Sunday, March 9, 2014

Starting a Business Part I

I know it has been a while since my last post, but I think it is important that I take a minute to share more about myself and my journey as an entrepreneur. It is important for me to preface this mini series by stating that success does not happen over night and is most certainly not for the lazy. Owning your own business is not a ticket to shorter hours or easy street. I think it would be best if I start at the beginning and take you through my story on how I got started and the struggles I went through to make it on my own.

After graduating from Baylor University with a degree in Interior Design I always thought I would work for an Interior Design firm and that would be perfectly fine with me. I always saw myself as an independent woman, but knew I'd eventually want a family. Society has told us that we, as women, can't always have it all. By "all" I mean family and a demanding work life. Now yes this does seem silly being as how we have entered the 21st century, but think about it. Now before I go any father let me state that these are my opinions/thoughts on family and work. I understand that the next part of my preface may resinate differently with everyone, but that is ok because this is my blog... In my mind I had made the choice that some day I wanted to be a stay at home mom. Not because I did not want a career, but because family has always been the most important thing in my life and always will be. Now this being a long way off (children) I went to work for a Design Firm in the Memorial area. After working and loving the french style I was becoming accustomed to designing, I made the transition to the Sugar Land area (yes I've skipped a bit of the story, but thats a whole other story) that took me completely out of my element. Although I love design and appreciate a good challenge the style in which most of the cliental in the Sugar Land area wanted just never quite appealed to me. So once again I found myself in a new environment working for a custom home builder in Magnolia, TX. Being the lead on a new construction build I began to find my own voice. For so long working for other designers I was always designing for what they preferred, never for what I thought was best for my clients. Before you go rolling your eyes, I do understand that as a young designer I had to start somewhere. I needed to learned how to stand on my own two feet as a designer and began to realize "hey I'm pretty good at this!" As my skills developed and I began to receive positive feedback for my own designs, I finally found my confidence as a designer. Once the spec house project was completed my husband gave me the push I needed to start my own company.

My Humble Beginnings
Without a large client base for design work, I started small by acquiring antique pieces at antique sales and estate sales that I could paint and flip for a small profit. It was extremely tough, I spent months draining our savings account to build up an inventory as well as gathering materials for painting furniture. I remember one saturday after hours of searching for an affordable piece to flip and coming up empty handed I broke down in my car from exhaustion. I felt beat down and really wasn't sure I would be able to keep going. So with my tail between my legs I came home and debated to myself. I had two options 1. Go back to working as an Interior Designer for someone else or 2. Keep trying to make ends meet and continue to push even harder to build my dream. It was in this moment I made the decision not to give up. I knew going out on my own would be challenging I just had no idea it would be as challenging as it was. But of course what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.

Success Is Not For the Lazy
As I kept pushing forward and building my client base one project at a time, my company was starting to grow. It was slowly transitioning into the design business I so desperately wanted to create. With each new client I learned a little more about what my clients wanted and how I could break into the market by changing the way people thought about an Interior Designer. My main goal was to show my clients that I was different. I refused to over charge my clients for silly things like answering an email or taking a phone call after hours. I built my company based off of affordable rates and customer service. I made myself available to my clients whenever they need me- within reason of course, but its true. I made it my goal to be a great designer doing whatever it took for my clients to literally fall in love with me and my designs. It's with each new client that I realize why I love what I do. Each new project is an adventure and with each new adventure comes challenges that must be overcome and clients expectations that must be exceeded. I do not just want my clients to like the homes they live in, I want them to love them every day and feel like their homes are a perfect reflection of them and their style as well as meeting their every day needs.

Being a Designer Today
I am still pushing every day to keep my company running and my clients 110% satisfied with my customer service. At this point my company is profitable and I am so fortunate to have the most amazing clients. There will never be a day that I will think "ok now I can relax". There is always something more I want to do or accomplish or a new client that pushes me outside my comfort zone. I am still learning new things each and ever day to ensure my clients are getting the best products and designs possible. When you own a company there is no resting on your laurels. I still work 24/7- yes this means weekends! I make it a point to answer my phone when it rings even if its 8:30pm. I even answer emails at 7am that come in after I've fallen asleep. I have no intention of slowing down anytime soon and I hope that my clients can appreciate how hard I work for each and every one of them. I still have every intention of starting a family one day, but I now believe I can have it ALL! It may be a big dream, but with hard work and organization/good time management anything is possible.

