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Conway native takes design enterprise to California

Posted: September 22, 2012 - 10:09pm

They’re building, rebuilding and remodeling homes on the West Coast and making waves, so to speak, as topnotch designers.

And who are they? The Thompsons, Steve and Caroline, who have a strong linkage with Conway, especially with Steve’s mother, Freda Thompson who is inclined to spread the news of her son’s successes far and wide.

“Steve and his wife are a fine decorating team,” says Ms. Thompson. “In fact they’re highlighted in the September issue of Traditional Home magazine, a national publication.” Mrs. Thompson reveals significant facts about Steve, who grew up in Conway and graduated from Hendrix College. Both Steve and Caroline were born in the same hospital in Arkansas, (St. Vincent Infirmary) and then met several years later in Dallas, Texas, where they earned paychecks from the prestigious Neiman Marcus store.

From the reportage of Mrs. Thompson, Steve’ first job -as a 7th grader- was in a Conway home furnishing store.

He worked there through college and later entered the executive training program at the famed Dallas store; Caroline was a store intern when they met at Neiman Marcus.

Today the couple has it all. They are among the most prestigious designers extant, heavily involved at the moment in designing the Traditional Home magazine’s showcase house in the heart of Napa Valley.

Here the Thompsons have designed a “quiet wing of the house in a main-level suite that includes an office with French doors leading to a private garden. Their designs produced a guest bedroom, a guest bathroom and an office.

The showcase home, says Mrs. Thompson, is owned by Joanie and Dennis Franz, the actor who starred in the NYPD Blue television series. During the planning for the show, the relationship between the Thompsons and the Franzes has blossomed “because the project is dear to their hearts as it is to ours,” says Caroline Thompson;

Steve’s salad days were marked by winning performances at the University of Central Arkansas where he resident of the freshman class and president of the sophomore class the next year.

He was a go-getter, traveling extensively for the Key Club, an arm of the Kiwanis Club, when not working for hardware and furniture stores in the city. He learned considerably, working for the Westmoreland Furniture Store at 15 years of age and later at Hambuchen’s furniture emporium.

Here the tireless fellow learned much of the design work that was to put him in good stead later on. While doing all this, he was able to graduate from Hendrix College after he transferred from UCA.

Mrs. Thompson relates an anecdote about her son’s enterprise. “My husband was driving home one evening when he came across a furniture truck being driven by Steve. He was shocked. He was totally unaware that his 15-year-old son was out and about driving a furniture truck.”

After Hendrix, Steve hooked on with Neiman Marcus and married Caroline who was in the store’s training program. After a time, the couple moved on to Santa Fe where they opened a home furnishing store, becoming involved in the building trades. They bought old houses in prestigious neighborhoods, rebuilt them, and put them up for sale. It was a profitable endeavor.

Not good enough, apparently. They moved to the west coast and began constructing homes. Design opportunities abounded. They acquired older homes and employed their design skills, winning notoriety in the process.

Today they are at home in Santa Barbara, decorating homes of the influential. The Thompsons are owners of Cabana Home, a Santa Barbara showplace. Many of the products used by other designers for the national magazine’s Design House came from the Thompson store.

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