11 Feb Humble Beginnings…
From bedroom floors and wobbly folding card tables, to actual desks. In an actual studio.
(Are we big time yet? Feels borderline big time.)
As we chatted about launching our blog, we batted around a few ideas, but landed on simply telling our how-we-got-where-we-are-so-far story. We get asked about it a lot, and the idea of me in a big-shouldered, late-90s mini-skirt suit is kind of hilarious. So here goes…
Fresh out of school, Interior Design degree in hand, I realized pret-ty quickly I was dealing with a bummer of a job-hunt scenario. I had my heart set on hospitality design, even though my college professors insisted it was too hard to get into, and literally said it would never happen. They were indeed right on one front. There were sadly few open positions, and a whole slew of qualified candidates (also rocking killer suits – catch some Melrose Place reruns if you need more visuals). Style notes aside, there’s much to be said for persistence, and I landed my first gig at Knauer Inc., a respected Chicago-based architecture firm specializing in hospitality and restaurant design.
I jumped in feeling well-prepared in some respects, but also fully aware that I had zero/zilch/nada in terms of real-world experience, and still soooo, soooo much to learn. So learn like crazy, I did, and that “starter” job turned into a solid 9-year run. Verrrry different from what I’m doing now, but all that behind-the-scenes exposure to the detailed intricacies of the architectural process has been invaluable and surprisingly relevant to residential design. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Then along came a baby (hellooo, Parker!), and things changed, as they often do when babies make their big debut. I found myself wishing for something closer to home – sans commute. And literally (amazingly), the day I resigned, I got a call from someone I knew wondering if I could take on a small project. Yes. Perfect. Done. And so Designstorms began. Just me, working mostly while the baby snoozed during the day, then back at it at night, often into the wee hours of the morning. No street parade or confetti or big Grand Opening ceremony with speeches. Pretty humble beginnings.
From there, thanks to all those friends gracious enough to pass my name along to their friends, the calls just kept coming. Annnd another baby (welcome, Madison!). I continued to take on small-to-mediumish jobs – kitchen and bath remodels mostly, occasionally something a little bigger. Then, as the kids started school and I had more dedicated time for design, things kicked into a whole new gear I didn’t see coming. Referrals were rolling in like crazy. It wasn’t humanly possible to get it all done without sprouting additional arms or inventing a new 35-hour day – I needed more hands on deck. I began adding staffers, all working out of our global HQ (aka the humble Storm abode), holding meetings at the dining room “conference table,” stacking samples on any and all free surfaces, and spreading evvvvverything out across the bedroom and living room floors, with our dog Tilly moving from lap to lap.
Meanwhile, my husband Josh – at that point still a Creative Director at a marketing firm – began kicking around the idea of leaving the more stable, structured corporate world with its templated process flowcharts and onsite IT team – to dive into the entrepreneurial madness (gutsy move). We’d always imagined working together at some point. And clearly, that some-point time had come. He joined in 2015 as Creative Director. Little did he know he’d also be Web Designer, Printer Handyman, Internet Fixer and Chief Doer of All Things Non-Interior-Designer-Related. (Surprise.)
His first order of business was not particularly creative director-ly, but desperately needed. With seven of us trying to squeeze by each other with stacks of sample books and swatch rings, the house-as-office setup was officially not working anymore. We began the search for studio space, and scored the perfect spot right in downtown Glen Ellyn, complete with incredible bonus features like storage(!) and – even incredible-r – a storefront(!). We settled in a little over a year ago, have added two more to our team since then, and are already mentally rearranging desks to see how many more we can squeeze in.
Ok, let’s quick, go back to the retail storefront for a second so you can see why that was such a draw for us. It seems the big-idea parts of our brains have no pause or off button, and we had yet another wild thought – a retail/trade mashup concept, essentially a designer showroom open to any and all. (Sooo yes, a startup on top of a startup.) In a moment of either insanity or brilliance, we decided to go for it and started hatching plans. We named the shop Storm Inspired, and tapped our best sources for curated, hard-to-find items we could swap out seasonally, so there’s always a fun new something or other to check out. We opened the doors in March, 2017, and will go live with the assortment online this spring. A few of our most-favorites are already up if you’re a peek-aheader. (You can look, but not buy just yet.) Speaking of peeking…keep an eye on this blog for a li’l look at two of our shiny new projects – a vintage-chic remodel and super cool new build.
Needless to say, lots happening over here right now. It’s been an insane, amazing ride, this Designstorms thing. And we’re ever so grateful to the friends, clients, contractors, craftsmen and general all-around encouragers who’ve made this adventure possible. You know who you are. Thank you, thank you!
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