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Designers Visit The Blue Octagon

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On Wednesday, May 11, The Blue Octagon in Malvern is hosting a meet and greet with four of the home décor industry’s hottest designers: Dana Gibson of Dana Gibson Designs; Lee Addison Lesly and Katherine Weeks Mulford from Addisons Weeks Jewelry and Home Décor; and Roxt Te of Society Social. These four design mavens are all featured in the book DesignHER, a collection of stories about 35 of the industry’s most sought after talent, written by fellow home décor designer, Julianne Taylor. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the designerswhose lines are all carried at The Blue Octagonwill be in store to greet fans and host styling demos. There will also be small bites and champagne and plenty of inspiration.

We caught up with the author of DesignHER, Julianne Taylor, to hear more about her book, her career and what it means to have stores like The Blue Octagon carrying her line.

MLT: Congratulations on the book. Before we start talking about the designers in the book, we’d love to hear more about you and your path to the home décor industry.

Julianne Taylor: I started Taylor Burke Home in January 2012 on my dining room table in Seoul, Korea. Six months later, my first collection debuted at AmericasMart in Atlanta in July 2012 with the help of my sister who is based in Charlotte, N.C. My interest in product development originally sprouted from my time living abroad, following my husband’s corporate career all over the world. I quickly realized that I had a niche market as a westerner living abroad practicing interior design. As my interior design business progressed, I became more involved with custom product development work for my clients and had production facilities at my fingertips. I then began creating products of my own.

MLT: How did you come up with the idea for the book?

JT: During the past few years there have been friends in the industry that have written books, and many encouraged me to write my own book. I thought, “What will I write about? Myself? Would people want to read a book entirely about me?” After much contemplating, I realized that all of us entrepreneurs have our own unique stories about how we have “made it.” There are times when all of us feel like we are still trying to make it. With that idea, and my love for supporting and collaborating with other female entrepreneurs in the industry, the idea of DesignHER was born. I thought it would be a terrific way to bring light to the industry’s girl bosses who are killing it, and also inspire other young entrepreneurs to take the leap into starting their own businesses. My motto is “a rising tide lifts all boats” as said by JFK. I hope this book does just that.

MLT: You interviewed 35 female entrepreneurs in the home décor industry. How did you narrow the list down to those 35 women? Did they have to fit a certain criteria?

JT: Yes. I was specifically looking for product developers in the home décor space. Most of the 35 women develop various lines of furniture or home décor, but some have developed slightly different products. For example, Lori Dennis and Kelli Ellis created Design Campus, an online educational and networking resource for the design community. I invited about 40 women to partake in DesignHER via a video message invite that was sent to everyone’s inbox. Looking back, I always get great joy from that video—that in itself was a project. From there, I was able to narrow it down to 35 women entrepreneurs in the home décor space.

MLT: I’m sure it would be hard to name favorites, but are there any particular stories that really resonated with you?

JT: I love Toma Clark Haines’ story as she started her career as an expat just like I did. When you live abroad, your eyes are exposed to so many exciting elements—cultures, languages, people. People really are at the heart of what we do. We create products and environments that impact the human psyche. I think that’s pretty powerful. 

MLT: What’s the biggest misconception about working in the home décor industry?

JT: That life is glamorous in the home décor industry! It certainly is not. While I enjoy my occasional market weekends that are full of fun launch parties, the majority of the time I am back and forth from the Taylor Burke Home office, furniture storage unit and after school activities with my kids. There’s lots of heavy lifting and moving involved, as well as customer service, conference calls and countless decisions about the direction of our product line.

MLT: What’s your favorite piece of advice that you love to give someone who is considering this field as a career?

JT: I strongly recommend networking. Talk to everyone you can about everything you can. Gain as much knowledge as possible about the industry, and learn from others’ advice. Networking and strong business relationships have gotten me so far in the industry, and I’m so thankful for those connections.

MLT: What’s been the reaction since the book has been released: first, from the designers/influencers featured; and second, from readers?

JT: For the designers and influencers featured in the book, I feel like it’s been a great connector for all of us. It’s helpful for us to know each other’s stories, and know we’ve all had ups and downs along the way. I continue to learn from these women, and frequently connect with them at industry events. When there’s a book signing, I invite everyone that’s close by to participate. The book was a big collaboration, so I conduct the DesignHER book signings in the same spirit. As for the readers, many of them are interior designers who use our products, such as The Blue Octagon. The stories in the book have proven to add an incredible personal touch. Designers now know the story behind the products they love. Not to mention, many of the designers and influencers have been able to meet the women behind these companies in person at various industry events and book signings. I’ve also heard lots of positive feedback from those looking to get their feet wet in the product development industry. Nothing beats over 30 different stories of advice from women who have already taken the plunge into creating their own brand.

MLT: What’s the term “Girl Boss” mean to you?

JT: Girl Boss to me means a do-er. A woman who puts herself out there and gets it done. She does not wait for the perfect timing (there’s no such thing), but she still does her research, is well prepared and takes calculated risks. She is business savvy and strategic, a great connector and associates with like-minded, positive people. Most important of all, a Girl Boss engages and empowers her team to be fully committed to her vision. She knows the importance of investing and developing her team. It’s not just about what you get from your employees—it’s also about what you GIVE.

MLT: Social media has really opened up the world of interior design. Has it been a help or more of hindrance when it comes to working with clients?

JT: I love social media. It has been so helpful in spreading the word about the Taylor Burke Home brand and our products. I can only be in so many places at one time, and social media allows our product images to reach the homes of Pennsylvania while I’m Instagramming from my sofa in South Carolina. On the other hand, there are more e-design resources that have been popping up over the past couple years. I’m sure this will push traditional interior designers to become more creative and use their design resources in digital ways that they haven’t thought of before.

MLT: What’s next for Taylor Burke Home? Do you have plans for another book?

JT: I’ll never say never, but it’s not on the horizon right now. I spent a lot of time in 2015 working on DesignHER, so following its spring 2016 launch I am looking forward to getting knee-deep in product development again. I love the sense of community DesignHER has created, and am continuing to plan signings this year.

The Blue Octagon, 335 E. King St., Malvern.

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