It was famed interior designer Miles Redd who purportedly said, “Buy the best and you’ll only cry once.” That is especially true when it comes to investing in items you will cherish for years to come—the pieces that will also be coveted by your future progeny. Alabama has its contingency of makers and craftsmen who are producing such skillfully-crafted, individualized pieces for our homes and lives.
Whether it is a bespoke sofa from furniture maker Grant Trick in Irondale; a portrait that captures a fleeting moment of childhood painted by an artist with Portraits, Inc., in Birmingham; a handmade bed from Reid Classics in Dothan; or a Blessing Cuff from Ex Voto Vintage Jewelry in Mountain Brook, these investment pieces allow us to be temporary caretakers of treasures that will pass through generations. Here, the artisans behind such creations share the insights and expertise involved in creating a sense of timelessness.
Professionally trained in apparel design, custom furniture maker Grant Trick approaches each piece he creates with a tailor’s eye. In the same way that the quality of a garment’s underpinnings elevates its worth, Grant knows that it’s the components you don’t see from the outside that confer heirloom status to a club chair or banquette.
What informs your designs?
Furniture is so interactive. It’s about more than just function or a place to sit. It’s about how it makes you feel. Furniture can make you feel sexy, secure, or even wealthy. These are all the things we try to factor into each piece.
I traditionally work one-on-one with architects and designers to create something truly unique for their clients. Most come in with an idea of something they want. From there, we dive into the functional and aesthetic needs.
What makes a Grant Trick piece an heirloom?
It’s in the quality of the construction. Our sofas could be reupholstered many times over and yet everything inside will still be perfect. Our intention is that as fashion changes, our pieces can be re-covered and reused for generations.
It sounds like a sofa is not just a sofa.
The sofa is the center of the room, so you tend to put more thought and detail into it. We make each one very special in terms of tailoring and finishing. To start, we always ask how the client lives and how this piece will fit into their lives. Do they have dogs or young children? Do they host a lot of parties? Is it a dressy home or one that is more relaxed? Do they mind fluffing a cushion, or should we craft something that will stay firm? From there, we might look at a current piece that inspires them and then work backwards. I am fortunate to have longstanding relationships with so many designers who can now say to me, “Grant, just do your thing.” It feels great to have that kind of trust.
You’ve been creating pieces for designers for years, and now you have your own line?
Yes! The Grant Trick Collection is my debut collection of to-the-trade pieces. It is a collection of 13 pieces ranging from sofas to chairs to stools, and it will be in showrooms nationwide beginning with Profiles in New York City in September.
Do you have a mentor or someone you really admire and enjoy working with?
Jeffrey Dungan is a dear friend. He has introduced me to so many wonderful people. Betsy Brown is one of my best clients. Because she is such a rock star (in the industry), you are instantly authentic by association. You cannot be in her presence and not learn from her.
Montgomery native Elizabeth Adams was always encouraged to be productive and creative. That ingrained self-discipline proved to be therapeutic as she mourned the passing of her youngest daughter from a brain tumor in 2007. At that time, her creative therapy was painting. Eventually she moved into collage, incorporating pieces of found jewelry. Today she focuses on her jewelry designs, giving antique pieces a new life and a new legacy.
What does Ex Voto mean?
Traditional “ex votos” are handmade items left at an altar as an offering of gratitude and encouragement to the next person seeking comfort. This notion sums up the sentiment behind every piece we craft.
Why antiques and vintage?
There is beauty in their imperfections. We repurpose old lockets and pieces that have a bit of mystery. Many of those items include scratches and dents that serve as a welcomed authentication of its heritage, its story, and its handmade quality. We also cast from handmade antique pieces.
Younger girls are loving cameos now, something their own mothers would never wear but their grandmothers do. I also see more clients connecting with color. Gold with a pearl is our standard, but more people are appreciating turquoise, orange carnelian, and other semi-precious stones. Color is joyful! These pieces give a spark of happiness.
Your pieces are identified by names, not numbers. Why?
Numbers don’t resonate with me but names do. We’ll often name a piece after someone we know who is the embodiment of that bracelet or those earrings. Some pieces are named after streets in Montgomery or here in Mountain Brook.
