Over a year ago, I received this email from an MG reader-

I really enjoy reading the blog.  It is a daily “must read” for me!  I was hoping you, as well as the other girls, might consider doing posts on how you got started with your businesses and what some of the goods and bads have been of being your own boss.  I would really like to read about your paths to success.

Thanks so much!

Rachel

It wasn’t the first time MG had gotten an email like this.  The emails are usually from design students wanting to know how we broke into the design world after we graduated or from young professionals who are looking to start their own business.  If the person is local, I’ll often go out to lunch with them or invite them over to my office to chat about the biz.  But to tell you the truth, I always feel a little strange giving people advice or guidance at my age (and often wonder if they know that I’ve only had my own business for four years), but either-or, I figure that all I can do is share my story in the hopes that they can take something useful from it! And if not, well, hey, we had a nice lunch and I made a new friend :)

I’ve had Rachel’s email saved from last March, and had always thought that it would be so great if each MG blogger could share her own “professional journey” (especially for those gals who aren’t local to take out to lunch :) ).  So today is the start of this ten week series, dubbed “This is the Story…”.

This week, “This is the Story of EJ Interiors“- includes how my design business came about, what it’s like to be my own boss, and the pros and cons of owning a business.  The rest of the gals- Rebecca of Rebecca Soskin Interiors, Julia of Buckingham Interiors + Design, Jill of Jill Seidner Interior Design and Lauren Haskett of Lauren Haskett Fine Design will chit chat with you about the stories behind their businesses in the weeks to follow!

Enjoy!

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The story of EJ Interiors….

CHAPTER ONE: “The year of Craig’s List”

A lil background for you- I went to college at OU in Norman, OK (Go Sooners!).  I graduated with an interior design degree, moved back to Dallas and started looking for my first “real” job. I ended up working for a home theatre design firm and about a year later, decided that it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, so….. I quit.  I can’t say that this was the smartest move I’ve ever made, but I wouldn’t be where I was today, if I was still there organizing leather samples.  I went on to work part-time for a few local residential designers and then with a commercial movie theater designer, for the next couple of years, while I started to launch EJ Interiors.  How in the world I ever got the guts to start my own business at twenty-four years old, is still a mystery to me. I came from a family of lawyers who all worked for big firms and had steady jobs, so the idea of little ole me starting a business in my apartment, with no startup money, business plan, or clients, scared my parents just a tad.  It was my fiancee-to-be that encouraged me to set up my business, start a blog, and begin taking on clients in 2007.

In April ’07, I posted an ad on Craig’s List which I’m embarassed to say, was entitled “Design on a Dime…or Dollar”.  The ad listed my services, rate, etc.  I even went door to door in Uptown apartment complexes and stuck my EJ Interiors’ flier on every apartment door (is that even legal, dad?) I apologize if your apartment was the victim of this solicitation!  About a week later, I got my first call from a client who wanted to meet to discuss his project.  We set up our first meeting at Starbucks and needless to say, I was terrified.  Luckily, this client didn’t know he was my first client so I played it cool, just like any other designer off Craig’s List.  And the rest they say is history….

{The totally embarrassing flier that I put on every apartment door…}

{For my first project, my apartment complex let me “design” their model home…what a sad sight this was! My mom was my “workroom” on this project and made the drapes (don’t ask me how I got her to do this).  The budget ran out quickly, so accessories were sparse. This is another “what was I thinking photo?” but was good project experience at the time}

CHAPTER TWO: “The Year of Organization”

Eventually, I got to the point where I didn’t need Craig’s List anymore.  I created a website via Network Solutions (goodbye My Space website!), started a blog (which at the time was called Dear Designer), registered for a tax ID number, set up a business name and even hired my first professional photographer who took photos of my apartment for the website.  He charged me a whopping $25 for the entire shoot- can you imagine?

I realized pretty quickly, that my business would not survive on hand-written Invoices, so I purchased Quickbooks and hired someone off Craig’s List to train me in it. I also realized how much easier my life would be if I had AutoCAD (a pricey purchase, but essential).  I honestly didn’t have very many start-up costs for EJ Interiors aside from these computer programs, portfolio pictures, a domain name, business cards via Vistaprint, and website hosting.

