Chatham Design Centers Offers Different Approach To Interior Decor

By: Debra Lawless

Topics: Business

Melinda Headrick. DEBRA LAWLESS PHOTO

When it came time to redecorate the main office of Pine Acres Realty at 938 Main St., the Chatham real estate firm initially thought it wanted a “very contemporary” look, says Lori Fanning Smith, the company’s president and principal broker.

The company hired Melinda Loftus Headrick, the president and principal designer of Chatham Interiors, Inc. After photographing and measuring the space, Headrick held a style meeting. Headrick suggested that the firm, founded in 1948, might want to “stay true to our roots” rather than going to a contemporary look, Smith recalls. “She did an excellent job keeping us traditional, yet infusing new color and life into the space.”

And ultimately, “We went with a gray color scheme but used more traditional furniture including antiques,” Smith says. “We’re very happy with the update and she worked within our budget.”

The manner in which Headrick worked with Pine Acres is an example of a traditional designer/client relationship. Headrick will continue to operate that way through Chatham Interiors. And now, through Chatham Interiors’s sister company, the Chatham Design Center, next door at 1579A Main St., West Chatham, she will venture into something new.

“I have a brand new philosophy in the design business – empowering homeowners who want to do it themselves,” she said Monday morning. She is standing in the sleek design center which opened a month ago on Aug. 19. A wall of shelves holds a resource library including many professional catalogues of wallpaper, fabrics and other design items. In the back of the room is a long conference table. The room is spacious enough to accommodate rows of chairs for Headrick’s upcoming design lecture series.

Headrick’s new philosophy is a new business model – a three-tiered membership plan that will allow both trade professionals and do-it-yourself homeowners access to the discounts and other great benefits that design professionals regularly receive.

“Others have done design centers but not opened them to do-it-yourselfers,” Headrick says. “In the past 10 years people have been very empowered to do their own design” through such vehicles as HGTV and Restoration Hardware. But many do-it-yourselfers don’t know the ins and outs of quality the way the pros do. “They’re not always investing wisely,” Headrick adds. This is one of several areas in which the design center can help.

The memberships work on a tiered basis. A “bronze” membership of one month gives you 10 percent off all products. The design center will order, track, receive, inspect and temporarily store the products. The cost is $500.

“If you’re furnishing a house, within five pieces of furniture you would already make the membership fee,” Headrick says. For example, a sofa, pillow, coffee table, lamp and side table might total $11,949. With a bronze membership the savings is $1,194—already $694 in excess of the $500 membership fee. “It really takes the pressure off a lot of people building their own homes.”

A “silver” membership of six months offers a 20 percent discount. In addition to the above benefits, members are invited to lectures at the design center. This costs $3,000.

“If you’re remodeling a home this is a great way to do it,” Headrick says.

And finally, a “gold” membership of 12 months offers a 30 percent discount. And in addition to all of the above, the member also receives two free hours of in-house design consultation and can reserve the center’s conference area. This costs $5,000.

One of the headaches in buying these items is that sometimes the pieces are not up to snuff when they arrive. “One item can absorb 10 hours of time,” Headrick says. The staff person who is assigned to each design center member will take care of all the hassles. “That’s the luxury of having a design team.”

Headrick currently employs two other designers. She plans to expand the business as memberships grow.

Headrick, a native of Woodstock, Vt. studied design at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tenn. after college. In 2005 she opened her own business in Tennessee, which she incorporated in 2007, changing the name to Chatham Interiors, Inc., an homage to her summers growing up in Chatham. (Headrick continues to shuttle back and forth to Tennessee where her husband is a judge and her children are in their teens.) Her great-grandfather Olaf Olsen build a house on Barn Hill Road in 1939. Later, her grandmother Edith Loftus lived in the house. So in a true sense, Headrick came home when she opened her business in the Shop Ahoy Plaza on the corner of Barn Hill Road. Here, in the eastern end of the plaza, Headrick has created a “design corner” with Chatham Exteriors, a seasonal business which specializes in outdoor design and furniture, Chatham Interiors, and now the design center.

“It’s pretty special to be on this corner,” she says.

For more information, call Chatham Interiors, Inc. at 508-348-1450 and the Chatham Design Center at 508-348-5916.