Last year when we were presented with a project in which we would gut a guest bathroom and convert it into a master bath in Hollywood Heights in Dallas, I knew it would be no easy feat.  It was a very tough decision for EJ Interiors to make when deciding whether or not to take on the project because the client is legendary for being the biggest perfectionist and most picky client of all time.  You might know her? Her name is Emily Johnston Larkin (A.K.A. me)

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I’ve heard it time and again from showrooms- “You are one of our nicest designers but you are also our pickiest designer….dont worry that is a good thing…?”  (awkward silence)

I just can’t help it- it’s in my blood!  I started planning this project last December (and no, not December 2013, December 2012). My bathroom was more than 80 years old, so I wanted to make sure that if I was going to change “history”, then I needed to do it in a way that would flow with the rest of my little 1930′s English tudor home so I planned and I planned (and then planned some more).

Here is a “Before” photo of the bathroom before we moved in- can you say yikes?!!

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In this bathroom was a 1980′s vanity, the original black and white tile from the 1930′s, and a shower that even Twiggy could not fit in.  It became our guest bathroom when we moved in and was so NOT functional.

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Oh yes, this is the lovely coffin sized shower where I would have to kick the door open just to shave my legs! This was not going to work for very long….

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Once we moved in, we got rid of that awful pinky cream wall color and the brass around the shower door, but that wasn’t enough- the 1980′s vanity was still staring me in the face every day.

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You are probably asking- well what about your other bathroom? (the one that is considered the actual “master”) Why couldn’t you just use that bathroom? Well, this is why…..

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And how we decided to move into this house upon seeing the above photo in our home’s listing, is beyond me! But this bathroom is a story for another day…

Back to the guest bath!

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Ben and I were on a time crunch because we were leaving on a trip to Europe so we hurried and hired a contractor (the amazing Kirk Eppler of Eppler Construction).  And by amazing, I mean that it was a miracle he didn’t quit on me.  At one of our first meetings when he came out to measure, I already had all the new walls taped out with blue scotch tape and proceeded to move the tape 1/20th of an inch to make sure the door openings and such were juuuuust right.

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We started the demo while we were in Europe since we knew it was going to be crazy messy.  We essentially eliminated a hallway (that went from the guest bedroom to our den) to give us more space in our bathroom and then we merged two smaller closets into one larger one.

Thankfully, Material Boy Nathan was there to take photos of the demo while I was gone-

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Next order of business was to pick my materials!  Since my house is in a conservation district, I didn’t want to do anything too trendy nor too modern- I really wanted to stay classic. I decided to go with 2″ calacatta marble hexagons for the floor and 3×6 calacatta subways for the walls laid in a brick pattern with snow white grout (the tile would go all the way up to the ceiling in the shower and then to chair rail height on the other bathroom walls- a great suggestion by Material Girl Lauren- (a K&B designer who was so sweet in letting me bounce ideas off of her!)

I knew I wanted to do Calacatta gold marble because of it’s warmth (Carrara marble was way too cold for my house).  Calacatta looks best paired with polished nickel since it’s a warmer metal so I chose that for my fixtures versus the widely used and “colder” chrome.

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As you probably already know, a designer is her own worst client (seriously).  We love so many different things that it is hard to commit to just one and the thought of this bathroom being so PERMANENT and not something I could just sell on Craig’s List the next week was a little terrifying.

Next I had to select and coordinate my vanity, sconces, and medicine cabinet.  I am a total organizational freak and someone who likes everything to look very clean, so I opted for a lucite washstand from Palmer instead of the traditional painted wood vanity cabinet (even though most people told me I was crazy to do this). Since I had limited square footage in this bathroom, I loved the idea of the lucite not taking up a lot of visual weight in the space and I also knew that if I had a washstand, I wouldn’t be able to throw a bunch of needless junk in it like I would probably end up doing with cabinets and drawers.

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To solve the storage problem, I went with a large 1930′s inspired medicine cabinet from Restoration Hardware. I loved its atypical rounded edges and polished nickel frame!

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I spotted these Visual Comfort Sconces by Barbara Barry at Taylors on Ten showroom and I just about died. They were exactly what I was looking for! And then I also purchased a Thomas O’Brien Bell Jar pendant from them for my ceiling fixture.

