I mentioned two weeks ago that I was off to Little Rock for a Business Management Group Meeting with Tobi Fairley. Tobi is based in Little Rock, Arkansas and has been incredibly successful with her design business (how often does Traditional Home magazine tag someone the “Future Oprah” of design?). The interesting part of Tobi’s success is that she doesn’t keep her tricks of the trade to herself. She hosts design camps where novices can learn the basics of design, she hosts ‘blog’ meetings where one in any industry can learn how to blog as well as she has. She recently decided to be mentor and leader to a small group of designers to share ideas around the business of design.
I decided to sign up for the group and headed to Arkansas for the first of four quarterly sessions.
Tobi’s Design Office
We met at Tobi’s Design Studio, which was really inspirational. You can see part of the ‘lobby’ in the photo below.
I was so excited to learn from Tobi and her team (especially Brooke and Beverly). What I didn’t count on is how much I would learn from the other members of the group.
This is our group: Karen, Edyta, Tobi, Denise, Jennifer, and me.
Karen is from Houston, Edyta, Chicago, Denise from Dallas and Jennifer, Canada.
Everyone in the group is so amazing and brings something totally unique to the conversation. I wanted to take some time to tell you about each of these individuals, so I decided to do a feature on one of the other designers in the group after each of our quarterly meetings. I am going to start geographically with the North and work my way South. This blog post features the Northern most member, Jennifer Brouwer, owner of Décor by Jennifer. This is her website:
Jennifer lives outside of Toronto, has over 13 years experience and has built over 300 homes. She focuses on full home design and spends the majority of her time on newly built construction.
Jennifer was recognized by Spectacular Homes magazine as one of the best designers in Toronto and she was also featured in Canadian House & Home (a great home magazine!), when she was selected to implement a design concept for a lounge. This room was designed as part of a competitive space challange sponsored by by Grand Marnier. Jennifer’s concept was titled “Senses” and was about evoking a warm and luxurious yet bold vibe.
Jennifer’s design featured in House & Home (all photos provided by Jennifer)
Rendering of the Concept
When talking about the design process in Little Rock, Jennifer caught my attention while mentioning that when she is looking at a new space to decorate she ‘sees’ the fully completed space in her head before she even leaves the room. This type of ‘gift’ is something that just can’t be taught in design school and she is lucky to have it.
I asked Jennifer to explain a little more about what she meant by this and here are her words:
“When I walk into a space my mind literally scans the room for every absorbable detail…I can actually draw it out almost instantly. Without sourcing for goods or considering budgets. It’s a little backwards from traditional methods as most source, peruse and find items that are relevant. I almost dream or imagine what would look best and design it accordingly.”
I bet most people wish they had that type of insight and vision when designing their space!
Jennifer’s office/showroom is actually based in a ‘home’ which she designed and decorated. Can you imagine going to work here everyday?
I adore these barstools!
All the colors and materials flow perfectly. The color scheme is restful, but there is still a lot of visual interest, from the artwork, to the backsplash and barstools to the different fabrics on the dining chairs.
While Jennifer and her team meet their customers in their own homes, they schedule at least one appointment at the office to begin to get the idea of the multitude of decision that go into building a new home. Everyone always underestimates the amount of time and decisions that go into new home construction or remodeling. Just consider for a moment how many selections were made in these two rooms alone!
Undertaking this scale of project is significant and while many people say hiring a designer is expensive, it is worth it! According to Jennifer, she wants “people to understand the benefits of [working with] individuals who take their passions, jobs, and their projects seriously…As every project I have ever taken on mid construction- I instantly with an experienced eye could have saved them thousands, in upgrades and or size/spatial pitfalls.” You are already spending a lot of money on a project, consider hiring someone to help manage that money with the correct decisions.
Another area Jennifer thinks is important for clients to consider when budgeting is the size of the space. “If budget is a concern” Jennifer recommends that instead of having a 6,000 sq ft home that is half empty (I see this a lot in Texas!), why not consider a 4,500 sq ft home that is fabulous? Jennifer believes the “psychology of design” plays a huge role in “well being and general happiness” and should not be overlooked when making decisions for the items which go into your home.
As I mentioned, Jennifer lives in Canada. I commented to her that, in my opinion, the best, fine ‘home design’ shows (Candice Olsen/Divine Design, Sarah Richardson/Sarah’s House) are produced out of Canada and why did she think that was? She is of the opinion that Canada is “hugely into the design world” and many, but not everyone, has an appreciation for the features and benefits that a designer can bring.
In the US we seem to focus on instant gratification- give me a space in 48 hours that costs $2000 to furnish and I don’t care if I have to replace that sofa in two years. Jennifer and I would both like to challenge those interested in design to focus on two key things: 1. Slow down and invest in the design process for a concept that will bring you happiness for many years and 2. Buy the best quality you can afford- you will be buying fewer ‘things’, less often, and you will save in the long run.
I hope you enjoyed reading about Jennifer and I encourage you to visit her website and see more pictures of the great spaces she has designed! Her website again: http://www.decorbyjennifer.com/ . Our next group meeting is in September and after that session I will be featuring Edyta Czajkowska of Edyta & Co. Interior Design in Chicago. If you want a sneek peak, check out her website: http://www.edytaandco.com
Between now and then hopefully you will consider the benefits of hiring an experienced professional to help you with your design needs. Carefully consider your budget and let them help you proirtize getting the best bang for your buck in terms of quality and value.