West Elm’s new president, Universal and Brown Jordan grow leadership teams and more

Greg Stevens

The great Russian writer Leo Tolstoy once said, “All of literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes into town.” In the design industry, the top of the year is not all that different, with a slew of C-suite rearrangements, presidential appointments and new hires. Read on for Business of Home’s monthly roundup of arrivals and departures in design, manufacturing, media and more.

To the Trade

Luxury outdoor furniture brand Brown Jordan announced a handful of new hires. Eloise Goldman is now vice president of marketing, having previously led Cambria’s public relations, influencer marketing and retail for six years, as well as serving as vice president of PR and special events for Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams for 18 years. Sean Gillespie joined Brown Jordan as director of A&D for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, after previously working for Made Goods and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams as a manager for regional and key accounts. Mark Walker, who most recently worked at Made Goods, was appointed the New York showroom manager at Brown Jordan’s new flagship space in the New York Design Center.

Pennsylvania-based wholesale lighting company Elk Home announced Todd Webb as chief executive officer. Webb has been with Elk Home for 15 years, climbing the ranks to serve as the company’s chief operating officer, where he supported operational and strategic growth initiatives, enhanced the customer experience and managed the company’s global supply chain. In his new role, Webb will assume day-to-day leadership of the company, and develop and execute sales and operational objectives.

German outdoor furniture manufacturer Dedon announced Nicole Ciminera as the new U.S. marketing manager. Most recently, Ciminera worked as senior corporate communications for the Teachers Federal Credit Union, where she managed social media, blog content and member communications, and she also served as a senior account manager for PR firm Bde&co.

London-based textile manufacturer Christopher Farr Cloth announced Gary Searle as executive vice president. Searle brings years of industry experience, previously serving as the executive founder and managing director of South African fabric company St. Leger & Viney and most recently as the vice president of global sales and merchandising for Kravet. In his new role, Searle will oversee the brand’s business development and sales in the U.S.

California-based textile and wallcovering company Momentum Textiles & Wallcovering appointed Paul Cleary as president and chief executive officer. Cleary joins the company after serving as senior vice president of the health care market at global flooring company Mohawk Group, where he worked for more than 15 years. In his new role, Cleary will focus on improving the company’s goals for innovation, sustainability and collaboration.

Brooklyn-based multidisciplinary design studio Workstead Products appointed Molly Brennan as sales director for the brand’s lighting and products division. Brennan brings years of experience in luxury companies with European textiles and American brands including McKinnon and Harris, Munder Skiles and the original Donghia. Headquartered in Hudson, New York, Brennan will lead Workstead’s efforts to build on its multichannel sales and expand business development through four new collection launches in 2023.

North Carolina–based home furnishings company Universal Furniture Industries announced changes to its senior leadership team: Neil MacKenzie will serve as the senior vice president of marketing and Shannon Lookabill will be vice president of product development. MacKenzie brings more than 20 years of marketing experience with both B2B and B2C clients, most recently serving as the vice president of marketing for Universal, where he worked on collaborations with interior design and lifestyle brands including Miranda Kerr, Coastal Living and Garden & Gun. In his newly created role, MacKenzie will lead Universal’s website, social media and email marketing to create B2B e-commerce tools. Meanwhile, Lookabill has been with Universal since 2019, a period during which he engineered a virtual product development process that allowed uninterrupted manufacturing of new designs during COVID. In his new role, Lookabill will lead the direction of the company’s case goods and upholstery lines, translating home trends into products for retail and interior design customers.

Universal also welcomed Jim Roberts as vice president of sales for the Western U.S. Roberts brings over 20 years of experience in sales and business development to his new role, and began working in the furniture industry in college, selling furniture, rugs and bedding at the former Rich’s Department Store—now known as Macy’s. In his new role, Roberts will work on developing relationships with the retail and design communities to increase regional sales.

New York–based tabletop and floor textile manufacturer Chilewich appointed Kevin McVey as chief financial officer and chief operating officer, a new position for the company. McVey joins the company from MillerKnoll, where he served as senior vice president of finance, Americas and group brands following Herman Miller’s 2021 acquisition of Knoll. In his hybrid role, McVey will report to chief executive officer John McPhee, helping the company hit its growth targets and leading financial campaigns to increase performance.

