If you have any interest in modern furniture and cool lighting, you know all about Dallas showroom Scott + Cooner. What you may not know is that one of the owners, Lloyd Scott, is the best person to chat with when you want funny stories, direct opinions, and honest talk. We asked Lloyd to walk us through a past that includes boarding-school suspensions, trips to Italy, and becoming a successful businesswoman on her own terms.
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Goes to Stuart Hall, a boarding school in Staunton, Virginia, at age 12. “As far as education, it gave me a good one. I was on probation or restriction most of the time I was there. … This was in the dark ages, and I was at an all-girls school. A date was two hours in the front parlor with a chaperone in the corner on campus.”
Gets suspended. Moves to another school, skips a grade, and graduates from high school.
Alternates between working and attending college for the next few years. “I left home at 18 or 19, and I went to school. I started at a Baptist junior college, and that was enough for me. I left and worked and went to school some more and then worked and went to school. When I was 27, I was a retail buyer—I bought costume jewelry and cosmetics for 26 department stores. But I didn’t want to be in my mid-30s and decide, ‘I don’t want to do this.’”
Spends the next two years in Fiesole, Italy, getting a degree from the American School of Architecture. “My father was an architect, so I knew enough to be dangerous and to know that I wanted schooling in design.”
Moves to Pasadena, California. “It was very hard to come back [to the U.S.]. I got a job with an architectural firm. I stayed for maybe six months because I hated it.”
Goes to work for Knoll International. “I worked in the Los Angeles showroom at the [Pacific Design Center]. I took a commissioned job in the residential program. I told them to increase my commission and said, ‘If I don’t do better, you can reduce my commission.’ I did better. I did so much better that they decided to transfer me to Dallas for a test market for the fine furniture program.”
Fights the move to Dallas. “[Initially] I didn’t want anything to do with Dallas. It’s not close to large bodies of water. It was 117 degrees when I visited. Growing up as a kid, everything I heard about Texas was in bad taste. Aside from this was where Kennedy was killed. [Knoll] had to offer me a lot. When my boss had thrown everything he could at me, he pointed his finger at me and said, ‘Damn it, Lloyd, if I can move to New York, you can move to Texas.’”
Moves to Dallas. “I loved it from day one. It was the biggest surprise of my life. First of all, it wasn’t LA. You never realize how miserable you are in LA until you leave it. Nobody talks to you there. Dallas was friendly, and there’s a real connective tissue and networking in Dallas that I certainly was not exposed to in LA. It was easy to do business. It was a pretty exciting time. I didn’t have anybody telling me ‘no.’ As a female who grew up in the South, I got a lot of nos.”
Makes friends quickly. “After I got here, I got a call from the Junior League inviting me to join. I was like, ‘My grandmother was in the Junior League in Charlotte. That’s sweet of you to ask, but I believe I’m too old.’”
Launches Lloyd Scott Design. “I had six projects within the first two or three weeks. It was still rocking and rolling here. Things didn’t slow down until 1986, and then they did slow down quite a bit. … I ended up having the business from 1985 to 1991. I think I still have the tax ID for it. When things went in the toilet in 1986, I started doing faux finishes to fill in.”
Becomes a rep for Atelier International. “They called me and asked what I was doing. I said, ‘I’m painting f-ing walls, George.’ They said they wanted to talk to me about working for AI, and I asked, ‘Did you read my personnel file at Knoll?’ But I went and talked to them because they were an umbrella company that owned the rights to sell Cassina in the U.S. … A year or so later, I found out that when Steelcase bought AI, Cassina had said that they had to maintain sales of $10 million or they were going to come directly to the market. I knew when that happened that I wanted to be selling Cassina. I didn’t care what [AI] offered me, there was no way I was going to continue to work there. I’m not a pump-and-pantyhose, 7:30-a.m.-sales-meeting kind.”
Sort of opens her own showroom. “I went up to New York and talked to a gal at Cassina who I had known at AI. With a little bit of smoke and mirrors, I convinced her that I had a showroom. I didn’t really. I had the use of showroom space. In 1994, there was a place down in the Design District called the Design Experience. It was a PR vehicle that Trammell Crow had come up with to encourage the public to come down and shop. … Crow had made a deal with Knoll to provide furniture for the lobby—it was 14,000 square feet. At the last minute, Knoll backed out. Mike McAdams said, ‘Lloyd, can I get some furniture?’ I said, ‘Sure,’ but there was one hitch: I had to rent from Crow. He had a little 500-square-foot office upstairs. But I also had the lobby. I literally bought a Cassina sofa that had been damaged at the factory for $200. So I had Garrett Leather, Cassina, and another line.”
Meets Josy Collins. “She was working at the Bruton showroom across the street. We became friendly. … I went over there one day in February of 1995 on a rainy day. I was grumpy. We’re talking. I tell her I need a partner. The conversation didn’t really go any further—she had a client coming in. She called me later that day and asked if she could come over and talk.”
Launches Scott + Cooner in 1995. “We both have a very similar aesthetic. We worked out of 500 square feet. We had two desks pushed up against the window, two phones, and a little bit of space for product.”
Eventually moves to the Decorative Center and expands and expands some more. “We have about 21,000 square feet now.”
Opens a second location in Austin in 2000. “Just in time for the dot-com bust. In various iterations, we have survived. … It was a race for us to get to Austin. I was trying to get there first to make sure we had Cassina for Austin. We didn’t make all the wisest decisions, but we got there. We opened in January, and there was a big hole in front of our store. A concrete truck had created a sinkhole in front of the store. We have held out, though. We have 3,200 square feet currently, and we’re adding another 738. It will give us visibility on two streets—8th and Colorado.”