history

Behind the Scenes

An Inside Look at James Décor with Owner Lee Haik

Photo: Michaela Satterfield

Photo: Michaela Satterfield

Sitting behind a desk covered in samples and papers from current projects, Lee Haik proudly reminisces on how she came to be the owner of James Décor, Springfield’s first interior design firm.

After obtaining a degree in home economics at what is now Pittsburgh State University, where she took design classes, Lee says she spent some time with her daughters Martie and Jacque as a stay-at-home mom before purchasing the business. In 1982, Lee and her husband John took over James Décor.

The store was originally opened in 1946. Wallpaper and paint were two of its mainstays, and Lee says she enjoyed matching colors. The original plan was to work part time as an interior designer, but Lee says running the business quickly became a full-time endeavor.

When the Haiks decided to move the business to its current location on Republic Road, Lee says they stopped selling paint and turned James Décor into a full furniture store and interior design firm.

Opening the John-Richard showroom in 2010 was a highlight for the business.

“That was probably one of the smartest moves we made,” Lee says, “because it gave us something to get excited about and people in town were excited about it.”

The line is a favorite among designers and clients, known for carrying unique furniture. Lee says the pieces are designed to work together.

“It’s still one of our best lines,” she says.

Lee says two of her other favorite lines are Marge Carson and Century, but she likes every line the business carries.

Two of James Décor’s goals are to offer a variety of price points and to offer both traditional and contemporary styles, Lee says. This style is called transitional—Lee’s personal favorite.

The variety the showroom displays carries into other aspects of the business.

Although Lee says residential design is her specialty, James Décor has ventured into other types of projects as well. Among the projects tackled are doctors’ offices, law offices and even a dairy.

“I really love what I do,” says Lee Haik, owner of James Décor.

“I really love what I do,” says Lee Haik, owner of James Décor.

“I really get bored if I do the same thing over and over,” Lee says. “I really like the mix. I like to change. Each individual project is so different and the way people live has to dictate the way we design.”

One of the trademarks of design at James Décor is that it’s centered around the people.

Lee remarks that some of her current clients have been working with her since she took over the business in 1982. She is even working with the children and grandchildren of some of her first clients.  

“You can be the best designer in the world but if you don’t have customer service and you don’t care about the people you’re working with, it doesn’t matter,” Lee says.

Relationships are what gave the business success in its early years, and they promise to keep the business running long into the future.

The business is family-owned and Lee says she hopes her daughters will eventually take over, with the help of a team of designers currently working at James Décor.

“I have a staff of young designers that are very talented,” Lee says.

Aside from a dedication to clients and other people involved with the business, the heart behind it all is a love for interior design.

“I really love what I do,” Lee says.


Michaela Satterfield

James Décor Writer



Interior Design Pioneers

Elsie de Wolfe, Dorothy Draper and James Décor

Photo: Design by Elsie de Wolfe, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_Chambre_de_Lady_Mendl,_Elsie_De_Wolfe.jpg

Photo: Design by Elsie de Wolfe, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_Chambre_de_Lady_Mendl,_Elsie_De_Wolfe.jpg

It’s easy to get caught up in the here and now, without regard for the past or future. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to slow down and reflect on times past. I’ve often found myself thinking about interior design and wondering, how did it all begin?

Photo: https://www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit/nmivillage.htm

Photo: https://www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit/nmivillage.htm

James Décor, born in 1946, was Springfield, Missouri’s first design firm. The forties were a notable time in history—World War II reached an end, Roosevelt was in office and Casablanca was on the big screen. According to The People History, the average cost of a house was only $5,600.

Times have certainly changed since then, but the interior design field continues to have a big presence in Springfield.  This all leaves me wondering, when did the field of interior design itself originate, before it made it to Springfield?  

Rewind to 1904—just 42 years before James Décor was started.

A now complex and ever-changing field, which typically requires an education and plenty of experience to enter into, all began with the interior decorators of the early 1900s. According to the Interior Designers for Legislation in New York, the term “interior decorator” was first coined in 1904. A lady by the name of Elsie de Wolfe earned the first interior decorator commission ever, the following year. Several years later, in 1923, the first professional design firm was started by the famous Dorothy Draper. It was the work of de Wolfe and Draper that helped establish the profession forever.

Photo: Elsie de Wolfe, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsie_de_Wolfe

Photo: Elsie de Wolfe, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsie_de_Wolfe

According to Architectural Digest, Elsie de Wolfe, a prominent member of New York society, was an actress in the 1890s. Her theater work established her reputation as a set designer and costume designer. In fact, she was more popular for the costumes she wore than her acting. It was rare for a performer to choose their own wardrobe, but de Wolfe earned the privilege with her growing design skills.

The Encyclopedia Britannica states that Stanford White, an architect, was the man who helped de Wolfe land her first design commission. The job? New York’s first social club for women, located on Madison and 31st Street.  After its opening, her design work was the talk of the town—bringing in a cascade of new clients for the aspiring designer.

She published her book, The House in Good Taste, a few years later. This book began setting some standards on interior design. De Wolfe’s light, airy style created a whole new trend. Her designs were in stark contrast to the dark, stuffy Victorian interiors popular in the day.

Photo: A design by de Wolfe, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsie_de_Wolfe

Photo: A design by de Wolfe, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elsie_de_Wolfe

Another designer popular for swimming against the current with her style soon entered the scene—Dorothy Draper.

Her website, simply called Dorothy Draper, reveals that she was the first to begin professionalizing the industry. In 1923, she started the Dorothy Draper and Company design firm. The work she did was groundbreaking, not only because the industry wasn’t organized at the time, but because it was so difficult for women to enter the business world.

Photo: Dorothy Draper, from https://picryl.com/media/architectural-stylist-looks-to-tomorrow-world-telegram-and-sun-photograph - by

Photo: Dorothy Draper, from https://picryl.com/media/architectural-stylist-looks-to-tomorrow-world-telegram-and-sun-photograph-by

Draper is known as the first recognized commercial interior decorator. She designed theaters, department stores, offices and restaurants. She even designed planes and cars, introducing a pink polka dot truck to her line for Chrysler. One of her most popular projects was the restaurant of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, nicknamed the “Dorotheum.”

Her design firm stood the test of time—it is still around today, and accepting clients.

With their sophisticated tastes and lifestyles, de Wolfe and Draper formed the glamorous aura still surrounding the field of interior design today. What began as a couple of independent decorators has evolved into a complex industry with an endless variety of specialties. It was not without plenty of hard work that de Wolfe, Draper and many others brought the field to what it is today.

James Décor gets to put its mark on the timeline of interior design history as the first to introduce Springfield, Missouri to the business in 1946.

Interior design is an industry that has stood the test of time thus far, and there is no doubt that it will continue to go down in history.

As we all know, good design is timeless.

 

Michaela Satterfield

James Décor Intern

Sources:

https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/dewolfe-article-012000

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Elsie-de-Wolfe

https://www.dorothydraper.com/history/

https://www.idlny.org/history-of-interior-design/ 

http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1946.html -- 1946