It makes sense that David F. Arnold chose a gryphon, aka griffin, as the symbol for his business, Gryphon Interiors. That mythical beast has a lion’s body and an eagle’s head and wings, and Arnold fulfills more than one role when he is designing a home’s interior.
“This is a relational business – there must be chemistry between designer and client,” he said. “People usually come to me through referrals, and stay with me because we clicked. I’m two parts artist, one part businessman and one part psychiatrist. I have to get inside their heads and give them what they never knew they wanted.”
A native of upstate New York, Arnold considers himself “a Southern boy” by virtue of having lived in Atlanta and Columbia, S.C., for 14 years. As a student in the 1970s at Kansas State University, he focused on architecture and design.
“I realized early on that I loved the aesthetics of architecture, but didn’t care much for the structural part. That’s why God made engineers,” he said. “I wanted to do something related to interiors, so I started taking electives in interior design, which were in the college of home economics. My architecture adviser said scornfully, ‘Are you going to learn to cook and sew as well?’ Actually, I did learn to cook, but not there.”
By graduation day, a worldwide energy crisis meant that “no one was building houses.” Switching gears, he earned a master’s degree from the University of South Carolina in healthcare administration, which enabled him to build a solid 20-year career while accepting freelance interior design projects. One client hired him to redo her rooms several times during those decades, as her life changed.
A year after moving to Louisville in 2000, he opened Gryphon Interiors. Until this past February, he owned a retail store in St. Matthews that sold furniture, accessories and artwork. He closed it in order to concentrate on interior design.
“This is what I’ve always wanted to do, and it is the soul of my business,” he said. “The retail portion turned out to be a bother.”
David’s clients, most of whom live “north of 42” as well as in Indian Hills, Anchorage and Prospect, want “classic, functional interiors” that respect the architecture of their homes. Since his is a one-man business, they know that the work will be done entirely by him, not by an assistant.
“Occasionally I’m asked for a design that is contemporary, which for me means classic contemporary – not hard and edgy. We tend to be more comfortable in things that are familiar to us,” he said. “Edgy contemporary rooms look great in photos, but they’re hard to live in. If you put a magazine down, you’ve ruined the look. My rooms tend to be very social, with comfortable seating. Your house feels like home, not like you just walked onto a stage set.”
Home should be a place that nurtures and lets us decompress, he added. Giving an updated accent to traditional, time-honored style is the way to avoid one of Arnold’s aphorisms: Today’s fashion is tomorrow’s regret.
“If you want to be edgy, do it in a way you can easily change. Keep the core of the design well-grounded,” he advised. “Orange is hot right now, so use it for some throw pillows or paint the room orange. Re-painting a wall is easy – re-covering a sofa is not.”
Gryphon Interiors is located at 215 Breckenridge Lane, Suite 206. For information, call 502.893.7900.
MARY ALAN WOODWARD | contributing photographer
Category: Business Profile