Adrienne Gilliam grew up on the glittering beaches of Amelia Island, dreaming of becoming an interior designer. Though she originally chose to major in biology in an effort to be more “practical,” it only took one science class to realize that her true passions were elsewhere. She quickly switched her focus to art history and never looked back.
After graduation and a career move to Ohio (where she worked in a mid-size museum and several local galleries) she took on her biggest job yet: stay-at-home-mom to her two adorable daughters. Once again, her creative passions couldn’t be stifled and she soon decided to launch Pickfair Designs, an online boutique and home decor store with an empasis on handmade bedding and pillows. Four years later, now working with her sister as a business partner, Pickfair also offers interior decorating services.
Despite the cold winters, Adrienne and her family are happily perched in Indianapolis these days, where they’ve rented their current home for the past six years! We’re so grateful that she took us on a tour inside her vibrant family home, which proves that armed with paint, great fabrics, a lot of patience and a little elbow grease, any rental can become home.
Full name: Adrienne Gilliam
Current title/company: Owner at Pickfair Designs
Education: Degree in Art History/Museum Studies
What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
Being fresh out of college was quite an eye opener for me. After interning at a few galleries and working at a museum where the job essentially got dissolved, I discovered that there weren’t that many art historian jobs just hanging around! My fellow classmate was working for a local radio station at the time and got me a job in the sales and marketing department putting together presentations. Not the glamorous post-college job I had dreamed of and I quickly learned that I was going to have to be creative at being creative.
You grew up in Amelia Island, FL and are now stationed in Indianapolis. What was the transition like from Florida to the Midwest?
Just before the big move from Amelia Island to the Midwest, my now husband told me ‘the winters are really mild’. That first winter turned out to be the worst they had seen in 25 years! Needless to say I was in for quite a change, and not just in terms of weather. It definitely took time to get used to a faster pace, and overall different way of life. I still can’t adapt to the winters! But I love my Midwestern family! I have learned so much and met so many amazing people. However, I still say coke, I refuse to say ‘pop’!
Tell us about what inspired you to launch Pickfair, an online boutique that also offers e-design services.
Even as a little girl I was always decorating and arranging my room. For years as an adult I designed and decorated my home and helped friends with their spaces. And all along everyone kept telling me I should do this as a business. Finally I put the fear aside and took a big leap in opening Pickfair. I knew that I wanted to create pieces that were bright and filled with great pattern because that was what I had known growing up in Florida. I also knew that I wanted to give moms an option that allowed them to decorate kid friendly spaces without the typical kid motifs. Pickfair was inspired by a marriage of my Florida culture and modern family lifestyles. I wanted to get rid of themed rooms and just let bold lines and colors speak for the family inside.
Shortly after your business launch, your sister Lisa joined the Pickfair team and now you run it together. What is it like to have your sister as a business partner? How do you divvy up the responsibilities?
Getting to work with my sister and run a business together is amazing. I get to work with my best friend everyday and share goals and accomplishments with someone who knows me better than anyone else. She is literally the yin to my yang! We don’t agree on everything and that’s what makes it perfect. We aren’t afraid to tell each other when things need fixed or changed…as long as it’s after the first cup of coffee. Lisa is definitely the more responsible one. I always joke that she’s the one that pays the taxes and keeps us out of jail! It took some time to find our roles and it’s been a definite learning curve that we still move and adjust. Lisa is a natural organizer so it was a perfect fit for her to head up the office and correspondence. I always have a hundred ideas in my head at all times and a specific idea of what I want Pickfair to represent so I do all the creative work. I couldn’t pick a better partner!
In addition to owning your own business you are also a mom of two girls! Do you work from a home office? How do you balance work with being a stay-at-home mom?
First and foremost, I get to be a mom to two amazing girls! Achieving a balance between being an owner at Pickfair and being a stay-at-home mom has definitely been a challenge. I work from a home office so dealing with a lot of interruptions is par for the course. In the beginning I tried really hard to be perfect at both the business and in my home but I soon realized that was never going to happen. I have to set up work hours just like any other office. I work the most in the mornings and afternoon and then once my kids are home from school, that time is devoted to them. There have been many nights that I stay up late working after everyone is in bed. Although it is a tricky balance it has taught me about letting some things go, like the dirty dishes and the pile of laundry, and that there is no such thing as perfection.
Tell us about the process of launching your business from the ground up. What were your first steps to making your end goal a reality? In what ways has your vision for the business expanded or evolved since you first began?
