Monday, October 15, 2018

‘I do what other designers are afraid to do: take chances’

September 23, 2018 by  
Filed under Feature

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | SHEILA GRADFORD

‘I do what other designers are afraid to do: take chances’

As founder of the hot furniture manufacturing company Loni M. Designs — one of, if not the only such firm owned by an African-American woman — Sheila Gradford is building the future of home design. From Las Vegas to Los Angeles and throughout the world, her creations are arriving in homes everywhere thanks to a series of smart, strategic partnerships with e-commerce sites. She spoke to Las Vegas Black Image Magazine about her work and what it means to the industry.

Are you the only African-American owned manufacturing company in the country?

If I am not the only, then I am one of the only.

What is the void that you have fulfilled with your design company?

The void I have filled is bringing color into the industry. Bringing color into the interior of the home is very important. When I started in this business, designers were only using browns and beiges. But I design with bright colors such as: orange, turquoise, pinks, and fuchsia. That is my signature in the marketplace. My designs are what some other designers are afraid to do. I take chances.

Doesn’t color within the home help with having a positive attitude and mental stability?

When I was studying design, I also studied color theory. We know the effect that color has on an individual’s mood and the physique of the human being. Browns and dark colors are down colors. A person puts color in their home to add happiness. Vibrant colors are triggers in the brain that make you feel happier.

Leatha Hubbard

How many years have you been in business?

I have been in business for 10 years now.

You started in Los Angeles?

Yes, I started in Los Angeles with making decorative pillows. I linked up with the largest e-commerce retailers to promote and push my product, because their platform at the time was two to five million people. Now, that has quadrupled. The people who look for furniture online are familiar with WayFair, and Lux décor. I used those platforms to move my product. So, I got that exposure around the U.S. and Canada.

Is selling your furniture more lucrative online?

Oh yes.

So, people order furniture from your company on those major furniture and design sites from around the world?

Exactly. I have a business that doesn’t sleep. So when I get up in the morning and hear dings on my phone, I know that people are placing orders and buying my furniture. I can move around anywhere and know what’s going on with my business.

What’s your biggest seller?

The biggest selling item right now are my sectionals. I sell a lot of midcentury modern furniture. I also sell a lot of grand sectionals for great homes. Those are actually my number-one sellers — along with chesterfield sofas and chesterfield sectionals.

What is the manufacturing process for your designs?

Well, the process begins with a sketch I do on paper by hand with all the specs. Then the sketch goes into a machine to make sure the specs are correct — measuring the depth and the height of the design. All of these things I learned in the fashion business. We have all sat on furniture that was uncomfortable and the seat was too short and the back was too big. That means the specs were off during manufacturing.

Where do people go wrong when they try to design themselves?

People sometimes say, “I saw this at Z Gallerie.” I say, “If you want Z Gallerie, then you don’t need me.” I have to give you something that you cannot get. When you go to the store, that’s not my goal, and I educate my clients on design. I encourage them to be free and open up. Design is fun.

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