I knew I also had to get fabric books, paint fans and catalogs to start building my sample library.  I contacted local reps who helped me accomplish this (at no cost).  I also set up trade accounts at local showrooms in the design district and at the World Trade Center. I started amassing my vendors and building relationships with tradesmen such as an upholsterer, sewing workroom, painter, window treatment installer, etc and purchased a big Rolodex that have since been filled with their business cards.

For the client side, I knew I needed a Letter Agreement for projects, so I begged my brother in law to draft up one.  I then created a questionnaire that I give to clients to fill out before we meet (which I still use to this day)  Things were moving along nicely but I was still taking on contract projects for other interior designers on the side as I built my business.

{My old Network Solutions web header…}

{My Residential Design Questionnaire…}

CHAPTER THREE: “The Year of Clients”

The best resource for my business has been my fiancee, Ben.  He was in Public Relations when I first started, so he helped tremendously with the set-up of EJ Interiors.  I couldn’t have done it without him.  He suggested setting up Google Sponsored Links which is a pay-per-click type of advertising via google searches.  That, I have to say was my number one way for acquiring new clients.  Everyone seemed to find me through Google, so those links were well worth what I was paying.

Along with this web addition, I ended up ditching my Network Solutions website and upgraded to a custom designed site by a local Dallas web designer.  This was around the time that I started doing more commercial projects- specifically dentist offices.

I also decided it was time to start using a real accountant, so I contacted Joanne of Balanced Act and she has been a dream to work with ever since!

I next realized that along with getting professional room photos taken, I also needed professional headshots for my site (no more of those grainy “Facebook profile” type photos!)

{My old EJ logo…}

{Our constant edits and updates to the website copy…}

CHAPTER FOUR: “The Year of Expansion”

I’m sure you can guess what was next- it was time for another new website!  I discovered that so many of my designer peers were using BluDomain and I can honestly say that this website was one of the best things that I ever did for my business to date.  I love how I can update it on my own in the middle of the night and the cost of the website, is beyond affordable.  With the new website, I also got a new logo, designed by Emily Ley Paper (who created Lauren’s logo).   As the blog grew and referrals happened, I saw my business grow. My family had an intervention with me and said that I needed to hire on some extra help for my business, so I started with summer interns, and then in the Fall, hired on my first employee.

{The new logo…}

{EJ Interiors first photo in the paper…}

To finish off this post, and at Rachel’s request, here are pros and cons I’ve discovered in owning my own business-

PROS-

  • Flexible Schedule- you can make your own work schedule and have unlimited vacation days (but in my case, I unfortunately rarely take a vacation)
  • The people- I meet new people every day.  Whether it’s a rep, a showroom manager, a new client, or intern- meeting fresh faces is always enjoyable.  Also, getting to know your vendors and building friendships with them, can make the work day a lot more interesting.
  • The office- I do love working from home!
  • Projects- I’m trying to get better about handing off work (I can be a little bit of a control freak), but I must say that getting to participate in a project from initial stages to completion (and make all the decisions yourself) can be pure bliss, in my opinion.
  • Products- In essence, designers have a pretty fun job- who wouldn’t want to be around beautiful fabrics and amazing furniture all day? You also get to see the newest products as they come out and have access to all the sample sales, trade discounts, etc.

CONS-

  • Hours- I pretty much work around the clock.  My day starts once at 9 am and then again at 6 pm, when I come home to blog, do paperwork, etc.  There is always something to be done!
  • Health insurance- If you were a single gal like me, getting your own insurance (with an incredibly high deductible) is a complete drag!
  • “Miss Everything”- When you own your own business (at least until you hire on employees), you are “Miss (or Mister) Everything”. Not only was I the interior designer/owner, I was also the marketing department, accounting department, PR department (OK Ben did have a part in that one), and my own secretary. You find yourself having to learn about every aspect of the business (and quickly!)
  • Problem Solver- There are so many “fires” to put out in interior design, it’s not even funny.  My old boss used to tell me that’s the reason why she doesn’t do residential design, and now I’m starting to understand what she meant by those “fires”.  Fabric mills will suddenly have problems with their yarn colors, goods come in damaged from shipping, dye lots will end up varying tremendously, and a tradesmen could suddenly make a mistake on a job (the possibilities are endless).  Most of these problems are out of your control, and it becomes your job to fix them in any way possible.