Do you have a story to share about a meaningful piece?
There are so many, but one that comes to mind is of a woman who came into the store asking to purchase one of our Blessing Cuffs. These bracelets are engraved with the words “the one who numbers the stars knows you by name.” The client had just come from lunch with a friend who she felt needed those words more than she did at that moment, so she just gave her the cuff off her arm. She was eager to have a new one to stay in touch with the emotions of gratitude that cuff gave to her.
What is the “right” occasion for gifting jewelry?
Jewelry is always a welcome gift. I love when ladies come in together to purchase something special for a friend celebrating a milestone. Instead of giving lots of little trinkets, they all go in on one very meaningful gift that their friend can wear every day. We also love to see multiple generations all wearing similar pieces from our collection, each in their own unique way. We know that these are items that will be handed down to daughters and granddaughters, each with a special bit of mystery and a story all their own.
Most of us will spend at least a third of our lives in bed, so why not invest in a piece handcrafted just for you? Andrew Reid of Reid Classics in Dothan, Alabama, followed his father and grandfather’s path of artistry. The Reid family has been making custom beds from mahogany for more than 80 years, using time-tested techniques that all but guarantee this will be the last bed you ever buy.
What inspires clients to invest in a Reid Classics bed?
A bed is, quite simply, the core of your nest. We hear from customers all the time that they respect the value of a bespoke quality product meant to last many lifetimes.
Just how custom are your beds?
We can do almost anything. A designer in California once requested a bed that was larger than a queen but smaller than a king. Some of my higher-end designs become more of a functioning piece of art rather than just a piece of furniture. When it takes months to carve and sculpt beautiful designs on a bed, it truly transforms into something ultra-special and luxurious.
Tell us a story about a bed that has been passed down.
Many of my clients are of the heirloom mindset when they order one of our beds. I am already seeing them passed down three or even four generations. I had a notable client whose 97-year-old mother still slept in the bed she and her late husband purchased from my grandfather as a wedding present. She then bought some beds for her children, who have since become my clients. Not long ago, I was installing beds for the grandchildren of those clients. It was an amazing story that fills my heart with pride and joy.
Who is your typical client?
Most of my clients are finally at a point in their lives that they’re ready to invest in a quality bed. Their life experiences have already shown them that some things are worth the extra price. Many of my clients are in their 30s, but I have noticed that they keep getting younger. It really started showing up after the economic downturn several years ago. Having to live with cheap furniture a little longer made its inferiority stand out. I also have a lot of newlywed clients. These beds make the most incredible wedding gifts!
Kelly Nowlin Moffatt
When someone commissions a portrait, they are trusting a stranger to fully capture the subject’s spirit and personality. Unlike framed photos, a portrait is a unique expression of an artist’s gifts, conveyed through oils, watercolors, pencil, or pastels. Connecting clients to just the right artist for a portrait is what Portraits, Inc., broker Kelly Nowlin Moffatt takes great pleasure in doing, curating one likeness at a time.
You represent so many styles and artists. How do clients choose?
Some of my clients have previously admired one of our artist’s work and are excited for that person to create an original painting for their family. Others are looking for an artist that no one else in the area has used, so they enjoy exploring portfolios of our many artists. They are all seeking to capture and honor the essence and likeness of a loved one through a handcrafted painting or drawing from an artist whose style they love. We first discuss their vision, and then I show them a variety of options in different mediums and styles.
What makes a portrait an heirloom?
It begins with selecting the style and the artist. Each artist starts from a blank canvas with the subject of the painting as inspiration. Our artists create what is truly a one-of-a-kind piece that comes from the slow and reverent work of one human being in service to another. The paintings they create are the sum of the experience of the artist—a lifetime spent honing skills with eyes trained to the mastery of color, as well as hands trained to the brush.
What is the ideal age for a subject to be captured?
There is no “right” age. It truly can be at any special point that you want to capture someone in paint. However, a popular age or “sweet spot” seems to fall between the ages of 3 and 8. I also have clients capturing their young adult children or having their parents or grandchildren painted. Other clients choose milestones such as graduations, weddings, or an accomplishment as inspiration to have a painting commissioned.