Designers often use their own homes as testing grounds for the latest trends, furnishings, and color palettes. For Ashley Childers—founder and creative director of the home furnishings brand Emporium Home—that’s certainly true, and the result is an ever-evolving portrait of her personal style
Ashley Childers is a woman on the go—and not just around central Arkansas. On any given day, she might be headed to market to showcase the latest offerings from her wholesale home furnishings line or jetting overseas to oversee the manufacturing of a new product design. Launched in 2012, the Emporium Home brand has quickly become a favorite among designers and homeowners alike, thanks largely to the line’s striking silhouettes, daring deployment of color, and innovative use of natural materials. However, seeing the furnishings and accents integrated into the unique and personalized look of Childers’s own home—which she shares with her husband Garrett (who is also the president of Emporium Home), her daughter Brighton and son Cade—they become more than a showroom of stunning statement pieces; they offer a snapshot of the signature style of one of Arkansas’s most creative minds.
“We bought this house three years ago; right when we were launching Emporium Home,” Childers says. While it wasn’t in need of structural updates or renovations to make it function for the family, the move came at a perfect time to update fixtures with Emporium Home’s newly launched lighting options, and to furnish the home with the brand’s case goods, upholstered pieces, and accessories. And the design is always in the process of being edited, expanded, or enhanced; “We are constantly changing out things in our house because I like to live with products that we manufacture just to see how they work in the home, check the light output for fixtures, and try out sofas to see how they feel and how they sit. Our house evolves monthly—it’s like our design laboratory. I really want people to love our product, so I feel like I need to live with it,” says Ashley of the testing and product improvements she makes along the way.
SHOWROOM TO LIVING ROOM
In her own home, the more private spaces are tailored to each individual’s taste, but the shared spaces each have a trademark look that is decidedly Emporium Home. For example, the wall color in the front living room—which is a favorite hangout for Brighton and friends—was actually a test for a market showroom look. “We were looking at using this color in a showroom, so we tested in our house. I like the cozy, cocoon environment [it creates]. It really makes the light upholstery and wood pop,” Childers says.
A similar scenario inspired the ceiling treatment in the dining room, which is comprised of hand-marbled art paper from the Philippines. “I love art paper and have collected it for years,” Childers says. “We actually used it in our Atlanta showroom, and I loved it so much I told Garrett; I think I’m going to do that on our ceiling. I love how it’s similar, but no two pieces are alike.”
THE BUSINESS OF HOME
It was this quest for beautiful, livable furnishings that originally led her to found Emporium Home after a successful, 13-year career as a dancer/choreographer. “I was looking for décor for my own home and couldn’t find what I wanted. So I thought: If I’m looking for it and can’t find it—and I’m the ultimate shopper—then there have to be other people who are searching for the same things,” she says of her line’s distinctive aesthetic. “I have always loved interiors and home furnishings. I was the girl in high school that when all my friends were buying Seventeen, I was buying Southern Living,” she laughs.
Still, launching her own home goods company has been a whirlwind for the young entrepreneur, who also recently opened the brand’s first retail store, known as Emporium Home Heights, in Little Rock’s Heights neighborhood. “When we first came onto the market we launched mainly with lighting and accessories, and we incorporated a lot of agate and crystals into our designs. We were pre-agate-trend. Nobody was really doing that at that point, so it sparked a huge interest,” Childers says of the initial launch. Three years later, the brand continues to forge its own style. “Our look has an edge. It’s not super traditional, but always chic and unapologetically feminine,” Childers says of the designs, which include everything from mercury glass and hand-poured brass to malachite and natural stones—and continues to add to its signature delicate-meets-exotic look. In 2015, Childers plans to expand the line into rugs and bedding; “It’s neat to put the Emporium Home aesthetic into these different categories to see how it translates,” she adds.
A FAMILY AFFAIR
Since Childers comes up with all of the designs herself, she creates a personal attachment to—and fondness for—the individuality of each one. So much so, that several pieces from the collection have been named for family members. For example, there is the “Mona” chair, which is named after Childers’s mother, and the “Taylor” sofa, which pays homage to the designer’s baby sister.
The family connection doesn’t end there. As mentioned, Childers’s husband Garrett is the president of Emporium Home. In addition, her mother-in-law is the CFO, and her sister, Lauren Strother, is the marketing director. “I feel like [this is] what I was meant to do, and I love that a lot of my family works with me. They have as much passion about it as I do, and we all get to be together,” she says with a wholehearted smile.
Contractor Parkinson Building Group, Little Rock, (501) 954-8570, blog.parkinsonbuildinggroup.com
Home design drafting Mitchell Residential Designs, Little Rock, mitchellresidentialdesigns.blogspot.com
Interior design Ashley Childers, Emporium Home Heights, Little Rock, (501) 376-4663, emporiumhome.com
Landscape design Bengtson Landscape, Maumelle, (501) 803-4722
Accessories, art, bedding, fabrics, furniture, lighting, and rugs Emporium Home Heights, Little Rock, (501) 376-4663, emporiumhome.com
Cabinets Duke Custom Cabinets, Roland, (501) 868-8111, dukecustomcabinets.com
Countertops Alpha Countertops, Russellville, (479) 967-0229, alphacountertops.com
Millwork Lumber One, Mayflower, (501) 470-1122, Stuttgart, (870) 673-3601, lumberonehomecenter.com
Paint Benjamin Moore, locations statewide, benjaminmoore.com
Shutters Parkinson Building Group, Little Rock, (501) 954-8570, blog.parkinsonbuildinggroup.com