I never leave a bookstore without perusing what we in the industry call “shelter magazines.”
You find them in the home-and-garden section. Last week, I was at Barnes & Noble in the Market Common in Clarendon, sipping on a caramel macchiato and eyeballing covers when I stumbled on the Home & Design magazine’s designers issue. Always my favorite, this annual issue features the area’s top interior designers in their homes, describing their personal style. It’s an honor for those selected.
I was delighted one of those featured is Arlington’s own Melanie Whittington of Whittington Design Studio in Yorktown.
Whittington’s rooms demand your attention and invite you to explore. Once in, you want to stay forever. Her work has always been top notch. What she lacked was the recognition -- but she's starting to get more of that.
Earlier this year Whittington invited me to her studio to show off her portfolio. She talked about how she was revamping her business to stay ahead of the down turn in the economy. A wife and mother who had designed homes for many of her Yorktown neighbors, she wanted to break through the sea of designers in the area and land among the elite. Her work spoke for itself. She just wasn’t sure anyone was listening.
Determined to take her design business to the next level, Whittington devised key strategies to catapult herself from the middle of the pack into the front-runners.
She developed Room Service, an a la carte service that offered customers affordable access to professional interior design.
Similar to spa packages, Room Service Creations has flat rates tailored to any budget. Services start at less than $300 for hourly renovation consultation.
The top selection -- Help this Room -- is a comprehensive design package that will incorporate your individual style into a detailed, floor‐to‐ceiling custom design that is perfect for your space for $850. The package includes a two-hour, in‐home consultation, which itself includes taking measurements. You also get time in Whittington’s studio, a maximum of 18 hours over up to four weeks. A team of designers will work with you to customize your design and offer access to “trade only” furnishings and fabrics.
Whittington also beefed up her marketing, hiring a blogger and marketing person. She increased her media outreach and became active at events that included top designers. I ran into Whittington and members of her staff, taking notes and networking, at a press conference on outdoor living at the Washington Design Center this spring.
The event included a small panel of Washington's top designers. Among them was Barbara Hawthorne, whose work has been featured on HGTV and in countless magazines. Hawthorne is where Whittington wants to be.
The feature in Home & Design is certainly just the beginning of journey toward broader recognition -- another step for Whittington as she climbs closer to the top.