4 – 3 : : DesignPlan : :

Hi all

Another week –

Spring is just around the corner – if I could find which particular corner it’s hiding about,
I’d go grab it by the scruff  ‘o the neck and yank it into tomorrow …. this is just not normal –
mid-April and we’re getting (here in Montreal) sleet, rain, high winds, bitter cold temperatures.

Perhaps we humans have offended the gods of norm (or maybe, Norm?) It’s a big, big price
we seem to be paying what with earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding – all we we’re missing is
pestilence. Perhaps, peskiness will substitute….for the peskiness of this everlasting recession
is having very deep and very profound effects on everyone I come into contact with….

Spring! A re-birth – the renaissance of our local world. Mayday! Soon enough, but definitely
lacking in flora and buds…..how is it in your neck of the woods?

In any event, here we are – just beyonds the Ides of April…..and at week 3 of the month.

This week is a bit special…..I informed you all a couple of weeks ago about  the new feature
being added to DesignPlan….interviews with a wide variety of people…. design professionals,
fabricators, retailers, educators. The intent is to provide a different interview/visit each week….
however, at the outset, it is probably better to promise you that every second week….for, things,
like life – get in the way.

Today I want to introduce you to a Montreal landmark – a beacon of style and constancy.
Décor Montréal has existed since 1949.

Founded by Mr. Jean Alphonse Robert Martin…..and everyone addressed him as Jean, or John.

Moi? When I first met him, and for all the years I had the pleasure of dealing with him, it was always,
Mr. Martin.

Sadly those years came to an end three years ago. My very first encounter with Décor, and Mr Martin,
happened quite by accident. Around 1978 or 1979, I had been brought to Montreál by a wonderful
client, Michael Kace. I had actually met Mr. Kace in Toronto – was introduced to him, and was retained
by him, to design the Pierre Cardin women’s wear showrooms in Toronto. Michael Kace was a
scion of the Montreal fashion industry and manufactured, under license, all the Pierre Cardin
products for north america. The project was a fast-track, low budget affair – but when he arrived from
Montréal to inspect and review it’s completion, he was so pleased, so excited -that he insisted I
come to Montréal to help him with other projects.

And, my first visit to this city was one of jaw-dropping enlightenment….. I was amazed by the
vessel of creativity that hummed through the streets of Montréal….the design, on all levels,
resonated like singing power lines in a high wind! It was, for me, a re-awakening of my creative
spirit – which had been too long steeped in the conservatism of ‘Toronto the beige’.

Michael Kace was a phenomenon – one of those Horatio Alger real-life stories … he arrived
on a ship from Russia, penniless – and got introduced to the ‘shmata’ business in Montréal.
And went on to become one of its leading manufacturers and visionaries. He had this terrible habit….
he would stumble upon raw creative talent somewhere – in Toronto, or San Francisco….New York,
Boston – Chicago…..and he would take that person aside and tell them to contact his assistant
Allison, who would arrange plane reservations for them to come to Montréal to spend some time with
him. I remember the frist time, and subsequent times, when I would arrive at his offices for a meeting,
and strike up a conversation with another person sitting and waiting in the reception area. Each time the story was the same…..
I would ask what they were doing in Montréal, and I would hear,’I’m not sure – Mr. Kace wanted me to come
here and meet with him. I am a window designer/fashion designer/architect – from wherever – and I’m
waiting to see why he wanted me here.’

Quite astounding – a one-man talent scout who found ways to harness creativity and nurture it.

We had a wonderful relationship over the time we were associated….sadly, he suffered a heart attack
at the Montreal airport on a return trip from Europe.

But, on one of my ‘missions’, as per a request of his, I was walking along St Catherine Street one
blustery February afternoon, and spied, on the second floor of a building, a sign that read, ‘Decor” .
I could see wonderful table lamps in the display window along with other fantastically creative artifacts.

However, the entrance seemed to be through a carpet store on the street level. Perfection Rug, was a
retailer of carpeting from all major suppliers and manufacturers. When I entered their premises
I saw a sign directing one to the second floor of the building, to Décor.

I don’t remember the specifics of what I saw that day – or really, what I was looking for – but I was greeted by
this wonderful, courtly gentleman who introduced himself as Mr. Martin….and might he be of assistance?

I was awed by the sheer breadth of the contents of the showroom…..exotic lamps, fabulous tables –
accessories to die for…..I wandered around the showroom in a happy daze.

