Even over the telephone Annie Selkes enthusiasm is contagious. By the time we had finished talking I was ready to go and order everything she makes. But thats what makes her such a success.
Growing up in Stockbridge, Selke was always interested in textiles. I collected fabric from the time I was little, any pieces I could find. I loved dolls and was always wrapping them in cloth and changing their outfits and creating new fashions, she said.
The women in her life encouraged that interest. Her mother was knowledgeable in the decorative arts and taught Selke a lot about furniture and design. Her grandmother gave her her first doll a French fashion doll from the early 1800s, that came with a human hair braid and eyes that moved. That launched Selke in her collection of dolls which she still has.
While working for Country Curtains, Selke decided it was time to branch out on her own. When she went in to resign, her boss immediately wanted to buy whatever she would design. Not long after that she was designing a collection for Garnet Hill.
They allowed me to try new things; I would suggest a new fabric or design and they would immediately say yes. I came up with a new pattern for sheets; they bought the concept, but I had no idea what went into manufacturing the product, but I sure learned, Selke said, with her infectious laugh.
She began her company in 1994. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, it is now a behemoth of an organization with something for everyone. Annie Selke the brand consists of three main divisions: Pine Cone Hill, which features bed furnishings and sleepwear in vibrant, happy colors and patterns; Fresh American is a collection of décor and accessories for fun and functional living, many of which were first featured in her book, Fresh American Spaces.
The third division, Dash & Albert, offers a selection of hooked, hand-knotted, hand-woven and tufted rugs. In January 2015, these divisions will be joined by Annie Selke Luxe, a line of exquisite Italian bed linens.
At any given time Annie Selke has 200 to 300 products in development. The attention paid to detail and quality is unsurpassed. I always want to be sure that we are delivering the best possible product to our customers, Selke said.
In addition to the companys online presence which is pretty impressive, there is a 200,000 square-foot store in Pittsfield, where the companys offices are also housed. Selke refers to it as the campus, for it includes a place to shop and a luxurious place to work, including a fitness center. Who would ever want to leave?
With so much enthusiasm and a talent for coming up with products that fly off her shelves, does Selke ever relax? Is she ever not thinking of new ideas?
I tend not to take vacation per se, she explained. I try to incorporate a few days of leisure in my business trips. The only thing I do that is not work-related is at Christmas time when I go to a dude ranch for a week. Riding the range and herding cattle its hard to think about design then!
But Ill bet she still comes home with some new inspirations.