Greiwe Interiors 135 Years in Interior Design

Nov. 6, 2015

CINCINNATI, Ohio – Greiwe Interiors of Cincinnati has a special reason to pop a cork on New Year’s Day, 2016. It will celebrate 135 years in business as America’s oldest known interior design business.

“We’ve always been pretty quiet about our achievements, so this milestone almost caught us by surprise,” Douglas Greiwe said. “We feel very fortunate to have been successful for 135 years, and we’re grateful for the good clients who have done our advertising for us.”

Our 135 years of history in Interior Design

The first Greiwe interior decorating company was founded by John Henry “J.H.” Greiwe in 1881 – the same year electric street lights were introduced in England and Alexander Graham Bell started his first American telephone company with Thomas Edison.

Prof. Patrick Snadon, who teaches the history of interior design at the University of Cincinnati’s Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP), says, “Greiwe may be the longest continuous firm. The only ones who could have possibly competed were department store interior design firms dating back to late 19th Century, but those are no longer in business.”

As early as 1881, Greiwe Decorating Company offered murals, wall panels and decorative plaster. In the early days, horse-drawn wagons carried a crew of 200 painters all over the U.S. to paint, stencil and decorate churches. By 1920, “J.H. Greiwe & Son” was painted in gold leaf on the first Packard truck and Greiwe showrooms displayed fabrics, upholstery and rugs.

Prof. Snadon says Greiwe’s long history should be no surprise. Cincinnati led the nation in furniture making as the Arts and Crafts Movement began in 1880, and was well known for beautiful interiors and murals in its finest homes. By the time interior decorating became popular in the early 1900s, Greiwe had been designing homes for decades.

Eugene “Gene” Greiwe took over from his father, J.H., as CEO in 1930, as the company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1931. His crews of carpenters, painters, plasterers, upholsterers and drapery designers gained a national reputation.

Gene’s sons, Dick and Bob, joined the company as the third generation of Greiwes in 1951 and 1954. During the 1960s, Bob stayed with the parent company as Dick branched out on his own with Greiwe Group III, designing five-star restaurants, yachts, public buildings, pro sports offices, riverboats and homes of the wealthy.

Greiwe teams have designed more than 225 churches nationwide.

Representing the fourth generation, Dick’s son Douglas is now president and CEO. He joined the company in 1984 and continues the tradition of excellence at the current Grandin Road address of Greiwe Interiors.

The first Greiwe brothers came to America in 1837 and settled in Cincinnati. In 1895, J.H. Greiwe redecorated St. Paul’s Church for $861 – including 24-karat gold-leaf stenciling and ecclesiastic murals. For 135 years and four generations, Greiwe has designed America’s most beautiful homes, churches, offices, concert halls and yachts. Treasured Greiwe murals and designs are still being discovered during restoration of historic homes in Cincinnati.



  • 1837: Adam, Edward and Henry Greiwe arrive in America and settle in Cincinnati.
  • 1881: Adam’s son, John Henry “J.H.” Greiwe starts a decorating company: Greiwe & Inderhees.
  • 1896: J.H. Greiwe takes over and renames it Greiwe Decorative Co.
  • 1880-1910: The Arts and Crafts Movement sweeps America, and Cincinnati Art Carved furniture makes a national reputation.
  • 1897: Interior design catches on with “Decoration of Houses” by Edith Wharton.
  • 1900-1910: With the purchase of a new Packard truck that can make it to the suburbs and back the same day, the company becomes J.H. Greiwe & Son – Painters and Decorators.
  • 1913: “The House in Good Taste” by Elsie de Wolfe introduces a new American style of interior design.
  • 1920: The company relocates to bigger offices with showrooms for upholstery, fabrics, furniture refinishing and carpets. Eugene “Gene” Greiwe becomes the second generation in the family business.
  • 1930: Gene Greiwe takes over as CEO from his father, J. H.
  • 1931: J.H. Greiwe & Sons Inc. celebrates 50 years in business by thanking patrons for their “faith and confidence,” pledging to always provide “the best we have in every department.”
  • 1941-45: The Greiwes aided the war effort by painting camouflage schemes on tanks and hiring returning veterans.
  • 1951-54: The third generation, Gene’s sons Dick and Bob, study design at Parsons School of Design and the University of Cincinnati and join the business after graduation.
  • 1962: Dick takes over as CEO, as the company expands nationally and becomes a training ground for interior designers.
  • 1970: Dick starts Greiwe Group III.
  • 1984-86: Representing the fourth generation, Dick’s son Douglas and Bob’s son John both join the company. Douglas graduates from the Fashion Institute of New York; John earns his degree in architecture from the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP. John left later for a career in real estate. Douglas is now CEO and President.
  • 1997: The company relocates to Grandin Road in Cincinnati.
  • 2016: Greiwe Interiors celebrates its 135th anniversary as America’s oldest known interior design company.

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