December 3rd – December 6th, 2017
High Point, NC

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Andy ThorntonMerchant Andy Thorton has been named keynote speaker for the 2017 Pinnacle Awards Banquet set for Monday, October 16 at the High Point Market. The provocative and design savvy founder of modern and contemporary Richmond, VA-powerhouse La Difference will address “Happiness By Design.”

Now in its 22nd year, the Pinnacle Awards honor design excellence across the home furnishings industry, showcasing products introduced each year in 17 categories, ranging from accessories to upholstery. Winnowed down to 64 finalists, products are judged by a jury comprised of 12 well-known industry professionals on a variety of criteria, including innovation, form and function, retailer and manufacturer benefit, and consumer benefit. Winners are kept a closely guarded secret until the gala Pinnacle Awards banquet ceremony.

“The American Society of Furniture Designers was created more than two decades ago to advocate for outstanding design and the designers whose creativity drives the home furnishings industry’s engine,” says John Conrad, executive director. “In light of our goal to elevate the role of design in the home furnishings industry, we could not think of a more timely and relevant speaker than Andy Thornton.”

Born in Kent, England—moving to Paris at the age of 5 and Ridgewood, NJ at the age of 11—by his junior year of high school, Andy Thornton was attending Escola Americana do Rio de Janeiro. President of his senior class with a 4.0 grade point average, he was politely asked to leave Brazil by the CIA for making a speech on U.S. Embassy grounds against the war in Vietnam during graduation ceremonies. He would spend a year at Bard College in New York before deciding to hitchhike across the U.S. eight times in six months (once on $4 round trip).

In what would eventually prove a lucky turn of events for the design-conscious up and down the East Coast, the peripatetic wanderer decided to settle down for the balance of the early ‘70s and start his own high-end furniture and woodworking business. Andy’s talent and predilection for great design was obvious from the get-go, with positive reviews and coverage of his work appearing in numerous publications, including the “Washington Post,” and Interior Design Magazine. During this time, his work was sold in galleries from Florida to New England.

As successful as the young furniture maker was, he again succumbed to wanderlust in 1977—taking a year off to travel Mexico, the U.S., Western and Eastern Europe and the Near East, an adventure he continues to recommend. A year later he settled in Port Au Prince, Haiti, where he set up a business exporting handcrafts and art sold through a U.S.-based wholesale operation.

Happily for today’s consumers, Andy moved back to Virginia in 1980, changing the home furnishings landscape and shopping experience with the launch of La Difference—the East Coast’s largest selection of modern and contemporary furniture and accessories. Honored with multiple awards from Small Business of the Year to Distinguished Retailer of the Year to the ARTS Award for Best Accessories by a Furniture Store, he served as president of the trend-setting, three-story showroom in downtown Richmond until last year, when he relinquished the role to his partner in life and business, wife Sarah Paxton. He retains the dual titles Founder and Flunkey.

“Andy’s passion for great design and business sense are legendary in this industry, and he couples his insight with a wonderful sense of humor,” Conrad says. “I urge everyone to purchase their tickets for this event as soon as possible, because his not-to-be-missed presentation will be the talk of the Market and we expect a sell-out crowd.”

To purchase tickets for the 2017 Pinnacle Award Banquet, please visit

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