Opened seven years ago by Dee Hencken, Ooh La La Home Furnishings was her answer to a common design problem: finding just the right accessory or piece of furniture to complete a room without driving all over town. Her design acumen has earned her a client base across St. Louis, with people coming to her for both interior services and the wonderful potpourri of items in her store.
“I’ve been an interior designer for about 22 years,” Hencken says. “When I first started, I worked out of my office and traipsed around looking for accessories. I opened Express Blinds about 16 years ago when I became really interested in custom window treatments, and now that’s part of Ooh La La.” She admits the store came about because of her love for shopping. “There were so many great accessories out there that I wanted to be able to display,” she says. “You can only fit so much in your house!”
Her ‘retail therapy’ led to a shop full of Old World-style lamps, mirrors, tables, accent pieces, clocks, wall decor…the list goes on, and it’s all there at her fingertips for daily consultations and design projects. “Customers come to us in a variety of ways,” Hencken says. “Some are referrals, some just love the store after walking around, and others bring in pictures asking for help.”
Whether it’s an entire lower level or just shelves in a library, Hencken and her design partner for the last seven years, Elaine Tesson, will take on any project, and get it done on time, she promises. “We’re really good at meeting deadlines,” she says. “If someone needs something finished in time for a party or company coming in town, we’ll get it done. I guess you could say we’re workaholics!” Depending on the scale of the project, Hencken says they often can complete a room in one day. “If we need more time, we’ll take it,” she says. “And if we’re working on multiple areas in the house, we always like to work room by room. That way, the client will have one space that’s completely done without having disarray everywhere.”
At the initial appointment, Hencken says she and Tesson take lots of pictures of the space and the entire house so they have a feel for what needs to be done and what the client likes. “Sometimes people can’t describe their style to us, but once we’re in their home, we can figure out what they’re trying to accomplish,” Hencken says. The next appointment, the two arrive with a truckload of accessories and furniture from the store to start work. “We always bring more than we need, and a big variety of pieces, so we don’t have to run back and forth,” she explains.
Hencken says one of their goals is to make everything simple for their clients. “Many of them are working women or mothers of multiple children, and they don’t have time to run around shopping,” she says. “This way, we bring in what we think will work and they can decide what they want to keep after we’re through.” Hencken notes that clients can also set aside pieces of their own that they want to make sure are included in the finished room. “We’ll use anything they absolutely want us to, which is often a family piece or something really valuable. If we think it would work better in another spot, we’ll make that suggestion.”
Along with home consultations and services, customers are encouraged to bring in pictures to the store and ask for suggestions. “We have a designer who is always there to help with these issues,” Hencken says. “Whether customers are trying to find multiple pieces for a room or something for the mantel, she’ll find things for them to take home and try. We have a 48-hour policy that allows them to bring back items that didn’t work. We can extend that if needed, too. We don’t want them to be stuck with something they don’t like!”
Hencken says above all, her reward comes from compliments she receives from clients. “When we’re done, so many say, ‘I never liked this room and now it’s one of my favorites because it feels so comfortable.”