Saturday, March 18, 2006

Biltmore Estate and Belk stores team for upscale home décor

By Polly McDaniel
Asheville Citizen-Times

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Belk and Biltmore Estate have teamed for an upscale line of bed linens, picture frames, cookware, towels and other home décor products that will be sold exclusively at Belk stores throughout the South.

It's a partnership forged between two Carolina-owned family businesses. The line is called Biltmore Estate For Your Home.

Each Belk now has a "Biltmore Shop" set up in its housewares department, said Paul Thum Suden, Belk's executive vice present of private brands.

Tim Rosebrock, Biltmore's director of business development, describes the product line as "updated classics."

Available now is a line of bedding, the Phoebe collection, that Rosebrock says is "rich in texture and pattern, a play on formality and informality." The color palate is in "soft, cool colors," shades of a seafoam green.

Inspiration for the Phoebe collection actually came from the Chippendale Room, a second-floor guest bedroom in Biltmore House. Designers drew from the room's formal patterns on wallcovers and textiles to craft the bedding collection. "For this product we have updated the colors slightly so they're designed for today's living, rather than in 1895," Rosebrock said.

It's upscale in price, too. The term Rosebrock uses for the line is "affordable luxury." Mike Restaino, Belk's senior vice president of brand management, said prices for the bedding sets are slightly below upscale brands such as Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger. "It's slightly below those price points but with a quality and craftsmanship that exceeds it," Restaino said.

The products are being made by Belk vendors in a deal officially signed last July. Products had to be prototyped and approved by both Belk and Biltmore officials. And Belk officials in particular wanted a quick turnaround to coincide with re-openings of Belk stores this spring, with the Proffitts and McRae's stores acquired by Belk from Saks.

While they worked quickly, they also worked meticulously to incorporate Biltmore designs into the new brand. An embroidered lace sheet set, for example, has the "V" family crest in sewn into it. "The Heirloom pattern, which has the rose embroidery, takes the same rose inspiration from the rose garden," Restaino noted.

It's a strategic partnership between two longtime family-owned Carolina businesses. Belk, based in Charlotte, is now run by third-generation family. The same can be said of Biltmore Estate here in Asheville.

"I think it's going to be a great marriage between two legacies in the Southeast," said Restaino. "All it's going to do is strength the recognition and visibility of both brands."

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