Fate leads Stephens to family, interior design business
When a house needs to be made into a home, look no further than Jessie Stephens of South House Interiors.
Stephens’ love of designing and creating paved the way for her to launch her own business. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama in Interior Design and graduated Summa Cum Laude as the top student in her class.
She chose to pursue a career in interior design because it is just a part of her. “I have always been drawn to beautiful homes and places. Design plays a huge role in how comfortable I am in my surroundings, and that began even in childhood. I remember ooh-ing and ahh-ing at peoples’ homes as a child, while other children my age totally ignored things like window treatments,” Stephens said.
While growing up, her biggest inspiration was her parents. “They were workers. They taught me not to be lazy and that everything we had was because of hard work. They also taught me through example how to treat people that being on time is important and to always show up when you say you will.” Stephens loves the evolution of the design process the most. She said, “It can begin with something as simple as a fabric or piece of art, but then, it turns into an entire room or house that radiates from that one bit of inspiration.”
At first, Stephens was advising students locally for the University of Alabama. As a result of the move, it landed her a plethora of opportunities she simply could not pass up.
“If I’m being honest, I didn’t move to Andalusia to start an interior design business. When I graduated with my interior design degree, it was in the middle of the recession. No one was hiring interior designers. I accepted a job with UA as an advisor to transfer students, and I was placed on the campus of LBW in Andalusia. I didn’t know anyone in Andalusia, but I saw that job opportunity as a stepping-stone until the economy improved, and I could move elsewhere to land my dream job,” she said.
As fate would have it, her plans changed, and she could not be more grateful. She stated, “God had other plans, and I’m so glad He did. I met my husband here, and we started a family. Life took an unexpected turn when our second child was born with a rare genetic disorder that requires her to have full-time care.” In order to be more flexible with work, Stephens started South House Interiors. “While I do work full time, my studio is in the back of my home. I can be close to my daughter during the day, and I can make my schedule around her needs.”
She first realized she had a knack for interior design at the age of 14. “I re-designed my bedroom and can still see it now. I chose a bright yellow wall color, a hot pink coverlet, and a turquoise rug. All the colors were pulled together in a stripe fabric I used on my window draperies and Euro shams. It was so tacky but well put together, and the details were on point. I loved the process of designing and never really never stopped,” she said. When working on houses, Stephens said she focuses on every aspect of the design and that every detail is important. Window treatments are her favorite element. “You can totally transform a room with custom drapery,” she said.
One thing, which sets her apart, is the business name, South House Interiors. Stephens explained how she did not want to go in the same direction as other interior designers. “Many designers name their business after themselves. I knew my personal taste was an updated, traditional Southern style. When South House came to mind one day, it stuck.”
Interior design does present some challenges along the way. Stephens said almost every project has one, and some are small while others keep her awake at night. According to her, the largest obstacles lie in older homes. “The flow from room to room isn’t always ideal, and then you can have so much wasted space. Today’s homeowner wants to utilize every square inch of their home, and they want every room to serve a purpose. Once I get the home measured and drawn on AutoCAD (computer-aided design software), it’s like a puzzle. I sometimes have to brainstorm for days to come up with the perfect solution,” she said.
Stephens said potential clients must inform her of their budget at the beginning and go from there. “If I think the scope of work extends the allotted budget, then we either have to cut back on the ‘wish list,’ or the client must be willing to increase the budget.” Every project carries a different price. After discussing the client’s needs, she quotes a flat design fee, which remains in effect from the initial consultation until the completed project. She said she keeps them easy for both the client and herself. “No surprise bills come in the mail from me,” she stated.
Although she loves designing all spaces, kitchens and bedrooms are her preference. Stephens explained, “I love kitchens because it is usually the heart of the home, and there are so many options these days when it comes to kitchen design. They also carry the most work. I love bedrooms because I love fabric, and bedrooms give me the most room to play with color, texture, and pattern.”
Regarding the future of South House Interiors, Stephens hopes to still be serving the city of Andalusia and surrounding areas. She said, “It was always important to me to not feel like I’m at work while I’m at work. I have done just that and absolutely love what I do. I love the relationships with people I have formed through this business, and nothing is better than seeing the looks on my clients’ faces when they see their finished home for the first time. It’s priceless.”
Family and community support has been great for Stephens. She said, “As I’m sure most small business owners will tell you, building a business from the ground up takes a crew. I couldn’t do it without my family. In my business, there is a lot of heavy lifting involved. My husband and dad are pros at moving furniture.” She felt being in the South, it’s important to know people. “I didn’t graduate from a local high school, and the people here don’t know my family roots. I love this place, and it feels like home to me,” she said.
Stephens is married to her husband Bradley, and they reside in the Bellwood community with their two daughters, Clara and Katherine. For more information contact her at email@example.com or 251-294-2378. Her website is located at https://southhouseinteriors.com/ and her Instagram page can be found at https://www.instagram.com/southhouseinteriors/.
“I am thankful for the people of Andalusia who have supported an interior design business owned by a ‘transplant’ like me. I love this place, and it feels like home to me. I look forward to meeting new clients and creating more beautiful homes in the years to come,” Stephens said.