Advise I Wish Someone Would Have Given Me
SAVE SAVE SAVE!! The only way you can possibly even begin to start thinking about starting your own business is by having a nest egg that you can pull from in the beginning. Most small businesses aren't profitable until about twelve months in. If you do not have at least a years salaries saved up you probably won't make it on your own. As a small business expect to work 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This is not an exaggeration! There is always something that needs to be done or something you can be doing to keep your company running. In the beginning every penny you make goes back into your business. Do not pull money out of your company until your company has enough money built up to keep you moving forward. Once your company is profitable do not get too excited, there will still be struggles and unforeseen obstacles that may need to overcome. Obstacles are not cheap. HAVE A PLAN!! Know where you want your company to go and have realistic expectations as to what you are capable of. NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAM! If you work hard enough anything is possible.

Friday, December 13, 2013

... Holiday Decorating: My Home for the Holidays 2013

I would like to set the record straight... There seems to be a preconceived notion about Interior Designers and the homes that we live in. Anytime someone knows I am a designer they always feel the need to say things like "I bet you home is just absolutely beautiful" or "I'm sure your home is styled perfectly". I appreciate their faith in me, but the truth is I work so hard on other peoples homes and projects that I never seem to have the time to finish any of my own. I truly do have the most amazing clients and I wouldn't trade them for the world, but I devote all of my time and energy into making their homes "absolutely beautiful" or "styled perfectly" that my own home tends to take a back seat. As a young designer I have slowly been developing my own style and creating a home I can be proud of. I have come to learn through my first year of marriage- Compromise, when that doesn't work, move things around when  he's not looking and my favorite line: "oh honey we've had that forever I can't believe you are just now noticing it?" But seriously my husband is amazing and he's come around to quite of few of my picks. Since I am setting the record straight and in the spirit of full disclose I honestly told my husband I wasn't going to decorate our home for Christmas this year.  But he just wasn't going to stand for it, the one time of year my husband is never going to let me be lazy is Christmas. If I didn't put up the tree or break out the stockings it just wouldn't feel like the holidays. So here it is my 2013 home for the holidays.

"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house 
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."

Last year {2012} I slaved over making each item perfect because it was my husband (Fiance at the time) and my first Christmas in our first home together. I made all of our christmas tree bows and even sewed 7 layers of burlap ruffles onto our tree skirt. I started making stocking and realized I was in a bit over my head...

"The stocking were hung by the chimney with care"

... I stumbles upon these lovely burlap stockings and had them monogrammed at a little shop in Memorial called Initials {located on Memorial}.

This year I focused on the finishing touches, but can you ever really be finished improving and updating your holiday decor?

 A few of our 2013 updates included adding a sleigh and "H" to our tree topper to commemorate our first Christmas as husband and wife. 

A few of my decorative ornaments...

I also hunted for the perfect piece to enhance my mantle decor and replace my summer starfish. I found this awesome red mercury glass jar with a lid on one of my shopping trips and it sits atop a sweet antique Shakespeare collection of books. Books are the perfect accessory for just about any space, I'd consider them a staple accessory.

I also found these simple carved reindeer that I just love for our TV buffet. Their white washed finished was the perfect contrast to the Truffle color on our buffet. I like to break up collections, but yet still keep them close together. The three different size reindeer made it easy to distribute the weight of the pieces evenly between the two sides of the buffet. 

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!"

With some red candles on sticks and a sleigh accenting the fire our Christmas mantle decor was finally taking shape. 

Such a sweet festive accent... and would you believe it if I told you it was my husbands favorite piece? 

"He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, 
And away they all flew like the down of the thistle"

For those of you that know me well- I couldn't resist adding a boxwood wreath to my living room mirror and finishing it off with a big red "H". Yes I have gone a little bit overboard with my new last name initial, but isn't that what a newlywed is supposed to do?

