With creating, designing, blogging, online selling and innovative pop-up shops for high-end furniture and home accessories all in a day’s spell, Ariene C. Bethea of Dress My Room Interiors is a wondrous woman, driven to nurture her creative spirit outside the realms of a cubicle or dedicated eight-hour timeframe. Her unconventional approaches ignite inspiration in the creative spirit stirring in us all.
photographs by joshua galloway / interview by ciara bird
What does a typical day look like for you? I typically start my day at 7:00am and spend the few first few hours responding to email, preparing a to-do list and ordering shipping supplies. The next few hours are spent preparing orders or blog posts. I also write for a few publications as an independent contributor, so I use this time to flush out questions or story ideas. By noon, I break for a run to the post office to drop off orders and head back home for a quick lunch at my desk. Next is the most labor-intensive part of my day – cleaning, stripping and upholstering furniture. The most fun and most time-consuming part of the day is photographing, editing and researching pieces for pricing. Each piece gets weighed, measured and a description. I then determine which pieces get listed where online. I spend time on social media posting items and commenting on other posts well into the late evening. Recently I have instituted a new rule on my computer use. No screens after 9:30pm. It’s a hard rule to follow when what you do doesn’t feel like work.
What motivated you to start your blog, and eventually begin selling furniture and vintage finds? I started my blog because I needed a creative outlet from my 9-5 job at the time. Working in a gray cube was killing my creative spirit so my blog allowed me to keep one heel in the design world.
Was there a point when you realized that you enjoyed selling furniture more than decorating, or do the two go hand-in-hand? While I enjoy designing rooms for clients, working in a design center launched my passion to sell vintage furniture. I walked in and immediately had the “ah ha” moment. I absolutely loved being surrounded by beautiful things all day. However, I did not want to sell furniture in the traditional sense. With my online shop I get to select the pieces that I want which creates an exciting ever-changing inventory.
What key items did you consider “must-haves” in terms of furniture and accessories when decorating your home? My Ju-Ju hat and sunburst mirror were a must! I wanted that hat for eight years and finally found one at the right price.
You mentioned that if you redecorated (or in your next home) you would do everything completely different. What look/style would you be going for? I know three things I would do differently for sure; first I would paint the walls white. Second, I would paint the ceiling high gloss black or high gloss kelly green. Last, I would purchase a sofa with an all-over pattern.
What are some of your favorite local places to find pieces for your shop? My friends at Mid Century Salvage have been very good to me and supportive of my shop. Estate sales always have the best, unexpected treasures.
If you could shop in any city, where would you go? I don’t have a particular city, but I would love to take an empty truck through the back roads of any small town and hunt for treasures.
Do you feel websites like Hunters Alley and One Kings Lane have changed the way people shop for home goods and furniture? Absolutely. They have given shop owners like myself a national platform to sell furniture all over the country. What’s crazy is that most of my pieces ship to Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York and Texas. These sites present the best in furniture and home accessories to you in one place, making it much easier to find a piece you love without the hunt.
Do you see yourself ever moving to a retail space? I love our pop-ups but my dream is to have a brick and mortar. I can safely say there is nothing like the shop I’ve designed in my head here in Charlotte. And I have it designed down to the shopping bags. But I also love the freedom of not being tied to a shop on a daily. It’s a dance I play in my head over and over again.
What advice would you give your 23-year old self? Follow your intuition, stay authentic, use your creativity to design your own path, don’t lose your entrepreneur spirit and keep your faith – because you will certainly need it!
Tell us more about the start of Elle & Bae. It actually started with my partner Kim Loring “Elle” and I talking about how great it would be to have a shop for a couple of days every other month. Being an online vendor can be isolating, no one knew us locally and we wanted to change that. We didn’t want a flea market vibe, so we designed a two-day high-end pop-up market, with a juried vendor process and design/blogger preview to shake things up in the Queen City.
This interview was conducted early 2014.