Contemporary Furniture & Interior Design
Paula Clancy, designer and founder of Nouveau Classics and Design, began her business shortly after graduating from the University of Tennessee. Nouveau Classics, located downtown at 101 S Gay Street, has definitely filled a void in the Knoxville area by offering clean, contemporary furniture and creative design services.
Everything Knoxville had the opportunity to talk to Paula about the start of her business and how she hopes to continue to broaden Knoxville’s concept of interior design well into the future.
EK: What made you decide to open your own business, and how were you able to accomplish this at such an early age?
Paula: I have loved modern furniture and interior design since I was a little girl. In 1989, there was no place in town to buy the type of furniture I liked. There was a huge opportunity to fill a niche in the market while pursuing a field I was passionate about. Bartending my way through college and continuing well into the third year of being open enabled me to self-fund my business. In retrospect, I had no idea what lay in front of me! Here was a young girl with no experience, putting herself into competition with big established furniture stores, selling product not geared to the masses.
Contemporary furniture was definitely not as popular then! However, I was totally fearless, a bit flamboyant, and determined to make the business work. I have always pushed the boundaries by offering uncommon products and was not (and am not) afraid to be different. Luckily, people found me, and I began to develop a strong client base, many of whom still shop with me today. My business has grown and evolved a lot since those early days. I like to say it grew up with me. Friends and sales reps have mentored, encouraged, and supported me and GRATEFULLY, loyal clients have helped me continue in the business I love.
EK: How does your store continue to stand out from the other area businesses that also sell furniture?
Paula: Nouveau Classics sells Modern and Contemporary furniture, while most stores in Knoxville and Nashville focus on Traditional or Transitional furniture. Most of my lines are from Europe and are exclusive in the Southeast region to Nouveau Classics. I carry several lines that are otherwise only available in cities like NYC or LA. It is exciting to have these sources to offer my clients. Not only is the quality of my product outstanding, but so are the designs of the furniture pieces themselves.
EK: What is your overriding business philosophy?
Paula: It is of the utmost importance that each and every client feels they had a great experience after working with me. My goal is to always give more than expected and my client be beyond thrilled with the outcome. To succeed with this philosophy, I learn about my client, listen and ask questions in order to understand how they live, and then I am able take them to how they WANT to live. Each space, like each client, is unique. High design and quality are also key. After changing the atmosphere in someone’s home or business, in many cases, the end result can be like a personal reinvention. That is heady stuff and very fulfilling.
EK: Tell us more about the services you offer.
Paula: 30+ years of experience working in the contemporary furniture field is significant. This means I have developed a relationship with many credible vendors and have extensive product knowledge of the pieces I offer to my clients. Going to trade shows every year, visiting manufacturing facilities, building relationships with the companies, buying and placing furniture in real life situations helps you understand quality, scale, and what works and what doesn’t. In addition to understanding the contemporary furniture world, I am an Interior Designer and work with contractors, electricians, plumbers, custom cabinet craftsmen, etc. In many situations, I am the creative lead – coming up with the renovation plan – and then the liaison between the subcontractors to oversee the project.
EK: What are some unique or new offerings you’d like to share?
Paula: I am forever evolving and constantly looking for new lines to add to my library of sources. Outdoor furniture has always been part of the lineup, but recently I have expanded in that area of my business by adding Gloster, Harbour Outdoor, and Unopiu to my sources. In addition, the Harlequin Zero Gravity mattress from Literie Laurier, a Canadian Line, is now available at Nouveau Classics. (It’s amazing, by the way!) Quality is extremely important, so prior to offering a new line to clients, I must see the product in person and be educated on the details. Home and business staging is another service offered. I can work with what clients already own or pull together a creative and cost-effective plan to help the client in selling or renting property.
EK: What do you consider to be your personal successes?
Paula: Although I have been a designer for the Symphony Show House several times and sat on several boards in Knoxville, I am most proud of the relationships I have built with my clients. There is no bigger compliment than getting a call or referral from a happy and satisfied client. In fact, I have been in business for so long now that I am even getting calls from the 2nd generation, past clients’ grown children who remember me working with their parents or designing their own playrooms and bedrooms. When the 3rd generation starts calling, it may be time to stop… ha ha.
EK: How can interested customers learn more about Nouveau Classics Contemporary Furniture & Design?
Paula: They can call me! They can visit my store and design studio to actually see/touch/feel the products and learn more about what is offered on-site. I am an unusual case, as many Interior Designers do not have showrooms. Clients can experience the products in person. I am all about having a conversation with clients. It’s so important to learn all you can about each other – and this goes both ways, as it has to be a good fit for both parties when working together. With so many years of experience, there are a ton of projects and people I have worked with throughout the years. I am happy to share information about my projects.
The showroom does not keep set business hours in the Knoxville or Nashville locations, as I need the flexibility be with clients on the jobsite. Please call 865-525-4755 or 615-383-3164 to make an appointment. Visit my website at www.nouveauclassics.com to learn more about the product lines.
Contemporary Furniture & Interior Design
101 S Gay Street
Knoxville, TN 37902