BY LYNN MORGAN
In 1995, when Josette “Josy” Cooner-Collins and her partner, Lloyd Scott opened their chic furniture showroom in Dallas, the Southwest was a brand new, untapped market for contemporary Italian furniture and design.
“When we first started, a lot of the vendors we work with now would only travel to the East and West coasts, “she recalls. “They didn’t seem to realize there was anything in the middle.”
Today, Scott + Cooner represents over 70 lines of fine contemporary furniture, lighting and kitchen systems, all on display in their showrooms in Dallas and Austin, TX. Trained in interior designe and merchandising at Texas Christian University, Josy worked in high-end modern furniture showrooms. Before she and Lloyd Scott set out on their own with an ambitious goal of bringing Italian style to the Lone star State.
“People are a lot more sophisticated here than outsiders give them credit for, “she observes. “Dallas has an extraordinary arts district. People here have a lot of money, and they revel and they have been exposed to a lot of different things, and they appreciate art and good design and want to bring that into their homes.”
Josy admits that there are also a lot of American resources for great design as well, but Europe and Italy in particular, offer the kind of chic she and her customers appreciate and demand.
“The level of sophistication is a whole different ballgame, “she asserts. “Design coming out of Europe has more of an edge. We also sell products from Austria, Switzerland, German, the Netherlands, and from Tom Dixon, a super-cool English designer. Italian design is incredible: the proportions, the colors, the uniqueness. The materials that are used, the trims and the details; you can see the quality immediately. The Italians are the trendsetters: they bring out the colors that you won’t see until next year from anyone else.”
Josy travels to Europe at least once a year, and she never misses the Milan Fair, where the best of Italian design makes its debut each year. “Milan is the most amazing city,“ says Josy. “The people are wonderful, and the art, architecture, fashion and design that surround them are all fantastic. There is so much creativity and energy there.”
Some of her favorite lines and designers include Cassina, PoliformCappellini, Paola Lenti, Poltrona Frau, Walter Knoll, Antonio Citterio and Flexform.
This year, Italian designers seemed to take their inspira tion from Milanese fashion: The freshest new color this year was “greige,” a subtle combination of grey and beige, and a favorite of fashion designer Giorgio Armani. It was frequently highlighted with a bright, new shade of blue. “It wasn’t turquoise; it wasn’t indigo, but somewhere in between, and it was used a lot as an accent in trims and accessories,“ she says.
Josy Cooner-Collins has seen a growing interest in green design, and a growing sophistication in that field. “People now realize that green design, eco-conscious design, doesn’t have to be unrefined. Companies like R 1920 do fantastic work. They make furniture out of kauri wood, which has been reclaimed from swamps in New Zealand. It’s thousands of years old, but not quite fossilized. It’s very hard, very durable, richly textured. My dining room table is made out of it. Triangolo also makes beautiful furniture out of reclaimed and recycled wood. You can get beautiful textiles made out of bamboo, which is amazingly sustainable. It looks and feels like silk. Just because something is eco-friendly doesn’t mean it’s crudely made.”
The Scott + Cooner showroom has become an important resource for many of Dallas’ high-profile architects and interior designers, as well as private clients. “We’ve worked with Lionel Morrison, a wonderful Modernist architect, and Cliff Welch, Bodron & Fruit, Frank Welch and 10 + 3; they are also an interior design firm. Among interior designers, Emily Summers, David Cadwallader and Laura Hunt use us as a resource frequently,” Josy says.
Josy especially enjoys working with private clients at the very outset of a project. “It’s wonderful to start working with a client right after they have purchased a piece of land, and they have just started thinking about their new home. They come to us and we talk about which architects and designers they’re considering.”
She admits that Texans are more “conservative” in their approach to design and decorating than their counterparts in New York or Los Angeles, but she insists that her brand of cosmopolitan design is a good fit in Dallas. “People here want value,“ she says. “They want beautifully made pieces that will last a long time. The kinds of products that I am selling are artisan-produced often designed by an architect, made of wonderful fabrics and mixtures of metals—black chrome is becoming very popular—patinaed bronze, quality stone; they are future heirlooms.”