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One of my many CAD drawings throughout the process…I’d make copies of them for everyone working on the bathroom just so we were all on the same page-

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Once the marble got here, I decided to take it upon myself to go through every single box of it and separate out the ones that had “too much UT burnt orange in them”. I stayed up until 2 am one night and looked through thousands of individual tiles before the tile guy came and laid them the next day.

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And even after I had hand picked every single marble subway that was to be installed in that bathroom, I STILL had the tile guy rip out a bunch that I didn’t like out of the wall the next day.  (and I ask again….how did Kirk the contractor not fire me throughout this process)?

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{The incredibly sweet tile guy making my “edits”}

And then after my window got put in and the tile installed around it shrunk the actual size of the window, I analyzed how “small” it was for days. Now I can happily say that I am completely over it and love the size.

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So after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, the bathroom was FINALLY done!  Here is the “new” master bathroom and connected closet-

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{White linen monogrammed hand towels add a personal touch to the bathroom}

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{One thing to keep in mind if you are considering a washstand is that ALL of the pipes and the bottom of the sink will show underneath the countertop….so it requires some extra special “pretty pipes” and a sink with a finished base to look presentable! I learned this the hard/expensive way}

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{The best investment we made to our bathroom was the shower bench!  My husband and I both love having the bench and opted for a larger shower instead of double sinks (we are never getting ready at the same time so we felt that double sinks would be a waste of space for us}

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{Towel and robe hooks are the vintage style hooks in polished nickel from Restoration Hardware. And it sounds crazy but my new black velvet hangers in the closet have been life changing!  My husband would beg to differ- he is still an advocate of the free wire hangers from the dry cleaner.

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{We divided the closet into “his and her” sides and it’s a lot larger than what we had originally, but still a fairly small closet ,so organization in here is key.  We have belts, purses, scarves, hats, and necklaces all hung on different size hooks and then shoes are tucked into two lower shelves. We also have a shelf up top where I store things in baskets}

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{We went with a frameless shower door that has polished nickel accents; faucet and fittings from Newport Brass}

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{One of the details that I am most happy with in the bathroom is how we put the shampoo bottle niche and soap dish in the half wall in the shower so you don’t see any toiletry bottles in the shower upon entering the room. They are completely hidden!

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{Remember how I said that most people thought I was crazy to not put in any cabinets in my bathroom? Well the only reason I am able to get away with this is because I did the built-in “x cabinet” and drawers in the adjoining closet. I put all my extra toiletries and towels in there as well as underwear, socks, tank tops, etc- perfect for having close by for when you get out of the shower!}

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{I had considered putting a train rack for towels above the toilet ….but since I like to keep things hidden as much as possible, I went with black and white figure drawings framed in gold, instead!}

And now let’s take a trip down memory lane…..

BEFORE AND AFTER

Phew! Thank you for following my bathroom renovation- aren’t we glad it’s over? :)





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Last week we had the honor of being invited to High Point Market in High Point, North Carolina!  We were more than thrilled when we were contacted to host a tour of new vendors at the Suites at Market Square building.

Our first evening there really set the tone for the entire trip.  Material Girl Lauren, Material Guy Nathan, our friend Meg of LeSueur Interiors, and I made our first stop at the CR Laine showroom for a little get together with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails.  While we were there, we met up with Material Girl Jill, and our fabulous friend Christian, of Maison21.  It was a great first night in High Point!  What could be more fun than having a blast with friends in a gorgeous showroom, while meeting other fellow designers and design bloggers?!

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 The Material Guy and I at CR Laine!

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Material Girls Lauren and Emily with Meg Lonegran! Check out that awesome Schumacher fabric on the wing chair and accent pillow!  It’s perfect with that sofa!

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Emily, Rachel and Meg with design blogger Nicole of So Haute!

Our first full day was just that…. a FULL day of shopping, checking out all the vendors we could possibly squeeze into one day, and spotting all the new stuff we could see!  We found a ton of new and exciting vendors that we can’t wait to start using in our designs!  There is so much to see at High Point Market, we feel like we barely scratched the surface!

Amazing new lamps at Visual Comfort-

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We brought home lots of great new vendor sources to use on our client projects!

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The Bungalow 5 showroom was amazing in person!

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We’ve always been a fan of glass knots as accessories.  These beauties are from Sklo.

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We met Tara Shaw of New Orleans, who couldn’t have beem more nice!  It was incredible that she gave us a one on one tour of her booth while we were there.

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We loved these guys too!  Their look is fresh and exciting, with great use of color and materials.