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As I’m perusing the internet for design inspiration, I came across this beauty from the Elle Decor Showhouse 2010 by Jay Jeffers design.  It’s hard to put into words how obsessed I am with the colors in this room.  From the taupe walls down to the pink, yellow, and turquoise artwork, I am totally smitten.  I’ve seen this photo before, but keep stumbling upon it by chance and have decided that the style and colors of this room are exactly what I want to incorporate into my work-in-progress living room! As they say, when you know, you know.  What great inspiration!  Thank you Elle Decor…





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Back in 2007 when I started the Material Girls blog, there weren’t a ton of design blogs on the scene just yet and my blogroll included friends that I considered the group of “early adopters”.  It’s funny how I can still remember exactly who those bloggers were.   We all bonded over a shared love for interior design and the blogging platform, Blogger.   One of the first people I remember “meeting” was Franki Durbin of Life in a Venti Cup.

Back then, she lived in St. Louis, so our communication was limited to emails and back-and-forth blog post commenting.  Though we had never met, I’d always imagined Franki would be just as fabulous, fun and stylish in person, as the voice behind her blog.  And guess what? I was right.

{Franki’s original blog header when she first started blogging}

What a nice surprise it was, to receive an email from her a few weeks ago telling me that she had recently moved to Dallas, was practicing interior design also, and had an idea for a new series on her blog, called “Show Me Your Dallas”.  The idea was for her to meet up with different bloggers from the Dallas area and have them “show her their Dallas”.  If there is one thing that I love, it’s exposing friends to all of the hidden gems that Dallas has to offer.  Of course I agreed to Franki’s proposal right away and got started planning our day of shopping!

I couldn’t wait to meet her and find out who the woman was behind the Venti-

You can read about our whole shopping excursion HERE in Franki’s new blog post feature- Show Me Your Dallas!  Also, our day of fun is “to be continued” on her blog site tomorrow, so be sure to check back for more shopping fun!

The picture above of Franki and I was taken at one of my favorite showrooms in the Design District, Leslie Taylor.  I was first introduced to the showroom through fellow blogger/designer, Abbe Fenimore, of Studio Ten 25.  She had cited it as one of her favorite places to get overscale abstract art (and since Abbe’s design aesthetic is similar to my own, I knew I’d love LT).  Franki quickly became equally obsessed with it too!  We snapped some pics of their vignettes yesterday to show you how gorgeous everything in there is. If you are a designer who is planning a trip to Dallas, it’s definitely a must-see!

I’ll take one of everything please!  And if Franki’s hubbie is reading this, she would like a Neiman Marcus Pop Up Book and a mirrored table from Leslie Taylor for Christmas ;)





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When I think of World Market, images of rattan, mahogany, and wind chimes come to mind.  My only purchases there in the past few years have been bottles of wine, so it hadn’t dawned on me to go explore their furniture, until my future sister-in-law asked my thoughts on one of their dining tables.  When she sent me the link, I expected to see their traditional four legged rustic mahogany table pop up right in front of my eyes, but instead I was pleasantly surprised when this came up instead-

For only $699, I’m digging this French-inspired weathered table.

In the midst of my disbelief in finding this style on their site, I went searching for more atypical World Market pieces and ended up discovering these-

I wonder if they are trying to branch out from their typical look?





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Home Goods’ Homecoming!

Posted By Emily-Dallas | Mar 21, 2011 | 5 Comments | Category: Uncategorized

I never thought the day would come when Home Goods would open up a location near me!  It’s always a long journey out to their Irving, Allen, or Richardson locations from where I live, so I had always wondered why they didn’t have a location in the heart of Dallas.

What an exciting email that I got today that announced “Home Goods to Open First Dallas Store on Sunday, April 10th”.  Yep, you heard it right here folks…colorful gourd lamps and inexpensive “rock crystal” bookends, will now be at the fingertips of local Dallasites.

The new store is going to be located at The Shops at Park Lane at Park Lane and Central Expressway in less than a month- get excited!





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Gets put on the blog!

I was in Vegas this week for the Coverings Tradeshow Media Tour and had fun learning all about the latest and greatest in tile and stone (and meeting some really cool bloggers and editors, to boot!)

