Admit it, you’ve watched your share of home design shows. We've all learned that a key piece can serve as a focal point in a room and make all the difference in how a space looks and the feelings it conveys.
Norwalk resident George Holley learned that lesson when he was trying to decorate tiny bedrooms in a new summer home. The beds – let alone other furniture – barely fit, so he decided to make the headboard the focal point, only Holley couldn’t find what he wanted in any retail, antique or online shop. Luckily for him, he had access to factories and craftsmen in Thailand from a specialty sign business he operates, so he was able to get the headboards exactly as he wanted. His guests haven’t stopped raving about them since, and that gave Holley an idea.
“I did some investigating,” said Holley, “there’s something like 20 million mattresses sold in a year – so there was something there.”
No stranger to launching products or businesses, Holley first came to Connecticut in 1968 to start a job at General Electric. There he helped usher in the first digital bathroom scales and dial-up curling irons. Other products and his own businesses have come since.
Out of his Trumbull-based U.S. Sign and Fabrication facility, Holley launched I.M. Smitten in March 2017, a specialty headboard, wall, door and furniture maker – all embodying the company motto: "when art meets function." Using pre-existing and/or repurposed pieces or from scratch, products range in price from several hundred to several thousands of dollars and definitely make a statement in their craftsmanship and detail.
Working with Holly Sutton-Darr as I.M. Smitten’s Executive Creative Director, Holley has been able to get his artisan headboards and custom furniture before boutique hospitality buyers as well as private homeowners.
Calling himself pretty klutzy, you won’t find the Director of I.M. Smitten personally working on a door or headboard, but all custom work is performed right in Trumbull.
“We do the custom work right here. Most of what we have now is all hand-carved,” Holley said. “We can do carving by machine, but it comes out looking too perfect and the costs are about the same.
“Right now 80 percent of our work is custom and 20 percent is sold thru small boutiques. We’re looking to expand our distribution into some of the more upscale furniture stores.”
Bulk orders for hospitality clients will take advantage of Holley’s facilities in Thailand.
His most memorable project remains a custom bar built for a client using over-100-year-old doors found in India.
“It was probably one of the most difficult jobs we’ve had to this point because everything had to look old and the whole wall had to look right.”
Making it look right falls upon local artists hired to paint and finish the projects.
One of these just happens to be the owner of Gold’s Delicatessen in Westport, Nancy Eckl.
"She is one of our best artists," said Holley.
For more information, visit I.M. Smitten or their showroom/gallery at 1 Trefoil Drive in Trumbull.
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