Focus: 'Furniture Fair' is preview of 'Design District'

9:35 AM, Jul 15, 2010   |    comments
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But this week you will see Amish visitors around Playhouse Square. Amish furniture makers from Holmes County have come to the city for Cleveland's Furniture Fair.

"Until a few years ago, our products sold themselves," said Roy Miller, of Country View Woodworking. "Then things turned down. We hadn't had to market our products before, so we never learned how."

Miller and other furniture makers, Amish and non-Amish, are taking part in the two-day gathering of furniture businesses, interior designers and buyers at the Halle Building. 

"We are helping build an industry and make new markets," said Ned Hill, dean of Cleveland State's Levin College of Urban Affairs. 

CSU and the Cleveland Institute of Art are the organizing forces behind the Furniture Fair. 

"The challenge the Amish makers gave to CSU is to help them go global," Hill said. "Their challenge to the Cleveland Institute of Art is, 'How can you teach us about design so we can make more competitive products?'"

The two-day Furniture Fair is a trial run for creation of a District of Design at Playhouse Square. 

The City of Cleveland has already set aside financing. The Playhouse Square Foundation has designated space in some of its properties surrounding its theaters. 

The idea is to have companies in furniture and other industries open design studios and showrooms in the district. 

"One-third of all industrial designers in America were either born in Ohio or educated in Ohio," Hill said. "They want to be in a place where there's a design culture."

Hardwood furniture manufacturing has grown into a $300 million industry in Ohio.

As North Carolina furniture makers have farmed out more of their manufacturing to China and Mexico, Ohio has drawn near even with the North Carolina hardwood furniture industry. 

Hill sees our combination of design talent and manufacturing as a competitive advantage.

"Put it together and Ohio has a unique competitive value proposition," he said. "Design is the competitive advantage that keeps a manufacturer from being knocked off and being reduced to a commodity from China."


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