Interior decorator marks 40th year with Nottoway House

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, August 24, 2011


COURTLAND—Patricia Cleveland is no mere fixture at Nottoway House.

Pat Cleveland, left, celebrates her 40th year of employment at Nottoway House Furniture with salesperson Frances Gladding. -- Submitted

“She is a very valuable member of the team here at Nottoway House,” said salesperson Frances Gladding. “She knows what she’s doing and she does a beautiful job. It’s remarkable how she can figure things. She has such a knack.”

Cleveland recently celebrated her 40th anniversary at the Courtland furniture and design store.

Collin Pulley, vice president and general manager, remembers her anniversary easily enough. Aug. 16 also happens to be the birthday of his father, Graham, who was owner at the time she joined.

“She’s very, very good at what she does,” Collin Pulley said. “As an interior designer, she matches colors and gives customers exactly what they want in their home. Often she goes out to a customer’s home to help consult with them.”

The secret for her longevity is simple.

“When you work for the best, you stay,” Cleveland said.

Getting there in the first place was “an absolute accident.”

“I was operating a business of my own from home,” Cleveland said. “I was taking the place of a lady who was leaving.”

The root of interior design began at home.

“My mother taught me to sew,” said Cleveland.

Upholstering furniture and drapery followed, “and then next thing you know, I have a business in the backyard. I did some for myself and then a friend,” she said.

After getting the job at Nottoway House, Cleveland studied and attended seminars, but admits her skills are self-taught.

Cleveland also credits “years of experience and learning from my customers.”

She talked a little about the changes over the years.

“I think people don’t ask for outside help as much as they used to,” Cleveland said. “But they want someone to say ‘Yes, this is good.’ They’ll frequently bring me a picture.”

Helping her with a customer’s requests is Mary Lee Settle, who also sews.

“There’s a workroom at my house and she works with me,” said Cleveland. “With a picture given, we can figure it out between the two of us. Often more time’s spent figuring out how to make it than actually making it.”

She added that “the mechanics can be difficult” when it comes to custom jobs.

“You just can’t slap it on,” Cleveland said.

Window treatments have also gotten a different look over the years.

“Now that we have energy-efficient windows, more people are using mini-blinds and sheers,” she said. “We don’t do as many heavy draw draperies as we used to.”

Asked if she often experiments on her own home, Cleveland laughed and said, “I’m too busy doing everyone else’s. I’m very traditional.”

Living between Courtland and Franklin, Cleveland often goes home to have lunch with her husband, who’s retired.

Nottoway House “is a wonderful place to work for and with. I’ve had the best two bosses since 1971,” she said.