Annie Selke '85
- By Kathleen Laramee
Departments / Alumni Profiles
ANNIE SELKE '85 For Annie Selke, the fabric of her life has been made up of literally just that—fabric. A lifelong lover of textiles, Selke began collecting material as a child and was enrolled in sewing lessons by age seven. Today, as the founder of home textile businesses Pine Cone Hill, Dash & Albert Rug Company, and Annie Selke Home, her spirited, color-infused wares can be seen regularly on the pages of shelter magazines such as House Beautiful, Better Homes & Gardens, Town & Country, Real Simple, and countless other popular titles.
For someone whose passion surfaced so early in life, Selke sensed during her first semester at UVM that something wasn’t quite right. “I thought I was going to be political science… [My first class] was not that positive and so I thought ‘OK, I like the idea of being an international foreign-service agent but the fact that I don’t want to memorize the book of every GDP of every country…’ It was a reality check.” Selke quickly made tracks to the erstwhile Department of Textile Science where she found, as she describes it, “a very happy home.” Courses like art history, drawing, fashion construction and analysis, history of costume, and a junior-year exchange program with the Fashion Institute of Technology laid the groundwork for her future success.
Selke’s foray into entrepreneurism came on the heels of a stint in New York City where she worked for Ferragamo, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, and the Museum of American Folk Art. When she moved back to her native Berkshires to start a family, Selke decided to venture out on her own. Sitting at her dining room table with a newly purchased industrial sewing machine, Pine Cone Hill was born. With an initial order for custom chair pads completed, Selke’s product development experience kicked into high gear with more ideas than her sewing machine could keep pace with—so many ideas that she added a garage to her home to accommodate her first employees.
That garage would certainly not be the last home for Pine Cone Hill. As she recalls, “I think we moved seven times in seven years.” In 2003, in response to customer demand for floor coverings to coordinate with Pine Cone Hill linens, Selke founded the Dash & Albert Rug Company. Annie Selke Home, a collection of licensed furniture and fabric, followed in 2008. The Annie Selke Companies, as they are now collectively known, employ a staff of eighty-six in the United States and forty more based in an office in India. With more than three thousand high-end retail partners, including Garnet Hill, Neiman Marcus, and Sundance, Annie Selke is on the road to becoming a household name.
Her recent publication, Fresh American Spaces, is what Selke hopes is the first of many books. As described in the introduction, “‘Fresh’ is the willingness to embrace new ideas, styles, and colors. ‘American’ means freedom of choice and freedom of expression.” Working with five viewpoints—“everyday exuberance, cultured eclectic, happy preppy, nuanced neutral, and refined romantic”—Selke demystifies her home décor design process by breaking it down into a practical step-by-step approach.
Fans can also look forward to her appearance in a year-long feature for Woman’s Day magazine starting this month. “Fresh American Dream Makeovers” follows Selke as she helps women renovate their personal spaces during transitional times in their lives. “It’s a wonderful way of combining design and real life,” she says.
Even with new projects on the horizon, Selke is never far from her original inspiration. Stacks of textiles sit outside her office and she refers to them often. “I probably have about four thousand different antique document fabrics going way, way, way, back… things that are probably from the 1600s to current day things; all ethnicities: Chinese, Indian, French, English, Italian. I have tons of different fabrics that I love looking at.” For Selke, loving what she’s looking at has made all the difference. “If you do what you love and what you’re interested in, that’s what gets you out of bed every morning for the rest of your life.” And when that bed is covered with sheets of your own design, that’s saying a lot.
—Kathleen W. Laramee ’00