Working full-time with your BFF sounds like both the most wonderful and most terrifying situation. Powerhouse interior decorating duo Anna Crelia and Rhoda Brimberry are working their sister-in-law/co-worker relationship to their total advantage at Loot Rentals and Finer Goods, the Austin-based decor shop we can’t get enough of.
Loot Rentals began in 2011 when Anna and Rhoda were planning Anna’s wedding (to Rhoda’s brother) and looking for niche vintage pieces to really bring the 1920s theme to life, but they didn’t want to purchase details that would only be used the one time. So they solved their own problem by opening Loot Rentals, a decor rental shop where folks can style their events — weddings, parties, photoshoots — without over-investing in the details. Each piece, from candlesticks to chairs to table runners, was gleaned by the duo from a garage sale or antique shop and adds a perfect touch of vintage. The team also offers styling services as well.
The ladies and their shop got so successful that in 2017, they opened Loot Finer Goods, where vintage decor lovers could take home the same kinds of one-of-a-kind vintage finds that Loot Rentals became famous for.
Here, the two women share their favorite pieces, secrets to finding the perfect vintage piece, and what it’s really like to work with your best friend.
Name: Anna Crelia
Education: Fashion Institute of Technology, Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Merchandising Management
Current Title/Company: Owner and Co-Founder / Chief Creative Officer
Location: Austin, TX
Name: Rhoda Brimberry
Education: University of Arkansas, B.S. Psychology, Middle Tennessee State University, M.S. Mass Communication
Current Title/Company: Owner and Co-Founder / President of Marketing and Sales
Location: Austin, TX
What was your first job?
Anna: During my last year of school, I got an internship working for the “Queen of Fashion PR,” Kelly Cutrone of People’s Revolution. The highlight of my time there was working back of house for numerous fashion shows at Bryant Park. During this time, I was also working retail for two stores, one being the nationally acclaimed OAK. After graduation, I worked with OAK in the office full-time managing fulfillment and customer service. Within a couple of months, I grew my position to be the website manager and stylist.
Rhoda: After graduating with a degree in psychology, I worked in the field briefly before returning to my love of media. I was a writer and editor at a local newspaper in Little Rock, Arkansas, that led me to pursue a master’s degree in mass communication. I really cut my teeth in the advertising world. I worked for the CEO at Saatchi & Saatchi X where I got a real bird’s eye view of the operation as his assistant. I also worked in the HR department where I did the recruitment as well as managed events to nurture the company culture.
How did you land that position?
Anna: My friend was the editor of Missbehave Magazine and had used People’s Revolution for samples before. She was kind enough to connect me with Kelly, which landed me the internship. With Oak, I just walked in and dropped off my resume because I loved the store. Luckily, they were hiring and I started doing merchandising and sales for their three stores.
Rhoda: A family friend connected me to the editor of the paper, who was gracious enough to offer me the position. I got in with the ad agency after completing grad school because I did a lot of research about the CEO and wrote about how impressed I was with him as well as the success of the grassroots efforts of the company into my cover letter. I had zero experience in advertising, but enough know-how and can-do to get my foot in the door so I could learn as much as I could about the trade.
What valuable lessons did you learn there?
Anna: At People’s Revolution, I learned how to problem solve on the flip of a dime while balancing a tray of coffee. It was just like the movie The Devil Wears Prada, and I was Anne Hathaway. You had to think on your toes on three hours of sleep. While it was the most trying job I’ve ever had it, it was also the most fun and most rewarding.
Rhoda: At the ad agency, I learned that as glamorous as it looked on the outside, it wasn’t my bag of tea. I really enjoyed the people, but was a little disenchanted with the work. It didn’t feed my purpose. All that being said, my experience and learning was invaluable. I learned that in order to be effective, I needed to think beyond myself. I needed to gain a bit of a backbone, not be so afraid of mistakes. Chase the barking dog, rather than be fearful of it. While sometimes I didn’t feel appreciated in my work, I loved watching my boss navigate, bob, and weave through all the ups and downs of running a business. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything as I think it really helped me find my voice and, in turn, effectively lead at our company.
