"It's not easy to get the eclectic look right — you can make a lot of mistakes." Skye Kirby, Lillian August's Vice President of Stores & Marketing, is leading a few of us on a tour of their New York showroom, where vignettes are arranged in styles as varied as "industrial," "cottage home," and "new traditional."The space is massive, covering 17,000 square feet in New York's Flatiron District. It's actually on the small side for a Lillian August store — their Connecticut flagship is more than five times the size at 100,000 square feet, with a 30,000 square foot outlet nearby.
Lillian August isn't an average furniture store — they're a full-service design business that covers everything from walk-in retail sales to one-on-one interior design projects with clients. Sixty percent of their business comes from interior design and trade projects, and forty percent comes from retail sales. The company maintains five stores nationwide and a core group of full-time interior designers on staff — nearly everyone on the showroom floor has a design background.
"Our customers use us as a resource to help them get the look right," Skye explains. "We try to tell the story visually. We want our clients to be able to see several different looks on the floor and find the one that's right for them."
Skye knows a lot about visual merchandising — she worked for IKEA in Sweden and Anthropologie in the US before coming to Lillian August, where she just celebrated her 8-year anniversary. Her stylist's eye is visible across the showroom floor. "When we're merchandising the store, we're pulling out the very best of each lifestyle look," she says. "We'll pull together Lee and McCreary and Verellen. We'll mix antiques from BoBo with reproduction pieces."
The company's founder, Lillian August, launched her career designing textiles and patterns in New York City in the mid-80s. In 1987, she began working with her two sons — Dan and John Weiss — who helped her open the stores. Today, the company continues to work closely with designers and clients.
"We're such a time saver for the trade," Skye says. "Our staff is made up of interior designers, so they understand both the designer and the client."
"We love to help, and clients need guidance. For instance, in the design process, the customer often doesn't budget enough for accessories, but a room isn't done until it's accessorized. So, we do 'accessory house calls' where we'll visit the home. I'll work with the customer to set a budget, then I'll take a photograph of the room and circle the holes, so that I can say, 'this is what we need to fill.'"
"Often, we'll do a master plan with a client, and we'll phase it out and budget the phasing. One of the most important things a designer brings to the project is the ability to keep you on budget. A designer can help you make the right decisions, so that you don't end up paying for mistakes and having to go back and redo things."
"We're not black and white; every customer is different," Skye explains. "That's the great thing about not being a huge company; we can really be flexible and work closely with our clients."
Lillian August's New York Store and Showroom is located at 12 West 20th Street, New York, 212.206.1883. Open to the public Monday-Saturday, 10am-7pm, Sundays 12pm-6pm.
Photos: Sarah Coffey
- Founded by: Lillian August
- Headquarters: Norwalk, Connecticut
In 1985 I moved to New York to build on the success of my textile and wallcovering collections. My sons, Dan and John Weiss joined me in the business and we opened our first Connecticut store on Main Street in Westport in 1987. Operated in the tradition of European design families, each of us are strongly individualistic and highly creative in different areas. The company today has five premier home furnishings and interior design stores headed by Dan and John. They focus on exceptional selection, talented interior designers, and superior customer service. As director of licensed designs for the Lillian August brand, I oversee and design our signature furniture, textile and accessory collections.
Around the Web
- Lillian August: Eclectic Style on the East and West Coasts [Apartment Therapy]