The show was held at The Sands Convention Center at The Venetian and consisted of 46,456 square feet of tradeshow! Now that’s alot.  There was so much to see in so little time, so I thought I’d highlight my top five parts of the Coverings’ experience-

#1- TREND UPDATE- On Tuesday, at the Tile of Spain Press Conference, Patti Fasan gave a very informative talk on the 2011 trends for tile and stone.   Here are some of the trends that she touched on-

  • Camel- “the new neutral”.  When it’s mixed with black, it’s a lot less stark than black and white together
  • Blues- from dark indigos to light shades (in a vintage look)
  • Mirror like reflections- opalescence or a clear/mirrored surface, and metallic tints/sparkle
  • Textured tile surfaces- folded, twisted, pulled, stretched (manipulated flat planes to create interest)
  • Ceramic tile in different shapes
  • Rich, tarnished gold mixed with brown is the new metallic (she pointed out that it “reeks of luxury”). She also said that copper is a big one (in stones, wood, and textiles)
  • Purple- influenced by browns, grays (and even standing on its own)
  • Faded, weathered sepia hues with vintage inspired motifs
  • Browns- less stark than black, but a warmer, softer palette than grays
  • Tile that looks like menswear fabrics (herringbone, linen, etc)
  • Thick tiles inset into the face of cabinets to match the wall tile and medicine cabinet tile
  • Lack of red (she said that red is receding this year and is used mainly as a temporary accent)
  • Digital printing on tile
  • Pastels- such as ice colors and champagne (hues with just hints of color)

#2- TILE OF ITALY- On Tuesday, we also visited the booths at the show encompassing the “Tile of Italy”.  First off, let me just say that the Italian tile that I witnessed was absolutely GORGEOUS (almost as much as the Italian men that were stationed at each booth :)  Talk about well dressed! Some of my favorite booths that we visited-

SICIS- there are no words to describe SICIS.  It was my favorite booth at the show and I knew that MG readers would really appreciate it, so I made sure to snap lots of pics.  SICIS is known as an “art mosaic factory”. I’m sure you’ve seen their ads in magazines, before, displaying their luxury mosaics.

On the Italy tour, we also saw-

Tile made from recycled televisions at REFIN-

Incredibly thin porcelain tile at LEA (their Waves collection)-

Incredibly large tile (48″x48″) at FLORIM group in different neutrals.  This series, dubbed Nera, also comes in trapezoid sizes.  FLORIM also had lots of glass tile in neutral colors, that were nice and versatile.

Funky wild tile from Mosaico (a relatively new company- only three years old).  The new tile from their Area 25 Collection is composed of 95% recycled glass.  Their Dialoghi collection gives you the opportunity to create your own custom design.

We also saw tile from Viva and Emil that were made to look like wallpaper-

#3- TILE OF SPAIN- Tuesday morning, we visited the booths of Spain.  Spain is really on top of their game here.  They had fabulous booths with really informative presentations (and not to mention tapas AND sangria!)

Peronda showed us how they used inkjet technology to produce “Graffiti-like” tile-

Grespania- had lots of options for imitations of natural stone (shown here is an imitation of Carrara marble produced through ink jet technology)

Their Palace Collection of porcelain tile was also really interesting-

The Onix booth had their 98% recycled-content glass mosaic tile on display.  These tiles are great for pools and spas.  Their tiles can even be done in gold leaf for a high-end application)  They can also produce custom designs. I learned that they were one of the first companies to make atypical shaped mosaics, such as ovals.

#4- NORTH AMERICAN TILE- Now of course, I can’t forget the American tile tour on the top five!

Crossville had a very colorful booth which displayed their latest “Color by Numbers” collection.  This series coordinates  their color block porcelain floor tile with Benjamin Moore paint.

I enjoyed “learning about”/devouring their color coordinated M&M’s too-

Art Tile Village- we learned here how artistic tile in general, is a North American phenomenon.

We came across a lot of “tile that didn”t look like tile”….(made to look more like wood and stone)

{Wood done in ceramic at Florida Tile}

{Iris, one of the leaders in digital printing technology- which means that they take designs and make the tile look like real stone}

#5- OUT and ABOUT- Aside from the scheduled tours, I did venture out a bit to see what the rest of the show had to offer.

