When you think of Allan Knight, you might think about acrylic furniture, lamps and chandeliers, Asian antiques, or his eponymous showroom in the Dallas Design District. None of that is wrong. But there’s a whole lot more to the story. Allan knew he wanted in the design business as a young man. But the road from elementary-school student to business magnate has been one great surprise (and maybe some not-so-great surprises) after another.
Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma
At the age of 7, makes the decision to become a decorator in a Midland, Texas, bookstore. “I was there with my mother, aunt, and grandmother. I saw a book, How to Decorate. I took it to my grandmother and said, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’”
Enters the workforce in junior high. “My father was president of the school board in Midland, but I didn’t like school. So I went into a program where I went to school part of the day, and then I would go to my job at a design firm where my mother worked. I worked all through high school. There were times that I would get frustrated—probably about life not moving fast enough, and my mother told me, ‘Follow your dreams. For as you dream, so shall you become.’ I learned that it was up to me to make my dreams come true.”
Graduates from high school in Shreveport, Louisiana. “My family moved in the middle of my senior year, but my parents told me I could stay in Midland if I wanted to finish school there. I said, ‘Hell, no! They have trees in Shreveport.’”
1976 / Graduates with an architecture degree from University of Texas at Arlington.
Late 1970s / Starts design firm and co-owns acrylic-furniture manufacturing company Merritt-Emanuel/Innovators.“I had a few clients, and then I met this guy who had an acrylic business. We co-owned Merritt-Emanuel/Innovators and it was a big part of my life for the next 15 years. I ran the factory, did sales. I saw the acrylic, and I said, ‘Enough with design work. I want to do this!’ They were my new blocks. It was kind of immediate. I didn’t want to do anything else. I did that for 15 years before I left.”
Early 1990s / Forms The Vineyard Group with Ed Huckfeldt and Pat Tosi. “The head of Neiman’s fragrances told me that I should start a line of fine potpourris and candles. So we started the business, and it grew so fast. Ed had the nose, and I designed the bags and packaging. We had four brands of candles—including Topiary and Exoticals—and you could find them at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and JCPenney. But the gift business is very different. You’re always going to a market or a show or the factory. I never had two seconds to myself. After four years, it was time. I sold it, and Ed and I went different ways. I said, ‘This was a fun experiment. Bye.’”
1999 / Partners with Ben Goldfarb to open the Allan Knight showroom on Hi Line Drive. “Ben told me that if I wanted to start a showroom, he would back me. So I called him on the last day at High Point Market—hopefully, my last day at High Point ever—and told him, ‘I want to do what I do best.’ We started with 6,000 square feet, and it felt right immediately. Ben gave me huge latitude. We had our acrylic furniture and Asian pieces.”
2002 / Meets partner Cearan Henley. “We’ve been able to work together beautifully. He’s a life partner who really gets everything about the business. He does something I can’t do. I can’t even handle my own Facebook account. He has really become my voice.”
2006 / Moves to the International on Turtle Creek Design Center.“We’ve evolved into a multi-line showroom. It just kind of happened. We always wanted to be in lighting, and now in addition to lamps, we’re doing chandeliers and fire screens and furnishings. This building allowed us to go into all of it in a big way, and we’ve denationalized everything so it doesn’t all look the same. We have a huge staff, and they work really hard.”
2014 / Moves across the pond. In addition to 10 U.S. markets, the brand is now available through J. Robert Scott in London, England. Next up: Taipei.
HOBBIES & INTERESTS
“My mother was a designer, and she and my grandmother were my mentors. My grandmother used to introduce me to people by saying, ‘This is my grandson who loves beautiful things.’ And then I would say, ‘My name is Allan.’ But that’s how she used to introduce me!”