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Jessica Elliott | Photo: Carter Rose | October 10, 2014
Thirty years after founding Cantoni, Michael Wilkov continues to make his mark on modern design.
When he was 12, Michael Wilkov invested in a multicolored suit—“a Versace outfit 25 years ahead of Versace,” he says, and laughs. “My friends thought I was crazy. I wore it two times, then had to retire it.” Since then, the South Africa native has been channeling his ability to put together a statement-making outfit into designing statement-making interiors.
Wilkov moved to Dallas in 1983, and in the following year opened Cantoni, a 4,500-square-foot modern furnishings and design showroom. He hired a designer in lieu of a salesperson and brought in Italian brands that had never been available in the state (or in much of the country, for that matter), all with a staff of just three. “I’d always wanted to create a store like no other,” Wilkov says. “I guess you could call it naiveté or just saying, ‘I can make this happen.’”
Now, having weathered a neardevastating fire and challenging economical dips, Wilkov marks three decades in business with a 60,000-square-foot, custom-built headquarters and flagship store in North Dallas; a Dallas outlet store; and showrooms in four other major cities, including Houston. His 40-strong design team has flown to every major U.S. city and everywhere from Dubai to Shanghai for installations. Cantoni, which also offers customized kitchen cabinetry and closet systems, has grown alongside luxury Italian lines including Malerba, which Wilkov has carried since 1985. At the Dallas flagship store, Wilkov has newly created shop-in-shop spaces for longstanding lines Natuzzi Italia and Cattelan Italia, and he’s making room for Calligaris. The concept also includes a sleep studio with low-profile luxury mattresses designed for modern bedrooms.
Alongside Carolyn, his wife of 33 years, Wilkov has raised daughters Robyn and Tracy, both of whom are involved in the continued growth of the business—which shows no signs of slowing. “I enjoy it,” he says. “It’s what I love to do, and I think that’s what makes it rewarding at the end of the day.” Only now, Wilkov does it in his signature all-black suits.
Morning espresso, a crisp white shirt, tufted seating, exotic woods in high-gloss lacquer, the Salone del Mobile in Milan, a round of 18 holes, passion for what you do, teamwork
Insincerity, traffic, wasted opportunities