Tips & Insights

What It’s Really Like to Spend a Day
at Market

Experience Market with Michael Baty of Chestnut Hall

by Sally Walker, StyleBlueprint

High Point Market. Never have three words been more like a siren song to those of us who adore interior design, revel in being insiders or simply want to lord it over our friends that we have “done” THE High Point Market, and not as a lookie-loo, but as the special guests of the owner of one of our favorite stores.

The International Home Furnishings Center at High Point, NC, is just the first stop of our day.

Michael Baty of Chestnut Hall and At the Cabin in Germantown, TN, graciously invited us (or did we invite ourselves? We honestly cannot remember!) to follow him around High Point for the October Market. We asked him to let us shadow him for a full day and to keep his schedule as normal as possible. We stayed at the charming inn in Old Salem where Michael always stays, and we followed his footsteps from breakfast through dinner. All 15,796 of them. (We’ll do the math here – that’s 6.5 miles of furnishings and decor.)

Michael Baty of Chestnut Hall and At the Cabin, in Germantown, TN, was gracious enough to let us shadow him at High Point Market and gave us a comprehensive overview of his typical day.

High Point Market, By the Numbers

High Point isn’t just one ginormous building as pictured above. There’s a bus terminal that looks more like an airport, and that’s the transportation hub of High Point. That’s the starting point to any Market trip, where you pick up your pass and get the lay of Market, all 11.5 million square feet of it.

When you go to High Point Market, you take buses from outlying parking lots – in our case, we parked at a shopping mall and jumped on the bus.

Yep, there are 180 buildings filled with 2,000 booths and showrooms at Market. Just let that sink in for a second.

Talk about a interior design wonderland: High Point Market has 180 buildings filled with 2,000 showrooms.

The Showplace building is across a beautiful green space from the International Home Furnishings Center.

Natuzzi, the Italian manufacturer, calls this ship-shaped building on Commerce Street its High Point home.

High Point visitors can expect to see 75,000 people from more than 100 countries in attendance at the market, which is held in the spring and fall each year. Attendees move between modern structures and charming, historic brick buildings that were once furniture factories and warehouses and now play home to the thousands of furniture and decor vendors at High Point.

Our Day at Market

Michael treats High Point almost like a sport: He has his pre-Market routines, a playbook and a goal. “It is of paramount importance to maximize your time at Market,” he says. “First, have a very definite plan for each day; second, stay on time; and third, minimize intra-Market travel so you can maximize shopping time.”

He stays at the Augustus T. Zevely Inn in Old Salem, about a 15-minute drive from High Point. He walks Old Salem every morning for 20 or 30 minutes to get his blood – and his creative juices – flowing.

Old Salem is an historic Moravian village with period buildings and gardens that tell the story of the settlement of Moravian people in this area of North Carolina.

Michael always books the Augustus T. Zevely Inn in Old Salem for his trips to High Point.

“The sun is rising, the day is new, and beauty, craftsmanship and history surround you,” says Michael, who walks alone through the historic village with its period homes, brick sidewalks and picket fences. “I marvel at the craftsmanship in the homes. I admire the woodwork, the art of the stone masons and the fabulous Flemish bond brick work. All of this sets the aesthetic bar pretty high each day, which is important when you are going to spend the rest of that day judging the individual merit of hundreds of pieces of furniture.”

The following is just a snapshot of the day, which included about 14 mini bottles of water per person and a dozen more showroom stops than are listed here. Let’s go!

9:03am – Properly caffeinated, we leave Old Salem for High Point with Michael and Chestnut Hall interior designer and store manager Stacy McSpadden. We park at a shopping mall, where we board a bus for the High Point transportation center in front of the International Home Furnishings Center (IHFC).

9:40am – We pick up our media credentials in the IHFC and head back outside, where we walk five or so blocks to our first stop at 200 Steele, home to Taylor King and Hancock & Moore.

Michael introduces us to manufacturer’s representative Tom Perkins of Taylor King, while Stacy chats with Del Starnes, president and chief operating officer of the furniture maker.

Tom Perkins of Taylor King explains what’s new in the showroom since Michael last visited.

Michael touches every fabric …

… and sits on every chair or couch he’s considering for his store.

Alan Price is an independent furniture designer currently under contract with Hancock & Moore. “He is the best in the business,” says Michael. “Brilliant and creative, he has his own style and aesthetic.”

Alan tells Michael about this stylish leather and acrylic chair he designed for Hancock & Moore.

