Louisville Magazine

OCT 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

Issue link: https://loumag.epubxp.com/i/388156

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Page 147 of 172

LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 10.14 129 I n 1854, the German immigrant Gustave Bittner began crafting handmade cabinets in a little brick building on what is now South Brook Street. Said another way: Bittners started so long ago that Brook Street was called East Street. Te Ency- clopedia of Louisville says "it was said that every wealthy family in Kentucky possessed at least one Bittner furnishing by the outbreak of the Civil War." Now, after 160 years in business, the cabinet-making studio has become one of the country's oldest and most revered furniture/ design houses. And to celebrate Bittners' 160th anniversary, Douglas Riddle, the company's president since 2002, invited us into his home. Riddle's pre-World War II, New York-style apartment in a Highlands high-rise is as light and airy as the sky itself. Te apartment has all of its original charm, including a carved mantle and decorative balustrades. But it is in the de- tails and luxurious furnishings and fnishes that the apartment takes fight. Te antiques are a veritable history lesson of form and function through the ages. A 19th-century Turkish clay pot and a small marble French bust from the mid-18th century (found at a Paris fea market) are in perfect harmony with the modernity of an upholstered Eames bench. Te green fddle-leaf fgs have followed Riddle on move after move. Much of the art is local, Letitia Quesenberry being a favorite. Te cofee table was handmade by Bittners master craftsman Brian Keenan with wood reclaimed during a restoration at the Frazier History Museum. Light streams through the windows, lands on crystal doorknobs. Riddle, who grew up all over as the son of a military man, has a background in fashion, getting his start doing window displays. He worked his way up quickly in the buying ofce at the Lexington fur boutique Embry's and eventually became fashion director and vice president for the now-closed department store chain Jacobson's, a job that took him around the world and required him to be in Paris, New York and Milan. It was a grueling schedule. "On a plane for about eight years," Riddle says. Te idea of home became important to him, and one night his friend Bill Blass, the late designer, suggested that Riddle pursue a career in home goods. Riddle (he declined to give his age for this story) came to Bittners with a goal of gently reinventing the brand, adding modern elegance to the timeless classicism. He grew the design team, rebuilt the campus on East Main Street by expanding into neighboring buildings and Three different chairs, including a 19th-century Italian dining chair with original leather (far right), in front of "Union of Opposites No. 2" by Letitia Quesenberry. Bittners' Riddle says pieces from different decades can work together if the quality is high enough. "I feel your home should be that pause, and so many people like to fll that void up with racket," Riddle says.

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