When Netherlands native Siebe Baker settled in Michigan in the late 19th century, he found there was a need for his cabinetry skills. He started out making doors and window blinds with a fellow Dutchman Henry Cook; the two formed Cook, Baker & Co. in 1890, the precursor to Baker Furniture. Since then, three generations of Baker boys have managed the company, now part of Kohler’s group of residential fixtures and furnishings, based near Hickory, North Carolina.
Over the past 125 years, Baker has become synonymous with high quality casegoods for high end homes. It was the choice of former NBA star Yao Ming, and can be found outfitting his Shanghai residence. Baker has furnished the green room at the Academy Awards as well as the American Express Black Card Holder VIP room at New York Fashion Week. American presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama have chosen Baker to adorn The White House. Its traditional, transitional and contemporary styles appeal to buyers who want to invest in timeless classics that can be passed down through the generations.
Anita Lin first encountered Baker six years ago. “I visited the factory and fell in love with the brand,” says the general manager of Atelier A+, Baker’s exclusive distributor in Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen and Hainan Island, at her Shenzhen showroom opening in September. “In 2012, I opened the Hong Kong dealership. And … we are proud to launch our two-storey flagship showroom in Shenzhen Bay. We see the new space as both a retail destination for buyers and a place where designers working on projects can visit for inspiration. More than 50 percent of our clientele are designers, and there is a strong community of them in Shenzhen. We want to have people on the ground to support them through this showroom.”
Baker’s designer collections feature leading American and European names such as Barbara Barry, Thomas Pheasant, Laura Kirar, Bill Sofield, Jacques Garcia and Michael Smith. Although their suites for living, dining, bedroom and studies primarily are wood based, many incorporate metal, glass and luxury materials into their creations. Solid wood, expertly turned for gently curving legs and back details, is one of the Baker staples. In addition, through its Stately Home collection, reproductions of 18th century European masterpieces are available for those who can’t get enough of Chinoiserie cabinets. The 6,000-square foot Shenzhen showroom is complemented by a more modest space along the lower portion of Hong Kong’s Wyndham Street.
“Our products are continuously evolving,” says Brett Beadleson, Baker’s vice president, dealer sales. “We introduce a new collection about once or twice a year and are very careful when adding new designers. Our products are meant to last multiple lifetimes. We don’t feel that we have any real competitors, although there are some high-end Italian brands that are at the same price point. However, their collections look radically different than ours. And the only trade fair we participate in is High Point Market, the annual furniture fair in North Carolina.”
Beadleson believes that the southern Chinese market has a lot of room for growth, and he is looking to Lin for her expertise in the region. “Our distributors are more like partners, advisors and confidants,” he says. “They give us advice and are very generous when sharing information. We feel it is important to be in growing, dynamic markets such as Shenzhen. I think we have more in common with our Chinese customers than differences. Chinese consumers appreciate quality and brands with quality. We appeal to specific consumers who want a real Rolex. Counterfeits may look like our products but we build quality and value inside every one of our pieces. In five years, a counterfeit would look very different next to our product.”