12:15pm – We grab a quick lunch at Hancock & Moore, Michael noting that you should always eat when you can. We ask him about how he structures his days at Market. Since he spends four days twice a year at High Point, putting in about 32 hours of time in the showrooms each trip, he sticks to what works for him and the store’s other buyers who come along.

Part of his Market strategy is to start the day well-rested, as well as end each day at a reasonable time. “In between we go hard and stay focused. It is extremely important to rest and relax in the evenings,” says Michael. “Your feet, your eyes and your mind all need to really relax. Our buying group over the years has always been a really tight-knit group that enjoys each others’ company. That makes it very easy to relax as a team in the evening as we prepare for the next day.”

Patrick Flynn tours Michael through the Hancock & Moore showroom at High Point.

“The continuing trend that I was glad to see this Market was the melding of traditional forms with current executions,” says Michael. “These are great combinations of the old and the new and can work to update a traditional interior or add a traditional aspect to a more transitional interior.”

“We avoid emerging trends, instead preferring to bring items to the Mid-South when they are first becoming a continuing trend,” says Michael. “These items will be current and relevant for the longest period of time, and that is very important for the quality furniture buyer.”

Trend alert: The color rose in varying hues was all over Market. We adore this tufted velvet chair from Highland House, as well as the floral prints hung simply on the wall.

12:35pm – We’re off again, this time for a quick run-through of the first floor or two of the IHFC. This is where dozens of smaller furniture and decor manufacturers set up shop for Market, and while Michael and Stacy have already done their real shopping here, he wants us to see the breadth of the showrooms.

Stacy and Michael move through the first few floors of the IHFC with focus; they know exactly which exhibitors they will visit, from lighting vendors to outdoor furniture companies.

2:00pm – It’s time to meet Johnny Suddreth at Highland House, our first of two meet-ups with Johnny. We follow him throughout the gorgeous multi-level showroom in one of the re-purposed brick factories as Michael and Stacy pepper him with questions about what’s new with this line, which has been brought into the Century Furniture family.

Johnny Suddreth, a rep from Century Furniture, meets with Michael and Stacy for the first stop of their tour through the Highland House showroom. Highland House is a brand Century recently brought into its family of brands. (Stacy says after a lunch is usually when the hair goes into a ponytail, and we got on board that train!)

Bob Morrison is VP of Sales and Marketing at Old Hickory.

3:05pm – It’s off to Old Hickory, one of the furniture lines Michael uses heavily in At the Cabin. He’s always spoken of the craftsmanship and history of the brand, which can be found across the country in national parks as well as lake homes and lodges. The rustic furniture is made in Indiana, and the brand has been around since 1899.

4:14pm – Back with Johnny Suddreth, we pop into the Century Furniture showroom, where designer Thomas O’Brien’s latest collection took most of our attention. We’re starting to droop!

5:07pm – We leave Century, heading back downstairs in the Market Square building only to find a campaign party in full swing – the Thom Filicia for President party at Eastern Accents is showing no signs of slowing down. We all grab some refreshments and catch a bit of Thom’s stump speech. He ran on the platform of Make America Beautiful Again, and we just may have written his name in on the ballot November 8th.

Thom Filicia and Michael catch up at this “campaign” party. The star of the show “Queer Eye” is doing his part to make America beautiful again, a platform we can get behind!

5:30pm – We head back out to the other end of downtown, to the showroom of Vanguard Furniture, where we meet rep Brian Hendrix. We grab waters and wine, and begin our tour of Vanguard at the top floor, trailing behind Brian and Michael with admittedly dragging feet. (It must be noted: They both look peppy and like they can go for at least two more hours!)

Showrooms at High Point stay open into the early evening, as furniture manufacturers entertain designers and store owners from across the globe.

Brian is such a good rep that at the end of our time with him, he gives us a ride back to our car at the mall and advises us to head to Tipsy’z Tavern & Grill, where he promises the wait for a table will be worth it. The eatery is packed, and it’s every man or woman for themselves. We manage to snag a table about 20 minutes after arriving, and all four of us order bacon cheeseburgers.

While we wait for our burgers at Tipsy’z Tavern, Michael catches up with more friends from Market. The tiny tavern is packed with the market crowd.

Our reward for a day at High Point Market? A Tipsy’z bacon cheeseburger.

Brian was right – Tipsy’z was the perfect end to our long day. As we dug into our burgers, Michael noted he hoped we had enough for our story. “How could we not?” we asked. “We just toured High Point with the dream team from Chestnut Hall!”

Our thanks to Michael and Stacy for letting us follow them around High Point, and to Lisa Buser for her fantastic photos!