Taking Her Design Business Wherever It Grows
Designing Woman: Jo Waite
During a decade in her career in interior design, Jo Waite has learned to push through any boundary to follow her business wherever it wants to grow.
Recently, it has propelled her into adding some retail space at her design studio location. The retail store is open several days a week, offering a sampling of furniture, accessories, rugs, pillows, lighting and more.
“I meant it to be a workshop for myself,” she explained. When she held a sale to move some of her extra materials, a small retail shop seemed to evolve naturally into one more way she should stretch her enterprises.
Ten years ago, Waite started as an interior designer with a home office and clients by referral. She’s eternally grateful for her mentor, Joan Sloat of the Now & Then Shoppe, for design advice and support throughout the years.
The scope of her career today is something she could not have imagined back then. Several years ago, she studied for and earned a contractor’s license and the ability to design and execute extensive home remodeling. When a client wants to completely redesign a kitchen, for example, Waite is the supervising contractor for everything from changing the configuration of walls to overseeing the creation of new cabinetry, flooring, lighting, utility services, counter surfaces and more. She can deliver a turn-key interior makeover for her clients.
“It’s kind of unexpected,” Waite said of becoming a licensed contractor, “but I wasn’t going to let anything limit me.”
“I’m blessed with pretty good time-management ability,” she said of the contracting responsibility. And she has an excellent professional relationship with a select group of subcontractors on whom she can rely for their expertise. She loves creating a “win/win” project with a team of designer, client and subcontractors.
“To be invited to create something in their home is special,” she said of her clients. “I do not take that lightly.” Waite said when everything comes together, it’s a joy to her.
“I feel very lucky to get up every day and do what I love,” she said.
Not all her projects are remodels. Waite can help with all window covering choices, from custom drapes to blinds and shutters. At the studio, she offers a selection of high-end wallpaper. Her services include choosing fabric for upholstery to ordering new furniture.
One of the most exciting and, for her, fun projects she has done was to help a CFO who was moving away from Fort Smith to arrange his next home in another state.
She went there for a weekend “and set up the entire home from moving boxes until everything was ready for them,” she explained. She was alone in the house.
That included arranging all the furniture, installing all window coverings, hanging paintings and pictures and decorating every surface and shelf with the family’s belongings. The client ultimately arrived with their clothing, to a fully set-up house that instantly felt like home. That client is now moving again.
“I went to their new city and in one weekend helped the client pick out their brick, granite, floor surfaces, wood stains, paint, drapes – everything for the new home they are building,”?she said.
Wasn’t it exhausting? Waite called it fun.
“It’s a process I’ve learned,” she said of a full-house decorating project. “It’s not as taxing on me as it used to be because over time I’ve learned how to organize the process.”
Waite also has designed commercial spaces. A project last year involved remodeling a reception area and waiting room of a local corporate headquarters that included etching the company logo in glass, a custom touch and focal point of the space.
She loves the variety and challenge of her work.
“I learn something every day,” Waite said.
This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine.