Paul Roberts' Master Storyteller, Ronna Griest: "The Fabric Tells the Story"

On a blustery spring day at High Point Market, sporting an imprudent pair of heels, I was finding my way to an interview at a furniture showroom off the beaten path, where I’m certain one wind-blown earring remains to this day.

Out of the elements, and inside the warmth of a restored 1920’s brick hosiery mill with towering ceilings, rustic wood beams, and an immediate profusion of head turning design, I found the 20,000 square foot wonderland that is Paul Robert Furniture.

L to R, Keren Chair and Choices Grande Sofa shown in Dove; Sadie Swivel.  Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

L to R, Keren Chair and Choices Grande Sofa shown in Dove; Sadie Swivel.

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

A quick survey of my surroundings suggested that trekking this sprawling menagerie of frames, finishes and fabrics should be undertaken with the accompaniment of an aficionado. And fortunately, my guide would be just that. One of the home furnishings industry’s finest, as there are a few who know every wood and weave like Ronna Griest, Paul Robert’s Design Director.

Ronna Griest, Design Director for Paul Robert Furniture, with Scottie, a modernized wing chair inspired by an English reproduction from the 1900s.  Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

Ronna Griest, Design Director for Paul Robert Furniture, with Scottie, a modernized wing chair inspired by an English reproduction from the 1900s.

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

Her accomplishments bear this out: Ronna led and designed for New York’s Covington Fabrics, and as Creative Director for Dallas-based Massoud. She founded Expressions Custom Furniture where she propelled the company to a chain of more than 75 stores nationally. After its acquisition by Century, she served as President, creating its Passementerie upholstered furniture division.

So I, mere fabrics fanatic, would get to walk this showroom in the shadow of a guru.

Paddy Sofa  Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

Paddy Sofa

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

Moving through the design space, she’s footloose. Each piece, whether a sofa, chair, or chaise is a colorful story of it’s meticulously visioned parts. Bring her customer’s story to life however, and footloose gives way to an ardent ‘high five.’  To that end, the stage is set for three very different, fully customizable stories: one which leans maximalist, warm minimalist, and one with a modern twist.

STORY NO. 1 - HOME TERRAIN

Laurel Bed, Zelda Settee, Colby Chair

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

Equestrian manor replete with myriad “aged,” hand-wiped leathers, fireside wools, and stately details, meets storied textiles on what’s rich and ruggedly refined. While washed linen on a French frame tells a lighter, even coastal story. Here, scale is as grand as the diversity of design.

So the shop gets filled up with one of a kind things, people come in, they buy on the first day because it makes their store different . . .
— Ronna Griest
Haven Sofa  Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

Haven Sofa

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

HT & CO

As a “shop within a shop,” PR added HT & Company, an assortment of elements, or what Ronna describes as  “pieces and parts.” A Classic Louis XVI chair goes graphic in printed zebra, while a finished copper leather brings modern balance to a weathered frame.

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily


“So we have tricolored hair hides, we have quilted leathers, we have leather chairs and wool. Patches. I mean this is just a random assortment of some of the things that we do really well with.”



STORY NO. 2 - URBAN HEIGHTS

Creaky wooden stairs certainly have a way of building intrigue. Now upstairs, the mill’s industrial windows reveal a natural light infused space. Time-worn hardwoods, brick walls, and the charm of the ceiling’s faded palette set a “lofty” scene for the furnishings that tell this story.

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

Photo: Lisa Thiessen, The Design Daily

‘Urban Heights’ is my take on what leans minimalist, with organic shapes, and scale that’s pared down. Just beyond entry level, perhaps first time furnishing a home is where you’re likely to find this buyer. Linens, sophisticated graphics, watercolor florals, mud cloth motifs, softer leather touches, and even family and pet friendly Crypton, only begin to speak to the spectrum of fabric choices.



“ . . . we'll put on a skirt, we'll take off the skirt, we'll change the configuration of a seat cushion, we'll change the back pillows. So all that's possible on these frames . . .”

STORY NO. 3 - MODERN MINGLE

Chenille runs horizontally on a tub chair. Tie dye, or tufted, metallic leather on a traditional frame. This is where pieces play on an artful edge. The look and shapes are clean, fabrics are full bodied, even flaunting a little glam.

Giovanni Sofa and Chair

Photo: The Design Daily

 

“The fabric is what tells the story. It really is.

We're not sitting there cutting ten of anything at any given time. Everything we do is to order.

It's all special.”

 

“It's amazing, and fabric to me, every Showtime, every time we go do fabrics, is just pure magic.

Pure Magic.

We spend, six days, ten hours a day looking at new patterns. Can you imagine? And that comes in, you call it down,


and you tell your story.”



Listen to the complete interview here.