It may have been that visit – or a subsequent one, when Mr. Martin introduced me to his son, Robert.
The veritable ‘chip off the old block’, in that Robert was gracious, helpful – professionally inquisitive
and a superb help to me.

Thirty plus years later, Mr. Martin is no longer with us – but across those thirty years, I have spent
countless hours and multiple thousands of dollars, of my client’s money – in the search and acquisition
of fabulous design pieces.

God’s truth – in all these years, not once, have I had to return an item because it was not suitable.
And one of the unique and wonderful policies of Décor was this – if you were an established
bona fide designer, you could choose a range of ‘objets’ that you thought might be suitable or appropriate
for a client, and then request that they be sent out, ‘on approval’ .

Robert would provide you with one of the fantastically helpful floor staff [Sylvie became my personal favourite]
and with pad in hand would accompany you around the store as you pointed out the pieces you
were interested in.

Décor is close to my heart, both as a design resource, and a knowledgeable authority on style, fashion,
trends, etc.

I have never had a negative experience with the firm, or the family.

Thus, as I embarked on the quest to initiate interviews for DesignPlan, I thought first of Décor.
In a conversation with Robert, in explaining the point and purpose, he was, as always, most
magnaminously gracious in his response and assistance. We decided that since the High Point
Market Week was coming up the next week, that we should wait until his return from market
to get together and pursue our conversation.

Thus, a week ago yesterday, I visited the showroom early Saturday morning, with my camera, tripod,
and associated equipment, to shoot certain pieces, and discuss with Robert, various aspects of
the home fashion/design world.

[High Point, as a center for the home furnishings industry, evolved in the early 1900’s]

Following is a part of those moments:

DP: I was so saddened to hear of your father’s passing…..can you give me some details?

RM:  Father was inexhaustible…..he worked right up until his passing….at 91 1/2 years of
age, he still insisted on coming tio the store, to ‘help out’. Six days a week he was here…’

DP: My memory of him was from my first visit to Décor. I’m sure, as I saw him many, many
times over the ensuing years, that he never changed. Am I correct?

RM:  Yes – he would be ‘on the floor’,  and would greet every customer as they entered.
If they were a previous client, he greeted them by name.

DP: One of the unique characteristics about Décor is the absolute absence of sofas,
and a very small selection of chairs. In that Décor provides accessories, and artwork –
and lighting, for the comfort of home, how does it work when the ‘supporting cast
members’- such as sofas and chairs, are not in the showroom so customers can either
visualise the suitability of the lamp, or table – and make a selection?

RM: Almost from the very outset, in both a desire to distinguish ourselves as unique and

different, and as a way to maximise our staff performance, Father had seen that sofas, and
upholstered items, were a huge distraction. Rarely did the housewife, and the husband,
ultimately agree on the fabric choice that she had made three days previously, in the store,
after 3, or 4 hours of choices, selections, possibilities. It became quite evident that
when the husband accompanied the missus to review and approve such choice, that the
search started all over again.

DP: I can completely understand, and sympathise…..such a policy, however, did fly in

the face of convention. Yet, Décor was able to make it work….do you have any thoughts on
that you would care to share?

RM: Not much to say – we had a vast showroom, with a limited, but extremely knowledgeable
staff on the floor – who could not be expected to play the role of arbiter in any kind
of intimate discord….. so we simply chose a different path.

DP: And it worked?

RM: So far – yes, it has.

DP:  In today’s world – in this economy, have you drawn any conclusions about
‘buyer preferences’, or have tastes changed much, given the nature of the times?

RM: My observation is, that on the whole, customer’s taste, buying preferences,
have swung to a more contemporary flavour. At Décor, that is always a challenge –
for, at Market Week, if we place orders, we are anticipating trends/tastes, a few months
down the road….

DP: You moved – not all that long ago – from your well established high profile
location in Westmount, on St. Catherines Street, to a very much, ‘off the beaten track’
kind of location. Has that been a positive or a negative decision?

RM: For all the years we were in business, we were primarily on St Catherines Street.

It was a wonderful ambience, and energy, being what that street is…..
It was a difficult decision to remove ourselves from the mainstream….we did get a
lot of walk-in traffic – passers-by, etc…… but the buyer requirements have changed
over the last few years.  With the internet, purchasers do their homework….they research
styles, prices, ambience – before they set out to acquire. Here with a very large and
no-cost parking lot, when a prospective customer arrives at our front door,  it is
because they have made a conscious decision that Décor will probably provide what they are
looking for. In short, it has proven to be a very good move for us.

