Featured Designer: Larry Deutsch

December 2014

Featured Designer: Larry Deutsch


I met Larry in the late 80’s….he and Bill Parker (my best friend and an earlier Featured Designer) had just startedLD headshot seeing each other and naturally, Bill wanted us to meet.  We had a drink at the Westin in downtown Boston and began what would become a decades long friendship.

Larry is an old lion in the Chicago design scene.  He’s boldly intelligent and a very smart business person and we have spent hours discussing the industry and its changes and challenges.  I am delighted to share him with you today…enjoy.

Love, love, love,

Chicago Watertower Place Dining Room

1.  What are the biggest changes I have seen to the industry and to your business in the last five years?

In 2008 the Design World, as I had known it for 45 years, collapsed.  It took me over a year to realize that nothing would ever be the same.  Client calls disappeared, sales diminished to an extreme, Trade Sources went under.  Networking was difficult as many Designers and Trade Sources didn’t want to face or discuss the new reality!Hinsdale Powder Room

2.  What have you done in your business to respond to those changes and how is that working for you? 

When the Great Recession hit my once lofty place in the Design field, I realized that I needed to be proactive in making my design services available to a broader spectrum of potential clients.  The pie was smaller so my slice needed to be larger.  Gone was the minimum size project of whole homes; gone was the attitude that only I could design well; gone was the day of failing to negotiate and mediate with my clients and trade sources on a regular basis.  Open-mindedness and resolution to any issues became my motto!
Highland Park Dining Room3.  What do you predict for the interior design industry?  And how will you prepare for it? 

The Design industry is still in upheaval.  Many designers and Trade Sources have gone under.   New methods for creating sales such as inventorying unique and well priced product have emerged.  Carrying greater inventory of basics has improved.  No client willingly waits for product.  Excellent service in, and to, the Trade has begun to be a main catalyst for the business that exists.  On Mondays I feel the Economy is turning around.  On Wednesdays I am unsure of that.  On Fridays, I find myself examining how Mondays can continue and Wednesdays can go away.  I prepare for the new Design World by being very open to change but determined to strengthen my basic business principles.

Highland Park Living Room   Oak Brook Powder Room Skokie Breakfast Room

Featured Designer (Aug. 2013): Dakota Jackson


It’s August and it’s vacation month and I am celebrating my birthday week with a few days off and time with family and friends.  I didn’t post a Featured Designer yet and was fortunate to receive this link this morning from Dakota Jackson.  He and I had the chance to spend some time together several months ago and discuss his business and the interior design and luxury furniture business and I had the opportunity to introduce him to Jennifer Flanders in NYC.

Dakota’s perspective is positive and innovative…I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

This is from an interview between CJ Dellatore and Dakota Jackson. All rights reserved.


CJ:  I’d like to share some of what I learned from this American design legend.

We started our chat discussing the differences between traditional media and new media, and the ways each bring information to the marketplace in different ways.  Our focus then shifted to economics.

Over the last 24 months I’ve spoken to a large number of design professionals about the state of the industry post the great recession, but have never had the chance to talk to a major furniture manufacturer.  I asked him if he felt confident the worst was behind us.  Here’s what he had to say;

DJ:  It’s puzzling.  The important point is to not ask the question, but to just keep moving.  Today you need to pay very close attention to resource allocation.  You can no longer ‘play the spread’ as it were, you need to focus specifically on proven concepts.  There was a time when you could throw 100% of the money, and if only 20% of the investment saw a return you could absorb the loses.  That is no longer the case. Since I started designing in the 70′s I’d never concerned myself with the question ‘will they buy it’?  I believed if it was well designed there would be a market.  That has also changed.

These times demand that you are at least correct 90% of the time.  In my observation the market is still flat, and the companies that are succeeding are those that don’t look back.  The keys to survival are keeping an open mind to any and every new idea, and paying very close attention to changes, which is of supreme importance as dips and spikes in the market take place.  More often than not these days I’m concerned with the sales numbers and the bottom line more than any other data.


CJ:  I asked what his namesake firm has done to adjust to the current economy;

DJ:  Our first step, after 43 year of doing my own manufacturing in my own facility, was to break up the factory into smaller employee owned businesses.  I realized the business model needed to shift – it was no longer feasible to have 150 workers in one company.  Navigating market fluctuations with that many employees isn’t realistic.  Ultimately to be able to continue to design products that generate a viable market – without the concerns of a large organization – required me to rethink our business model.  In essence the changes created a handful of small ‘incubator’ businesses run by reliable employees.  The change has created an invigorated group of personally invested individuals, with new smaller companies, poised to meet the challenges of our new economy.


CJ:  And finally I asked what’s next in his career;

DJ:  Well, we’re going back into a design phase at my studio.  What we’re looking at is the segments of the market that are rebounding – and the kinds of products they’re after. Having unburdened myself of the day-to-day chore of running a factory I’m able to go back to my first love, designing furniture.  I’ve also diversified by aligning myself with the cruise ship industry, with gaming hotels in Singapore, and with the hospitality community.  Those projects helped me keep the showrooms and factory going through the recession.  I’ve also entered into a strategic alliance with Steinway to produce the ‘Jackson’ piano.  It’s all very exciting.

And I decided to invest in new talent by becoming a professor at the Savannah College Of Art & Design.  Among other classes I’ll be teaching a Master Class in the fall of this year, and will be bringing students to my design studio here in New York to see our process first hand.  It seems the logical progression in my career, and I look forward to fostering new designers.


Read the full interview here!
A special thanks to Dakota, Jennifer, and CJ!

Cheers and love,