While designing interiors, Whitney Walker developed a passion for sourcing and buying historical Italian drapery hardware, which fit the design aesthetics of the homes of her high-end clientele. “I traveled overseas to factories and production facilities for clients, looking for the prefect window hardware for their homes,” says Walker. “After completing many trips, I thought, ‘I can do this. I can make these better and safer.’”
Twenty-five years ago, Walker founded Antique Drapery Rod Company, an award-winning brand that uses the techniques of old-world craftsmanship— forging, casting and painting by hand—to create beautiful collections of historically accurate, eco-responsible window hardware.
Walker is a strong advocate for living a green lifestyle, and she has product development in her blood. She comes from a long line of engineers and has used this innate ability to develop products that are safe, from the process of fabrication to home installation, and beyond. “I am an eco-product designer,” says Walker. “I really want the products that we make to be safe for our fabricators, individuals who have them installed in their homes and the earth upon disposal. Because of that, we make everything here on-site in the factory connected to our Dallas showroom.”
With a modestly sized yet very skilled and knowledgeable team of hand-fabricators, painters, finishers and office staff, Antique Drapery Rod Company produces more than 24,000 products, including window hardware, bed hardware and eco-responsible drapery panels for the home and the hospitality industry.
As the product design lead, Walker leans on the knowledge she gained on trips to more than 50 countries to design and create period-inspired hardware pieces that accurately reflect what one would find from the fourth century B.C. to the 19th century.
Fascinated by how things are made, Walker owns an extensive collection of authentic antique drapery hardware relics. Many of the designs available through Antique Drapery Rod Company have been hand-cast from the original pieces, using modern techniques and materials, for historical accuracy.
“The environment and the state of the earth is very important to me,” says Walker. “We use a proprietary biodegradable resin made from the castor oil plant, instead of plastics made with petrochemicals, to create our finials and many of our other items. In addition, we use American grown wood, imported bamboo, and recycled or upcycled glass, iron and aluminum for our rods and other hardware items.”
Walker admits that she likes to challenge herself to do more and to bring more museum- quality, eco-responsible, period-style window accessories to the marketplace. In 2002, she created Grace Hardware, a sister brand to Antique Drapery Rod Company, which offers ornate handcrafted cornices and window hardware pieces, available in more than 40 finishes, inspired by her travels to Europe.
“Grace Hardware is a collection that is exclusive to the trade, making it only available through designers and showrooms,” says Walker. “We are committed to using the same eco-responsible materials and practices for Grace Hardware pieces as we do for our Antique Drapery Rod Company pieces. The designs available are inspired by authentic architectural antiques and feature a unique hand-finish that gives each piece a beautiful antique charm.”
Visitors to the Dallas showroom will find a small sample of the products offered by Antique Drapery Rod Company. “There is simply no way we could display everything we have to offer,” says Walker. “We are an international brand, used by many in the interior design trade. Almost all of our business is with the trade, but our showroom is open to the public.” What began with travel around the world and the belief that she could make a better, more earth-friendly product, has resulted in an international business that has fulfilled not only Walker’s dreams, but those of the many homeowners who have filled their homes with her company’s high-quality drapery hardware.
Leslie Chatman is a freelance writer specializing in lifestyle and culture content. Find out more on her blog popgoesthecity.com.