Chicago-based fine art auction house and firm Hindman promoted Alyssa D. Quinlan to chief executive officer. With over 25 years of experience in private banking, wealth management and fine art appraisals, Quinlan steps into the leadership role after three years as Hindman’s chief business development officer, having previously held leadership roles at J.P. Morgan Private Bank and global art advisory and appraisal firm Gurr Johns. As Hindman’s new CEO, Quinlan will oversee strategy and day-to-day operations. The company also opened an office in Miami, where Elizabeth Rader will lead the team and serve as a liaison to Hindman’s salesrooms throughout the United States. Previously heading the company’s Naples office, Rader has experience in developing relationships with private collectors, financial institutions, trust and estate firms, insurers and museums in Florida.

Design & Architecture

Minneapolis-based architecture and design firm Nelson Worldwide appointed Brad Ewing as regional practice leader of the civic, community, justice and education practice. Ewing brings experience in architecture, project management, building design and space planning, most recently serving as a senior project manager and architect at Orlando-based firm Dewberry. In his new role, Ewing will provide oversight and collaborate with national and regional leadership to create opportunities for Nelson’s growth. Katie Pass-Brinker also joined Nelson Worldwide as design leader of hospitality. With over 15 years of experience in hospitality, she led and managed design teams at firms like Philadelphia-based Daroff Design. In her new role, Pass-Brinker will work closely with the interior design team to create and implement high-level design and provide direction and mentorship from concept through construction.

Los Angeles–based architecture firm Landry Design Group promoted several key team members. Brian Pinkett was appointed principal, and Todd Riley, William Mungall, Suzanne Evans Shepela and Mark Savary were made partners, while Justin Kern and John Maak were named associates. Pinkett joined LDG in 1994 as the firm’s fifth architect, shepherding growth, instituting a mentorship program and establishing a committee system during this time. Riley has been with LDG since 2001, and in his new role will help guide the firm in decision-making. A 22-year LDG veteran, Mungall is the company’s green committee chair and will continue to forge relationships to elevate the firm’s projects. Evans Shepela joined LDG 18 years ago with a passion for residential architecture and is excited to continue designing homes for clients. Savary has been with LDG since 2006 and values the firm’s warm culture and environment. Over the past 16 years, Kern has been involved in growing the firm and will continue to collaborate with artisans and clients. Maak joined LDG in 2001 and will contribute to an important commercial project for the firm in his new role.

Chicago-based architecture and planning firm FitzGerald welcomed Elma Milanovic as a managing associate. Milanovic joins the company with 20 years of experience in workplace, mixed-use residential and senior living design, most recently as an associate at New York–based architecture and planning firm Perkins Eastman. In her new role, Milanovic will work alongside interior design director Kristen Larkin to lead the firm’s workplace practice.

Architecture and planning firm Gensler announced Bob Weis as its global immersive experience design leader. Weis brings more than 30 years of industry experience and has helped incorporate immersive elements into former projects such as AT&T’s Dallas headquarters, which features ambient music, recordings of regional birdsong and interactive art. At Gensler, Weis will work to bring more sensory experiences into future projects, including stores, workplaces, health care facilities and residential spaces. The company also appointed Selin Ashaboglu as media relations manager, who most recently worked at New York–based public relations company M18 as an associate director of real estate.

Houston-based design firm Laura U Design Collective announced Megan Strasburg as the director of residential design. Strasburg has worked with the firm for the past three years as a project manager, previously holding architecture and design roles at Texas firms Insite Architecture Inc, Newberry Architecture and David Weekley Homes.

With the dissolution of Ike Kligerman Barkley, two new firms are taking its place. Ike Baker Velten, based in Oakland, California, is led by John Ike, Carl Baker and Tyler Velten; while Kligerman Architecture & Design is helmed by Thomas A. Kligerman in New York. After a 33-year partnership, last summer Ike and Kligerman announced the division of their firm into two. As for the new nameplate additions at Ike Baker Velten, Baker most recently served as principal at Ike Kligerman Barkley for 12 years, while Velten worked at IKB for seven years as a designer. Both will continue to focus on a commitment to quality craft and design in their new roles as co-owners.

Chicago-based hospitality firm The Gettys Group Companies appointed Molly O’Keefe as principal. O’Keefe brings more than 15 years of experience in management and client services, previously serving as the vice president of architecture and planning firm VOA Associates (now known as Stantec) before joining Gettys and working her way up to director over the past five years. In her new role, O’Keefe will lead the company’s business development team and drive strategic business initiatives.

