Inspiration in the Studio

Day 3 at Hickory Chair University!

Day 3

Day 3 at Hickory Chair University started bright and early with a tour of the upholstery factory. I’ve been to several upholstery manufacturer’s before, but this operation is different. The employees of Hickory Chair are challenged to perfect their systems and think “outside the box.”  I firmly believe that the management style of Hickory Chair is what has allowed them to succeed in a very challenging industry.

Check out all of the color-coded pattern pieces for the upholstered furniture frames…


Skilled craftsmen are found throughout the factory constructing the Hickory Chair frames. The quality of construction is why this furniture can be reupholstered over and over again….becoming true heirloom pieces for generations.


Laura Holland explains the construction of this beautiful chair. Hickory Chair President, Jay Reardon, stayed with us for three days and facilitated much of our training. I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I was by these two talented individuals. I truly believe they could build any piece of furniture in the entire line all by themselves!


Once the frames are complete, it’s time to apply the upholstery. Each fabric is meticulously cut for proper positioning….


And carefully sewn together for a perfect fit….


We’ve all heard of eight-way-hand-tied. Well, here it is..actually tied by hand and secured tightly. No inexpensive spring alternatives in this product.


Laura and Jay explaining the many finishing options available on each piece. Hickory Chair has implemented the Silhouettes program that allows complete custom construction of chairs and sofas….you pick your seat depth, seat height, arm style, cushion style, skirt options, and other details such as nailheads. The possibilities never seem to end.


We ended our visit with a traditional North Carolina pig pickin’ which happened to double as a celebration for the entire plant for achieving unprecedented safety goals. After spending three days in this small North Carolina town, it became very clear why I’m so excited about using these beautiful furnishings in my projects!

Thank you, Laura, Jay and the entire Hickory Chair team for your gracious hospitality and quality education! It was well worth the three days away from the studio….now back to creating!

Hickory Chair University: Day 2!

Day 2

Day 2 at Hickory Chair University started with an informative lecture on quality manufacturing of wood furnishings, including everything from furniture construction to wood veneers.  Many of the techniques used years ago are still implemented today. Many improvements in technology have allowed greater flexibility and efficiency in furniture production.

After our “classroom” portion of class, we ventured into the real world of high end furniture production…here we go.


With so many furniture manufacturers closing their doors and losing business to imports, Hickory Chair has managed to excel. It is obvious that their leadership has taken great strides to empower their employees, the true craftspeople of this fine furniture.


Attention is paid to every detail….


Notice the beautiful wood combination on this piece….and it doesn’t even have it’s finish applied yet.


Inventory is closely watched to only produce pieces that meet the demand of current orders. These pieces are ready for production…


Hickory Chair offers each furniture piece in many different finishes. The finishes require numerous layers, many of which are applied by hand…


Did you ever wonder why some drawers are so easy to operate and some…well, not so much?  Laura Holland (our fabulous host extraordinaire), explains quality drawer construction…


It’s because of people like this who care about how your drawers close….


Check out this perfect fit…


We were all fascinated by this Marielle bookcase designed by Thomas O’Brien. It is fully upholstered and is finished beautifully on the inside and out. We watched as the nailhead detail was applied….over 2,800 individual nailheads applied by a talented man with an incredibly steady hand!



I was thrilled with the options on Day 2 and couldn’t wait for Day 3. Tomorrow we tour the upholstery plant!  More options and more fine furniture created by a fine group of people.

Hickory Chair University...the best education yet!

Last week I had the honor and pleasure of attending Hickory Chair University in Hickory, North Carolina!  This three day experience was filled with education, creativity, and quality. There is so much to share, so I decided to spread it out over three days of posts…one for each day of the University!

Day 1

Sunday evening started with cocktails and dinner on the Mezzanine. This space is casual, yet sophisticated too, and filled with fabulous pieces from the various collections of Hickory Chair.


The customization available is amazing. The combination of finishes, fabrics, hardware, glass, stone….the possibilities become endless (and, I have to admit, can be overwhelming).


This bed is simple and elegant with it’s upholstered insert. Imagine changing the wood finish and eliminating the upholstery for a completely different look.


This breakfront is absolutely gorgeous in a painted and distressed finish.  Click here to see the same piece in a traditional mahogany stain. A bit of trivia and history…notice each glass door has 13 panels. Why 13? I like to think it’s because it’s my lucky number since I was born on Friday the 13th, but actually it’s historically common to represent the thirteen original colonies of the good ‘ole USA. Here I go on my bandwagon again, but I am thrilled that all of this beautiful furniture is handcrafted right here in the great state of North Carolina!


And, a little bit of current events trivia too! I love this Hallings Secretary designed by Thomas O’Brien from the showroom. It is currently playing a starring role in the Sex and the City 2 movie. A beautiful statement piece…even in the movies!


Tomorrow is Day 2 and we’ll tour the case good factory!  I promise it’s worth the visit…

"Expert Advice" Series for Southern Living House Plans...Top Design Trends!

Today I was pleasantly surprised to open my e-mail and find the latest edition of the Southern Living House Plans e-newsletter. Can a month really pass that quickly? Once again, Southern Studio is honored to be featured in the “Expert Advice” column!