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On day #2, we hosted our Material Girl tour through the Suites at Market Square.  It was really special to be able to meet and connect with some of our devoted readers!  The vendors I targeted on the tour Nathan and I hosted were Festoni, The Detroit Wallpaper Co., CHC Art, Louise Gaskill Lighting, Tamarian Carpets, Saddleman’s of Sata Fe, and Tara Shaw.  We had a really good group, and we think they enjoyed their tour!  We know we sure did!

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Tamarian Carpets

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CHC Art

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The Detroit Wallpaper Co.

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Louise Gaskill Lighting

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Saddleman’s of Santa Fe

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Our tour group at Tara Shaw!

After our tour….. you guessed it!  More shopping and scouting for new vendors to add to our list!  We found some good ones!

Of course Aerin Lauder (and her new collection at Visual Comfort) was s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g!

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Regina Andrew had some great new lighting and accent furniture pieces that are to die for also!

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Loving this wheel bookcase from Noir!

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The agate series from Wendover are so colorful and each one is really unique.  We will be specifying these asap for a client.

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After another full day of shopping, checking out vendors, showrooms, and hosting tours, it was time for the famed Halo party!  What a great way to spend our last night in High Point!  We were finally able to get all the Material Girls that were at market all together in the same place, at the same time!  It was a blast getting to hang out at the fab Halo showroom and share a glass of champagne with our fellow Material Girls!

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From left to right: Nathan (Dallas), Emily (Dallas), Julia (Chicago), Jill (LA), and Lauren (Houston). We missed you Rebecca (New York)!

Our last day in High Point was short, but we were still able to squeeze in a few more places to see! Our first stop was Oly Studio’s showroom.  It was beautiful with it’s clean and crisp white color scheme.  Have always wanted to see their pieces all in one space and they certainly did not disappoint!

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The biggest highlight of the day we found at the Vanguard showroom.  As we were walking through, we turned the corner, and low and behold, there was Thom Felicia!  How adorable is he and his greek key belt? Love!

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Before we headed back to our hotels to pack up and head to the airport, we were able to have a fantastic roof top lunch over looking High Point.  A perfect way to end a spectacular trip to market that we’ll never forget!

We’d like to give a big thank you to the High Point Market staff and vendors who all helped make 2013 Spring Market memorable and successful! See you next year! 





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A few weeks ago, a colleague of mine from the DMC invited me to be on the Host Committee for the Sneak Peek blog gathering here in Dallas!  It’s during the January Total Home & Gift Market.  I can’t wait!  The event is focused on helping bloggers gain great content for blogs, and will also be great for networking. The even gets kicked off on Friday January 18th at 5:30 with a champagne meet and greet with HGTV’s John Gidding!  Saturday’s agenda is packed full of excitement with showroom visits with the latest and greatest in home furnishings, as well as a few seminars.  Those who attend will also be offered a discounted ticket to the 24th Annual ARTS Awards on Saturday evening!  This is a black-tie gala event that I won’t want to miss!

 

If you’re interested in attending the Sneak Peek weekend, please click here for more information and registration info as well!  If you want to go to this exciting fun filled weekend, don’t drag your heels!  It’s only open to the first 50 bloggers who can attend!





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Hello everyone!  What an honor it is to be selected as the Material Girls Blog’s very first Material Guy contributor! First, I would like to take a moment to thank Mrs. Emily Larkin for bestowing this distinctive position to me!

For your entertainment and reading pleasure, I will be enriching the Material Girls Blog each week with posts devoted to delicious design, decor, and fabulous, fanciful fashion.

Before we get to the good stuff, I would like to give you a brief background about myself.  My name is Nathan Vincent Hejl, and I have a massive appreciation and passion for good design, fashion, and all things luxury!  I grew up in the small central Texas town of Crawford, and moved to Dallas in June of 2010, shortly after my graduation from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.   While getting my “feet wet” in the Big D, I lived for a short while with my gracious aunt, uncle, and their three daughters at their lovely home in Lucas, Texas.  After meeting my life partner and love of my life in October of 2010, I promptly moved to the historic Kessler area of Oak Cliff in Dallas.  My partner and I share our home with our two Miniature Schnauzers, Columbus George and Nina Maria, and the most recent addition to our family, Magnolia Mae-Mobley (Maggie), a Basset Hound.

