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Designers wow buyers at Atlanta wholesale market

Ridgeland — It only took one trip to Atlanta, and doors are springing open all over the place for interior designers Dana Lott and Cheryl Lunn, owners of The Gilded Swan.

The friends and business partners hit the decorator jackpot this fall when they displayed their designs at AmericasMart in Atlanta, coming home with a coveted Best of Show on their first trip as exhibitors and new orders from clients all over the country.

AmericasMart is a massive complex of three buildings, 20 stories tall — the country’s second largest wholesale market behind the Las Vegas market. The women displayed their chandeliers, starburst mirrors, draperies and other wares to buyers in the September wholesale show alongside approximately 4,000 vendors. Instead of hanging the usual white backdrop on their 10×20 booth, they hung draperies of rich fabric and filled the booth with their gold leaf designs, creating a dazzling effect that attracted attention.

“People kept coming up to our booth, and they brought more people back,” said Lunn.

They won Best of Show for Outstanding Visual Display and were invited back for the even larger January show.

Their trip to Atlanta all started because of the difficulty they encountered trying to find antique-style lighting that fit well into the large-scale rooms now popular in homes, where it’s not uncommon for ceilings to stretch 10, 12 and 14 feet high. Rather than continue searching for the right lighting for their clients’ homes, they designed their own wrought iron chandeliers, floor lamps and candelabras, then kept going with handcarved mahogany tables, door knockers, cornice boards and tiebacks for draperies — all painted in an elegant 22-karat gold leaf. Their starburst mirrors were an especially big hit at the show with buyers who are having an increasingly harder time finding antique starbursts. The women manufacture their designs in Guatemala, where Lunn lived for 10 years and where two of her sons still live with their families.

They are still stunned by the reception they received at AmericasMart, along with more than a few buyers who did a double take when they found out The Gilded Swan is located in Mississippi. Still, the rural locale didn’t stop them from placing orders for their own shops around the country. To their delight, the women have also gotten requests from people who want to represent their products in permanent showrooms, and from designers who want them to manufacture their designs alongside their own.

They are still mulling all of this over as they run their Ridgeland retail store and do interior design work for clients in and out of state. Lott and Lunn opened The Gilded Swan nearly four years ago after having owned separate interior design businesses for years. They got to know each other as they worked on various projects and became good friends.

The women do commercial and residential interior design for clients on budgets of all sizes — from the newly-single woman who needs a pick-me-up with a brand new look for her home, to the 17,500-square-foot house they did in Buckhead, Atlanta. They decorated the entire house, and it took them two months to finish.

Over the years they’ve encountered several clients who are gun shy from past interior design experiences, which is completely opposite from how Lott and Lunn see the whole experience. Home remodeling and all of the sawdust, mess and displacement that come with it can be tough, but clients should have fun with interior decorating, they say.

When the pair hits Atlanta again in January, they will have new designs on display that include delicate French- and Italian-style chandeliers and Tuscan-style doors. Although the show is still two months away, approximately 300,000 buyers have already registered to attend. Lott and Lunn figure if just 1% of these buyers place orders, or even just half a percent, they will come home happy. They are also considering exhibiting at wholesale markets in Chicago and Las Vegas.

The women are planning a trip soon to Guatemala to see their finished designs before they take examples to Atlanta to display in their booth. It’s a warm-weather trip they both look forward to, and a chance for Lunn to see her granddaughter. She is the mother of six children and Lott has two children at the University of Mississippi. With their children grown, the women are having fun in a field of work they love, and they enjoy the trips they get to take to design for out-of-town clients.

“If we can work and have fun, we feel very blessed,” said Lunn.

Contact MBJ Staff Writer Kelly Ingebretsen at kelly@msbusiness.com.

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