When we first started Pickfair we had maybe five pillows and no real logo on Etsy. We definitely jumped into the deep end of the pool without any real business plan or long-term goals (insert everyone’s cringe here)! I was sewing pillows at night on my kitchen island and trying to juggle inventory with custom orders. We were also all over the place with what we wanted to sell and really trying to find our niche and voice. We finally realized are early goals when we created a cohesive brand for Pickfair, we probably went through 5 different logos! Once we knew how we wanted to present to our customers it became easier to communicate our style. I cringe when I see the early photos and product choices, but its also fun to see how we have grown. We now have hired on help with our sewing and expanded into nurseries and e-design. We are still evolving and tweaking along the way, as we mature in our goals so does our product.
Let’s talk about your home! Do you own or rent, and how long have you lived in your current place? And tell us, how have you decorated on a budget?
We have rented our current home for the past three years. I love getting an amazing deal or bargain, the higher the markdown the higher the high! That said I do think there are certain things in a home that you should invest in, your sofa, a dining table, your bedroom dresser, and most importantly your bed. These are pieces that get the most wear and tear over time and not as easily replaceable as say a lamp or rug. But when it comes to pillows, rugs, lamps, and other accessories, save away! This is the fun stuff and the stuff down the road that is most likely going to change when a different mood strikes.
Art to me is one of the most important ways to express who you are in your home because it speaks so fundamentally to your soul.
As an Art History major in college and someone who worked in a gallery, how do you go about collecting art for your home on a budget?
Art to me is one of the most important ways to express who you are in your home because it speaks so fundamentally to your soul. I always tell people first and foremost buy art that speaks to you, not what matches your sofa or wall color. What’s great in today’s market is that art doesn’t have to be pricey. Look first to old family photos. Vintage photographs that speak of your history are great because they are free and tell a dynamic photographic story in a space. And then search sites like Etsy, 20 x 200, Society 6, and Minted. Purchasing prints instead of originals is an inexpensive way to get amazing art in your home. And lastly, search out art shows or galleries at your local university. You get great art from up and coming students at a fraction of the price of career artists and they get the excitement of selling their pieces.
How have you been able to make your home family-friendly as well as stylish and well-designed? What advice do you have for other moms looking to do the same?
My kids can destroy a room in under 30 seconds! I think that for me it was about finding pieces that looked good but were made to be durable. Slipcovers that can be taken off, indoor/outdoor rugs in the kitchen and foyer, washable pillow covers, dining chairs that can be wiped down, and always white sheets you can bleach. Baskets are the best for hiding multitudes of kid eyesores like toys and games. Pretty cabinets, sideboards, and dressers are great for storing books, board games, and puzzles. I would tell moms to buy what they love! So many of my friends have said ‘well I’ll decorate when the kids are in college, cause they will just destroy it anyway’. But life’s too short! Surround yourself with things you love, make sure none of it is too precious it can’t be replaced, and meet your new best, the Magic Eraser.
How would you describe your personal decorating style?
I would say my decorating style is coastal eclectic. Is that a thing? I love bringing in a beach vibe and mixing it with graphic prints and colors. I want my home to feel bright, airy, fun. What was the biggest design challenge you faced in decorating your home, and how did you overcome it? 8 months after moving in our basement flooded. Twice. It was a completely finished basement that included a playroom and my office. Eventually it was taken down to the studs and never refinished so I had the huge task of taking what wasn’t ruined and finding a place for it. Our fourth bedroom, thankfully we had a guest room, became the playroom but it also had to accommodate space for my office! I had to really organize to turn a tiny room into space for 2 kids and me. The positive was that we were really forced to downsize. It really teaches you to only buy or keep that which you really love and use!
How long did it take for your home to look the way that it does now?
I have the patience of a gnat! So the bones of the rooms like placement of furniture and art work, were done right away. But achieving the look I have now really has evolved over the last three years. I move things from one room and try them out in a different room. My husband says its like an Easter egg hunt some days, he doesn’t know what he’s going to find in which room when he comes home!
How do you approach designing a new space? Do you begin with a full vision in mind or allow it to take shape gradually?
I would love to say that I am this free spirit who allows a space or vision to evolve naturally, but I would be lying (see above gnat statement). I really do see rooms or homes with a full vision already laid out in my mind. Of course that vision will change or have to be tweaked, but I always picture a finished space in my head and then break it down from there.
Be a little less careful and a little more daring when opportunity knocks!
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Do not be afraid to be bold. Be a little less careful and a little more daring when opportunity knocks!
Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
I would love to have a brick and mortar store in five years. I want to create a store and design studio that brings a little bit of the south to the Midwest! I am excited to see where the Lord takes us with Pickfair!
Adrienne Gilliam is The Everygirl…
Best advice you’ve ever received?
A wise man, aka my husband, told me to always ‘fail forward’. You going to make mistakes, just make them moving forward toward your goals.
Baby registry must-have for new moms?
I know it seems simple, but, zipper pajamas.
Favorite part of running your own business?
I wish I knew how to ______:
Write in Calligraphy.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Genevieve Gorder. She is bold, amazingly creative, and funny! I would have BBQ. I love BBQ.