Having a healthy appetite for the finer things in life, my goal is to bring our readers and patrons further insight to the marvelous world and culture of interior design and fashion.  Stay tuned for more decorative decadence!





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I don’t know about you, but I find accessorizing one of the most challenging parts of the design process.  It’s partly because you have to get the right “mix” of accessories. There has to be a balance between textural and smooth, shiny and matte, colorful and neutral, etc.  It can also be difficult because you might find the perfect accessory, but the scale is totally off…or maybe it’s the fact that it’s the last step in the process and if you are anything like me, you are a perfectionist and won’t quit until you find those amazing last touches for the space.

But above all, I truly believe that accessories can be so frustrating because of the lack thereof.  Of course there are a lot of accessory showrooms in Dallas, but  not very many that will let you take things on approval to test out and that is KEY with accessories (buying more than you need, playing around with the arrangement at the residence to get the perfect balance and then being able to return anything that just didn’t work out).  This past year I re-discovered IBB Design Group, a 40,000 square foot showroom who lets you take on approval, has up-to-date/ stylish accessories and has a warehouse FULL of them!

And if that’s not enough to convince you, here is proof-

Shay Geyer and her mother, Beth Rafferty are the brains (and beauties) behind the thirty year old showroom.  The duo’s knack for creating inspiring commercial and residential interiors, as well as stocking their showroom full of goodies from markets around the world, has kept their clients coming back for more.

{Shay in front of one of her favorite pieces}

Not only do they have accessories galore, but they also stock furniture from tons of different manufacturers such as Baker, Henredon, Lee Industries and Vanguard.  The best part? Everything is available for purchase off the floor!

As you can see, they have tons of mirrored pieces. I recently bought two John Richards mirrored etageres from them that are to die for!

Their colorful, patterned vignettes are constantly changing as things move off the floor very quickly (and I have to say this keeps my visits really interesting!)  You never know what they will be up to next

They also have great abstract giclees at amazing prices for the size!  Most of them are really large and already come framed.  You get a lot of bang for your buck with these.

They use really fun patterned fabrics on their pillows and accent pieces….

They sell tons of lighting too…lanterns, drum shade chandeliers, crystal lamps- you name it.

See what I mean about the art?

Did I mention the bedding yet? So luxurious! All you need is a matching silk sleeping eye mask to complete this relaxing scenario.

I’m normally not a huge fan of leather chairs, but I could totally do a pair of these-

Their chairs never lack detail.  Whether it’s a back with a contrasting fabric, a shiny set of nailheads or patterned tape trim, you can count on them to give you designer quality furnishings.

This one here is from their own line…isn’t it great? I love the gray fabric mixed with the gold nailheads. Very unexpected yet so chic.

On my last visit, I snuck back to the warehouse to look at even more inventory and came across this turquoise chest with fabulous oversized hardware-

I love these chairs because they are traditional but with a modern funky flare.  You’d expect the chairs to be all neutral right, but a patterned ikat back?  Only at IBB!

Come visit them! Monday through Saturday- 10-5pm

5798 Genesis Court, Frisco, TX





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The Material Girls would like to introduce our newest advertiser Joss & Main! We are so thrilled to have Joss & Main be a part of MG!

For those who don’t know, Joss & Main is a members-only site that features daily deals chosen by their carefully selected stylish curators. Joss & Main gives members a chance to buy designer goods at a fraction of the cost! Items featured on the site include everything from large furniture and accent pieces to small accessories, lamps, and kitchenware.

Take a look at some of our favorite featured items from the past few days!-

Chevron Wingback Chair

Spot on Blackbird Striped Lumbar Pillow

Treviso Chandelier

Osbourne Mirror

Freud Croc-Embossed Leather End Table

Henley Sculpture

Louis Ghost Chair

Stateroom Trunk End Table

Click HERE to register with Joss & Main, and tell all of your friends to join too! Trust us, you don’t want to miss out on these fabulous bargains!





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For the past month, we’ve been hard at work on a vignette for Dwell with Dignity’s new Thrift Studio store which just opened up in the design district here in Dallas.  Five local designers were asked to plan out a room vignette using Dwell’s vintage furniture and accessories from their warehouse, as well as other donations from the design community.  We had so much fun on this project because it was different from any other project we had done before. We really had to stretch our creativity on this one! We had a really short time to complete it in, limited resources, and virtually no budget, but we were definitely up for the challenge!

