offered to a wide variety of clients. This was a departure from our regular exhibit, and the response was gratifying. Thank you all.

Next, we head to Chicago and Neocon in mid-June. See you there.

“Adapt” is the new Black.

April 27, 2012

It is now almost May of 2012. Since 2008, four LONG years ago, the interior design industry has sagged, slumped, languished, recovered, slowed, sped up, slowed, hiccupped upwards, and in general done everything except provide a steady growth curve for the majority of the firms that make up this industry. However, for some firms, the recession has caused them to rethink, regroup, restructure, and, most importantly, to ADAPT! Some firms are incredibly busy, others are looking at the phone.

Basically, doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results has been found to be a failure as a business plan, especially during a prolonged recession. However, intelligent change can break this cycle and allow for new growth down new paths. This was the subject of a short talk I recently gave in Scottsdale to a wonderful group of designers, and many of them were way down this road already and thriving.

So, look at your business. ASK yourself (and your team!!) the following questions:

1. What could we do better, cheaper, smarter, more efficiently?

2. What do we do that we can just stop doing with no damage to our business?

3. Where are we giving money away when, by charging for that service, we could make money?

4. How can we get more business from existing clients or existing but dormant clients?

5. What are we doing to seek new business, and what is the competition doing?

6. How do we make money? How do we structure our fees, mark-ups, etc.? Is this in step with the competition?

Go through this exercise, and see if you are surprised by the answers. Then start to plan to adapt to the markets that are emerging. Here is an example.

Ageing in Place– a new business for many designers but the fastest growing design market in the US at present (they say that someone turns 60+ every 7 seconds in America!). Are you certified in this practice? Why not? Not so much assisted living, but baby boomers selling the big house and moving into the even fancier barrier-free condo. This also requires someone (you?) to become a conduit (for a commission) to: appraisers (all the stuff in the big house); e-sellers ( got to get rid of Aunt Betty’s huge armoire!), and host of other services. Who does the client trust more than you? If you can simplify the “Downsize to Luxury” process for them, you can make it a multi-facted business opportunity for you. This is adapting at its finest, but there are many other ideas.

Write a contract– How many of you DO NOT have a tight fee-for-service contract that has to be signed by both parties (husband AND wife). Do you do handshake  deals? Please have an attorney help you write up a state of the art contract for your business! This allows you to stop trying to retail (less and less successful these days), and allows you to make even more money for the work performed. X$ per hour for you, Y$ for your associate, XX% on top of all goods and services but the invoices pass through at cost, and then a choice of ways to bill (weekly, monthly, specific benchmark billing, etc). And just because they forgot to mention the pool house no longer means they can ask you to do it for free. “It’s not in the contract”.

Menu– Another variant on this , also including but preceding a contract, is a design services menu. Some designers now have a printed brochure, and in it is a vellum or equivalent that offers 3-4 different ways they will work with a client to give the client a sense that they can, if not control, then guide the process, which empowers them. Talk to an architectural firm. They often have pretty well structured billing practices. Can you adapt them to your design practice?

So, remember, “Adapt” is the new black. It’s what every design firm should be wearing this season!

Albert Hadley

April 9, 2012


By now everyone knows that Albert Hadley, globally renowned and celebrated interior designer, passed away last week. I wish I could say that Albert Hadley was a close friend, but I can say that he was a close acquaintance throughout my many years in the design industry. Also, he came from Nashville, and I lived there for several years working for The Baker Furniture Co.  He was a gentleman, and a gentle man. As a client, he was unfailing polite, but firm. As a supporter of those he championed, he was superb. I remember when we introduced Lulu de Kwiatkowski and her new book to the Donghia New York clients, he sat in the front row and volunteered to introduce Lulu, since he both revered her work and knew her a hell of a lot better than we did!

However, Albert Hadley was special to me for another completely different reason. 99.9% of the interior design industry does not know this, but I actually drew and designed both a fabric and a wallpaper for the Peter Fasano Collection. Peter, like Mr. Hadley is a gentleman and a gentle man, and he agreed to let me try my hand at product design. The fabric and wallpaper were displayed in at least 10 showrooms across America, and were quietly discontinued several years later. Dismal sales! However, this pattern had two loyal clients, and one of them was Albert Hadley, who used it in powder rooms and evidently in other interior spaces. Imagine- you have exactly one design on the market, and THE Albert Hadley uses it- repeatedly! He even did a custom color!

So, while we all will greatly miss Mr. Hadley, I will miss him as the designer who validated my product design efforts through actual specifications and installations. Thank you Mr. Hadley. Thank you.

