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A proverbial iron curtain has been lifted. In its place are yards of beautiful textiles in materials such as silk, linen, wool and cotton.

Starting Wednesday, the Las Vegas Design Center, which has been open primarily only to trade professionals, invites Las Vegas Valley residents to walk through its hallways, visit its showrooms and purchase designer furnishings and home accessories.

The debut of the center’s Design Salon heralds in a new era of consumer-friendly design at the downtown facility. Operated jointly by the Las Vegas Design Center and the local chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers, the salon was created to make design more accessible to all.

“Through the Design Salon, consumers have the opportunity to learn about the value and accessibility of exceptional design and purchase unique, often custom or configurable furnishings with the benefit of a consultation from an accredited ASID designer,” said Randy Wells, vice president of the Las Vegas Design Center.

Doors to the design center open to the public Wednesday when area residents are invited to celebrate the Design Salon’s grand opening with an afternoon of shopping, champagne and chocolate.

The Design Salon will be open year-round, with the exception of the two weeks in the winter and fall when the Las Vegas Market is held. It will be staffed by ASID members and associates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

Additionally, the 1,200-square-foot Design Salon will serve as an office for the association, as well as a gathering place, networking hub and educational resource for designers, said Bobbie Jo Kinsey, president-elect of the Central California/Nevada chapter.

Located within World Market Center Las Vegas, the design center features more than 50 showrooms featuring a variety of furniture, lighting fixtures, floor coverings and home accents. The salon itself is located on the first floor of Building A.

Kinsey said she hopes that the partnership will provide designers the opportunity to help educate area residents about the benefits of working with a design professional.

“We’re there to help,” she said.

The designers can assist center visitors with space planning issues, product selection and even appealing color combinations for their homes, she added.

Although the public is invited to visit the design center, all purchases must be made through the salon.

Wells said creating the Design Salon and opening the design center to the public has been an idea of his since he joined the staff last year.

“When I started in August, I came to Las Vegas with a feeling that the design center model in general was broken — not just here, but around the country,” Wells said. “Very often the policy of design centers is to keep the public out. It’s always been a to-the-trade business model. But, we felt with Las Vegas that we had the opportunity to create an entirely new model of how design centers work.”

Wells said his goal is to make great design a part of everyone’s lives.

He believes the new venture will be successful in part due to the number of interior design shows on television.

“People want to take an active role in the design of their homes,” he said.

While in the past, people may have been intimidated about working with a designer or worried about the cost, the Design Salon has strived to create an open and friendly atmosphere where they feel comfortable about asking questions.

Kinsey said designers at the salon will provide free consultation for the first hour and a $100-an-hour fee afterwards. Additionally, they will charge an 18 percent markup on their cost to make purchases at the designer showrooms.

Both Kinsey and Wells stressed the fact that even with the markup for the individual designers, the prices of items purchased at the center are considerably less than what traditional retail outlets charge.

For more information about the design center or Design Salon, visit www.lvdesigncenter.com.

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