Tucked away in the Dallas Design District is a showroom that belies its modest entrance. Inside the unassuming 4,500-square-foot space is a collection of bespoke hardware, powder room and bath vanities, lighting and accessories. A haven for interior designers with discriminating clients, Vivian Watson Associates offers singular accents.
“We don’t have a look. We have the unexpected,” says owner David Olenzek.
This dedication to originality has served the business well. Founded in 1969 by its namesake, Vivian Watson, the showroom presents decorative accents as remarkable as she was.
Watson was a Highland Park native and a graduate of The Hockaday School. A young woman with aspirations, she left Dallas for New York City in the early 1960s. There she met her husband and was introduced to the interior design community and their design resources.
Watson later traveled to Los Angeles where she was introduced to lighting designer and manufacturer Bruce Eicher. Watson brought that creative flair back to Dallas where she established a showroom in the fledgling Design District. With her spirited personality and unique taste, Watson quickly became the leading lady of unusual furnishings, fixtures and accessories.
“Vivian was a pioneer in the Dallas Design District. She brought New York and LA style to the Dallas area. She always wanted what was absolutely best for a project,” says David Anton, senior sales manager at Vivian Watson.
Her imaginative spirit lives on today in the distinctive furnishings offered in the showroom. Chief among these are bathroom, builders’ and furniture hardware by P.E. Guerin. Skilled artisans at the company’s foundry in New York City sandcast and handcraft each piece to order. Interior designers can select from the 160-year-old firm’s 50,000 patterns or work with P.E. Guerin to design custom hardware for their project’s unique specifications.
Once a design is selected, molders place the pattern in sand to create the mold. Molten brass, at 2,000 degrees, is poured into the mold. Cooled castings are then brought to life in the hands of chasers, craftspeople who file, shape and texture the designs into their final form. Each piece is finished by hand in one of the firm’s 30 standard finishes or in a custom finish specified by the designer.
P.E. Guerin also offers a stock line that adheres to the same time-honored techniques used at its foundry in Spain. The stock line is available in New York City and finished to order, resulting in a shorter lead time than made-to-order or custom pieces. Recognized internationally for its traditional patterns, the foundry has expanded its selection of mid-century modern styles. “Guerin is introducing some clean-lined, more sophisticated, less-is-more designs,” says Anton.
Other lines within the Vivian Watson showroom are equally distinctive. Artisan-crafted lighting fixtures from the Bruce Eicher Collection are individually handmade with strict attention to detail and design. Elegant lamps, chandeliers, sconces and lanterns feature unique custom characteristics for homes ranging from Victorian to rustic to modern.
In addition, custom vanities, mantels and cabinetry from Kerns-Wilcheck fill the showroom; all pieces are built in Memphis on a per-order basis, allowing the company to provide clients with an exclusive look and fit. Details are carved, painted and inlaid by hand.
Signature pieces include furniture- influenced bath vanities, with wood or stone tops, and hardwood heritage mantels. Each piece is made by skilled cabinetmakers to the most exacting standards. “No two are identical. Each one has personality,” says Olenzek.
Owner of Vivian Watson Associates since 1993, Olenzek has experience with residential architecture, which allows him to take construction blueprints and provide expert guidance to designers. Using the vast array of products in showroom, he is able to help with style, specs and placement.
Vivian Watson’s pioneering spirit continues to this day. While the showroom is located in the Design District, its reach is much greater. Anton brings examples from the showroom to interior designers and clients, traveling throughout Texas as well as to out-of-state projects.
Vivian Watson would be proud.
Nancy Baldwin is a Dallas-based freelance writer and editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.