• Cindy W. Hodnett

Designers Define Luxury

Alexa HamptonAlexa Hampton
Alexa Hampton, Barclay Butera and Candice Olson have created careers based on their refined design expertise. Yet despite flourishing in a profession that often takes them to some of the world's most glamorous locales, the trio is strikingly down-to-earth when talking about what constitutes luxury in furniture products.
     "Luxury to me encompasses all the elements of life that aren't absolutely necessary, but without which life would be less charmed, less beautiful and not nearly as fun," says Olson, an interior designer, author and host of HGTV's "Candice Tells All."
     "We live in an information-based society where the consumer is willing to invest extra time to distinguish between products and is often shunning the obvious brands for a more discreet, unique product that fits their very need," she said. "In my experience, luxury goods might be more defined by the time it takes to handcraft or personalize a product to perfectly fi t into my client's life."
     Butera is an interior designer, author and president and CEO of Barclay Butera Inc., whose brands include Barclay Butera's Interiors, Lifestyle and Home.
Barclay ButeraBarclay Butera
"There's no question that the combination of incredible style and comfort undeniably adds up to true luxury," he said. "I have seen far too many circumstances when a piece looks phenomenal in style but is a total miss in the comfort department. Comfortable elegance is always in style."
     Hampton owns and operates the New York design firm Mark Hampton LLC and designs licensed products in home furnishings through her company Alexa Hampton Inc. She agreed that luxury is often defined by the circumstances of the consumer.

     "I love tufting, but not on seat cushions where we're going to have snacks," she says. "If you're a lounger, then luxury might be having a sofa that is deep enough to give you the ability to sit Indian style. The way I define luxury in anything is that it is completely tailored to the needs of the buyer."
     The designers add that effectively displaying high-end luxury furnishings in the showroom requires the same type of careful consideration.
     "I love to shop in stores where I feel loved," Olson said. "That feeling comes from the shopping experience that appeals to my emotions, my imagination, my sense of fun. Let's face it, furniture is available in many shops, but we return to those shops where we feel a connection."
Candice OlsonCandice Olson
Diversity is also key, according to Hampton. "I think retailers need to focus on mixing contemporary with traditional pieces," she said. "No one's style seems to be categorizable into just one look anymore. The most interesting combinations of items that provide the right degree of tension are always the displays that really catch the eye. Too much similitude and the eye stagnates. Obviously, too much clutter is a mistake."
     "Merchandising makes all the difference showcasing luxury goods," Butera said. "When you mix the right lighting, home décor, accessories, rugs and pillows, the consumer falls in love with a total look. As a designer, I am always attracted to other retailers that take time to go the extra distance with presentation.

Cindy HodnettCindy W. Hodnett | Upholstery/Style Editor

As the Upholstery/Style Editor for Furniture/Today, I spend my work hours studying the sloping curves of sofa frames, the intricacies of fabric and the nail head trim and button accents that function as jewelry on a piece of upholstery. I research the companies that bring these things together for retailers, and ultimately consumers, and interview industry leaders about their business strategies and where they think furniture is heading in the future. And when traveling, I provide a sneak peek at what I'm seeing, whether at international markets or in High Point or Las Vegas.

I look forward to sharing what I see and I hope you'll feel free to do the same. Email me at chodnett@furnituretoday.com or follow me on Twitter @CynthiaWHodnett.

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