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Published: Friday, 5/11/2012

Bruce Roberts, 1927-2012: Interior designer began career in packaging at O-I


Bruce Roberts, one of the area's leading interior designers who began his career designing packages for Owens-Illinois Inc. before starting his own firm, died Saturday. He was 85.

The cause of death was unknown.

Mr. Roberts started his own design firm in the 1950s on East River Road in Rossford in an old carriage house behind the home where he grew up.

The design studio, called Oliver House, handled Victorian and country furniture.

The firm evolved into a full-time business that led Mr. Roberts to quit his job as chief of packing design at O-I in 1961. By 1967, Mr. Roberts changed the firm's name to Bruce Roberts Interiors, which he operated into the 1990s.

Thought of as the dean of Toledo decorators, he was known for being a stickler for fine details.

"The makeup of a job is fabrics, braids, trims, fringes. I like things finished. It would be against my rules to leave something not finished," he told The Blade in 1993.

Born Jan. 19, 1927, to Gladys and Ralph Roberts, he grew up in Rossford and graduated in 1947 from Rossford High School.

After graduation, he went to work for Owens-Illinois, starting in the mailroom.

He later was promoted to the glass manufacturer's design department.

Among the design projects tackled by Mr. Roberts was the River Road home of the late Carolyn Jobst Reimann and her husband, Walter Reimann.

Another project included a 66th-floor condo in Chicago's Water Tower Place.

In 1994, his work on the home of Mrs. Reimann won him a place in a book of outstanding projects, Showcase of Interior Design, Midwest Edition.

Locally, Mr. Roberts' client list included Inverness Club, Sylvania Country Club, Shawnee Country Club, Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg Township, and Jobst Institute, as well as showrooms for automobile dealerships.

Because of his reputation, local residents employed Mr. Roberts to take on interior design of their vacation homes, including in Sanibel Island, Palm Beach, and Key Biscayne in Florida.

Mr. Roberts had served in the Army.

He was preceded in death by his partner, Tom Peeples.

There are no immediate survivors.

No services are planned.

Tributes are suggested to any animal protective services organization or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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