Dominated by black, white, and gold, Jennifer Harrup’s office has a clean style and aesthetic. The wedding planner, designer, and stylist enjoys the luxury of working from her Houston apartment where she lives with her husband and son.
Straight out of college, Jennifer worked in interior design. While planning her own wedding, she fell in love with the process and decided to change career paths. In addition to being a mom, she has her own full-service wedding planning business to keep her busy. Her decision to work from home gave her the opportunity to create a workspace consistent with her brand and to spend time with her son, Phoenix—she can work in her pajamas and never misses a thing!
Jennifer tells us about wedding planning, designing her own space, and balancing her roles as business owner and mom below. Enjoy!
Name: Jennifer Harrup
Current title/company: owner of Jennifer Laura Design
Educational background: bachelor’s degree in interior design and minor in art
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
My first job out of college was as a junior interior designer at a very small design firm in Houston called Amitha Verma Design. I landed it by Googling every interior designer in Texas (whether they were hiring or not) and emailing them and then applying for every design opening I could find—even if I wasn’t qualified for it. My motto is usually quality over quantity, but when looking for a job, I reverse that. I can do quality in the interview, but to get an interview, you need to go fishing and I prefer to fish with a net. I loved my first job, but only stayed there a few months before moving to Laura U, a much larger design firm that spoke much more to my design sensibilities. It’s also where I interned the summer before and when they came knocking, I couldn’t say no.
After working as an interior designer, you started planning your own wedding and discovered that this was your true passion! How did you make the switch professionally?
It was almost a fluke. Shortly after my wedding, I realized we were going to have a baby. Looking back it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, but it was shocking and very scary and unexpected at the same time. I wanted to make the jump after having him to staying at home and starting my own business was how I wanted to make that happen.
I started working on nights and weekends to get things going: creating my website, starting my blog, and learning about marketing. It was very exciting, and fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, my business took off right before Phoenix was born; I had my first wedding two weeks later. It was a crazy time in my life adjusting to being a business owner and a new mom all at the same time. I knew nothing about business and nothing about babies. Here we are three years later, and I know a teensy bit about both.
Take us through a typical day in the life of a wedding planner.
My husband and I switch off parenting. He works nights and watches Phoenix during the day, and then I watch him from about 2 p.m. on. Luckily for me, 2 p.m. is naptime, so most days I get a pretty full workday and get to work until about 3:30 or 4 p.m. when he wakes up. But to rewind a bit, I am up around 7:30 or 8 a.m. Phoenix tends to wake up shortly after me—I swear they have a sensor or something. But sometimes, I’m kind to my husband Kris and sleep in until 9 a.m. He works late and when Phoenix wakes up early, he is on duty and therefore doesn’t get much sleep.
The best part of working from home is rolling out of bed and heading to the office with uncombed hair and pajamas—it’s such a time and money saver. I used to spend a lot of money on clothes when I had to be in an office every day. I typically work in my office all morning and early afternoon. Sometimes Phoenix comes in to visit me, which is totally distracting and yet totally enjoyable.
I like to schedule my meetings in the evening so they don’t cut into my office time, but occasionally I will have a phone call or will have to run out to meet a client or to the floral wholesaler during the morning. On days I have meetings in the evening, I get ready during Phoenix’s nap and then get him ready when he wakes up. I drop him off at my mom’s house and then head into Houston for meetings.
How do you approach wedding planning? What tips do you have for brides starting the planning process?
Get organized! Make a list; purchase a wedding planning notebook, whatever will motivate you to stay organized. I’m a lover of lists and I love crossing things off a list, so for each of my clients I probably have at least three lists. I am a full service planner, so I am deeply involved with all of my weddings. One of the first things I do when I start working with a bride is (you guessed it!) make a list. I list out every month leading up to the wedding and write down the things we should be doing or completing that month. Google planning lists, they are helpful! Then make a customized list for yourself. For example, April is six months out from an October wedding and save the dates need to be mailed four to six months out. So in April choose the save the dates. By May, order them. And so on…
What are your tips for planning a wedding on a budget? Where do you recommend saving? Any items worth the splurge?
This is so different for everyone. I actually like to go through each component of the wedding and all of the various expenses involved in a wedding with my clients and have them rank them from one to ten, ten as the most important. Then, we put together a custom budget with higher percentages of the budget going toward things that are most important and less of the budget going toward things that they don’t care as much about. It helps put things into perspective.
