Balancing family legacy with creative reinvention
By Allie Myszka
Keith Merry inherited two things from his father: a family business, and an insatiable creative bent.
Merry’s father, Bill Merry, Sr., was a cofounder of Nashville-based ornamental iron business Herndon & Merry, and as such, Keith Merry has been around metalworking for most of his life. He began working alongside his father at the age of 16, and since then has taken over ownership and operations of the business with his brother, Bill Merry, Jr.
“When I first started working, I had to convince dad to rebrand,” Merry says, “Herndon & Merry got its start during the heyday of carports and patio coverings, but those were dying out in the 80s and 90s, and something had to change.” Keith Merry encouraged his father to focus more on high-end ornamental iron work, and as a result, Herndon & Merry tripled its revenue. Now years later, the business still has projects in multi-million-dollar homes, from hand-forged metal railings and fences to fire screens and metal sculptures.
Even as the business grew more successful with those high-dollar projects, Keith Merry felt the urge to pursue a different kind of creative outlet. In 1987, Garden Park Antiques was born out of that desire, and he used it as a place to resell the antique iron pieces and garden antiques that he curated himself.
A few years after Garden Park opened, an interior designer requested that Merry use an iron grill to make a custom coffee table for a client, and that first request steered Garden Park Antiques in a new direction. “In the beginning of the business, very few people would walk in the door and buy a raw object by itself. That coffee table sparked a new idea—repurposing my items into new furniture. We were repurposing long before the boom!”
Much like that very first coffee table, many of Keith Merry’s designs are still born from custom requests, but he also regularly travels throughout the United States to purchase more antiques that he can fashion into furniture worthy of his west Nashville showroom floor.
Even in the age of e-commerce and online shopping, Merry is adamant that he’ll always have a showroom—and a pristine one, at that. “People love to come in and be romanced by these old pieces. They want to see the patina and the chippy paint,” he says. As an interior design graduate from the O’More College of Design, Merry himself drew the designs to turn a 25,000 square foot building into a showroom that “works like magic” for both Herndon & Merry and Garden Park Antiques.
Although he and his brother have run into their share of challenges over the years, Keith Merry hasn’t grown tired of his work or his unique role. “When I walk into someone’s home and unexpectedly see a piece of furniture I made, this warm, cozy feeling comes over me. All of a sudden, I’ll look at a friend’s pot rack and remember that it was born out of a piece that I drug out of a barn in Philadelphia or something, and here they are still using it in their home, and they’re still just as in love with it as I was when I made it. It all comes full circle.”