• Thomas Russell

Bob Timberlake and Century Furniture team up in 2011

Will launch casual traditional line at upcoming High Point market
 Century President and CEO Eric Schenk, left, shown with Bob Timberlake and Alex Shuford III, Century vice president of sales and marketing.Century President and CEO Eric Schenk, left, shown with Bob Timberlake and Alex Shuford III, Century vice president of sales and marketing.
LEXINGTON, N.C. — Two of the most respected families in furniture - Bob Timberlake and Hickory, NC-based Century Furniture - are teaming up in 2011 to build upon the success of one of the longest running licenses in industry history.

Bob Timberlake Inc and Century revealed this week they have entered a licensing partnership that officially begins Jan. 1.

The agreement marks the end of Bob Timberlake's former 20-year association with Lexington Home Brands, which expires Dec. 31.

For years, the World of Bob Timberlake line was one of Lexington's signature lines and one of the most well-known furniture licenses. The Bob Timberlake gallery Web site said the Bob Timberlake furniture line has had more than $1 billion in wholesale sales since its inception.
It also marks a new beginning for the 73-year-old Timberlake, a nationally known realist painter who has been painting professionally since 1970.

In January of that year he began the transition from working at a family-owned propane business to painting two or more days a week. By the end of the year, he was painting full time.

While Timberlake had a successful run with Lexington and maintains a number of friendships there, he looks forward to the next creative phase of his involvement in furniture. He said it has been anywhere from five to 10 years since he last was able to use his creative energies in the realm of furniture design.

"We like them," he said of Century. "They had a lot of vision and that creativity part is what excites me."

"For the past 10 years I have been pent up and haven't been able to express myself," he added of his passion for designing furniture. "A love unexpressed is only an illusion. If you are able to express it, it is an amazing thing to have happen."

Timberlake officials first began discussing a possible licensing partnership with Century in November 2009. Members of the Timberlake family and the Shuford family, whose father and grandfather Harley F. Shuford Sr. founded Century in 1947, began talking in earnest in the following months. By March of this year they had reached an agreement.

Neither party discussed specifics, including the length of the licensing agreement. However, at an interview at the Bob Timberlake gallery in Lexington earlier this month, they indicated that the partnership would be long-term.

For Century, the Bob Timberlake line will represent the good, better and best parts of its case goods and upholstery offerings. Century will produce the better and best parts of the line.

Linwood Furniture, which in recent years has produced the domestic portion of the Timberlake line for Lexington, will produce the good, or entry level case goods. A number of accent furniture pieces will be developed overseas.

An initial yet-to-be-named casual traditional collection to be unveiled at the April High Point Market will be produced by Century. It will include about 50 case goods pieces and 40 upholstery items designed in partnership with Bob Timberlake.

Timberlake said he was particularly excited about the upholstery component, including Century's custom approach. Century currently has about 1,500 fabric, 200 leather, 45 nailhead and 200 decorative trim options.

Previously, Timberlake officials estimated that only about 10% of the line included upholstery. Now, upholstery will comprise roughly half of the mix.

On the wood side, Century offers 56 finish options and two types of distressing.

Century officials said this represents a unique opportunity for them to reach a broad array of customers with a well known brand that spreads across all price segments of their line.

"We get a lot of opportunities thrown at us and choose very few," said Alex Shuford III, vice president of sales and marketing. "We only want to work with people we like and this from the very beginning struck us as that type of relationship...The old collection had a phenomenal run and created a lot of brand loyalty to Bob and the Timberlake brand over the years...People like living casually and there is no better brand to create that sense of nesting, of sophisticated casual comfort."

Timberlake officials said they are excited about an opportunity they believe will help revive the brand.

"Rarely does a brand get a second shot much less a second coming," said Dan Timberlake, chief operating officer with Bob Timberlake Inc. "We are not only trading up, but way up in terms of the partnership...We know it's going to be a good reflection on his name, and that is what is critical to us."

Bob Timberlake said he believes this will be the third next major phase of his artistic life, one that started professionally when he was 33 years old in 1970. The second, 20 years later, was when he and Lexington first conceived the World of Bob Timberlake collection.

"We hopefully changed a little bit of the art world back then and the furniture world and hopefully we will do that now," he said.

"It's really exciting," Timberlake added. "It's like Christmas and I'm looking forward to it."

Thomas RussellThomas Russell | Associate Editor, FurnitureToday

I'm Tom Russell and have worked at Furniture/Today since August 2003. Since then, I have covered the international side of the business from a logistics and sourcing standpoint. Since then, I also have visited several furniture trade shows and manufacturing plants in Asia, which has helped me gain perspective about the industry in that part of the world. As I continue covering the import side of the business, I look forward to building on that knowledge base through conversations with industry officials and future overseas plant tours. From time to time, I will file news and other industry perspectives online and, as always, welcome your response to these Web postings.

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