Back in December of 2020, the North Liberty Podcast (52317 – Stories of People Working Here) had me on their show. It was a great experience and I was honored to be able to share my story about how my past dreams led us to where we are today. Give it a listen or read the transcription below. Thank you to everyone on the 52317 podcast team, to my team of rock stars at Mix Home Mercantile and Emily Hughes Interiors, and thank you to everyone in this amazing community who support us and local business.
Being mostly at home and often indoors because of the pandemic has many of us looking more closely at our immediate surroundings. Interior Designer, Emily Hughes of Mix Home Mercantile and Emily Hughes Interiors, says that requests for consultations have increased since March. At Mix Home Mercantile, Emily strives to create a welcoming space with a little bit of something for everyone, here in the 52317 (North Liberty, Iowa).
I’ve always been interested in art and creative things. When I was really young, my dad would draw with me. As I grew up and got into high school I had a great art teacher and I loved painting, but my parents were also very practical. When I went to college I decided I wanted an artistic career that wasn’t trying to make a living being a painter.
I started studying graphic design at the University of Iowa. Around that time, I also decorated my first apartment. I started thinking I was also intrigued by architecture. I decided two years later to transfer to a college in Denver (Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design). They had a great program focused on software and technology for both graphic design and interior design. I decided to try switching my major and knew if I didn’t like interior design I could go back to graphic design and computer programs. The interior design program was interior architecture – very specific. We had to hand draw space plans, buildings, and residential construction.
We learned a lot about the properties of fabrics and fabric content and very specific things I didn’t anticipate.
I learned a lot of different types of interior design which helped me zero into what I wanted to do.
I worked for a company that did a lot of model home merchandising both in the Denver area, Arizona, and California. I got to travel and learned about buying accessories and soft goods to stage model homes.
Then I moved to Arizona and worked for a company that did a lot of graphics and signage for new home communities. There, I worked more on the sales end and commercial buildings. We would design tables that would house scale models of the whole community and displays for their food plans. I also helped with the furnishings for the sales centers.
I moved back to Colorado and worked for a modern home furnishings store.
The owner of that store was on a plane and met the owner of a similar store in Sante Fe. (Coincidentally I had been to a few years prior and loved it. When I was there, I thought, “Someday I want a store just like this”.)
The Colorado business owner purchased the business strategy from the Sante Fe business owner and access to all the vendor lines he had and built a store in the Aspen, Colorado area.
After that, I moved back to Iowa to be closer to my family.
After working at the shop in Colorado I always knew I wanted to open my own shop.
I used to love this book store in Denver called the Tattered Cover Book Store. It had these cozy sofas you could sit on, or you could wander around. It was 3-4 stories and you could listen to music and read your books or magazines.
I wanted to create an experience kind of like that.
At Mix Home Mercantile we have a lot of books here and gifty things. If you come in you can wander and take your time. I wanted a mix of gifts so if you’re not into purchasing furniture you’re still entertained and engaged.
I wanted it to be an approachable take on design.
I want people to come in and feel like they chat with us and bring their images of their spaces and get feedback.
I didn’t want the shop to be an intimidating atmosphere. I think a lot of people think that about interior design. I just wanted an experience place for people to shop in North Liberty. I don’t think there are a lot of places like that around here.
I wanted to incorporate a mix of vintage and new things – which I have more on the accessories side vs. the furniture side. That has been a little limited because of COVID and not being able to run around and do all the vintage shopping that I’d like to do.
When you’re doing consultations, what is your process working within each new space and what are the different factors that you consider?
The ideal situation is that we meet in the client’s home and we see the style of the house, finishes, and existing furniture they want to keep. It’s important to me to see their inspiration and what style speaks to them. I take all that information, measurements, and photos. When we get back to the studio we analyze that and think about how we can help them see the style they want but also make sure it fits the style of the home so it’s not a disconnect that way. We have our own individual styles that I’m sure influences that too but for the most part it’s picking up on what the client is asking for and finding a way to make that function in their space.
Who are the customers that come into Mix Home Mercantile and where are they from? How far do they travel to come in?
We get a lot of local people. Especially on the weekend, we get people who come from further away – from the Des Moines area, Mason City, the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area. I do think it’s a destination shop. We have an Instagram following that reaches beyond our local area. People come in for little gifts, for inspiration for their home, and specifically to buy furniture.
What is the balance between customers who are coming in for the tangibles vs. those who are seeking design work?
In the very beginning, before COVID, it was a lot more people coming in to shop and look around. When people were stuck at home they were contacting us to consult with them in their homes or virtually. It’s a pretty good mix now – overall we get a lot more design requests now that people are really seeing the importance of enjoying their home.
What have you done to adjust and work within the limitations of COVID.
I think it’s been an interesting turn of events. In the beginning, I never thought it would actually increase our business but the pandemic made people value their atmosphere and the interior of their homes more. What I really miss though, is when we were first open we were able to connect and interact with a lot of people in our community. Customer interaction is really what I wanted when we opened the shop. Now I’m getting that through our independent consultations. We’re getting busy enough we have some designers here. The nice thing there is we have been able to build a fun team, so even when tons of people aren’t flooding in the doors we have fun here with the people that are around us every day.
I’ve been working with a local lady, Mary Brown, who I cannot say enough awesome things about. She’s making me a new website (the one you’re at right now) that will clarify our interior design consultation packages. It breaks them down into three categories, some are a la carte with prices per room. I just wanted to simplify the process and what design entails with input from all of the designers here too.
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From interior design consultation on new construction and large-scale remodels to finding the perfect pieces for a room refresh, we have a design plan that works for you. Our staff of interior design experts and furniture professionals aims to make the process approachable and fun with results that will exceed your expectations.
The first step for new clients is to complete our New Client Questionnaire. Once submitted, we will review your answers and be in touch within a week or two to schedule an initial meeting. Please note: Due to high demand and full schedules, we currently have a 15-45 day wait list for new clients, depending on the scope of your project.
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