I had an appointment to meet with the folks over at Bondera and had fun playing around with their pressure sensitive adhesive-tile rolls.  This adhesive can be used on a countertop or backsplash and makes installing tile a breeze!  What a great and easy DIY project.  The process takes a lot of mess away from typical tile installation…literally just peel and stick!  *Warning- only 36″ tile or below, can be used!*

Since Material Girls are such nuts for metallics, I had to snap a photo of this wall tile from Villeroy and Boch-

More fun accent tiles-

Thank you Coverings for such a great experience!





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Plano’s Loss is..

Posted By Emily-Dallas | Mar 13, 2011 | 2 Comments | Category: Furniture, Shops and Showrooms

Plano’s gain!

On Thursday I heard the news that Robb and Stucky in Plano, TX is closing its doors (along with all of the other R&S stores).  So that’s the bad news…

The good news is that Plano is getting a new store to replace it. Crate and Barrel is opening its doors in the Shops at Willowbend (on March 17th at 10 am to be exact)

I suppose when one door closes (literally), another one opens!





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F&B Online!

Posted By Emily-Dallas | Mar 12, 2011 | 6 Comments | Category: Shops and Showrooms, Walls

Farrow and Ball just announced that their wallpapers can now be purchased online!  My favorite pattern has always been their Lotus paper (ever since my mom sent me an image of it used at Boxwood Interiors in Houston).

I would take this paper in any colorway! Isn’t it fun?





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And make way for Ty Pennington and the Great Big Texas Home Show!

The home show starts tomorrow, March 11th and goes through Sunday, March 13th at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.   Anyone who has visited Cowboys Stadium before, knows what a huge monstrosity it is, so you can just imagine how many great things there will be to see in all that space.

Some of the highlights include-

-Gorgeous gardens by Texas Nursery and Landscape Association

-Tours of an “Idea Home” by Sandlin Custom Homes

-A room contest in which local designers have teamed up with celebrities (with proceeds going to The Salvation Army)

-Celeb presentations on the main stage

-Tours of Starpower’s Ultimate Man Cave

-Also….everyone’s favorite TV personality, Ty Pennington, will be at the show all day Saturday (his only scheduled home show appearance this year).

For more info, click here!





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I can’t tell you how much I loathe “styling” my hair every day.  I have that kind of lifeless, straight, fine, easily- tangled hair that’s impossible to give body to.

We had our engagement photos this past weekend and of course, once again, I was stressing about how to make my hair look lively but natural.  My friends suggested going to the new Dry Bar in the shops of Highland Park in Dallas.  I made an appointment right away and not only did they do a great job with my hair (for only $35!), but I also couldn’t help but notice the space’s adorable decor.  I felt a little creepy asking to take photos of their shop after my blow out, so instead, I managed to find some great photos from their website to share with you-

Dry Bar began in Brentwood, California but since their initial opening, they now have four other stores in California (West Hollywood, Newport Beach, Studio City and Pacific Palisades).  Dallas is actually their first store out of state, and opened about a month ago.  How lucky we are to have such an affordable blow dry at our fingertips now!  Honestly, having someone do my hair is priceless to me.  My sister is probably so glad I found the Dry Bar so she doesn’t have to be subjected to being my hair stylist anymore.

The colors in The Dry Bar are lemmony yellows, shiny silvers, bright whites, and cool grays.  The mirrors and windows help the store feel so open and fresh!

It really is set up just like a bar (but without the obnoxious intoxicated people and smoke filled air).

You take a seat in a white leather chair at the “bar” which includes a gorgeous white carrarra marble countertop.  You then order your hairstyle of choice, and proceed to sit back and relax with a glass of champagne and their featured movie.  I got to watch Dirty Dancing, which I hadn’t seen in about a million years, and I had forgotten how much I love that movie. Whenever I go to a salon, it’s about the only time that my mind is totally cleared and I can truly relax.  I could get used to this…

How cute is their yellow hair dryer chandelier and their framed menu?

Such a cool concept!  I would definitely recommend it for your next special event or if you are like me and can’t get your hair to do anything but lay flat. Can’t wait to go back!

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