Decades of Design

We celebrate Bill Cook, who has committed his life to the art of home design.

Bill Cook, Howard Lorton Furniture & Design, Photo: Chad Chisholm

Bill Cook’s surname makes perfect sense: the 82 year old president emeritus of Howard Lorton Furniture & Design has had, as the saying goes, many pots percolating on the stove. Cook has been on the board of The Park People since 1984, was treasurer of the Denver Symphony, joined in the Mayor’s Committee for the selection of the architect of the Denver Art Museum, and, now, is still working at the store part time. “In 60 years, you can get involved in a lot of organizations,” says the father of two and grandfather, a Cherry Hills resident. 

It’s no surprise he likes to assist the city: Cook’s Denver roots run deep. “Both my mother and dad graduated from Denver East High School,” he says. “My great grandmother was born on Arapahoe Street in 1867. My dad went to flying school, graduated from MIT and the Colorado School of Mines, and married my mom, Lois Lorton, and it was her ticket out of town during the Depression.” Cook spent his childhood hopscotching the country with his family, but Colorado called to him, especially after he was armed with an architecture degree from Stanford University. “I got to talking to my grandfather Howard Lorton and so my architecture career lasted 100 days,” Cook says. He joined the staff of his grandfather’s legendary namesake Denver furniture store at age 23, and became president a year later when his grandfather passed. “For 60 years I’ve been at Howard Lorton, and I was president for 50 some of those years.”

A lot’s changed in those decades, but plenty has stayed the same. “Howard started the business in 1927 as a quality furniture store with interior designers on his staff. And so we have never changed what started all this 93 years ago.” Thanks to the well-oiled machine of a company his grandfather had built, when Cook became president, the gig was “to sign the checks and see that the doors got locked.” But it evolved to much more: “I was the principal buyer for a good long time and met a lot of people in the industry. Most of the buying was down in High Point, N.C. twice a year. And the furniture industry exploded and grew up in the Carolinas and Southern Virginia, and we’d be back there twice a year and get to know everybody, talk to designers, and go on plant tours and all that.” The trends Cook has spotted over the years have come full circle. “About time I started was when Mediterranean came into favor, and then we got into mahogany and cherry, and I joined just at the tail end of what now is known as Mid Century. So in some respects if you hang on long enough, you get to see it all come back again.” Beyond running the business, Cook put his personal stamp on the building itself, helping design their 45,000-square-foot downtown Denver HQ, which can be explored, much like the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, from the top down. “From the third floor, you can see Mount Evans, if you do it just right,” he says. “It’s a neat room. If you’re going to live somewhere all your life, you might as well enjoy the space and the show.” 

How Howard Lorton Makes Magic

The longtime Denver icon of interior design is beloved by its retail customers, many of whom have been loyal shoppers for generations (and no wonder, given their topnotch service and brands on offer, including Broan Jordan, Chaddock, Hickory Chair and Loloi). Here, three reasons why:

Free Delivery. Yes, just like an Amazon Prime membership, only better: because you can order everything from sleek outdoor sectionals for your veranda to an Art Deco-inspired home bar, all brought to your home, gratis. 

Interior Design Pros. Every Howard Lorton staffer is a professional interior designer, and ready to help you make your dream home a reality. “That’s always been the secret to our success — we have designers that know how to do things and find things, and answer issues that come up,” Cook says.

In-Home Assistance. Wondering which sofa will suit your library best? Or how to give your bedroom the luxe, contemplative feel of your favorite five star spa? You can enlist Howard Lorton designers to come over, bringing their expertise (and expert eye) with them. “We’ve had clients who’ve been with us for 40 years or somebody will join us that had been working someplace else in town and brought their clients with them,” Cook says. “These are very personal relationships we build with people.”

Howard Lorton Furniture & Design, Denver

Photo: Chad Chisholm