DP: Market Week in High Point, North Carolina is an ages-old institution. You attended
once again – what was the tenor of the show? Did you see any evidence of significant
change in respect to retailers business strategies, manufacturers trends?

RM: This trip to High Point was my 64th visit. Somewhat astounding even for me
to realize that.The most significant change, or difference I noticed, was that many of
the longstanding players are no longer there anymore – and much more contemporary
stylings and products are filling the showspaces. The overall feel to this show was,
‘We’re playing it safe….we’re not sure if we’ve come through this economic upheaval
with any degree of optimism. Therefore, we’re a little less likely to show very avant
garde ideas….maybe next year things will finally be more settled.’

DP: You and I had an interesting discussion about the Phillips Collection…..
would you care to elaborate on that discussion?

RM: Well, you brought it to my attention – that you had just discovered that fine
company. Personally, I have known the ownership – the family – for decades.
What you saw, as an eye-opener kind of offering, is the continuation of a trend
that seems to have started a few years back. Up until that time, they were a much more
traditional house – artifacts from Asia, the Phillipines….fabulous pieces that
really fit our store style. In recent years they have re-directed their design focus
and now carry the kind of pieces that are ‘out there’, avant-garde….such as
these chairs made of reclaimed auto seatbelts….

DP: Yes – I found their collection, quite awesome…..exciting, cutting-edge…..
fabulous colors in their seat belt chairs. They are clearly a company to watch –
and I will be following up with them shortly – hopefully to do a feature on them.

Robert – I have so much enjoyed this re-visit….to Décor, to your family, and the
philosophies and values that have kept you in the buying consciousness of Montrealers
all these years. We discussed my return to the showroom some evening,  so I could
better shoot some of the fabulous settings…I look forward to doing that soon.
Thank you for your time, your gracious assistance. Your father, I know, would be beaming!

The unusual and distinctive type of treasure to be found at Décor

Robert Martin, Mr. Martin, Mrs. Martin



•     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •

: : DesignPlan : : The High Point Market

An excerpt from the High Point Market Preview Guide, as written by

Mr. Brian D. Casey, President & CEO,
High Point Market Authority

‘Dear Home Furnishings Professional,

The Next Six Days That Matter are right around the corner – six days of energy and excitement,
with breathtaking products to engage and inspire you. High Point Market is the legendary
destination for industry insiders  from around the globe, the one week when fashion and function
combine for a singular and memorable shopping experience.

During Market Week (April 2 – 7) you will find the most comprehensive selection of home furnishings
available, spanning more than 60 product categories and encompassing every style and price point……’

An astounding 2000 exhibitors participated in the show this year representing furniture manufacturers
from all around the world.

Baker Furniture, Barbara Barry, Drexel Heritage, Bernhardt Furniture, The Phillips Collection, Hekman,
Henredon, Hickory Chair – only a few of the hundreds of mainstream manufacturers and style experts.

Following is a smattering of pieces I find of either great interest, wonderful whimsy and/or downright
brilliant design thinking  : :

From Steven Shell of Great Britain, furniture designers/manufacturers ::

Steven Shell do not sell to the public directly….but, you can still have access to their fabulous
product range. If you contact them at http://www.stevenshell.co.uk by e-mail, they will refer you to
a local retailer who carries their products.

From their web-site, the following:

Who we are… What we are…

We specialize in the design and supply of Eclectic furniture. Over several years we have created a strong
relationship with our sole manufacturer giving us exclusivity within the UK, Ireland and parts of Europe.
This allows us to deliver a unique and quality product at competitive prices.

Our founder Steven Shell has over 25 years experience within the furniture industry and has been responsible
for the product and concept design which gives our furniture the uniqueness and desirability that is proving so successful.

All our items of furniture are constructed mainly from mahogany and can be personalised by the consumer
with colours and finishes that lead to thousands of varities in these quality hand painted pieces.

From The Phillips Collection: :

About Phillips Collection : :

Over the past twenty years, Mark and Julie Phillips have displayed a striking skill for discovery, from one-of-a-kind treasures
to new trends. Starting in Southeast Asia and continuing on to Africa, Latin America, Europe and the Pacific Rim, they’ve
searched the world for exciting products for their design-oriented customers. Today, The Phillips Collection continues to
define global style for the contemporary market. With the same spirit of innovation, they discover design and designers,
and match them with an incredible range of production resources developed over decades of travel.

