With a colorful career that began in 1976 at Drapery World in Garden Grove, CA, as a drapery installer, to becoming top salesman for that same company by 1979, Randall knew he had found a career he could build a life and reputation upon.
In 1980, he opened a retail custom drapery company in Anaheim, and shortly after that, started a workroom business. Considering the building boom of the ’80s and homeowner proclivity for beautiful window fashions, Randall had built a good, profitable business.
In 1986, however, a turning point in his life, he sold his business and wrote The Encyclopedia of Window Fashions (EWF), a comprehensive and visually beautiful book offering a multitude of ideas for draperies, top treatments, soft shades and more. The response was overwhelmingly positive. “I got the idea for the book,” Randall says, “because so many customers were asking if they could actually see a Roman shade, Queen Ann valance, traditional swags and cascades as opposed to contemporary swags and cascades, etc. I tried to draw them, but my ‘artwork’ didn’t always make sense—not even to me. Then I began looking for a comprehensive book on window treatments. I couldn’t find anything up-to-date so I said to myself ‘If I want one, so might other window decorating professionals,’ and the rest is history—to use an outdated adage.” And to solve the problem of his lack of artistic skill, he hired renowned illustrator Patricia Marovich Howard to complete the hundreds of illustrations he required.
Randall International, the publishing company, was born, with EWF selling, over the past 20 years, one million-plus copies primarily to homeowners, workrooms and interior designers. Of course, as designs change and trends unfold, revisions are important. Randall updates The Encyclopedia of Window Fashions every three to five years, with 2006 showing the most dramatic change in its 20-year history, including a colorful redesign, a large section on historical window fashions added, new sewing instructions for various treatments and, of course, older images being dropped from the book and trend-forward images added.
But a publishing company cannot survive on one title alone, so in 1990, Randall began buying rights to English and European titles and by 2002 was publishing top-ranked authors in their fields of expertise, including renowned English seamstress and designer Maureen Whitemore (Home Furnishings Workbook) and Turkish designer Mehmet Demir (Home Fashions). (Editor’s note: Randall International has also published two titles by trends expert and D&WC contributing writer Kathleen Stoehr: Dream Windows: Historical Perspectives, Classical Designs, Contemporary Creations and Dream Floors: Hundreds of Design Ideas for Every Kind of Floor).
And now, in 2006, 20 years after launching EWF (now in its sixth edition), Randall put the finishing touches on Charles Randall’s Designer Sketchfile: Draperies, Valances, Fabric Shades & Bedding, released this summer.
“I compiled this sketchfile after many years of thought, as well as requests from designers, to offer a book of simple line art without the distraction of color. This book is about stretching your imagination and pushing your creative talents,” Randall enthused. A man who lives what he preaches, he was eager to show off the new draperies in his San Clemente home, in gorgeous pink silk. “Oh, and don’t worry,” he laughs, “I didn’t do these illustrations, either.” That task fell to talented artists Burgundy Beam and Carlotta Tormey.
With the book, Randall is also providing a CD ROM, including all images in low- and high-resolution format, as well as portable data format (.PDF). “My hope in providing the CD ROM is that the designer, either professional or enthusiast, will break apart and then recompile elements to create totally custom, one-of-a-kind treatments.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
While he no longer distributes other publishers’ titles due to the burgeoning Randall International library, he has sold his own titles into Arabic, Turkish and Russian markets. He has also found a place on national talk radio shows, having completed one in Canada and one in the United States in recent months. “After 30 years in the world of window fashions, I must add that it’s been quite a journey and I am so grateful to have traveled with many of you on this creative trip together,” he adds.
Available online and through a variety of booksellers and home improvement centers, the library of Randall International with Charles “Pete” Randall at its helm, finds itself poised for the next 20 years of business in a positive position—one foot in the past, and one foot securely in the future.
Kathleen Stoehr is president of Chem-istry Creative, based in Minneapolis, MN. She is a former editor-in-chief of Window Fashions magazine and is the author of the recently published Dream Floors, Hundreds of Ideas for Every Type of Floor, and the upcoming Dream Windows: Historical Perspectives, Classic Designs, Contemporary Creations. Stoehr can be contacted for comments, queries and trend information at email@example.com.