In the age of Pinterest boards and myriad design trends, Established Design & Furniture Co. has opened its doors with owner Neil Tankersley at the helm to help homeowners narrow their ideas and create the home of their dreams.
A Gainesville native and graduate of West Hall High School, Tankersley retired last December from a 20-year music career, the last half of which he spent in Nashville as a keyboard player for artists like Jerrod Niemann, William Michael Morgan, Chase Bryant, John Berry and Luke Combs.
Returning to Gainesville, Tankersley said, was like returning home, and he feels “like the market is now right for somebody like me to come in and do something like this.”
Tankersley is the son of Lynn Tankersley, who started Nest Feathers in Oakwood with an emphasis on interior design.
“She’s my hero,” Tankersley said of his mother. “Everything that I know, I learned from her.”
In fact, Tankersley’s first foray into interior design work was made alongside his mother about 13 years ago, when they helped an acquaintance redesign their home following a house fire.
From that point forward, interior design for Tankersley “was always the thing that was like, ‘When I get ready to settle down and not be on the road full-time anymore, this is what I’ll do.’”
Interior design became Tankersley’s side gig, and tour buses became his office space.
“We had WiFi on the bus and, literally, I would play and then I would get on the bus and work all day,” he said. “When I was kid playing music, I saw people that were in their 50s still doing this and I thought, ‘I don’t know that I still want to be getting on a bus at 50.’ Also, I had to figure out a way to make a living as a musician. I did other things to keep me afloat between gigs until I had a salary. If I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. I think a lot of musicians never get that — that’s why some musicians aren’t successful, because they think, ‘All I do is play music, I can’t do anything else.’ Well, you have to.”
Having performed with Combs for the last three years of his music career, Tankersley became “dear friends” with the country music star and his wife, Nicole, and had the opportunity to design their homes in Nashville and southern Florida.
Tankersley didn’t always dream of becoming an interior designer, however, or even a musician. His plan post-high school was to pursue a career in theater and acting in hopes of landing on Broadway. He studied at Gainesville Theatre Alliance, where the “hours and hours” he spent building sets and, in turn, his work ethic.
“That actually taught me you can’t just do all the pretty and the cool stuff; you actually have to do the work in order to get there,” Tankersley said. “That’s kind of the same approach that I took when I became a musician. I had to have other things (to fall back on), and design ended up being one of those that I absolutely loved. It was something that I latched onto. Now, it’s my second act.”
His favorite role, he said, is forging relationships with customers.
“I am here to make their house beautiful for them to live in. Families are made there. All the memories, the vases that are going to be broken by the kids and the lessons that are learned in those homes — I get to provide that, and that, to me, is invaluable. I love the aesthetic part of (interior design), obviously, but it’s the thing that opens the door. Family is super important to me, and I want people that come here to feel that and feel like they’re part of it.”
Tankersley’s own design style veers toward classic with a touch of modern, which customers will see subtle nods to when visiting the Established showroom.
“‘Modern’ is a scary term, especially for people in the South,” Tankersley said. “I don’t mean ‘modern’ in like stark (and) doesn’t feel comfortable. I do like to push the boundaries, as far as design is concerned. Because if I were just to do the same thing that everybody else does, then that does not make your home unique. And oftentimes, the things that I push customers to do that are out of their comfort zone, those are always their favorite thing in the home.”
When it comes to furniture and accessories, Tankersley tends to follow his mother’s rules.
“My mom will not allow an uncomfortable chair in the house, or an uncomfortable pillow,” he said. “I want it to feel really cozy, like this home will last forever.”
Thus, his love affair with classic design styles, which he’s seen withstand the tests of time.
“Classic is the way to go, the whole way,” he said. “When you’re designing things classically, you can take modern and traditional elements and put (them) inside that, which then creates this soft but yet current environment. I don’t tend to go with trends. … We want to give you something that’s unique and uniquely yours, not one of those things that’s cookie-cutter. … Classic is timeless. You can walk into any house that we’ve done in the last 13 years and go, ‘This is current.’ I don’t feel like there’s anything dated about what’s happened here.”
Established Design & Furniture’s services are tailored to clients’ individual specifications and budgets, Tankersley said, with the objective of simplifying their lives in the process.
“They’re the author of the story, we’re just the ones writing it down for them,” Tankersley said. “My goal is to make it so that they’re getting the exact home that they want but don’t know how to get themselves. We do everything from ground-up, working with an architect and working with a builder (on) every aspect of the home, all the way to a shelf. I tell people, ‘The furniture costs what it costs. We can do whatever you can afford to do.’”
The storefront is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, and Mondays by appointment.