January 13, 2014
You know it’s market when the seemingly empty streets of downtown High Point are filled to the brim with sophisticated business people from all over the world and the crowd in the elevator makes you realize that all of these people are here for one thing. Every year thousands of people in the furniture industry congregate to enjoy yet another furniture market full of diverse and unique displays in the “furniture capital of the world.” With this being my first time encountering such an event, I was amazed at what I saw.
As a freshman studying visual merchandising and design at High Point University, let’s be honest—I had no idea what the furniture market had to offer. Not only that, but I hadn’t a clue what I was getting myself into when I signed up to job shadow a professional there. All I knew was that I would get to have lunch with some of the best professionals in the industry, and then job shadow someone. So I said, “Why not?”
My day began with a slightly longer than normal bus drive to the International Home Furnishings Center in downtown High Point, where I had the good fortune of being able to have lunch and listen to a discussion, hosted by editor-in-chief of Furniture Today, Ray Allegrezza, including speakers like Kerry Lebensburger (president of sales at Ashley Furniture Industries), Seth Goldberg (VP of business development at Raymour & Flanigan) and Rod Gordon (VP of technology at MicroD Inc.). They gave ample insight into what it takes to be a professional in the industry and shared their personal stories of how they made it to where they are now.
After lunch, I was able to job shadow Lael Thompson, COO at Broyhill Home Collections in the greater Denver area. Luckily I was paired with the right person. Not only did Lael show me some of the most amazing showrooms including Michael Amini and Surya, but he also introduced me to some truly unique professionals. Our most memorable stop was at the Nourison Industries showroom, where I met Jeff González, director of furniture and store sales.
As we walked into the chic showroom full of rugs, pillows and other textiles, I must admit I was a bit skeptical. But after a minute and a lesson later, I realized why Lael brought me there. There’s more to interior design than just picking out pillows and slapping down a rug. No, interior design is much greater than that. There is a whole industry that devotes its services to creating not just a room, but also a complete and cohesive atmosphere, including textiles, lighting, accessories, furniture, electronics and so much more. It was impressive to see all these industries come together in one place to network and share their ideas.
As the day progressed, Lael eventually led me to Ashley Furniture’s Urbanology display. This quickly became my favorite part of the day due to the displays and outlook on design. It is exactly what I want to do with my career. It was fitting that earlier in the day, one of the panelists at the luncheon suggested we “present a lifestyle, not just a price,” because Urbanology displayed a convenient and unique lifestyle that most Americans can afford.
The displays included elements showing creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. The use of raw materials and upcycled items such as old books, paint-chipped doors and worn-out shutters brought a new and inspirational aspect to the idea of design. Design doesn’t necessarily mean you need to go out and buy the most expensive items on the market. No, design can be created out of almost anything, including items you could find at a flea market or thrift shop.
Taking everything into account, the day was full of new experiences, acquaintances and opportunities. I was able to mingle with some of the most inspirational professionals in the industry, including designer Barclay Butera and Satya Tiwari (president and founder of Surya). I got the opportunity to shadow someone with real experience and wisdom in the furniture industry and I was able to experience, for the first time in my life, what it’s like to go to my first furniture market. Not a bad start to my career.