Liz Toombs owns the award-winning decorating firm PDR Interiors. She is a Certified Interior Decorator who offers comprehensive services for homes, offices and Greek housing (that is, for sororities). She is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and is very involved in giving back to the Lexington community through the Junior League and other local charities.
Established in 2009, PDR Interiors serves clients across the country. The award-winning decorating firm specializes in curating affordable, yet uniquely personal style options. The work of PDR can be seen on college campuses around the country, as well as homes and businesses in more than 22 states.
Oola: What drew you to the field of Interior Decorating?
Liz: I was drawn to the field of decorating as a child. My grandad was in real estate and I would accompany him to a lot of properties. This exposed me to a variety of design styles which inspired me creatively. From there, I was always rearranging my room (or my parent’s house) and drawing out rooms on paper. I went so far as to rake the leaves in our yard to form walls so that if you looked at the yard from the sky, you would see a house layout. My friend’s and I played for hours in this “house” I made. Funny side note- I also spray painted a front door on our oak tree trunk, so the house looked authentic. Unbeknownst to me, the paint would not wash off, but would seep in and kill the tree.
Oola: How did you get your start?
Liz: When I first graduated college, I was in sales for a countertop manufacturer. My clients ranged from homeowners to builders to design firms. I learned so much about business from my time in sales, and I grew close to many of my customers. When an opportunity to become a Certified Interior Decorator opened up with one of my client’s firms, I took a leap of faith and started on this career path. When the recession hit, that firm closed up, and my husband encouraged me to step out on my own. I did, and it’s been a great adventure with a lot of interesting ups and downs along the way.
Don’t treat your home as a museum that you are scared to live in. The best memories come from a house that is fully-used and fully-loved.
Oola: One of your areas of focus is interior decorating services for the Greek community. How did that come about? Are there any special considerations for this niche area?
Liz: I was approached by a men’s organization that had an interest in updating their existing house while they were fundraising for a new house at the University of Kentucky. The project went well, and the next summer they recommended me to a women’s organization on the same campus needing help with their space. After that, the national headquarters for the women’s organization asked me to travel to other campuses for them. The niche built by referral from there. The Greek community is small and tight-knit, and my team continues to make contacts with others within the community to spread the word about our services.
A Greek house requires a different type of plan than a residential home. When you have 50 women living in a house, the wear and tear on things is much greater than with a family of 5. You need furniture pieces that will hold up to the amount of use they will be getting. Greek projects require an uncommon blend of commercial and residential elements. Each project is unique, just like each campus and organization. You have to be sensitive to that when planning a project.
Oola: What’s a common misconception people have about hiring an Interior Decorator?
Liz: I find that people think hiring a decorator means giving up control of their project. Some reality TV decorating perpetuates this misconception. Viewers see the designers on a show discount their client’s preferences.
That is not the case in real life (or at least with my team). Hiring us means that you have a professional on your side to help you avoid missteps throughout the process. We work within your preferences to create the best space possible for YOU.
Oola: For our readers that may be considering hiring an Interior Decorator, what should they be certain to ask before making a decision?
Liz: Make sure you understand why you are hiring the help. Each client has a different set of needs. Is it that you lack the time needed to plan a project? Are you afraid of making a wrong color choice or buying an incorrect piece of furniture? Be clear with your decorator on what you need from them so they can best help you. We’ve worked with clients over the years who have a very clear vision of how they want their space to look, but don’t have time to make it happen. Our work for those clients looks different than our work with clients who need our advice on every selection for a space.
Oola: Have you had any mentors or role models that have influenced you? Describe the impact.
Liz: I have had some great mentors and role models along the way.
- My grandad – He was instrumental in sparking my interest in this field. A pastor, by schooling, he showed me how to take care of people- a lesson I work to implement regularly with my staff and vendors.
- A client (mother/daughter team) who runs a thoroughbred horse farm operation – Working with them on many projects over the years allowed me get to know them and their style of business. I have learned a lot about entrepreneurship and being a woman in business from those ladies!.
- A business mentor-turned-friend – He and I are close in age, but I learned SO much about networking and gaining business by referral from him. This knowledge was a huge part of why my business has been able to sustain. In the beginning, there was little money and few clients but a lot of time, so I networked to spread the word about my company. I advertise very little to this day, and instead focus my marketing dollars on gaining business through word-of-mouth. It has served me well, and I have him to thank for it.
Oola: Do you specialize in a particular type of decorating?
Liz: We work with clients who have a variety of design aesthetics, and enjoy the challenge of doing so. Our sweet spot is probably the transitional style, which is a blend of transitional and contemporary elements.
Never forget, that it’s great to be good at your craft, but it won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to get the customers through the door.
Oola: What advice do you have for others that may want to get into the field of Interior Decorating? What do you wish someone told you?
Liz: 1. Go after it. There is one path to this career, many people land here for different reasons. Do not discount your natural ability and interest just because you aren’t schooled in interior design. My degree is in Merchandising, Apparel, and Textiles. That’s not exactly the major you expect for my field.
2. Never forget, that it’s great to be good at your craft, but it won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to get the customers through the door. Creatives tend to forget this, and that can get them into trouble.
Oola: Any new design trends you’re starting to get requests for?
Liz: Everybody wants painted concrete tile thanks to seeing it regularly used on the TV show, Fixer Upper. We are having some fun with the trend, and also recommending some similar looks that don’t require as much maintenance and upkeep.
Oola: What advice do you have to give to our readers for living life to their tastes using interior decorating?
Liz: Choose pieces that reflect your personal tastes, and that fit your lifestyle. Then use them! Don’t treat your home as a museum that you are scared to live in. The best memories come from a house that is fully-used and fully-loved.
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