“It’s a big step. … This is the biggest thing ADAC has done in 50 years,” said Katie Belveal, of Brookhaven, the center’s general manager. “It’s a conversation we’ve had with our design community and showrooms for the past three or four years.”
Similar changes are happening across the country in major cities’ interior design markets, she said, and attributes the industry shift partly to the resources now available to the general public, like design-focused magazines, Internet sites and TV shows.
“Consumers have become more engaged with designing and more hands on and involved in the design process,” Belveal said. “They want to be more involved. They don’t just want to hand it over to the designer with a budget and say, ‘Go for it.’”
Despite her excitement, she said, “There is always that fear that comes with change.”
Initially, C. Weaks Interiors owner Carol Weaks, of Buckhead, said she felt the fear.
“I think everyone thought in the beginning, ‘Oh no, here comes a train wreck,” said Weaks, who has been with the center for 26 years.
However, she said she is now optimistic because Portman Holdings, the downtown Atlanta-based real estate investment firm which owns the center, was “sensitive to the design community,” and hosted workshops and training sessions to make designers feel more comfortable with the transition.
Weaks said she does not think the opening will alter the way designers work for the most part. Although anyone can come in and look, they will be connected to a designer if they want to buy products, she said.
“Unless you’ve had training in the industry, it’s very difficult to edit and know how to put together all these different things to meet a budget and make a room,” Weaks said. “We are hoping people will realize, if they don’t use a designer, how valuable it can be with time and money when you have a facilitator.”
For two weeks starting Monday, Discover ADAC, a series of events and parties will engage and educate guests on the products and process of working with a design professional. Events will include panel discussions, designer presentations and meet-and-greets, book signings, individual showroom festivities and a grand-opening cocktail party Oct 4.
Belveal said the purpose of the public opening is to help “drive more business to interior designers,” connect general consumers with designers and “build more recognition to the designer.”
“Everyone who works in this industry is so passionate about design and to see other people come and see what we have is exciting. It can be mind-blowing,” Belveal said. “The building has been closed for over 50 years and there’s a large curiosity factor. I’m really excited to see people be inspired about the product that’s in these showrooms.”