June 22, 1926 – April 26, 2019
When the Junior League of Buffalo was assigning rooms in its Decorators’ Show Houses in the 1980s and 1990s, more often than not, they offered the spotlight location to Lois H. Merritt.
“They always wanted to give her the living room,” her son Michael said, “and she won best in show almost every time.”
The decorator for the department store Adam, Meldrum & Anderson for 20 years, she was pictured regularly in its newspaper advertisements and was regarded as one of the foremost decorators in the area.
Mrs. Merritt died April 26 under hospice care in High Pointe House, Haverhill, Mass., where she had been visiting her sons. She was 92.
Born in Buffalo, the former Lois Howard was the only child of parents who were insurance company sales representatives. Her mother, Cecelia Howard, was a sales award winner for New York Life Insurance Co. and, as a singer, helped sign on Buffalo’s first radio station, WGR-AM, in 1922.
After graduating from Buffalo Seminary in 1945, she married James Merritt, also an insurance representative.
While starting her family, she was active as a volunteer with Home for Little Wanderers, putting on charitable fashion shows and teaching disadvantaged girls how to become models and how to decorate.
She was president of the Amherst PTA and the Amherst Garden Club. She also was a nationally certified horticulture judge who organized and judged flower shows.
Mrs. Merritt frequently appeared in the Home Section of The Buffalo News, where her meals and decor were featured during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.
A course she took in California on the use of color in floral designs steered her toward her career as a decorator. In 1968, she began working for Hengerer’s as a bridal consultant, then became the department store’s interior designer.
“Give her a craft and she’ll find a way to improve on it," Buffalo News reporter Sue Buyer noted of Mrs. Merritt in a feature in 1972. "When her four boys were small, she stayed at home with them. Never one to sit still, she kept herself busy with flower arranging and decorating projects. Now she works as a Hengerer decorator.
“Busy as she is, she still finds time to come up with something new and creative each holiday season, more often for gifts than for herself.”
She became decorator for AM&A’s in 1978. For the first Decorators’ Show House in 1981, the Larkin House at 65 Lincoln Parkway, she used a $35,000 budget to give a major face-lift to the living room.
“I think Bob Adam really liked the fact that people stopped going to private decorators and started coming to AM&A’s,” her son said.
At home in Snyder, he added, “she would knock out walls and reconstruct it all by herself. She put in a huge Plexiglas bubble looking out over her gardens.”
She also painted the walls black on the first floor of her home to highlight her art and accessories.
In 1991, surveying the McLean House at 36 Lincoln Parkway, Buffalo News reporter Agnes Palazzetti wrote: “For her fourth (Decorators’ Show House) appearance, Lois Merritt of AM&A’s has created a living room that is both elegant and serene.
“The dramatic draperies with matching pleated shades, both made of $100-a-yard Jab Anstoetz fabric, set the stage for this room.
“ ‘I don’t like clutter,’ Mrs. Merritt said. ‘It makes me nervous. I would rather use shocking colors.’
“The walls of the spacious room are a deep burgundy and the furniture an eclectic combination of contemporary and traditional from Beachly, Hickory Tavern and Pennsylvania House.”
In 1998, she established Lois Merritt Interiors and became an independent designer, retiring in 2009.
She also enjoyed skiing, bridge and Scottish country dancing.
In the 1970s, she took her grandchildren on adventures such as hiking the Grand Canyon and horseback riding in West Virginia.
In addition to Michael, survivors include two other sons, Scott and Mark; five grandchildren; two step-granddaughters; and three step-great-grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, May 4, in Christ the King Catholic Church, 30 Lamarck Drive at Main Street, Snyder.