Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Cynthia “Cindy” Johnson is a fine artist who sells consignment and retail furniture along with her own line of custom fabrics and wallpapers. As an added value to shopping in her store, she shares creative ideas on combining old and new pieces for a current, updated look. She is located a few storefronts down from the Princeton Wellness and Fitness Center at the corner of routes 206 and 518.



A six-foot blonde in modest heels, Cynthia “Cindy” Johnson is easily recognizable in any room. Add a backdrop of bright green and fuchsia fern-leaf wallpaper with an “Elephant in the Room Design” sign, and her presence becomes atomic. She commands the room.

The interior designer opened her home decor store in the Princeton North Shopping Center, just across from the Princeton Airport, in January. “I specialize in creating fresh and current style by combining previously owned, gently used furniture with new retail pieces,” she said from her showroom floor during an extra hot and steamy summer day.

Her shop is also the exclusive retailer of Cynthia Johnson Textiles, her own collection of often vibrant fabric and wallpaper designs. She says she can customize the colors to meet any customers’ needs.

When Johnson alludes to the elephant in the room, she is referring to the consignment aspect of her business.

“People often have a piece or two in their home that they don’t want or need anymore,” she says. “Maybe they are redecorating or moving into a new home and it doesn’t fit. The piece becomes the elephant in the room. They can bring it to us and we will find a new loving home for their elephant.”

Johnson will showcase estate pieces on her floor for a limited time, while the original owner remains the owner (title holder) of the goods until they are sold and paid for in full. If items remain unsold, after a certain period, the unsold goods are returned to the original owner.

Recent items on display included:

  • A chinoiserie demilune cabinet with hand-painted leather insets by design superstar Mario Buatta (Staten Island-born interior decorator for such clients as Malcolm Forbes and Barbara Walters) for the John Widdicomb Furniture Company, which was founded in 1858 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • An Art Deco style sideboard by Grosfeld House Furniture Company, which manufactured some edgy iconic designs of the twentieth century.

Johnson brings a special appreciation for the items in her store, stemming from her background as an artist and designer. She knows what goes into creating everyday household objects that some may take for granted. Whether a vintage Chinese cloisonné vase, cut crystal liquor glasses, or Sandrouni handmade decorative tiles, she will research the origin of the piece to learn and tell its story.

A dog lover, she likens the beloved and carefully curated objects in her store to puppies. “It’s like adopting puppies out,” she says with a smile. “I find good homes for special things.”

Johnson’s story began in Arcadia, California, where she was born. At age seven, her family moved to Basking Ridge, NJ, where she grew up and graduated from Ridge High School. She earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1989 and an Art Education Certification from The College of New Jersey in 1998.

After teaching art at Ridge High School for several years, she began a career in custom home furnishing. She was a designer and sales associate for Calico Home in Princeton, then became managing partner of TrueBee Design in Bridgewater. Her designs earned two U.S. patents, one of which led to a line of chic high-end ottomans made to combine functions:  footrest, tabletop, extra seat, and storage space.

Throughout her career, Johnson has also specialized in pastel and collage-mixed media portraits, especially of pets. Her design skills include: textile, interior, graphic, jewelry, and landscape. She creates her fabric and wallpaper designs using Adobe PhotoShop and is able to customize her print runs on a variety of fabrics and wallpapers. She can also custom print just the amount her customer needs, from the size of a table cloth to the size of a ballroom.

Johnson first entered the fine consignment industry in 2014 with Home Again Design in Summit, where she served as marketing manager. In a short while, she had designs on opening her own shop.

“I’m glad she opened Elephant in the Room Design,” says a recent customer, Lisa Burditt of Hopewell. “I like the personality of the people here. They are vested, and have great vision and ideas.

Johnson recruited her previous colleague — Polly Balland of Milltown — as her sales associate and together they are a team. Balland is also an interior designer and is up-to-date on recent furnishing trends.

“We encourage people to use older furniture pieces in new ways,” Balland says. “Most vintage furniture is very well made. A quality sideboard makes a great stand with storage for a flatscreen TV. Or, a vintage china cabinet could be used as a bar — a very popular trend right now.”

“In addition to repurposing old classic pieces with fresh new functions, people are blending vintage with contemporary for a whole new look,” Balland adds. “Our showroom vignettes display many current ideas for redecorating, repurposing, or refreshing your decor.”

Elephant in the Room Design also sells custom-order lighting, original artwork, and heirloom quality new furniture by two environmentally-friendly U.S. companies:

CR Laine  Based in Hickory, North Carolina since 1958, this company uses old-school construction practices. Artisans hand-tie double cone steel coil springs, use solid hardwood frames, and tailor upholstery by hand.

Harden Furniture  This New York-based company has manufactured fine, domestically-produced black cherry hardwood furniture since the mid 1800s.

Check the store website and Facebook page for information on the following educational events:

Motive8 Series:  This fall, Johnson plans to continue her Motive8 Series, which is free and open to the public and features guest speakers who discuss home and design issues. For example:  Stacy Matticoli, a certified organization specialist and author of “Put It There,” recently spoke about “Reducing Clutter.” The series will be held after store hours, with wine and hors d'oeuvres. Dates will be announced on the store’s Facebook page.

Princeton Adult School Lecture Series:  Johnson will be teaching interior decorating and design via the Princeton Adult School this fall. Classes will take place in her store, Friday evenings, from 7 to 9 pm. “We will have a different topic each session,” she says. “Sign up for one, or sign up for all.” Details on how to sign up will be available on the store Facebook page and via the adult school curriculum.
For more information, visit the store website:, email Cynthia at or telephone the store at: 609.454.3378.

A version of this article appears in print in the 1-September 2017 issue of The Montgomery News on page 16.