A Skokie, IL, company uses its International design experience to create unique pieces that its clients adore.

Greg Prozument, owner of Grand International Designers Group, Skokie, IL, arrived in the United States eight-and-a-half years ago from Russia. He moved because he wanted a better future for his daughter, but in the process, Prozument sacrificed a prominent position in a large furniture company.

As the chief designer in a company of about 900 people, Prozument designed custom projects for the Kremlin and various presidents, including Gorbachev and Yeltsin. His work also included projects for the 1980 Olympics, as well as theaters and a famous museum. After selling and giving away prized possessions, Prozument arrived in

America with only $6,000. Once here, he used his education and 25 years of furnituremaking experience to eventually start his own company.

Initially, it was a challenge to even find a job as a furniture or interior designer because Prozument did not speak English, although he was fluent in German. He took a job with a moving company and used his skills as a painter to retouch furniture that had been chipped in the moving process. While spending time in homes repairing the furniture, he began to pick up the English language.

Also, during his first year in America, Prozument opened an art and design school for Russian children. After that, he started Grand International. Initially, his clients were all Russian until his English skills began to improve. As he gained more American clients, Prozument says his art skills helped him tremendously because he was able to communicate through his drawings. "For me to explain my idea (to clients), my English was not good enough. That's why I draw my sketches," Prozument says.

An accomplished artist, Prozument often spends his spare time drawing and painting near Lake Michigan in Evanston, IL. He says that his skills, honed by five years in art school and six years in design institutes in Russia and Germany, are what allow him to be versatile. "I'm an interior designer, but I can make clothes. I can make jewelry. I can do car design. I'm also good with painting and drawing," he says.

The entertainment center, pictured above, was fabricated with melamine, laminate and stainless steel brushed aluminum.
Grand International Designers Group

Skokie, IL


Year Founded: 1997

Employees: 4 full time

Shop Size: 10,000 square feet

FYI: Greg Prozument worked for a large Russian furniture company and made custom pieces for the Kremlin.

Prozument believes these skills set him apart in the industry and allow him to transition easily between contemporary and traditional style furniture. "When we started this business, most American clients could not understand how we could make [the modern style and the ‘old fashioned' style] in one place with one team and one designer. But we can do it all," he says.

When clients come to Grand International, Prozument says that they can expect a complete design solution. With new furniture, other changes often need to be made in a room. "You have to change the floor, walls, electricity, lighting and T.V. components," he says. "That's why we have to change the interior. For me it's easier because I'm an interior designer."

Spaces within a room can be filled with paintings Prozument creates specifically for a project or other accessories, like a clock fabricated from the same materials as the furniture.

Creative Use of Materials

Because Prozument works in a variety of styles from modern to contemporary to antique, he uses numerous materials in his projects, including plastic, laminate, melamine, metal, veneer, acrylic and special texture paint.

Grand International also uses veneer and stain and lacquer finishes, as well as high-gloss, satin, textured, paint and prefinished materials.

"If I have the chance to do something different, I usually do it," Prozument says. It depends on the project and client, but he says he will use various texture and decoration techniques. He also uses various types of decorated metal, like brushed aluminum and different designs and colors. "We have a modern direction, and you can see it on things like the supports on furniture, which are triangles and cylinders. My desk has only one point — one leg," he says.

Prozument not only creates by hand the unique designs that his company fabricates, but he also creates the blueprints for his four full-time shop employees who are from various countries, such as Poland, Israel, Russia and Mongolia. Much of the work in the shop is done with standard equipment, including a Delta saw and Porter-Cable products. "The most important knowledge is in the hands," Prozument adds.

Memorable Projects

Prozument says that some of his most memorable projects included the press room and office for the Kremlin, but he is excited about a project that he will begin working on this month. He says that it "will probably be the best I've done in three to four years."

Prozument is working on a home theater for a "huge house" on the North Shore in the Chicagoland area. The project is 3,000 square feet and involves a lot of different architectural millwork, he says. "It will be a Las Vegas style design with tricks with lighting. There will be textured finish on the walls; glass niches and behind the glass, an ‘ocean' with fish and everything," he says. The ceiling will have stained glass.

Future Plans

Although Grand International has been doing very well, Prozument says that he is concerned about the economic outlook. "I can't make a prognosis (about the future) because the whole situation in the country is not stable," he says. "[It reminds me] of my experience in Russia [when] we had an unstable economy. I'm just trying to understand what could be next."

Despite his uncertainty about the future economy in the United States, Prozument believes his company is positioned well because of its ability to do extremely custom work. He believes that the things that set him apart from other custom woodworkers in the area are his experience, education

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