The blond, brainy young decorator Celerie Kemble often seems to be everywhere on the Manhattan society circuit, but her name is not yet echoing outside its crown-molded corridors or emblazoned on bathmats of Midwestern housewives.
That’s where Keith Granet, 53, a licensing agent and management consultant for the design industry whom Ms. Kemble hired in 2008, enters the picture.
“Fashion designers have lines that allow them to reach a large market,” Ms. Kemble said in a phone interview last month. “But for interior designers who do bespoke work for wealthy clients, licensing is the only avenue for broadening. And as decorators have enough trouble running their regular businesses, that’s why they need Keith.”
Who knew that it’s not just Anne Hathaway and Danielle Steel who need representation? These days, apparently, so does the woman who does the drapes.
Mr. Granet — a tall, broad, poker-faced man unknown outside the home industry and polarizing within it — has become to decorators what Swifty Lazar was to screenwriters and starlets. To name just a handful of Mr. Granet’s clients: Rose Tarlow (Oprah’s reported designer), Thad Hayes (Leonard Lauder), Monique Gibson (Elton John) and Timothy Corrigan (Sarah Jessica Parker).
Ms. Gibson, a k a the “rock star decorator,” who has a new range of pillows with Fortuny fabrics thanks to Mr. Granet, said she hired him to negotiate such deals and to help with her general operations.
“When the man I was in business with left to become a monk — that’s not a joke — I needed help navigating,” Ms. Gibson said recently from her New York apartment. “Keith gave me a road map. Against his better judgment, John Mellencamp and I work on a handshake. But handshakes aside, Keith’s done all my contracts in the last 10 years.”
Mr. Granet also helped arranged Ms. Kemble’s rug collection with Merida, which previews in stores this fall, and is working on a half-dozen other licensing deals for her. Ms. Kemble is poised to conquer, her agent said, having authored “Black and White (And a Bit in Between),” to be published in November, and having appeared in the J. Crew “Who’s That Girl?” series.
She has also been seen in an ad campaign for Benjamin Moore paints (along with another decorator Mr. Granet has steered, Jamie Drake, who chooses the lampshades for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg).
While Mr. Lazar possessed immense charisma and personal style, Mr. Granet is beyond low-key and favors conservative pickings from Façonnable. But what he lacks in flash, apparently, he makes up for in cash.
“There are other people who do what we do, but no one’s ever owned our space, which is high end,“ Mr. Granet said in June. He was sitting in his apartment/office in SoHo (which had a look that strained to register, perhaps because he had just moved in), discussing a successful agreement he had brokered between Suzanne Kasler, an apple-cheeked darling of the shelter magazines, and Ballard Designs. Ms. Kasler’s first line for Ballard, the catalog behemoth, including leather-clad staplers and wire models of the Eiffel Tower, was introduced last year.
“I said to Suzanne, ‘This could be your Target,’ ” Mr. Granet recalled. “But we were very cautious. We didn’t want to go too low. I have a rule: not too low, not too fast.’ ”
Mr. Granet is routinely lobbied by decorators to get them television shows, place them in the aisles of Bed Bath & Beyond and mold them into the next Nate Berkus (Mr. Granet also worked with Mr. Berkus, who now has his own syndicated show). He is tigerishly protective of their place in the spotlight — he said that he had a clause written into Ms. Kasler’s contract that prevents Ballard from hiring another designer without consulting her.