Y’all opened Loot Rentals in 2011. How did you decide to start this business?
Anna: When I was planning my wedding in fall of 2010, I had a vision for a speakeasy 20s style affair. Seeing as there was no one offering this style for rental, I took it upon myself to start collecting it all with the enlisted help of my family. With Rhoda being a vintage junkie herself, she jumped at the chance. We were both in transition in our careers at the time, so we dreamed up the idea of Loot together. After I went on my honeymoon, Rhoda started advertising on Craigslist to see if there was interest, which there was. We really took off from there!
What’s it like to work with your best friend?
Rhoda: It can be a slippery slope and I don’t advise going into business with your bestie or family member. But for some reason it works for us. We are pretty tight, but know how to turn off business when we’re with family. We appreciate each other’s perspective, and understand where each is coming from. We are from two generations as well, so I like how we offer a little different perspective from each respective generation. It helps us to bridge gaps. I think these two perspectives are what appeal to our design savvy and attract all types of fellow design lovers.
When I was planning my wedding in fall of 2010, I had a vision for a speakeasy 20s style affair. Seeing as there was no one offering this style for rental, I took it upon myself to start collecting it all with the enlisted help of my family.
We’re in love with these furniture and decor items! How do you find just the right pieces to add to your collections?
Rhoda: With every major decision in the company, we have to agree. The method we use is whoever pushes the hardest, wins. Most times, however, we geek out over the same pieces and very rarely do we disagree.
You offer rentals for a variety of occasions, and also offer staging services! What do those staging days look like?
Rhoda: Honestly, staging is a walk in the park compared to events. We love them both, of course. We’re not on a strict timeline with staging, and we can work at a slower pace. We’re not competing for parking with a bunch of other vendors and we get to work in a gorgeous home with a blank slate. Pretty dreamy. We don’t have a lot of staging work these days as our model is better suited for events, but look out because we have some cool staging ideas cooking for next year!
We are so thrilled y’all opened Loot Finer Goods in 2017 so we can purchase our favorite pieces and love them forever. How did you decide to make this transition?
Rhoda: We received a lot requests from clients who wanted to purchase items after they used them at events. Either it was sentimental value, or love for the design. Or both. We wanted to be able to sell them to our clients, but the pieces were booked up on proposals sometimes a year out. So we decided to pile our love for good design and vintage into our retail line. We are so excited to be able to sell the Loot Look to people building their homes.
We appreciate each other’s perspective, and understand where each is coming from. We are from two generations as well, so I like how we offer a little different perspective from each respective generation. It helps us to bridge gaps.
How would you describe your personal design style and philosophy?
Natural, simple. A touch of fresh mixed in with homage to the past.
Loot Rentals and Finer Goods offers everything to make an event room perfect, from big furniture to the tiniest details. What’s your advice for the woman looking to style an entertainment-ready room?
Form is just as important as function. Comfort is paramount, but it should be coupled with beauty to inspire the senses. We find this mix creates camaraderie, promotes open discussion, and relaxes individuals for ultimate together time. Also, always have well-styled snack trays and yummy drinks to keep the vibe alive.
What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve curated over the years?
This probably changes on the daily. We both have an affinity for well-worn vintage rugs and beautiful vintage furniture pieces. We love to collect vintage textiles and find new uses for them to give them new life. We both tend to gravitate to simple Scandi/Danish designs mixed with some primitive pieces. Worn wood never goes unnoticed.
What can we expect to see from Loot Rentals and Finer Goods in the next few months?
We’ve collected a lot of new inventory for the rental division and have a new fresh collection rolling out at the end of spring for Finer Goods. Stay tuned!
With every major decision in the company, we have to agree. The method we use is whoever pushes the hardest, wins.
What advice would you give to your 23 year old self?
Anna: Stay true to who you are and listen to your heart. Be patient and let your intuition guide you. You may not know where your true passion lies yet, but as long as you remain open, it will find you and forever change you.
Rhoda: You don’t plan for future much, but never fear. Living in the moment and having an open heart will lead you to your destiny. Continue to be creative. When advice comes to you that doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t right for you. Always listen to others, but trusting your heart is the best indicator of your path.