In the middle of the Great Recession, as the real estate market collapsed, Elizabeth Thompson had a crazy idea.
She decided to take a leap from her steady job to start her own interior design company. Ten years later, House Dressing Interior Design is a thriving small business in midtown Gainesville with clients all across North Georgia.
I had the support of my family and some clients and people that I had worked with. So it was like, why not? Just do it.Elizabeth Thompson
“We really are in all the details,” Thompson said of her business. “And to be honest, we kind of like it that way. Those are our favorite projects, where we start from the very get-go and take it all the way through to completion, to the pretty stuff and the furnishings.”
As an interior design company, Thompson said she specializes in a lot of new-construction projects. House Dressing takes on about five major renovations each year, working with clients to plan the layout of the home and how each space inside might work best.
“We don't create the construction documents, but we assist from the initial concept,” Thompson said. “We go through that process with the contractors, select all the finishes, tile, roofing material, gutters, paint, architectural detail and we do drawings that assist contractors with that along the way.”
When House Dressing isn’t designing an entire home, the tight-knit design team is helping with a room or a couple rooms in a home.
Krista Martin got a firsthand look at all House Dressing was able to do when the team came in to spruce up her dining room and guest bathroom at her craftsman-style home in Gainesville.
“She was able to pull together new furniture, rugs, drapes, wall paper,” Martin said of Thompson. “She was able to use my sense of style, what I like in my home and take that and translate it and pull it all together, especially with the little accessories that make the room feel cohesive.”
Martin said she was able to show Thompson things she liked online, and Thompson was able to bring those things to life. Thompson was patient, listening to Martin’s ideas while still offering her own advice. The two are already talking about plans for other rooms in Martin’s home.
“She gave me so many options but didn’t overwhelm me with options,” Martin said. “Because that’s where I get lost. All the options. So once she knew where I was going, she stayed in that lane.”
That’s one of the most important parts of the job for Thompson — walking the tightrope of listening to the client while offering her own expertise — and what’s made House Dressing so successful.
“Learning how to communicate with the client, that's one of the biggest things in this industry,” Thompson said. “It's the trust that's built. If it's not there, the relationship won't work out.”
Measuring twice is also a very important part of the job, Thompson said, laughing.
Her fingerprint is on a number of homes and businesses in the area. House Dressing helped out with some of the interior spaces in local places like Turner, Wood & Smith and Stewart, Melvin & Frost as well as a few others.
Thompson said she’s proud to be able to serve clients locally and knows she couldn’t have gotten the business to where it is without their support.
“I felt it was what I needed to do,” Thompson said of starting the business. “I had the support of my family and some clients and people that I had worked with … So it was like, why not? Just do it.”
And she’s happy she did. House Dressing has been around for a decade and Thompson is ready to take on the next decade doing what she loves and creating more spaces for clients who become a lot more than just clients. They become friends.
“I'm very much a people-pleaser,” Thompson said. “I’m gratified by seeing people happy, making families happy and helping them create a space they had no idea was even a possibility for them that they can live in and enjoy and be comfortable.”