Also, take the time to do research about cost. How much is a good photographer? How much is expected to spend on a venue? Do initial research so your budget is realistic. Knowing you have $10,000 to spend isn’t helpful when you have no idea about the individual costs of a wedding. Plus, you won’t have sticker shock when talking to potential vendors and venues. Everything about planning a wedding is expensive. It just is. I say scrimp on the things that aren’t important and splurge on the things that are. Even if it’s not important to you now, hire a good photographer. The photos are all you will have left after spending all that money!
What led to your decision to work from home? Tell us about the pros and cons.
I decided to work from home because it made more sense financially. I had just started my career as an interior designer, and continuing to work outside of the home and spending money on daycare just didn’t make sense. However, now that I’ve been at home for three years with my son, Phoenix, and getting to be around him 90% of the time—I’m just so glad I made that decision. At the time, I didn’t understand the complexity of the decision, but I treasure this time together so much. Even when I’m in the office working, I haven’t missed a thing and that means the world to me.
Tell us about your new office design! What tips do you have for starting the design process?
I think I’ve designed this office six times—at least in my head. Obviously I started on Pinterest by pinning everything that caught my eye. I originally thought about wallpapering the closet doors behind my desk and even had it narrowed down to three different styles. I’ve had my desk in three different locations over the past year, one of which was in front of the big collage wall—which made zero sense. Picture me climbing over my chair to get into the closet for three months.
When it came down to it (when I finally had the time and money to get this thing in gear) I very easily switched back into designer mode and drew up a number of different floor plans. I created design boards to hash out all of my ideas. In the end, I decided to keep things simple and go with black white and gold—which, yes, is really trendy right now, but there is nothing going on in that space that I’ll get tired of anytime soon. It’s kind of a blank canvas that can look completely different if I wanted it to. Switch out the images in the frames, change the inspiration pieces on the cork wall, and switch inventory on the shelves, and it’s a totally different space. As a person who gets bored with her surroundings often, a pretty blank canvas with my three favorite colors seemed to be what needed to happen.
And if anyone else getting started in the design process? Try to tune out all of the trendy stuff and key in to what you really like. It’s very hard, and I’m not even saying I’ve done it successfully, but the more I learn to tune in to what I truly and genuinely like (not what a blog says I should like) I find I’m creating something I’m going to be happy with for much longer.
You have many budget friendly pieces in your office. Which ones are your favorites?
I love my blue wingback. I bought it three years ago, long before I even had an office and was still working at the kitchen table. I found it on Craigslist and just loved the shape. It was $75 and I figured it would need some work or reupholstering. When I showed up to buy it, it was so beautiful and in such amazing shape. I vowed that I would never harm her. In researching blue wingbacks, I found Emily Henderson and her blog (I now read it religiously) and I swear this is a dead ringer for her old office chair. Other favorites are my Target gold side table, which they no longer carry. It was a birthday gift from my brother two years ago. And then my gold bubble lamp from Urban Outfitters because it’s really just the most perfect little desk lamp ever.
Have you made any major changes since you’ve been working in your new home office? Do you feel like the space is finished?
Nope, everything is exactly the same—except there are usually toys in various locations on the floor and a nice coating of white hair on my rug since my dog Petey likes to sit under my feet while I work. Note to self: vacuum.
Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
I have no idea. I feel like the “right” answer to this question is in a big swanky office space in downtown or The Heights with employees and the whole nine yards, but I actually love my little business, and I love working from home. I hope to have another child at some point down the road, so I love that my current situation provides me with flexibility. Really, the only super stressful part of my job is the actual wedding day. I want to continue to make my business and the experience for my clients even better. I want my work to get better. I want to hone in on my style and not let Pinterest dictate my design direction. I want to (maybe) dabble in interiors. I want to work on projects that are really special and important, and not just mass-produced. I want these amazing clients to keep finding me.
What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
Sometimes what feels like failure is just the start to something even better.
Jennifer Harrup is The Everygirl…
Favorite travel destination?
To relax: Mexico. To work harder than I do in my real life: Disney World.
Quality over quantity.
My husband would have the day off. He works every Saturday. I don’t have a wedding, and we could do something exciting and mundane, like go pick strawberries with our little boy.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
I would order a California club sandwich because, avocados. And I would dine with Amy Osaba. Maybe we could play with flowers afterwards.
Paint, Benjamin Moore in Super White
Gold wire word art, Turn Left Designs
Blue bench, Target
Pink pillow, IKEA
Gold pillow, Hobby Lobby
Black shell chairs, Zoetico
Blue wingback, thrifted from Craigslist
Gold desk lamp, Urban Outfitters
Shelving unit, IKEA
Frame gallery wall, IKEA
Gold stapler, Target
Gold scissors, Target
Lucite desk accessories, The Container Store
White trash can, IKEA
Gold side table, Target