Sunday, September 7, 2014

REMEMBERING HARRY HINSON and HINSON & COMPANY-Part 1

image via VERANDA MAGAZINE, 1996 issue, from Peak of Chic blog.

In March of 1999, a 24 year old boy from South Georgia went to New York City to find an internship to turn the dream of moving to New York after graduating with a degree in Interior Design from  Georgia Southern University into a reality. Three interviews were scheduled at the D & D Building showrooms Grey Watkins, Hinson & Company, and Donghia.

Internships were offered by Donghia and Hinson & Company. One paid, one unpaid. Momma had told her son that he must secure a paid internship. Anxious, that boy went back to his hotel room after the interviews and called his Mom. And said these words, 

"Mom, I was offered two internships. Donghia offered me a paid internship and Hinson offered me an unpaid internship but I really want to work for Hinson. It just feels right. Mr. Hinson is Southern, he's from North Carolina, and I loved meeting him. And I love the showroom. It's so good looking. I really, really want that internship."

The best advice my (yes, I was that boy) Mom ever gave me went something like this:

"Well, son, I don't know what to tell you except you are going to have to call Mr. Hinson and tell him that you have to have a paid internship and you really want to work at Hinson, it feels right and all that, and it's what you want, but your Mom told you that you have to be paid."

Oh my goodness. Was she serious? Did I really have to call Mr. Hinson and tell him that? YES, I did and it worked! 

And in May of 1999, a U Haul truck arrived in NYC (driven all the way from Statesboro, GA, to New York City!) and in that truck were Mom, Scott Durden, and me. And in Scott and I moved to a FIFTH floor walk-up (that means no elevator -nothing but stairs to the 5th floor!) all of our worldly belongings while Mom stayed downstairs to keep anyone from stealing anything and to make sure the truck didn't get a parking ticket.

And a few days later, I became an intern in the New York flagship showroom of Hinson & Company, the renowned wallpaper and fabric company. And it was great, I loved it. And only a few weeks later, I was hired full-time and I worked there for seven months before deciding that I majored in Interior Design and I should work for a residential design firm. And I worked for two design firms over the next three years

And in 2003, I was back at Hinson & Company, first as a part-time sales associate in the showroom while I executed design projects for Jeffery McCullough Interior Design the rest of the time and then as Showroom Manager for a couple of years.

All in all, I spent half of my New York full-time living years as an employee of Hinson & Company. And I loved it. I really, really loved it. I only left in 2006 because Tim and I decided not to live in New York full-time and began splitting our time between New York and Louisiana. If that had not happened, I would not have left my position at Hinson & Company. And I regretted it for several years. Until there was no longer a Hinson & Company showroom. Until I would, most likely, not have had a job any longer because the company was acquired by Brunschwig & Fils.

From 1999 to 2014, Harry Hinson and I have had a very special relationship. One that began when he saw something in me in 1999 that he liked and continued while I was employed by his company and when I was not employed by his company when, each year, on March 30th we talked to wish each other Happy Birthday.

A relationship that continued when I would make it a point to see him on my trips to New York, including lunch earlier this year. And email correspondence that covered so many topics (mainly, my inquiring about a particular person or product from the past and needing his encyclopedic knowledge of design history) and was quite regular.

On Friday, I received the news that Mr. Hinson had died. I had planned to email Mr Hinson this weekend to let him know that we are coming to New York in October and I would love to have lunch with him and Tripp, his partner. I so looked forward to another visit with the two of them. There is so much that I want to ask Mr. Hinson, so much I still need to discuss with him. So much gratitude for him that I need to express.

But I can't do that now. But what I can do is remember and honor the design industry genius that he was. And do whatever I can to make sure that the company, the products, the man are not forgotten for as long as I can. And hope that others will do the same and there will be great features of Hinson designs for years and years to come in all of the major design world publications.

So what will Hinson & Company and Harry Hinson be remembered for?

It could be fabric. Solids, textures, geometric patterns, prints were all wildly successful. The fabrics of Hinson & Company deserve their own feature and will get one next week.

I have a feeling that if Mr. Hinson's wish comes true, wallpaper is what Hinson & Company will be remembered for.

The photo above is from a 1996 article about Mr. Hinson and in that article, about wallpaper, he says:

"It is what I love best in all the world. You'll notice we're called a wallpaper and fabrics firm, rather than 'fabrics and wallpaper' like the other houses. And half of our sales are in wallpaper, a ratio that's at least double the norm. It's no trade secret that the heart of this company is my boundless, insatiable fascination with wallpaper."

There are so many Hinson wallpapers that I could feature and some I will in future posts.

In the mid-2000's, I would have said "Madagascar Cloth", the grass cloth on the walls in the above photo of Mr, Hinson, was the one pattern for which everyone would remember Hinson & Company but too many companies have ripped that off and are producing it now.
 