"But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sigh,
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

{'Twas the Night Before Christmas- Clement Clarke Moore}

... Holiday Decorating: How To Style a Tree

Christmas decor can be beautifully designed may different ways. Everyone has their own style and no one way is necessarily the "right way". If I had to put my Holiday style in to words I would say the "less is more" approach is more my style. I love decorating for christmas, but some people take it a bit too far. I do not want my designs to look like christmas threw up all over the place. I'm sure most of you know what I'm talking about... you have that one neighbor or friend that can't ever seem to stop decorating, good or bad.

Take a look at this Christmas tree for example... OK yes we all think its stunning, but I'm sure most first reactions would be WOW!! Although this is a beautiful tree it is just too much to look at. My eye can't see all the fun parts and ornaments because there is just too much crammed into the branches. This poor tree... I'm assuming there is a tree under there.
{Pinterest- source unknown}

And then there is the minimalist style. This tree too is beautiful, but it seems to be lacking a bit in the decoration department. I can see to much of the tree and not enough  decor.
{Pinterest: Makely Home}

So how do you achieve the perfect amount of decor without going overboard? Lets start from the beginning. First things first, what is your Christmas Style? Are you traditional red and gold? Or do you walk a bit more on the wild side- bright, fun and playful? I have to admit I have always been traditional when it comes to Christmas, but this year I had a client push me out of my comfort zone and together we created quite the stir with her idea of a bright and glitter filled Christmas. No matter what your idea of Christmas is, decide on your theme before purchasing anything for your home. If you try to mix too many colors and themes your tree will begin to look like a hot mess. And thats never a good thing.

TRADE SECRET TIP: If you are using an artificial tree as opposed to a real one, place a soft blanket on the floor under the stand. This will allow you to easily slide the tree around as you are decorating it.

How I Decorate Christmas a Tree:
I personally like to start with my ribbons. As I said before I am defiantly a traditional girl, but you can not have christmas with out BOWS! Bows are a classic Christmas staple and they make every tree look beautiful. I use my ribbon as garland when designing my trees. I typically start in the front of my tree right in the middle. I then work my way around the tree draping ribbon from bow to bow.  Like I said before, there are many different ways to decorate this is my personal approach.

Moving from left to right I make sure the bows are evenly spaced, but not perfect. The key to the perfect tree is actually not perfection. {I know its a shocker!!} On this 12' tree I added large round ornaments with smaller bows to fill some of the space. A bunch of small ornaments would have not only gotten lost in this large of a tree, but it would have begun to look cluttered. I used your typical size ornaments as accents to compliment the enormous bows and garland like ribbon.

Once I had created the desired look with the larger items I went to work accenting the tree an adding some depth with one of my favorite christmas items- SPRAYS!!.  What is a spray {also know as a pick or embellishment}? A spray/pick can be anything from a sparkly curly item you stick in the tree to a bundle of berries on a stick. Whatever your Christmas colors and preferences are then seek out accent sprays to help sell your Christmas story. 

{Glitterville Christmas Picks}


My secret to cutting those thick Spray/Pick Wires:

{KNIPEX Mini Wire Cutters}


Its time to put on the ornaments!! This is the fun part for the children and man in your life. As you are building your tree remember to step back every so often to make sure you are evenly spacing things around the visible sides of tree. You don't want to be too ornament heavy on one side and not enough on the other. Also remember to evenly space color and different size items throughout the tree. One of my favorite tricks to ornaments is handing them off the sprays and ribbons. My design for this tree was to be very whimsical and I wanted ornaments to literally pop off the branches.

{Please be very careful on ladders- Safety First} 

Now its time to talk about the topper! I love putting strange and interested things in my trees. For this Topsy Turvy Glitterville Christmas tree I decided the topper needed to look like ornaments were exploding out of the top. What better way to make every little girl jump for joy then by adding BIG sparkly presents and in a bed of glittery curly cue sprays to top off this whimsical tree?

The largest present {Center} was actually red, but not to fear. 
A little craft glue and some pink glitter to the rescue.

Whatever you do do not forget about the skirt! If you can't seem to find the perfect tree skirt to finish your dream tree, do not stress. Try purchasing a few yards of a fabric that match your theme and attach a ribbon trim with a sewing machine or hot glue gun. If you are really crafty you can sew on a back layer of lining and stuff it with some cotton padding. TADA instant tree skirt!

