Ethan Allen Design Center

By Nancy Moffett

A strong American brand with global reach. A design authority with a modern attitude. A high-quality manufacturer…We are all of these things, but, most important, at Ethan Allen we are people who love our homes. And we believe passionately that everyone should love theirs.” ~ Farooq Kathwari, Ethan Allen CEO.

Almost 30 years ago, Mark Kweller built the familiar Ethan Allen Design Center on Hamilton Boulevard, west of Dorneyville. Since then, customers from all over the Lehigh Valley have turned to this business for not only high quality furniture, but also for design services to make their homes comfortable and beautiful.

Ethan Allen is a global entity with more than 300 stores, half of which are independently owned, while the rest are company-owned. The Allentown design center is and always has been an independent operation. When Kweller decided to retire a few years ago, his son-in-law, Robert Marks, took over as president. “Although I spent 22 years selling printing paper across the country, I saw this as a tremendous opportunity,” he says, “and a chance to carry on the legacy of personal service and quality the store had earned through the years.”

Although Marks is the only family member associated with the design center now, he has worked hard to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere for staff and customers. The staff includes a professional design team of seven, one of whom specializes in window treatments. Designer Ardith Huesz has 30 years with the company; while design manager, Diane Bieri, and designer Judi Smith have been there since 1990. It’s obvious that Marks and his team are committed to providing quality and value, while promoting a relaxed shopping experience. During my visit, several designers conferred together on a project, while Marks and his soft-coated wheaten terrier, D.J., showed me around.

While some might consider  Ethan Allen  a stalwart of traditional style,  a visit to the showroom proves that to be an outdated impression. Yes, there are many traditional offerings, but other styles–including my favorite, modern–were also part of the mix. Walk into the Design Center, and you’ll find full-size working displays that showcase the company’s Signature styles. In fact, part of the shopping experience can include taking the “What’s My Signature?” quiz via touch-screen to help define your style. There are five: Elegance, Modern, Romance, Explorer or Vintage. The quiz is also available on the design center’s website, along with a 2-D room planner.

From living room, to bedroom (including its own-brand mattresses) to dining and home office, the showroom is a wealth of ideas and style. Artwork, vases, tables with inlaid wood, fabrics, pillows, chairs and desks…there’s much to see and admire.

“Ethan Allen continues to develop new products for new clients,” Marks explains, “to keep up with changing tastes and needs.” Customers are also looking for value and affordability more than ever, Marks explains. “This is one-stop shopping,” he says, “in that we can design from the floor up and help clients find what meets their needs…from lamps, artwork and carpets, to a whole home.”

According to Marks, 70% of the furniture Ethan Allen sells is made in the U.S., a statistic many companies can no longer claim. Upholstered pieces are custom-made with fabric chosen from a myriad of offerings, as are finishes on wooden pieces. The results are one-of-a-kind pieces, he points out. Turnaround time for production is about eight weeks. Ethan Allen Allentown  also recently formed an alliance with window fashion manufacturer, Hunter Douglas. Their offerings are displayed throughout the showroom. I was especially impressed by horizontal drapes with a magnet closure that eliminates those pesky pull-cords. There is no charge for design service, which may include in-home consultations.

While the economy has been difficult for the furniture industry, Marks says what sets them apart is service, especially after the sale. “I want every client to be thrilled and satisfied with their purchase,” he says. To that end, all problems are addressed. “In that regard, my level of standards exceeds my clients’,” he says, including listing his cell phone number on his business cards so customers can call him directly.

Advice to buyers? Set aside at least a third of your budget for accessories when redoing a room. You won’t be happy with the results if you spend everything on furniture and leave nothing for window treatments and accessories. “It’s all one package,” Marks says, and his designers agree. The company offers a custom artwork program and has a clearance room with marked-down exchanges, floor samples and slightly damaged items. A good time to shop for bargains is the beginning of each year when new designs replace those from the previous year.

Whether the sale is large or small, Marks says customers will receive the same level of service and comfort. “Our aim is to keep clients coming back,” he says…a sentiment echoed by CEO Kathwari: “We do it all: design, manufacture, market, distribute, deliver, and install. We set the standard for the attainable and well-designed home. And that’s all we want. It’s that simple and that complex.”

Ethan Allen Design Center
5064 Hamilton Boulevard
Allentown, PA 18106

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