Taking this lackluster space from this-

{Before}

To this- in just a couple of weeks was a little bit of a stretch for EJ Interiors but somehow we managed to pull it off!

{After- EJ Interiors’ dining room vignette for Dwell with Dignity’s Thrift Studio opening}

Our room centered around bold orange and turquoise. The inspiration? A pair of these adorable chairs that we managed to dig up in Dwell’s warehouse…

The process was so unique that I had to take some photos along the way to document our Dwell journey!

Phase 1- All of the designers meet at Dwell’s warehouse to grab the pieces they want to use for their vignette.  I put everything in my little pile that could be a possibility for the space.  Now the question is- what in the world am I going to do with it all?

Phase 2- There was a lot to do in a little amount of time.  Since most of the things in the warehouse were older items, I knew that re-upholstering and re-painting furniture had to happen..and quick!

I couldn’t believe my luck in finding these four matching chairs in the warehouse…

And  then I was even more shocked to find the perfect turquoise fabrics hidden in a corner…

It was meant to be!

M&M Upholstery donated the upholstery labor and Nicole Horne of Modern Relics donated the painting labor for the chairs…what a fantastic team they made!

Phase 3- Time to get the room painted!  Twenty five Neiman Marcus volunteers came out to help us get our rooms ready and I must say that I couldn’t have done it without them!  They quickly helped my vision come to life and did such a great job painting the walls and trim.

I loved our little team! If any of you are reading this, thank you again so much!

The Thrift Studio starts coming together…

Loved the entrance!

Ok we are making some progress..drapes are almost up!

Phase Four- Completion! Everything is in place for the sneak preview party and so now we just wait for people to shop, shop, shop!

For those of you that weren’t able to make it for the great deals at the preview party last Friday, not to worry because the Thrift Studio pop up shop is open from now until October 29th- Monday through Saturday 10-5:30 pm at 1616 Hi Line Drive in Dallas.

So many great deals to be had and such an amazing way to help out a good cause!

So many volunteers helped make the Dwell with Dignity event such a success.  Thank you again!  Some of the sources below..

{Royal Old Fashioned Tumblers- Wisteria Outlet}

{Mirror- taken off from an old dresser and re purposed for the buffet.  Christian at Think Twice kindly helped us hang the mirror by decorative gold chain}

{Bust- Pettigrew Associates}

{Pedestal- Dwell with Dignity}

{Custom white drapes with turquoise band on leading edge- Stitches by Carmen; wood drapery rods- Williamson Supply}

{Crystal Sconce- Dwell with Dignity}

{Vintage Gucci bag- Dwell with Dignity}

{Painted brackets from Hobby Lobby, vintage New Orleans prints, wall sunbursts, antler horns- EJ Interiors}

{Chandelier- Visual Comfort, Taylors on Ten}

{Wall Color- Benjamin Moore paint}

{Flatware, dishes, wine glasses, decorative bowls- Dwell with Dignity}

{Dining table- Dwell with Dignity- base painted orange}

{Mercury glass vase- EJ Interiors}

{Sticks in vase- found in a pile of bulk trash-no kidding ;) EJ Interiors}

{Chaise lounge- Dwell with Dignity- repainted creamy white}

{Custom 18″ pillow- Trina Turk fabric; chaise upholstery- Childress leopard print fabric- EJ Interiors}

{6×9 Sisal rug- Dwell with Dignity}

Photos by: Fort Worth Real Estate Photography





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Camila over at Effortless Style has been doing her “In her Shoes” series for some time now.  Since the beginning, I’ve been following her blog feature and have loved hearing about how fellow  bloggers Tobi Fairley, Brooke of Velvet and Linen, and Kristen from Simply Grove spend their days. If you haven’t gotten a chance to catch in her shoes, here’s your chance- Camila has a list of all past features!

Recently, Camila asked me to document my day (which I was so pumped about).  Click here to read about what went on behind the scenes of EJ Interiors and MG, one crazy Friday!

Thank so much Camila for including me in this!!





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We’ve gathered all our “junk” (and unique finds) for a one of a kind garage sale in Dallas TOMORROW!

Sam Sano of style/SWOON, Kristen Dowd of Gypsy Soul Interiors, Megan Masoner of ReFINEstyle, and myself have put in our stuff and are ready to sell!

Sale will be tomorrow, May 21st, starting at 8 am, for you early birds!

Here’s a preview-

Address-

7406 Hillwood Lane

Dallas, TX 75248

See you there!





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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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