“Live, eat, sleep, Pettigrew” is the jocular tag on the venerable luxury purveyor’s website. A recent trip to the showroom (open to the trade and public) to meet with Matthew Wilson, its immensely personable showroom sales manager, amiable host and font of knowledge regarding Dallas design culture, provided context for the website’s assertion that Pettigrew is, indeed, a special state of mind. Stepping into the Pettigrew universe reveals an expanse of tasteful luxury and carefully curated beauty, at once classic and contemporary. “It’s all about layering period and new in a contemporary way,” Wilson offers.
The showroom floor shimmered as Wilson stopped to expand on a vignette or introduce a colleague. Custom chandeliers, 90-percent created in-house, are suspended from a black tufted ceiling, casting a twinkling gaze over beautiful modern vignettes comprised of furniture, accessories and a fine collection period rugs—the only antique items in the store. Wilson explains, “We are best known for our custom lighting and custom furniture, but we provide a full-service experience for a very discriminating, educated clientele.”
Founded in 1952, Pettigrew was historically the reliable destination for a formal traditionalism and known for its service-oriented excellence. “Six decades of design service to the community is significant,” Wilson notes, proudly stating the obvious. One of the reasons for its longevity is an established customer base.
“Dallasites are loyal to local businesses,” he observes. But that’s not the only explanation for such tremendous staying power. “Dallas is all about what’s new,” Wilson adds, going on to explain that the establishment was once referred to as the “brown showroom,” embodying a safe formalism that reflected the prevailing style of the day. In the last 10 years, Pettigrew has nimbly adapted to changes in taste, introducing more contemporary elements that appeal to an interneteducated consumer that is far more sophisticated than in previous decades.
The reimagining of the Pettigrew brand and its “updated traditional” look has been a collaborative, creative pursuit executed by a team of employees as loyal to the company as their longtime customers. The transformation of the brand and refreshed aesthetic often involves making a simple but unexpected choice or the juxtaposition of classic and contemporary. Wilson explains: “We might combine a period chest with a pair of contemporary Lucite table lamps or create a Regency-style chair with fabric reminiscent of Emilio Pucci.” In addition, interesting works by Dallas-based artists abound, enriching the vignettes and surprising you around every turn.
The showroom is adjacent to Pettigrew’s in-house custom workshop, where its highly trained employees still create the custom lighting pieces upon which the company built its reputation, clean or repair existing pieces, and execute all custom upholstery services. As the Pettigrew website notes, these artisans help consumer’s “turn dreams into reality.” Also impressive is yet another juxtaposition: the choice to open up the adjacent workshop visually so customers can peer into the creative process, much like the contemporary trend of opening up the kitchen in a restaurant.
Though words like “new,” “contemporary” and “today” are emphasized, Wilson’s deportment reveals at least one utterly charming link to a more formal time, one suggestive of why both customers and employees remain loyal to the company: respect. All of the employees, no matter their position, are addressed with the formal “Mr.” or “Mrs.,” so if Mr. Wilson gives you a tour and introduces you to any of the 30- plus employees, he will say: “I’d like you to meet Mr. Blandings. He’s been with the company for 25 years!”
One can be certain in those moments that the constellation of chandeliers will twinkle their approval.
David Munk, a recent transplant from New York City, is a content creator and storyteller. His blog is stargayzing.com.