The finished product:
I must admit this tree captured the dreams of two very special little girls that definitely boosted my ego with their  enthusiastic comments!

For those of you who, like myself, would prefer to go the traditional rout:

I like to draw inspiration from fun unexpected christmas decor items. For this tree my client and I stumbled upon this festive gingerbread family. I am notorious for putting the strangest of things in my trees, but this wasn't too far out there. I used my ribbon as a stepping stone to stagger the family of gingerbread throughout the branches of this 7.5' tree.

After the garland was carried around the sides of the tree it was time for the ornaments. This family tree was made special with child's homemade ornaments and memories from christmas past.

Topped off with a BIG beautiful bow-a classic way to finish any Christmas tree. You don't always have to have a big elaborate tree topper. Simple is elegant. If you are looking to carry Christmas around your room try adding some garland with ribbons to match your tree. A few ornaments tucked here and there are the perfect touch to create a extension of your tree. 

Now that the stocking are hung and the children are all sleeping I bid you ado...

Until next time...

Happy Holidays to all of our readers! Share your Holiday decor with us, we always love to hear from our followers!

Friday, November 22, 2013

...Fun With Fabrics

I have had some fun playing with different mediums and textures when it comes to painted furniture. I've seen others use paper and thought to myself "why can't I use fabric?". Well why not? I am a designer and fabrics are one of my favorite items to shop for. The first time I attempted to put fabric on a piece of furniture it went a little like this...

My Script Chest 

Before... The brown monster (yes I ditched the hideous hardware!!)

The chair that inspired a chest...

In progress... 

After!!! WOW what a transformation complete with crystal encrusted hardware!

My Script Chest was such a hit that I decided to do a second fabric piece. I originally purchased another tall chest to do my fabric technique on, but never got around to it (My clients always come first). Then one day, this Bombay Chest fell into my lap and while brainstorming what I wanted the end result to look like it hit me... FABRIC!!!

The Contemporary Bombay Chest


As I walked the aisles at one of my favorite fabric stores I saw this geometric patterned fabric and it was exactly what I had been looking for to turn this bombay chest from drab to fab-ulous!!

In Progress... 

After!!! I added a pearlized glaze to top it off!

Fabric is a fun medium to use when you want a pattern or design on a unique piece. I wonder what will inspire my next fabric piece.... Share your fabric furniture pieces with us! We love to see what our readers have created! 

Till next time...

Friday, November 15, 2013

... Before & After: Antique Paris Egg Chest

Today's Before & After was inspired by Annie Sloan Chalk Paint color Duck Egg

I have always loved the color Duck Egg from Annie Sloan Chalk Paint; however, every time I found a piece  I thought was perfect it just wouldn't turn out like I had imagined. This happens from time to time with ASCP colors because the pigments react differently to various species and grains of wood, especially as they age. So, I set out to perfect the color on this particular piece because I was determined to make it work. I can be a bit stubborn.

This was the first time I saw the piece:

I was instantly drawn to this piece because it was similar to a family piece I had done a couple years ago. This type of piece can be used as a chest or buffet, and if you know anything about me and my style, I just love pieces that I can constantly move around my home (It keeps things fresh). I love the geometric pattern on the front of this chest, and decided when brain storming color ideas that I really wanted to play up the lines and age of the piece.

{Family Piece I painted a few years ago- my very first experience with chalk paint}

The age of this piece was very important to me. I love history and love to make an antique piece look like a perfectly aged part of the home, pristine with history. So, by layering colors (Duck Egg being one of them) and then distressing the piece, I was able to reveal these deep layers and create the desired aged look I was going for.

The close ups do the piece and the colors more justice.

It looks like the piece had been painted numerous time and now the final layer is peeling away to reveal the history of this beautiful piece. It is such a fabulous look and is even more stunning in person.

The last step is the hardware. I always try to keep the original hardware, unless it is just dreadful and then I will reluctantly hunt for something more suited to the piece. When using lighter paint colors I tend to want to lighten the hardware color so it doesn't stand out like a sore thumb. I felt like this piece need a little hint of glam, so I pearlized the hardware with a silver glaze to finish it off.

Till next time....