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When asked the usual ‘What have you seen at Market?’ cocktail chatter query while networking with the fashion-minded at High Point Market events, how many times did someone pull out their phone to share pics of Nick Olsen’s work at Bernhardt?

Word on the street was that color was back in a big way, and if you were in town for more than a New York minute you “absolutely had to run up to the 6th floor of the IHFC and check out the explosion of bold color in the Bernhardt lobby.”

At least 450 guests aimed their smart phones at Nick’s show-stopping presentation during the Elle Décor party hosted by Whitney Robinson, editor in chief and Alex Bernhardt Jr. We gave away a VIP trip for two to New York (Nick’s home base) that night, and the lucky winners will be touring the iconic Hearst Tower and (we suspect) taking plenty more pics with two tix to the Kips Bay Show House.

What was all the fuss about? Nick himself will tell you magic happened because the Bernhardt team gave him carte blanche. “So often brands set a lot of limits before I even start scheming. This experience was the opposite. I got to cherry-pick my absolute favorites from Bernhardt’s massive slate of offerings, use COM on everything, paint their walls AND floors, and even show how well a couple of vintage/antique pieces work when mixed with Bernhardt product. They asked me to treat the showroom space like a room I’d design for clients and I did, then amped up the color a notch…or three!”

Ah yes, that jaw-dropping, mind-bending, perception-altering color. “For an established (130-year-old!) company like Bernhardt, one that tends to skew neutral in their showrooms and ad campaigns, I thought it was important to show designers and consumers that their product can live beautifully outside the gray or beige box,” Nick says. “To quote the great Dorothy Draper, whose work I definitely referenced, ‘Decorating is fun!’ ”

Yes, Nick. Yes, it is. Thank you for helping us to alter perceptions in a way that has many looking at Bernhardt through an entirely new lens. “I don’t think there were any yawns from people entering my room,” he says. “It provoked a visceral reaction and that’s the purpose of good design. Design can make you feel soothed, or in my case stimulated, but mediocre design equals boredom. Love it or hate it, established brands and the design community in general need to occasionally generate strong reactions to stay relevant.” 

We couldn’t agree more and there’s plenty more creativity to come. We’ll be showcasing a new designer-in-residence each season, with more surprises on the boards as part of a multi-step concept that will continue well beyond the High Point Market. Stay tuned!

Photos From the Event