The Phillips Collection thrives on market-driven execution of innovative new concepts. With new categories and new materials,
each market features products that can be found nowhere else. Taking ceramic vases into the realm of sculpture, creating striking
combinations of unexpected materials, and bringing a designer’s eye to a museum collection, The Phillips Collection is the conduit
for a wide range of fresh ideas filtered through a sense for the market and connection to the customer. As such, we are uniquely
positioned to meet the needs and expectations of their design-oriented clients.

Combining exciting concepts, talented designers, skillful producers and a dedicated support staff, The Phillips Collection is a
creative collaboration that mixes concept, craftsmanship and marketing to bring beautiful home furnishings and accessories
into sophisticated homes around the world.

The Phillips Collection has a wonderful assortment of artists dedicated to designing beautiful and unique works.
Every piece a conversation…

They have been repeat design award winners year after year…..their collection truly reflects their philosophy….

You can reach them at http://www.phillipscollection.com. Once again, they sell only to retailers, but if you find something that you just
can’t live without (I found only about 30 or 57 such pieces….), there is a way to get it.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue to showcase some of the outstanding new designs that will be showing up in all the
top-ranked design magazines, interior decor publications, and soon –  at local furniture retailers. Although I would love to
devote more space in this issue, there are other items to be addressed.

•     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •

: : DesignStyle : :

(featured in the Jan/Feb 2011 edition of Inside Out / photographer: Prue Ruscoe / Stylist: Shannon Fricke)

This delightful home is a family retreat in Byron Bay, Australia. Which is where, exactly? Slightly south of Brisbane
and north of Sydney – on the east coast.

Sure looks like a wonderful, fun place – and I suppose, to travel there in style you would, of course, use your
classic Airstream trailer…..

From a local web-site [www.byron-bay.com], their information page tells us : :

Cape Byron is Australia’s most easterly point, 153° 39´ east, located on the north coast of New South Wales
(see map of Australia below). With its numerous beaches, unspoilt hinterland, and relaxed lifestyle, Byron Bay
is a popular tourist destination. 

With average summer temperatures of 21C – 28C, and average winter temperatures of 15C – 21C, both locals
and visitors are able to enjoy plenty of outdoor activities including the many festivals throughout the year. 

Byron Shire has a population of close to 30,000, while the town of Byron Bay has a population of about 9,000. 

Byron Bay is located just off the Pacific Highway, 800kms north of Sydney, 175kms south of Brisbane.
Airports are located in Ballina (30mins south) or Coolangatta (60mins north) and busses and trains arrive regularly. 

•     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •

: : DesignPlan Architecture : :

This fabulous coastal home was designed by Studio Alhadeff, Milan. It is located in Turkey….

The international perspective at Studio Alhadeff Architects lends to the distinctive structures produced by the Italian firm.
Recently, the Milan-based studio has developed a modern stucco and stone home on the Turkish Mediterranean coast,
a 100-year old log cabin outside of Moscow and a series of land-marked buildings in London.

Principal Giancarlo Alhadeff founded the firm in 1991, drawing from his own multi-national background.
Alhadeff was born in Egypt and spent a large part of his childhood in Japan. “The element that informed me the
most is having lived in Japan for seven years,” he says about his design influence.

With a cosmopolitan pedigree, he has long incorporated sustainable principles into his approach.
“In Europe we’ve been doing it far longer. It’s something that we use as a guiding principle.”
That process includes working with a structural and mechanical engineer in the early stages of development.
For the home he constructed in Turkey, he used local Hatay stone, coated with thermal insulation that aids
the cooling process, eliminating the need for air conditioning.

At the root of Alhadeff’s process is a desire to compliment the character of his clients.
“Listening to the client’s story is an important element to what I do.” (Studio Alhadeff Architects)


•     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •

: : DesignProjects : :

Depiction Lab, a London-based design firm / thinktank, recently completed  a new retail furniture store
in the heart of Liverpool One’s major development.

The part I want to show you here is the unique manner by which graphics were used to provide
design continuity and visual interest in the central staircase:


•     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •     •

That’s it for this week


One Response to “4 – 3 : : DesignPlan : :”
  1. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every wee bit of it. I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

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