Jamie Beckwith is many things; mother to three young children, interior designer (Beckwith Interiors), showroom owner, designer and manufacturer of exquisite wood flooring – all rolled into one gorgeous Southern gal package. Jamie’s flooring products are fairly new to the market – just about 3 years old as of this writing, and we were intrigued as to why an interior designer would move from fabrics and furnishings to owning her own factory and discovering an enthusiasm and love for the manufacturing world. When we spoke, Jamie was in New York City (in fact during the interview her 3 children were enjoying a playground in Central Park.)
Looking at your body of work as a designer, it strikes us that your style is quite varied- in fact it’s almost impossible to ‘peg’ any one of your rooms as having been designed by you. How are you able to be so diverse?
It really comes down to my ability to listen and interpret what the client wants. It’s not my role to impose any preconceived ideas onto them – it’s my role to translate and distill what they are saying into a cohesive design that will work for them. It has to be a very collaborative process – that’s the only way to work.
Perhaps it’s also that I’m still a fairly young designer, so I’m not set in my ways. Like most designers, I never want to repeat myself, so I try to be as fresh as possible.
But are there any styles, colors, or shapes that you find yourself drawn to?
There are some things I gravitate towards – geometric shapes and patterns (which makes sense when you look at my flooring line.) There are some particular furniture lines that I’m comfortable with and which I know are well-constructed, like Hickory chairs which I carry in my showroom. But again – I try to be as flexible as possible. I’m excited because this year I’m going to be attending NeoCon for the first time. This will be my first time scouting at a primarily commercial show and I’m very curious to see what I can find that I will then use.
We must talk about that wine cellar design – eye-catching is an understatement! Please tell us a bit about how this wildly innovative design came to be.
I’m always drawn to organic materials when working on a project – even if it’s a more contemporary design. And I love mixing materials together in unexpected ways. The wine cellar project is a good example of how I tried to incorporate some organic materials into an otherwise completely contemporary room. The house is a gothic style mansion, and you can see how we followed the arch design in the wine cellar. My inspiration was the Aureole restaurant in Vegas, which has a four story high acrylic wine cellar, which I thought was very clever. I had never thought to use acrylic, but it turns out that it’s a very malleable yet strong material. We also decided not to lose any of the view by adding a glass ceiling so you could view it from the living room. Depending on the light – the room reads blue or white. I added my flooring line and walnut racking to help soften the room a tad. That image and room design gets us a lot of attention and the homeowners love bringing people into their living room!
So how did you decide to design and manufacture your own line of flooring – that’s a bit of a leap. Many designers move into designing furniture because they become frustrated trying to find pieces that work for specific projects. Was there a similar situation?
In fact it was a similar situation. I was working on a project where I really wanted to create a floor without a repeat. So I went to a local cabinetmaker that I had worked with many times, and out of our sketches and discussions – a flooring line was born! I had no prior experience in manufacturing but I knew I wanted to use only American woods, and all of my raw materials are from the GRAF Brothers – the largest manufacturers of rift and quartered white oak in the country. I also learned as much as I could about the process – since I was designing something different – the puzzle pattern hadn’t been done before to my knowledge so I had to learn a lot! I also eventually realized that I needed to keep the process as close as possible so I now own the factory, and there are many days where you can find me in the factory cutting wood and working on new products. That’s the exciting part – developing new products.
Has the market received your products well?
It’s been going very well. We introduced the products at Surfaces in 2009, and since then we’ve grown and continued to develop new lines and I’m far from done. Our products can be used on walls or floors and we are finding that the Hospitality market seems to really embrace these products.
Jamie, continued success with all the parts of your business – here at Modenus we are quite enamored with your flooring collections, and we’re so pleased to present them to our audience.
Thank you, it’s been my pleasure.