Donghia’s Spring Textile Collection at WestWeek

March 28, 2012

Introducing 12 new patterns, Donghia debuted its Spring 2012 Textile Collection with exclusive presentations starting in New York and Los Angeles. Entitled, Footloose & Fancy Free, the lighthearted collection is filled with bold patterns and whimsical colors that reflect Donghia’s enthusiasm for design; ever evolving and always innovative. This latest line, true to its title, combines high performance textiles and statement designs for a footloose and fancy free experience.

See collection photos on our Website here:

See collection photos on Facebook here:

Spring Collections from Sahco & Rubelli at Donghia

February 1, 2012

It is 60 degrees outside as I sit in my office in Westchester. One year ago there was four feet of snow piled up and it was freezing. Myabe it’s not global warming, but it is certainly odd. Day lilies are trying to send up shoots, and crocus are tentatively appearing. Now that the Northeast is becoming more temperate, I will not complain. I just hope that February is not January’s cruel sister.

More interestingly, there is a renewed sense of optimism that is cropping up throughout the Donghia world, just like the tentative early signs of spring in my yard. Our booked order business in several showrooms set records in January, as did showroom traffic. Residential designers seem to have a lot of work, and are favoring us with their presence- thank you, thank you. Signs of spring are possibly signs of a strong 2012, something we fondly hope for on behalf of the design community, and in a larger sense the wider design industry (that includes Donghia and Bergamo!).

So, I thought I would sneak in a few pictures of new Sahco and Rubelli Textiles. Think of them as spring flowers emerging within our showrooms! Their respective spring collections are coming out over the next 60 days at a Donghia Showroom near you. The Donghia Collection is already out. Take a look, and enjoy!

Donghia in Paris

January 26, 2012

I have returned from Maison et Objet and Deco Off; two parallel luxury Home furnishings expositions; one in Paris and one outside of Paris. As our companies (Rubelli, Donghia, Sahco) all have beautiful showrooms in Paris, I was forced, forced to spend five days in Paris and did not attend the fair at Villepint, which I understand was extremely busy. Life can be difficult you see, but one has to adapt. It rained a bit, drizzled a bit, but ladies and gentlemen, rain in Paris seems somehow acceptable and appropriate, especially when accompanied by a chocolate croissant and a cup of coffee from Paul.

What matters is that the world was there and the world’s decorative business, while heavily impacted by the global recession to be sure, showed every sign of starting to thrive once again. It must be some sort of economic indicator that we worked with designers and home furnishing stores from literally dozens and dozens of cities and countries, even America! To travel to Paris from Boston, or New York, or Sao Paulo, or Sydney, Capetown, Moscow, Toronto, Singapore, Bangkok, Taipei, Hong Kong, Mumbai, and from so many other cities, all to see what’s new and shop for clients- an economic indicator indeed! It was exhilarating even as it was exhausting! Imagine working side by side listening to seven or eight languages at once, all people admiring the same designs and considering them for each market where that particular language is spoken. Serbia, Bulgaria, Kuwait, Lebanon, you name it; an intelligent and thoughtful cacophony of language; the language of interior design from all over the world.

The press were heavily in attendance, just like the good old days. I had wonderful talks with countless talented editors, publishers and bloggers. Ludovic Darricau of Elitis and I also had the privilege of working with Julia Noran and Jessica Rahm Perez from The Editor At Large, one of our industry’s very finest blogs. We toured Donghia and Rubelli, followed by a stroll down the Boulevard St. Germain to Elitis, all the while admiring the beautiful city we had the good fortune to be working in. Julia guided us through the videography process like the true professional she is, all with the hopes that we could capture some of the flavor of this exciting industry market in this magnificent city. If it doesn’t all end up on the cutting room floor I invite you to take a look!

If last week was a portent of things to come, then the year of the Dragon may indeed hold good fortune for the interior design business and those of us who support and supply the world’s designers with beautiful products.

So, next year, maybe you will come, and I will see you at Sahco, Rubelli, Donghia, or even strolling along the Seine. It beats High Point!

And, The Giants won! Sorry, a little New York pride. Go Giants!

Donghia & The Peak of Chic

January 25, 2012

I was thrilled to read this post by Jennifer Boles on Donghia’s NY flagship showroom. Included are images by renowned photographer Miguel Flores Viana and magical renderings by Donghia’s longtime designer, Masaru Suzuki. If you have not already, check out her fantastic blog at the link below.