From Labs To Showrooms

Photo By CLAY COOK | Contributing Photographer

Photo By CLAY COOK | Contributing Photographer

Staff Writer

Christopher Prather, one of Bittners’ many hidden treasures has been with the company for 12 years. But it wasn’t always so for the Chaplin, Kentucky resident who found interior design after over a decade in the medical field. It was his love of art, design and allowing his creative side to flourish that has led him to where he is today.

“I was always artistic and wanted to do commercial art,” Prather explains. “But I was persuaded to do the wise thing and pursue medicine. I have a degree in clinical medical technology, which is very different to what I do now,” Prather laughs. “For eleven years I worked in a lab and was just never happy with what I did. There was nothing creative about it. So after I built my house (in Chaplin, Kentucky), I decided that I needed to make a change – so I quit my job.”

What happened next was a series of fortunate events that led Prather to Bittners. Having left the medical field he was introduced to Louisville design stalwart Scott Tichenor. A few meetings later and Prather found himself working as a design assistant for one of the best designers in the city. A year later and he soon found himself at fellow Louisville design luminaries – Bittners.

“I met Douglas [Riddle, President of Bittners] who asked if I would be interested in joining his team, and of course, given the fact that Bittners had such a great reputation, I said yes.”

Today Prather is charged with all the visual displays at the Bittners showroom, a role he has grown to relish more and more as the years go by.

“I do all the visual displays but I’m also close to customer service,” Prather explains. “I wait on customers, which means I’m constantly changing between roles, which is something I really love about my job. I’m constantly changing the showroom. I love the creative side to my job. Douglas [Riddle] and I have changed the showroom so many times and have expanded it three times since I’ve been here. 10 years ago the showroom was traditional and now it is a nice mix of modern traditional, which encompasses the Bittners lifestyle. Douglas prompts me with ideas and then I’ll take the lead.”

It is this love of design that has ensured that Prather has also delivered incredible customer service over the years, and never with a hard sell. He knows only a relationship based on trust and understanding keeps the clients returning to a company like Bittners for 160 years.

“I have one house which I have worked with for five years now in Anchorage, and they’ve become great friends,” Prather explains. “That aspect of the job has taken me out of the showroom and opened up a different world.

“We have a long-time customer who we’ve particularly enjoyed working with, in part because in the last five years she’s gone from ultra conservative to pretty contemporary and it was great to see her completely make a 180 and try something new.”

One reason for this is the fact that Prather can gain the trust of clients, empathize with them, and not push his own style on them. The key has always been to find what works best for the client given their particular needs and wants.

“I don’t think I have a particular style, but I am very much about form and function.” explains Prather. “I think you have to be comfortable. I always tell clients, ‘Don’t pick what you think your room ought to look like; you need a room that you’re comfortable with.’ Don’t create a dining room and a formal dining room when that’s not the way that you live.

“A lot of people want to use a particular trendy color, but they don’t want to commit to it. I’m always of the mind that you should keep you furniture neutral so that the new color can be on the walls, it’s much easier to change that way.”

For Prather there are hopefully many more years to come at Bittners, and many more years for Bittners themselves.

“I think the fact that we’ve been open for 160 years is incredible,” Prather concludes. But I also think people are shocked that we still make furniture by hand. There’s not many businesses that can say that.”

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