Enhancing the Value of the ICFA Brand
“Unlike most of my predecessors, I’m not an owner, CEO, or founder of a casual furnishings company. My perspective is a little different, and I’ll give this office a bit of redirection,” said Steve Elton, Chief Brand Curator at Brown Jordan and incoming Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Casual Furniture Association (ICFA). “I want to build upon our excellent educational resources to make them even more valuable, particularly to dealers and retailers. We have enormous brainpower in this organization, and I believe we can further leverage it to make membership intriguing, especially for those who are younger or new to our industry.”
Recognized with the ICFA’s highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2018, Steve’s career in home furnishings spans 40 years, the last 30 with Brown Jordan. He has earned wide media coverage for his creativity and design influence, including appearances on The Today Show and HGTV’s The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie and Extreme Homes. Brown Jordan designs grace such iconic venues as The Ritz-Carlton Paris, the White House, the Oscars Green Room, Smithsonian Gardens, Winterthur, Sandy Lane Barbados, Camden Yards, Yankee Stadium, and the Beverly Hills Hotel.
During his time on the Executive Committee of the ICFA, Steve helped bring fresh faces to the Board of Directors. “We’ve worked to infuse the board with new blood, benefiting from different outlooks and sources of creative energy. I hope to create a similar variety among our membership, targeting those areas of the country that aren’t well represented. Membership has different benefits depending upon the company you represent and your position within the industry. My involvement helped make Brown Jordan more approachable, especially to dealers who don’t carry our brand,” he said.
Steve has a passion for mentoring, partly inspired by his experience as a protégé of Richard Frinier, who took him under his wing during the 20 years the famed designer served as Chief Creative Officer of Brown Jordan. “At this point in my career, I believe it is my responsibility to acknowledge the gifts of learning that I was given and return them to the next generation.” This dedication was exemplified in 2019, when Steve spearheaded Brown Jordan’s partnership with Savannah College of Art + Design (SCAD), mentoring 16 students while they produced a collection of outdoor furniture. He advised the students throughout the design and construction phases and served as a judge with Frinier and his good friend, Margaret Russell, Honorary Dean of the SCAD School of Building Arts.
Steve also takes a hands-on approach to education during his regular visits to Brown Jordan showrooms. His guidance focuses directly on the areas that he hopes to enhance during his tenure as Chairman. “I would like to create more of a balance in our educational offerings relating to merchandising, marketing and sales. We need to organize these to be more useful to everyone and encourage creative thinking. When we can bolster these areas, the results benefit everyone in our organization and our industry. We want our educational efforts to trickle down to the folks on the floor; to make it fun for them to apply lessons learned through our organization’s collective experience,” he said.
Part of Steve’s commitment to the Brown Jordan dealers’ success is participating in Zoom meetings with store customers, helping salespeople seal the deal. “The ability to relate to the consumer, anticipate their questions, and teach them about the product is as important as dynamic merchandising and effective marketing. Learning these skills is extremely useful for new salespeople with theoretical knowledge but no real-world experience. I tell the SCAD students, ‘in the real-world personality is attached to everything.’”
Steve lives on the beach in Cape Charles, VA, and spends his leisure time playing basketball, his lifetime obsession, hiking, walking, and paddle boarding (he has a wetsuit!). He enjoys spending time with his daughter, who welcomed the arrival of Oliver, his first grandchild, the first week of the new year, and his three Godsons. “Brown Jordan keeps me busy, but I also need personal creative time,” which he said is sparked by the natural beauty of his surroundings.