Multi-hyphenate Amber Lewis of Amber Interiors is interior design #goals. Have you seen her #shelfie game? Or the way she mix and matches patterns? She didn't always think she'd be a business owner.
It was a former boss who encouraged her to break out on her own, and from that point she didn't look back. Currently, she has more ideas than time-- and is in the midst of designing her dream home-- so what else can she take on? Plenty.
There’s no such thing as perfect in the beginning (or middle) of launching your business. When you decided to launch Amber Interiors where were you in life? What was going on?
I was fortunate enough to have an amazing job working with a really gifted interior designer for a few years. When my husband and I had our daughter and bought our first house at 28 years old, I decided to start my blog as a way to share the process of our remodel. I thought I had some semi-decent content and thought it would be fun to at least start the blog and share with family and friends. We definitely didn't have a lot of money, so we tackled a lot of the projects on our own and I was a bit of a DIY fanatic. I am not sure if it had to do with luck, timing, or what, but I got some attention from a few really big bloggers, and what felt like overnight, my name started to get out there a little. My old boss picked up on my enthusiasm for all things design and was kind enough to tell me she thought it was time I went out on my own. The rest is history. I was definitely scared and didn’t feel “prepared” but I was laser focused on making something happen…even though I wasn't quite sure what that was and was kinda “winging-it” for a while.
Why was then the right time?
I don’t know, but when I lost my job, that kinda catapulted me to do something bigger. I was a "work from home" mom, so I would literally be feeding my little and commenting on blogs, and when she would nap or go to sleep at night I would stay up for hours blogging, pintresting, and creating my business. It felt like I was on autopilot for a while just making small steps forward in a direction where I would have a couple clients, or start to get noticed for my style etc. I didn't know it was the right time, I was just moving forward, and doing what I could, when I could. I basically had no clue, I just had an insane drive and a lot of blind faith.
From day one, what were you thinking about that you’re still thinking about now? What has been a through-line in your business?
I have always thought, "What’s next?" Social media and Pinterest is mostly a blessing, but it can be aggravating, especially in the beginning. I think because there is so much saturation now, it's really hard to determine where an idea or design style originates from. I remember feeling so stoked to have my work out there in the world and feeling like it was so unique to me, and then I would go on Instagram or Pinterest and see someone completely do the exact same thing after me and watch commenters congratulate them on their talent etc. In the beginning it bummed me out, because I was like, “hey thats MY IDEA” but then I just started telling myself it was an amazing compliment to have someone like what you did so much they wanted to re-create it themselves. Now I always strive to do “what’s next” and do better than my last job and the spotlight of social media forces you to push the envelope with each project.
How do you differentiate yourself as a designer?
I don’t think there is a definitive answer to this, however I hope I have established my style and brand enough that it can be recognized as my work. I think maybe the use of patterns and how I mix styles in almost every project I do differentiates me to other designers. I can take a big box sofa, and make it look unique with fabrics and pillows etc. I love to mix, thats my jam!
For new designers, what do you think is more valuable? School or experience? You did a little of both.
90% experience and 10% school. I never mastered CAD, so I have to rely on my team to do computer drawn technical drawings for me, which can suck when I think faster than I can draw. So I say, go to school and learn CAD and Photoshop, and the usual stuff like excel etc. and then get yourself a job! Even if you're just getting coffee for a design firm for a while, thats OK as long as you immerse yourself around creative people and absorb everything you can. I learned way more in the field working for a designer than I ever did in school.
What’s your favorite part about being a designer?
EVERYTHING. I swear I LOVE my job so much, I pinch myself that I get to make a living doing what I love. It’s always changing, and I get to be creative in so many different ways. I would not work so hard if I didn't truly enjoy every single second of it. Even the crappy days aren’t so bad.
What’s one aspect of the business you would change if you could?
Budgets! Haha!!!! No but actually, budgets suck but they are part of the job. So I tolerate the challenge, but work on managing clients' expectations with what their budgets can realistically do for them. I don’t know if I would change anything, but I hope to get to a place where I can be extremely selective with the projects I work on. Unfortunately, I have to pay the bills, but I am so lucky to have such rad roster of clients so far!
Sometimes as an entrepreneur your biggest strength is also your largest challenge. Would you say this is true for you and what would that be?
I feel a great expectation to do something different with each project. Unfortunately, some clients want you to just do what you did last time and don’t want to do much different than what they have already seen. That can be such a challenge because like I said….I am always thinking “Whats next?”!! As a business owner with multiple employees, I need to make sure I look out for the growth of the business, as well as balance what pays the bills with jobs that are super fun, but maybe a little less money. Those are usually the ones I am most fond of in the end!
You opened Shoppe, Amber Interiors last year. How are you feeling about the move into a physical location?
It’s so great! I have heard so many horror stories about retail locations and opening an actual brick and mortar, but knock wood, my husband (also my biz partner) and I love it and have had some really positive feedback. We feel like we are a part of the local community but also are proud of going for it and throwing caution to the wind! We kept asking ourselves “whats the worst that can happen” and so we feel good about the big jump. As crazy as this sounds we haven't even been opened a year and are already expanding and making it larger! Again, I pinch myself daily….but we are just going for it!
Do you think it’s important for your business to have an offline shop?
Totally! We have tons of items in store that are not online. There are lots of vintage pieces, and higher end antique rugs, that I think need to be touched and seen in person rather than on a computer screen. Plus we have some vignettes in the store and have an amazing sales team to help you pull pillow combos, or pick the perfect accessories and rugs.
So, now we have to ask "What’s next?"
Oh, my favorite question! Well I am writing a book, and developing a product line to sell in the Shoppe. I am also designing and starting to build our dream house, which I am so flipping excited about! At the moment I have more ideas than time, so I am trying to work smart on my passion projects and seizing the growth opportunities available to me now. At the moment the future looks bright!
Arianna Schioldager is Create & Cultivate's editorial director. You can find her on IG @ariannawrotethis and more about her on this site she never updates www.ariannawrotethis.com