trade tales | Jan 28, 2022 |
How many trade accounts do you have?

So much of design is about curation, but should a designer have a tightly edited cadre of trade vendors? Or is an abundance of options the best course? We asked seven designers—Jason Arnold, Jenny Brown, Valerie Darden, Tara Kantor, Gia Sharp, Jihan Spearman and Kristen Thomas—whether they take a less-is-more or a more-is-more approach when it comes to trade accounts.

Kristen Thomas
Kristen ThomasCourtesy of Kristen Thomas

Wide-ranging
“We have many trade accounts because we have a large spectrum of products that we offer to our clients, but we definitely have our go-to accounts. Our primary vendors offer great customer service and stand behind their products. We tend to choose them over and over because they take care of our clients and have superior quality. If we decide to open a new one, it is because they offer items in an aesthetic that the client is looking for.” —Kristen Thomas, Studio Thomas, Greenwood Village, Colorado

Jenny Brown
Jenny BrownCourtesy of Jenny Brown

Mix it up
“One of the great joys of this business is bringing together materials and objects from the world over to create a unique and interesting design, so I definitely take a more approach when it comes to my sources, and am always seeking out new vendors. I have had accounts with established fabric and furniture houses for the last decade but love adding new suppliers, often discovered on Instagram or at trade shows. Renewing and setting up trade accounts is part of the business and should not be viewed as a deterrent but just the cost of entry (even though it's usually free). You don't want your design to look like it came off of a showroom floor, and it is fun supporting new and upcoming manufacturers.” —Jenny Brown, Jenny Brown Designs, Chicago

Gia Sharp
Gia SharpCourtesy of Gia Sharp

Building good relationships
“I definitely have a few tried -and -true sources when I start a project. It’s great to build strong and lasting relationships with great vendors. There are many times that having a good vendor relationship has gotten us out of a bind with our timeline or budget. But, every client and project is unique, so I may veer off the beaten path to find the perfect thing that really sets the whole vibe.” —Gia Sharp, Gia Sharp Design, New York

Jihan Spearman
Jihan SpearmanCourtesy of Jihan Spearman

As needed
“Opening a trade account is now a relatively simple process, especially with many vendors moving to semi-automated online processes for doing so. Because of that, we never feel pressure to open an account before we need to order something from the vendor. We know that if the need arises, we can quickly open an account and place an order. For that reason, we have a small and curated selection of vendors with whom we have trade accounts. We keep vendor accounts open indefinitely because there is no penalty for having them open even if we aren’t actively purchasing from the vendor.” —Jihan Spearman, Jihan Spearman Interior Design, San Francisco

Jason Arnold
Jason ArnoldCourtesy of Jason Arnold

Service-orientated
“My style is curated and collected over time, so I love to pull from lots of different sources—more is always better. However, we definitely have our tried and true vendors that we love working with. Aside from providing high-quality goods for our projects, a vendor must also provide great customer service if we are going to engage with them and build a long-term relationship. With that being said, I would say our approach to adding or deleting a vendor is more organic.” —Jason Arnold, Jason Arnold Interiors, Nashville, Tennessee

Valerie Darden
Valerie DardenCourtesy of Valerie Darden

Grow as you go
“In the beginning of my career, I had my go-to trade accounts that I looked into first. These particular accounts were what fit my personal aesthetic. However, as our business grew we began adding more accounts, because all clients are unique. I also love all areas of good design, no matter what the style. Good design is good design! This year we completed a brand new, industrial-style project as well as a grand-millennial style historic home. For each design, we opened up to more vendors and trade accounts to meet the needs of our clientele and what styles they were looking for within their homes.”—Valerie Darden, Brexton Cole Interiors, Stafford, Virginia

Tara Kantor
Tara KantorCourtesy of Tara Kantor

Tried-and-true
“I definitely play favorites with my vendors. Over the years, I have developed strong relationships with certain vendors to the point where we can speak shorthand to one another. I always tell my clients I prefer to work with artisans that I know so I can vouch for the quality of their work as well as their character. That being said, I am always on the lookout for new creators to work with! I try very hard not to source items I have already used in projects, so I am always looking to expand my base. There is truly nothing better than the thrill of finding a new item or product that I have never seen or used before.” —Tara Kantor, Tara Kantor Interiors, Scarsdale, New York

Homepage photo: A project by Studio Thomas | Courtesy of Studio Thomas

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