HAL WILLIAMSON | La Vieille Maison
by HILLARY GOLDEN
Each morning Hal Williamson feels as if he is in a quaint European shop, as he steps through the front door of his serene French Quarter antique shop. “La Vieille Maison is slanted very much toward French antiques and styles of furniture because of the location in the French Quarter,” says Williamson. Keeping in tune with his goal to have a unique and highly customized shop, he often brings hand-crafted pieces from France, made in the same manner of those created in the 18th century.
Just over five years old, the store features antiques, reproductions, customized upholstery, accessories and rugs. “I particularly like Louis XV and XVI, Swedish Gustavian, Italian—especially Tuscan—but I also will mix in English Regency,” says Williamson. He favors items with a lot of handwork involved.
Williamson believes that many people feel trapped by the choices of furniture they have in regular retail stores, and he can have things customized so people can get exactly what they want.
“My basic design philosophy is everybody has their own things they like and color preferences. My goal is to get them to where they want to go,” says Williamson.
Aside from his shop, Williamson is also a fine interior decorator. When decorating a home, his main focuses are on attention to scale, color and design so everything looks natural and harmonious.
With in- and out-of-state clients, Williamson thinks of his shop as his base, where people can learn a little bit about him. “I take on as many clients as I can, but not too many because everybody needs attention,” says Williamson. He has also been busy with his own home—it has been featured in Southern Accents , House Beautiful, on HGTV and in the new book, “New Orleans Style” by Susan Sully. “Since you put your heart and soul into something, you hope the photographer does you justice,” says Williamson.
“All the experiences were nice.”
MICHAEL & JEFF BER | Lighting, Inc.by HILLARY GOLDEN
James Ber had been working at an electrical supply company when he realized the need for a lighting showroom in New Orleans. In 1959, he opened Lighting, Inc. and this intergenerational business continues today with James’ son, Michael, who joined in 1972, and grandson, Jeff.
Jeff Ber, who has degree in marketing from Loyola University, says “I had tried a few other things, but just landed here.” He got into the family business in 1996. He says the customers, employees and work environment all drew him to it.
Lighting, Inc. offers a variety of lighting options, such as chandeliers, including those by Schonbek, mirrors, recessed lighting and accessories. Their services range from the simple task of finding a replacement lampshade to the more complex job of laying out a whole lighting package for a home or business. According to Jeff, Lighting, Inc. can pretty much do anything that is needed.
Good communication is key between the sales people and their customers. “If a customer wants one thing done, but they need something else in order for that to happen, we try to find a solution for them,” says Jeff.
He says the future goals of the company are to continue to grow and give their customers everything they need between their southshore and Northshore locations. “We have revamped our computer systems to keep up with the industry,” says Jeff.
Along with keeping up with technology, the staff attends training seminars. “We belong to the American Lighting Association and we go to the conventions yearly,” says Jeff. “And there are training seminars and some regional [ones we] attend.”
Jeff says that although they have been at their current location for more than 30 years, many people are often surprised to learn it is so large—more than 18,000 square feet—and its offerings are so extensive. •
This article appears in the April 2005 issue of New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles