"Yesterday the world, today BainbridgeWell-traveled designer Bill McKnight opens his first retail outlet in Winslow."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 6:49 PM
"You've probably seen Bill McKnight's interior design work.Maybe you haven't been to Singapore's storied Raffles Hotel recently to see the work McKnight has done on that symbol of Britain's empire, still consistently ranked as one of the world's best hotels. Or perhaps you haven't caught his work at the Delta Whistler Hotel in Canada, or the White Pine Lodge in Schweitzer, Idaho.But if you've been to REI's flagship store in Seattle, or to almost any Nordstrom, you've seen McKnight's style - one he's bringing to Bainbridge Island in the form of a home-furnishings retail outlet in the Pavilion.I always wanted to add a home retail store to my design operations, said McKnight. You never know when the time is going to be right. But as I was finishing the Whistler Hotel and commuting four hours a day, I decided to do it now.As the caliber of his design projects suggests, McKnight's retail operation is not aimed at the frugal.People come in and spend $10, he said, but they could also spend $10,000. These are investment-quality products with lasting value.The emphasis on top-of-the-line products was driven in part by the relatively small confines of the store, a nook formerly housing a video arcade.And while there are items that can be taken home, McKnight expects that many customers will order either from the floor samples or the extensive catalogs of manufacturers that McKnight represents.Our bed linens are from Florence and Connecticut, he said. They are all custom-made, but we can have them delivered in four weeks.One of his product lines is Italian Alessi stainless steel dishware. The brilliant gleam that looks like silver comes, he said, from a special but secret process. The oriental-looking wooden seats come from British Columbia.The store's jewels may be furniture inspired by the work of the late George Nakashima.He was the elder statesman of the arts and crafts movement, McKnight said, and the furniture coming under Nakashima's name now is made by his daughter and those he trained.The Nakashima line emphasizes the beauty of the wood, and not just any tree will do.They get calls from people in England saying a 400-year-old walnut tree has to be removed, and would they like to buy it, McKnight said. We are the first West Coast retail outlet for that furniture, and are proud the family entrusted us with their furniture.There is also a social consciousness to the selection of product lines.Some of the needlework in the store comes from a group called Appalachia By Design, which McKnight describes as a group of single women trying to raise families up in the hollows and mountains of Appalachia, who do exquisite work.Similarly, the Zulu baskets are colored with dyes indigenous to the area of origin, and each is signed by the woman who made them.Many of the store's lamps are McKnight's own design, manufactured in very limited runs. He earmarks 10 percent of the profit from those lamps to Kitsap County organizations caring for AIDS and HIV sufferers.A Montana native, McKnight spent time in the Peace Corps and the Vista organization before going to work with the Bon Marche's parent company. On assignment to Boston, he became involved with visual merchandising - dressing a store for success. From there, McKnight moved to Nordstrom, where he spent 14 years, advancing to corporate director of visual merchandising. Then he spent 15 years doing assignments for a Seattle architectural firm.While he will continue to offer design services, the store, which he operates with partner Steve Parsons, will give him an opportunity to offer designer products to a wider audience. And he thinks Bainbridge is the right home for his business.We think this community will be responsive, McKnight said. People here are sophisticated enough to recognize the design and quality of our products. We think we can carve out a niche for ourselves that is unique. "