Cottage Industry: The Designer’s Attic

One of my daily blog reads is Pink Wallpaper by Shannon Darby.  Several years ago, out of a need to unload some “stuff” in her attic (designer’s are known for not being able to pass up a good deal!) and make some extra money, Shannon started The Designer’s Attic….a daily blog which offers high-end designer fabrics at big discounts.  Every day, Shannon lists a new fabric, mostly small yardages, but enough to make a small window shade, recover a chair seat, or enough to make pillows.   I wanted to feature Shannon and her business, The Designer’s Attic, because she found a need in the market, made it happen and has been enjoying her success ever since!!

 

 

 

What did you do before you started Designer’s Attic?
My background has been in design since my college days.  I started working at a high-end interior design firm in Charleston, SC when I was 20.  I was known as the “sample girl”.  I put away all of the fabrics that the designer and assistants pulled, I priced new fabrics that arrived, and I checked in the new inventory.  I think this is where my love for fabric started.  I would study those fabrics all day…I learned all of the manufacturers, the patterns/names, the categories they belonged in, the price points, etc…I think, I was just a sponge.  And even though it wasn’t a high paying job and the position was at the very bottom, it taught me so much.  I ended up staying at that design firm for the next 7 years and eventually was the senior design assistant.  I learned everything about design in those 7 years.  It was such a fabulous job to have.  And the girls that worked with me were amazing…it was like a little sorority.  We all ended up spreading our wings and starting our own firms.  Kind of crazy.  I started Shannon Darby Design 6 years ago, crazy to think about that.  Charleston is full of very well known designers but I landed a great contact with a high end spec home builder.  He was such a great client.  He would build fabulous homes at the beach and I would do the interiors…design the kitchens, bathrooms, select paint colors, lighting, and then stage them.  It was a dream job!!!
How did this idea come to you and how did you get it “off the ground” so to speak?
Well, after about a year and a half working with the spec builder, the housing industry tanked.  And houses weren’t selling and people weren’t spending money on designers, much less really expensive to-the-trade items.  I really didn’t want to go back to a design firm, working under someone (pride probably) and Taylor, my daughter, was 1 and I wanted to be home with her.  My husband said, “you better start making money”…so I looked around the house and saw all of these fabrics, furniture, lighting, etc. that I was hoarding and thought, why not try to sell them?!!  I already had Pink Wallpaper and so I I thought maybe my readers might have an interest in some of these things since they loved design.  Blogs are free so that part was easy….and literally all of this stuff was sitting in my attic, so I went up, pulled them down and started taking pictures!!
When did you feel like your business was a “success”?
Ha!! A success…..I don’t know….I still feel like I could push myself more.  I guess when I realized that I could sell more than 1 yard of fabric.  In the beginning, I would buy 1 yard and post it and get excited if it sold.  I probably made $10 but it felt so good.  I would call my husband and say, “someone bought the yard!!!”  I remember finding a roll of Imperial Trellis fabric and I just knew I could sell it.  At the time, we didn’t have much money and I was so nervous about buying it.  I didn’t tell Warren, my husband, I bought it…..I just ran home, took a picture and posted it and literally in 5 minutes my inbox was flooded with emails.
Do you have any tips or “words of wisdom” for anyone who is looking to start their own business?
You have to love what you do.  It takes time, devotion, research, travel and money but it’s all worth it.  And you have to have a great support system.  I have the best cheerleaders ever.  Warren gives me the confidence that I sometimes lack.  He really helped me build my company last year and without him, I would still be selling one yard of fabric a day.  He cut, folded, packaged and mailed fabric for me for 3 months whiled I was on bed rest with my second child.  And my parents and in-laws are so wonderful.  They jumped in and babysit when I have to travel and they call me all the time, with excitement in their voice for me when I have a big day.  I think everyone in my family, has had to whip out the scissors at some point and help me cut or do a post office run!!!
Which fabrics are your hottest sellers?
Without a doubt Kelly Wearstler, Quadrille, Trina Turk and Celerie Kemble.  I try really hard to post things that I would want in my own house and I hope that reflect in my site.
Shannon said she hopes any readers out there who want to go out and start a company, go out and do it!!!  She said if she can, so can you!!!  She purchased this poster from Esty and every time she looks at it, it makes her believe that much more!!

Thank you so much Shannon for sharing you story with us!  Please be sure to check out The Designer’s Attic if you are in the market for some great designer fabrics.  Check early….the fabrics go quickly!!!
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  1. After reading about Shannon’s start, I would love to intern for a designer just to be around that enviroment.

  2. Stories like these are always such an inspiration. I started my firm almost a year ago and I agree with everything Shannon says. It is the hardest, scariest, exciting and most fun experience you will ever go through. But it is so unbelievably worth it.

    Katie

  3. Ha…Designer’s Attic is on my favorites bar…go there every morning! Shannon has some gorgeous fabrics (one that I am still depressed about not getting – a beautiful Sister Parish). So glad to hear her story and read about her success….very cool.

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