Many trend forecasting experts predict that traditional design will be bigger than ever in 2023 and perhaps no retailer knows this better than Ballard Designs. Founded in 1983 by Helen Ballard, it began as a catalog with a two-page black-and-white brochure featuring a replica of a dolphin-accented table from the founder’s Atlanta home. This product became the brand’s first big seller.
In 1996, the company merged with Cornerstone Brands, which was a publisher of home and retail catalogs. In 2017, that parent company was acquired by Liberty Interactive, which was renamed Qurate Retail Group the following year. Today Qurate owns a variety of brands in the fashion as well as home and design spaces in addition to Ballard Designs including QVC, HSN, Frontgate, Garnet Hill, Grandin Road, and Zulily.
As of 2023, Ballard Designs operates eighteen retail and outlet locations across thirteen states. The brand circulates more than 19 million catalogs annually as well as operates a successful e-commerce business.
While Ballard is traditional in terms of aesthetic, when it comes to social media, they are more than modern with nearly 430k followers on Instagram, a thriving account on Tiktok, and a popular podcast called How To Decorate.
Traditional Design For Today
Ballard’s team of designers prides itself on creating pieces inspired by both travels and trends. Everything from beds to sofas, outdoor furniture, and even smaller decorative objects have a timeless element to them. There is something for every room in the home.
As traditional design is set to make a huge comeback in 2023, Ballard’s president, Karen Mooney tells me, “We don’t believe [traditional design] ever left. “Ballard has always embraced classic design as part of a timeless, layered look that encompasses everything from Louis XVI chairs to contemporary acrylic tables.”
In 2002, Ballard opened new locations in Nashville as well as Houston, which is the retailer’s third outpost in Texas. The first Design Studio concept store debuted in West Palm Beach, Florida. Design Studios were created to provide customers with an edited assortment of furniture and décor, as well as a streamlined process for customization, as many pieces such as sofas and chairs are customizable with a very generous selection of upholstery.
Partnerships Are The Heart Of The Brand
In 2010, Ballard launched its first partnership with designer Suzanne Kasler. Two years later, they began to work with renowned interior designer and entertaining expert, Bunny Williams. Ballard still offers several products with Williams from larger pieces such as the Bunny Williams Wood Creek Demilune to smaller decor such as the timeless Barware Pitcher.
In 2017, the brand collaborated with notable designer Miles Redd on a collection of furniture and accessories inspired by the classic architecture of old Hollywood. Some of his outdoor pieces are still available years later.
These collaborations are truly at the heart of the brand, explains Mooney. “In the design world, Suzanne, Bunny, and Miles are superstars. Each brings a unique creative perspective and aesthetic to the Ballard brand, helping to keep us fresh, relevant, and well ahead of the latest design trends.”
But perhaps the biggest partnership Ballard has had in recent years is with designer and media personality, Carson Kressley. A longtime Ballard devotee, the tastemaker tells me, “When I get the Ballard Designs catalog, the word that comes to mind is graciousness. Whether it’s the serving pieces or beautiful pillows, it’s all things that delight the eye. But also really appeals to the senses; beautiful things to eat off of, beautiful things to lounge on. That creates a really gracious environment and that’s what I think of when I think of Ballard—traditional, classic, updated, not too precious, fun, but beautiful.”
As part of this collaboration, two entertaining spaces in Kressley’s Pennsylvania farmhouse were stylishly refreshed. “Together, we are able to showcase a prime example of how our home furnishings and décor can help anyone create a home and hosting space they’re both comfortable in and proud of,” says Mooney.
The Future Of Ballard Designs
2023 is already set to be a significant year for Ballard. While they already offer complimentary design programs, this service will be elevated through the launch of a powerful new 3D decorating tool. It will help customers see what Ballard products will look like in their spaces. This online tool enables users to place Ballard products into images of their rooms, as well as experiment with color, and rearrange the space to see how everything will look—all before clicking “add to cart.” While this tool is currently available for customers working with design personnel in stores, it will soon be available online.
In addition to this launch, Ballard plans to expand its retail operations in 2023. Stores are planned for Mount Pleasant, South Carolina as well as Austin, Texas in the first quarter of the year. Five additional locations will open in 2024.