Tastemakers: Thomas O'Brien, The Thinking Man's Designer...

Funny how certain people strike you as extraordinary. Persons teeming with so much star quality that they'd have been famous whether they drilled oil or worked in a paper factory. Thomas O'Brien is certainly one of those rare individuals with "change maker" written all over him. He enters the room and the energy shifts. It's a wonderful quality and I found his frenetic energy quite refreshing. 

Last Saturday night I had the rare opportunity to share a meal with Thomas and a small group of other bold-faced names in a private dining room in High Point, North Carolina. (For the record, what he ordered looked far better than my choice.. but I digress...) As you surely know if you've read PalomaHeather or Cassandra's posts, we enjoyed the company of Suzanne Kasler, Ron Fiore and the impossibly fun Alexa Hampton. And while it seemed the entire room was abuzz with conversation, I suspect our table might have been the most rambunctious of the bunch. Between me, Ron, Thomas, Karen (Thomas's PR guru), Keith (Thomas's right hand man) and my husband, I can safely say we were not a quiet bunch! To say that we had a great time would be an understatement! 

The thing about Thomas that stood out to me was how he simultaneously embodied such precision and absolute chaos. Everything about him is a study in contrasts. His perfectly tailored clothing, masterfully tossed on with a devil may care attitude. His mathematically precise furnishings that somehow still ooze laid-back ease and comfort. His freshly cut hair that's haphazardly coiffed - making you suspect he only had moments to fix it, but it looks great regardless. Anyway you look at it, Thomas enjoys the dichotomy of his (and my) Gemini personality. Fully controlled, drawn to precision, a total perfectionist - and yet a total riot and easy to be around. Spend a moment in his company and you'll find yourself laughing hysterically. His quick wit and sheer breadth of knowledge makes him a powerhouse personality. Trust me, you notice when this guy walks into a room. And you'd better be prepared.  

Back to my story... dinner was amazing. The group of us laughed so hard we nearly cried. And the next morning Thomas and the other designers walked us through the Hickory Chair showroom discussing their respective collections. It would be difficult to overstate how well informed Thomas is about design. He understands scale, historical significance, functionality and attention to detail in ways many of us can only dream. Much of his influence comes fro his New England upbringing. He recalls the furnishings of his childhood home and appreciates quality pieces that can be passed down from generation to generation. This all very clearly translates in his work. Each piece easily can stand on its own and could be repurposed in near limitless arrangements in almost any room of the home.
Clearly, the collection is beautiful. A classic settee covered in a tweedy menswear fabric was completely modern and fresh in a strangely familiar way. A geometric sectional finished with touchably plush upholstery straddled the line between masculine and feminine design perfectly. It was all absolutely flawless and just slightly "off" in that uniquely TOB way. If you can imagine staying with well-heeled friends in the Hamptons for the weekend in a house that exudes relaxed elegance - that's how every piece of the Thomas O'Brien collection reads. Utterly fabulous and over the top in a completely approachable and familiar way... much like the man himself. Genius. 

Many more tales to come.. stay tuned!