St Louisan Jessie Miller Competes on HGTV Star
St. Louis designer on-the-rise Jessie Miller made her debut June 9 on HGTV Star, a design competition spanning seven episodes. HGTV Star offers opportunities for undiscovered home renovation virtuosos to win life-changing prizes, including their own HGTV show. Miller, 31, is a 2000 graduate from Fort Zumwalt North, and previously worked in the real estate industry as a project manager. When she lost her real estate job in 2011, she decided to focus on a full-time career in design. We recently caught up with the self-described “outspoken and fashion-forward” young woman, who brought us up to date on her new adventure.
How much experience did you have when you landed the HGTV gig?
I was at about nine years of experience in all different areas of design—personal clients, representing developers, retail, high-end projects, low-end projects, office jobs, field jobs, everything. My first job out of college was for Conrad Properties in Clayton. I also landed a job that I was completely unqualified for as a sales manager with McGowan Brothers Development, probably because I worked for practically nothing. I was basically left alone on a job site to figure out an entire historic renovation loft conversion project. I was the contact for the architect, general contractor, all of the subs, all of the vendors, all of the buyers, their lenders, the appraisers...the list goes on and on. It was a very stressful job, but proved to be valuable because I learned so much. Unfortunately, I learned from a lot of mistakes, but it qualified me to go on and work on uber-luxe projects with developers such as The Lawrence Group. Imagine custom-building a home, then multiplying that by the number of condos in a project. The largest project I ever worked on had more than 200 units!
Is interior design an innate talent?
I’ve been learning design my whole life. My earliest memory of designing is scribbling red marker on the back of a faded red-velvet wingback chair in my parents’ bay window. Of course, I was in trouble, and the chair was hauled down to the end of the driveway for the trash man. One of our neighbors saved it and had it reupholstered. When I saw the revamped wingback in their home, it all made sense. That was what I had been trying to do, but my child mind just didn’t know how. Anyone can go to school to be technically good at design, but you can never learn to "have an eye.” I believe you either have a sense of color and scale or you don't. I learned everything I know in the field and couldn't be more grateful.
How did you get the attention of HGTV producers?
It’s been a long process. In January 2011, I was jobless and hopeless. I saw an ad to audition for season six of HGTV Star, and I knew it was meant to be. I was planning on sending in a home video, but ended up flying to Philadelphia for the very last open audition. I sold furniture on Craigslist, and my aunt and uncle paid for my hotel. I was flown to NYC for finals, but didn't make the last cut. I was devastated. That entire year was a very challenging time in my life. I lost my home and suffered a very painful and expensive injury. I was contacted to try out for season seven, made it to finals, and was cut again. I was asked to do an episode of The White Room Challenge, to which I said, "No, I'm still holding out for HGTV Star." I was basically told that if I wanted to get on, I should do it. I did, I rocked, and I then finally made it onto season eight, and boy was it meant to be!
It sounds like it’s been a pretty tough road.
It has been such a big part of my life for a long time. So much rejection, over and over again. It takes someone who truly believes in themself to keep going for it—or someone completely crazy.
What made HGTV production execs take a chance on you?
I know what I want, and I'm not afraid to ask for it. I'm one part good girl and one part bad girl, which makes for an interesting combination—you never know what I will say or design!
What’s your plan after HGTV wraps?
Work-wise, I'm still designing beautiful homes for my clients, thrifting, antiquing, DIYing, and sharing it all on my blog, thedeisgndaredevil.com.
Will you stay in St. Louis?
I’ll be in St. Louis for at least another year. I’m about to move into my dream apartment, a pre-war stunner in the Central West End. I'm completely out of control with the decorating; it's design nirvana. There’s plenty of work to keep me busy here. You know you can't spell style without S-T-L!
Al Fresco: Cooking, Dining, Living
Outdoor living. It’s what we’re all doing this time of year. A recent foray to St. Louis stores specializing in the outdoor lifestyle revealed that they’re stocked with just about everything you’ll need for summer entertaining, including dining furniture and outdoor kitchens.
Chicken Coop Designed for the Discerning Egg Farmer
Citing a growing demand for fresh, organic, homegrown eggs, Arhaus Furniture has introduced an upscale chicken coop, perfect for the discerning urban or suburban farmer. Made by Amish craftsmen, the solid-wood coop has an earthy, gray-green finish, and features a shingled wood roof, sturdy galvanized wire, and black enamel hardware with a locking mechanism that’s easy to open for gathering eggs and daily maintenance. Eggs-actly what we need!
Thomasville Launches Magalog and $10,000 Room Makeover Sweepstakes
Thomasville, a subsidiary of Clayton-based Furniture Brands International with retail stores in Brentwood, Manchester and O’Fallon, has launched a new magalog and a $10,000 consumer sweepstakes in conjunction with an early-summer sale that concludes June 25. The theme of the makeover sweepstakes giveaway, ‘Get Ready to Refresh,’ was chosen to illustrate how it’s possible to completely refresh a room for $10,000.
To that end, 16 pages of beautiful rooms featuring Thomasville furniture and accessories are showcased in the magalog that’s been designed to look and read more like a magazine than a catalog. In addition to room photography, the magalog offers a smattering of designer tips for refreshing home décor.
The Red Emperor Reveals an Inner James Bond
With a perfectly lacquered antique-red finish, this swank wine and spirits cabinet poses as a traditional Qing Dynasty wedding cabinet. But remove the fitted lynch pin, give the door a push, and an internal rotating chassis brings out the Red Emperor’s ‘inner James Bond,’ revealing its secret identity as a fully functional home bar. Complete with space for 13 bottles of wine, 18 bottles of spirits, 12 wine glasses, and nine whiskey snifters or shot glasses, along with drawers and compartments for accessories, decanters and wine buckets. The Red Emperor also has a convenient countertop preparation area—handy when on bartending duty.
“Originally, I made one just for myself, but then I fell so in love with the quality and beauty of the piece and the surprise factor of the revolving door, that I had to have more produced,” explains St. Louis (Midtown) native, Aaron Landis, who lived in Asia for about two decades while working in product design and branding for Asian companies shipping their products to the United States. His fluency in Mandarin and familiarity with the manufacturing culture in China, plus the new interest in using furniture for wine storage as décor, led him to launch his own import business. “A growing number of homeowners are using wine storage furnishings as design elements in their homes, from decorative wine cabinets to elaborate custom wine cellars,” he notes. The Red Emperor can be purchased online at orientalwinebar.com for $1,795.
Lilly Pulitzer Style is Alive and Well in the Lou
When Lilly Pulitzer died in Palm Beach last April at the age of 81, she was much more than the name on a fashion label. Rather, she had become something of a cultural icon. Her tropical prints in jarring color combinations of flamingo pink and lime green captured the essence of a privileged, carefree life. The look is the foundation of many St. Louisan’s summer wardrobes, and some fans have even brought the style into their home decor. Expressions Furniture, the custom home decor store on Clayton Road, makes getting the look easy with a collection of Lilly fabrics and upholstered furniture. Shown here is an Expressions chair, part of a collection of pieces upholstered in Pulitzer’s vibrant signature printed fabrics.