Will it be the "Spatter" pattern introduced in the early 1970's and called an "American Icon" design by House Beautiful magazine?

Eddie Ross used "Spatter" in Blue in the Bloomingdale's window he designed...
 
 image via Apartment Therapy.com

....and Tom Scheerer used the pattern in the brown color way in an East Hampton bathroom:
 
 image via House Beautiful

image via House Beautiful
 
 Or will it be "Martinique", famous for its use at The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles and Indochine Restaurant in New York?


 Beverly Hills Hotel


 Foyer by designer Steven Sclaroff. image via House Beautiful

 
 While I was at Hinson & Company, the fantastic Albert Hadley/Harry Hinson collaboration collection was introduced and was a major hit, particularly the "Fireworks" pattern. So maybe this is the one?

 California bathroom with "Fireworks" Hinson paper on the walls



"Fireworks" in a Barrie Benson designed project


But it could be the Hinson/Hansen Swing Arm Lamp that goes down in history as an iconic Hinson & Company product.

Designed by George Hansen in the 1950's and becoming a Hinson staple when Hinson & Company bought Hansen Lighting, these fixtures have lit many a chic room.

From the 1960's.....
in a Billy Baldwin design room
 

...to the 1980's.....

 in Brooke Astor's bedroom designed by Albert Hadley. image via New York Times.

...to the 2000's


 in one of my favorite dining rooms/libraries. designed by James Andrew. image via Elle Decor.


and in designer Todd Alexander Romano's living room.


Or is it coffee tables from Mrs MacDougall, the furniture and accessories division of Hinson, expertly run by Tripp March and Toully Pappas for many years that one will think of as the seminal Hinson piece?

 Whether an Atelier Midavaine lacquer table...
 
a D.C. living room by William Hodgins with a Midavaine coffee table. image via Veranda Magazine.


Miles Redd New York City project in House Beautiful, July 2009. Midavaine lacquer coffee table and Bullseye Mirror from Mrs MacDougall at Hinson & Company.

...or a more modern option like this one ....
Eric Cohler AND Jeffery McCullough designed New York City living room, Tradition Home Magazine. Mrs MacDougall gilded coffee table.


There are so many options that one could say will be the stand the test of time Hinson product and time will tell what that is.

No matter what anyone remembers about Hinson & Company, I hope the man, Harry Lee Hinson, as Southern as they come, will be remembered and considered a legend, an icon of the design industry for all of time. All accolades are well deserved. May time not wash away the history that is so important, and special, is my prayer.

Rest in peace, HLH. I will miss having lunch with you in October, I will miss talking to you on March 30th, I will miss you dearly.


9 comments:

Laurence Young said...

Fascinating story!

Week of Chic said...

LOVE IT JEFFERY!!!!

Rena Derieg said...

17A lovely tribute, Jeffery.

Kenisa Home said...

There are so many memories of Mr Hinson, as we called him in his showroom in NY.
He taught me how to run a showroom and how to be attentive to small details that made his reputation: from folding memo samples into a silk paper tissue and close it with a sticker embossed with the letters HH, making sure there were no wrinkles on fabrics hung in the showroom, leaving the desk spotless and clean of papers at the end of the day, or even not having any drink on the desk and so much more....
He will be missed.

I have indeed many found memories of Harry during these few years working for him.

A true gentleman as we don't find them anymore in NY.

Isabelle L'Huillier Harmonay
Hinson showroom Manager 2001 - 2004

Jeffery McCullough said...

Isabelle: I am so glad you came across my post. YES, many fond memories. I would love to use your comment in the 2nd part of my remembrance of Mr Hinson. May I? Congratulations on the wedding! Email me so I have your new email address. jefferymccullough@hotmail.com
JM

Kenisa Home said...

Jeffery, You can use my comments anytime. I sent you an email.
I hope to see you soon in NY.

Jeff Parker said...

Jeffrey, thank you for this. I am a cousin of "Harry Lee" as we call him. We all were amazed with his accomplishments over the years. Many of us were able to visit the showroom and see the wallpaper he named for many of my family members (my mother, Julia Brooks, had many of his fabrics in her home she built in the early 80's....a great source of pride (especially the one named "Brooks")

It's comforting to know that he left a legacy for you and others. We think of Tripp now and move forward with the distinguished memories Harry Lee impressed upon us all.

Jeff Parker / Charlotte NC

Oskar Torres Interior Designer said...

Jeffrey,
Lovely story...I have many memories too.
All the best.
Oskar

Mark said...

I worked for Mr. Hinson in the mid-to-late 70's and I would not trade the lessons I learned there for anything.

Thank you for a lovely post.