By Steve Kaufman
As the premier design firm in Louisville, Bittners has to navigate a tricky balance between being cutting-edge, trendy, and dependably traditional.
â€œWeâ€™re expected to be tasteful, but also to be ahead of the trends,â€ says Bittners president Douglas Riddle. â€œWe become aware of all the trends when we go to market, but we always try to bring those trends back with our own twist.â€
Currently, Riddle says, the trend has been a return to traditional. So the Bittners team has renovated one of its showrooms, making it a bit more traditional but with the mix-and-match surprises the firm prides itself on doing so well.
Theyâ€™re calling it the â€œBlue Room,â€ partly of course, because blue is the dominant color theme but also because it shows how many different shades and hues of blue can live peacefully within one space.
Itâ€™s also a subtle testimonial to the way the firmâ€™s designers can also make different styles, lines, materials and patterns work together harmoniously.
â€œOur tag line is â€˜designing for the way you live,â€™ â€ Riddle points out. â€œWe focus on what the clients want â€“ weâ€™re very careful not to force our tastes and preferences on them.â€
The Bittners Blue Room runs the gamut of the color, from bright turquoise to dark navy. But itâ€™s used surprisingly sparingly and effortlessly â€“ in patches, from a side chair here to a pillow on another chair over there â€“ so that you have to be told itâ€™s the Blue Room to fully understand the concept.
And thereâ€™s much more to the room than just the different shades of blue, Riddle says. â€œWe like to mix things, like an antique art deco table with a stylishly curved base and a modern steel and glass cocktail table, or a traditional three-cushion sofa and modern club chairs with chrome legs.â€
But even the traditional sofa has nail-head trim for a more contemporary look.
The most modern piece of furniture in the room is a three-legged, iron-frame saddle chair with a horsehair seat, by artist and designer Jan Barboglio, known for her hand-wrought iron pieces reflecting her native Mexico and the Southwest U.S. And while it may look more architectural or decorative than functional, itâ€™s a definite conversation starter and a reflection of Bittnersâ€™ taste level in acquiring and displaying interesting and different items from a variety of renowned artists.
Oh, and by the way, itâ€™s actually pretty comfortable.
Another attention-getting piece came from no further away than Bittnersâ€™ custom wood shop in the back of the building on East Main Street. Itâ€™s two reclaimed wooden beams from the Frazier History Museum, with all their aged imperfections and deeply inset grain, fastened together to create a long dining or conference table. The piece is finished in a dark stain that does nothing to hide the distressed nature of the raw wood.
Like many in the building and design fields, Bittners is more conscious of green practices today than ever before. Thatâ€™s all part of a raised consciousness on the part of the consumer. â€œHome design has changed a lot,â€ says Riddle. â€œPeople today know more, see more, and prefer a mix of different styles.â€
â€œWe have the ability to give the client what he or she wants, mixing and matching but also achieving a consistency of taste, elegance and comfort throughout the entire house.â€