This month’s article, Top Ten Design Trends, was quite fun and challenging to research.  Earlier this year I was preparing to speak at the Southern Living Custom Builder Program annual conference and decided to complete a 10 for ’10 list…the ten best design trends in housing for 2010. My personal list would be more like a Top 100, but I’ll save that for another day. It was important to me that I highlight the most functional and creative features that every homeowner should consider when building or remodeling their homes.

Feel free to comment and add to the list!

A Guest Chat with Triangle Tile and Stone

We’re introducing a new blog series….Guest Chats! Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to work with some excellent craftsmen and suppliers. Any interior design project requires a team effort to achieve the best results. This series will focus on our partners…the businesses and people that I’m fortunate enough to work with every day.

Our first guest is Triangle Tile and Stone. I guess it’s appropriate that we start with the vendor that I’ve known the longest. I first met Triangle Tile’s owner, John Narramore, over twenty years ago (yikes, that is really admitting age…John’s, not mine, of course)! Along with Kelli Narramore, they have managed to build one of the best tile showrooms in the Triangle. What sets them apart? In my opinion, it’s the comfortable and professional showroom in which every client is welcomed and gets personal attention.

Laura Olmsted, Interior Designer and Showroom Consultant Extraordinaire, manages the selections for Southern Studio. We recently discussed the business of tile design during a recent showroom visit.  Enjoy our Q&A chat….


Q: What makes Triangle Tile and Stone different?

A:  Our customer service! We strive to give each client that walks in the door personal, one-on-one attention and assistance. We feel that our complimentary professional design service and warm, welcoming atmosphere set Triangle Tile and Stone apart from other area tile showrooms.

Q: How did you partner with Southern Studio?

A:  Vicky has been bringing her clients to Triangle Tile and Stone for years! We’ve assisted her with several large remodel jobs as well as new construction and smaller kitchen and bath projects.

Q: What are the hottest trends in tile?

A:  While visiting the International Tile Show in Orlando in April, we saw a lot of new products with very clean, contemporary lines and straight edges. One of our top vendors introduced a new porcelain line that looks exactly like marble. We love it because it is less expensive and less maintenance than the real thing! Other hot trends include glass and stone mosaics, as well as hand-painted glazed lines. Glossy subway tile and mini-hexagon mosaics are also making a big comeback as the “cottage, shabby chic” look becomes increasingly popular in our area.

Q:  Before visiting the tile showroom, what should be done to prepare?

A:  I usually recommend selecting new cabinets and countertops before selecting your tile. There are so many options with tile that it is always a good idea to have those items decided first because it sets the tone for the tile selections. If you are working with existing cabinets and countertops, bring a picture or a sample of those items with you, if possible. For whole house renovations and new construction, it is very helpful to have floor plans of the space with you.


Q:  How does the tile selection and installation process work?

A:  The first step is making your tile selections with the assistance of one of our showroom designers. Walk-ins are always welcome but we do work by appointment as well. Simply come in our showroom and we will be happy to help you make your selections! We write down all the details of your project, including tile color, layout, grout color, soap dishes and we include a concept sketch with your paperwork. We also allow you to check out samples for up to one week. After the selections have been made, we pass your information on to your installer or contractor and he or she will measure your space and order the material. Because Triangle Tile and Stone does not employ tile installers, we make sure to document your selections in detail in order to communicate your expectations to your tile installer. We have a list of tile installers that we refer our clients to on a regular basis and we would be happy to give you that list when you visit our showroom.

Q: What are some unique and creative tile installations?

A:  Because Raleigh is located so close to the beach, we’ve done several applications using decorative shell, turtle, and seahorse tiles on kitchen backsplashes and shower walls. Glass mosaic tiles can also be applied to water lines in pools and jacuzzi tubs for a pop of color. We’ve used tile in decorative features in restaurants, spas, and retail shops. Recently, I assisted a client in designing a shower surround using only stone pebble mosaics in order to achieve a natural, relaxing space.

Q:  Are there any recent projects you would like to share?

A:  Vicky and I recently finished a large remodel project involving several bathrooms. We combined marble and glass tiles in the master bath in order to give a modern twist on a more traditional material.  We also introduced glass and marble mosaic borders in two of the secondary baths and added a splash of color with pink and coral penny round tiles in the fourth bath. It was a great experience to work with Vicky and her client on this project! Vicky has so many wonderful ideas and she has a great understanding of her client’s personal style.

With that introduction, I need to include a few photos of our recent remodel project. Of course, we could not have achieved the beautiful results without the craftsmanship of Santos Tile. And, never to be forgotten, our amazing clients who welcome us into their home and appreciate the creative process and great design.


I just love the classic combination of Carerra marble and glass mosaics. We even carried the design onto the backsplash.


Another bathroom with Emporador Dark marble on the floors, countertops and accent tiles. I love the contrast of the chocolate brown against the creamy cabinets.


A fun, playful shower design that incorporates another natural marble, Crema Marfil, with glass mosaic tiles.


I wish you could see the entire bathroom in each of these photos, but professional bathroom photography is an art and unfortunately, I have not quite mastered it!

Thank you, Triangle Tile and Stone, for all you do for Southern Studio and our clients! Who will we chat with next?