Media & PR

New York–based media company Sandow announced that Margaux Caniato will leave her role as interim chief marketing officer. For the past seven months, Caniato led the company’s rebranding efforts and built partnerships with design brands to provide support through performance marketing, creative and production services, and digital marketing tools. Prior to working at Sandow, Caniato served as an external designer partnership manager at Target, and the principal and chief brand officer for Veeder, Perman + Caniato, a marketing communications agency in New York.

New York–based PR firm Dada Goldberg appointed Jane Ivana Hong-Gaffney as senior director. With more than 15 years of experience working in the design, architecture, fashion and lifestyle industries in New York and Paris, Hong-Gaffney previously held PR positions at Alexis Bittar and founded JIH Public Relations, where she served as principal.

Christie Kuehner Tonnessen is leaving her role as brand director at Schumacher—where she oversaw all content creation and branding—to launch Tonnessen Studio, a social media, marketing and content consulting firm. With previous experience at Ralph Lauren and Sotheby’s, Tonnessen will work with interior designers, architects and clients in the fashion and home industries to maximize their digital impact and marketing.

Retail & Manufacturing

Williams-Sonoma Inc. named Day Kornbluth president of the company’s Brooklyn-based West Elm brand. Kornbluth most recently served as global brand president at Ralph Lauren Home and has held roles at industry companies including One Kings Lane and RH. Kornbluth will replace Alex Bellos and help expand West Elm’s brand reach in her new position.

California-based furniture wholesaler AICO/Amini Innovation Corp. promoted David Koehler to president, succeeding Martin Ploy. Koehler has been with AICO for 12 years, serving as vice president of sales and most recently as executive vice president.

Home furniture company Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams appointed Andres Ortega as senior vice president of brand and marketing. Ortega brings 15 years of experience in creative and large-scale consumer campaigns and brand strategy to his new role, most recently serving as West Elm’s director for communications and influencer marketing.

California-based rug company Ruggable announced Britt Bunn as the general manager and vice president of RuggableX, the brand’s branch that focuses on exclusive collaborations. Bunn brings experience in venture capitalism and management, previously serving as the chief executive officer and co-founder of The Inside (a direct-to-consumer home brand that was acquired by Havenly in February 2022), and as a senior business analyst at One Kings Lane.

French electrical company Legrand announced Laurie Englert as chief marketing officer for North and Central America. With more than 30 years of experience in marketing and communications, Englert most recently led the integration of nine independent brands into one brand under Legrand AV. In her new role, she will oversee marketing strategy across all Legrand business divisions and serve as a member of the executive committee.

Kitchen and bath manufacturer Kohler Co. appointed Laura Kohler as the company’s first chief sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion officer, reporting directly to chair and CEO David Kohler. Throughout her 30-year tenure at Kohler Co., Kohler helped formalize and strengthen the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability and social impact, most recently serving as the senior vice president of human resources, stewardship and sustainability. In her new role, Kohler will lead a team of experts and help the company deliver on its sustainability and social impact strategy.

Industry Organizations

The Decorative Furnishings Association announced its leadership team, welcoming Meredith Xavier as president and Jillian O’Neill as vice president. The co-founder of the Créateurs Design Awards and Houston-based luxury retail company The Ligné Group, Xavier served as vice president under Stephane Silverman. North Carolina–based interior designer Jillian O’Neill brings several years of experience with owning her own firm and hand-crafted furnishings collection, and will serve alongside Xavier.

The home furnishings organization for women WithIt announced its 2023 board of directors. Senior director of licensing and special projects of Hooker Furnishings Emily Boyst was elected WithIt president, and senior vice president of sales and marketing at SEI Furniture Tori Evans was elected vice president and president elect. Senior director of sales at Caracole Jessica Norby was named as vice president, and vice president of marketing at International Market Centers Renee Loper-Boyd will serve as chairman. The secretary will be operations manager at IHFRA Bonnie Wallace, and the treasurer will be senior credit and accounts receivable manager of Liberty Furniture Shelly Head.

The Bienenstock Furniture Library updated its 2023 board of directors: Dudley Moore Jr. is now board president; Brian Simpson is vice president; and two additional home furnishings industry executives, Jane Dagmi and Sumner “Sandy” Finch, are new board members.

Homepage image: ©josefmicic/Adobe Stock

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