Today’s episode is super special because I have the honor of sitting down with award-winning home designer Jean Stoffer. Jean is a designer, an entrepreneur, a mom, a grandma, and a Magnolia Network star of The Established Home. Jean just published an incredible book called Establishing Home

We are here today to not only dive into her vast experience as an incredible designer and all of her expertise and tips for creating spaces you love. But we also get to unpack her story and hear about her journey and all of the lessons she learned while building a successful business, creating incredible spaces, and raising her children. 

Through Jean’s incredible career and amazing spaces she has so much wisdom to share not only about practical tips for creating a home you love but also how to evolve your home depending on the season of your life and really just beautiful insight into the journey and what it looks like to create spaces that support your life. 

You can download this episode from Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsStitcher, and Spotify – or listen to it below!

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in this episode

[02:58] Jean’s background and building her own home design company

[11:37] Writing her book, Establishing Home 

[14:28] Creating spaces that work

[23:48] Tips for evolving a home through different seasons  

[31:21] Finding your style   

[42:35] Homes not functioning the way we need them to 

[43:56] The Established Home tv show  

[52:43] Design basic & quick tips


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[02:58] Jean’s background and building her own home design company

My story in some ways is very typical for a lot of people in our industry. I went to school for something completely different. I had a business degree with a focus in marketing and I found it difficult to find a job in that field when I graduated from college. I finally was able to find a job as an administrative assistant for an interior designer. That was the place where my eyes were opened to design in a way that I had never seen or had any concept of before. I was fascinated with what they were doing so they took me under their wing a bit. One thing led to another and soon I was given an opportunity to help someone else and that turned into something else which turned into something else which turned into a business. 

[11:37] Writing her book, Establishing Home 

It was quite the experience writing the book and the first time I had written a book. I was so happy for the opportunity that was given to me. I’ve spent quite a bit of time mentoring young women in various aspects of life and I have enjoyed it so much. I received so many inquiries and direct messages from people of all ages, who have questions about all kinds of things. I felt like, by telling my story, I could answer a lot of those questions. 

[14:28] Creating spaces that work

Good design has to be both functional and beautiful. I spend quite a bit of time learning what people’s needs are, what their family structure is, how they host guests, and how they view cleaning and maintenance. Those really influence a lot. I get to learn about the people, their families, and the things that are really important to them. We get a better feel for things as things go along. The beauty of having a different house and different clients mean that you come up with all kinds of different ideas and so each project is unique. 

[23:48] Tips for evolving a home through different seasons  

When I was younger, budget was a big deal for me. I didn’t have a lot of extra money to go out and buy whatever piece of furniture I wanted. So I often found used pieces, either at garage sale sales, estate sales or now it could be on Facebook marketplace. I would either fix them up, paint them, or just clean them a lot of times. And some of those pieces I still use in my house today because they’re good, pretty old vintage pieces.  Another thing that I think is kind of a fun way to evolve a design is with things that are living like plants and trees. It also adds this feeling of something alive which is so nice. 

Paint is another big thing. You can transform a space with paint so quickly. For a high-end look, tone down the brightness of a color, with either brown or gray and it just has much more staying power and a timeless look, than something very clear and bright.

[31:21] Finding your style  

My tip on this would be to use something like Pinterest or Instagram to save only whole rooms that appeal to you. I think it’s oftentimes tempting to pin one piece that appeals to you but that doesn’t create an overall look. Have a separate board or file where you only pin whole rooms that speak to you and then go back every few weeks or something and look at them and see if there’s a pattern. 

The other piece is a lot of times our houses kind of dictate things. It is important to respect what you are working with.

[42:35] Homes not functioning the way we need them to 

One big challenge is that a lot of the people that we work for have reached a point in their home, where it just doesn’t function the way they need it to for their family any longer. It could be that their family has grown or a couple has something they can close the door on and travel more. Life changes are the biggest reasons why people come to us. They want their home to work better for their family.

[43:56] The Established Home tv show  

Many different things happened and it all added up to something. That was definitely the case here. My son John suggested that I start adding my designs on Instagram. Eventually, Joanna Gaines saw our work on Instagram and so that was a big factor. But it wasn’t just that it was that John and his wife, Maura, were hired by the Magnolia Journal, their quarterly magazine to do some photo shoots. So Joanna and Chip met John and realized our connection. So finally, I got a call from someone from the Magnolia Network, saying, hey, we’d like to talk to you about something. At that time it was just about doing one show for a series called Point of View, A Designer’s Profile.

I was so impressed with the network’s mission for their shows. It was just inspiring and uplifting. Then down the road, I was approached for the show and I felt like I could really trust them with our story.

[52:43] Design basic & quick tips

Color works best if you give it a lot of neutral runway. I really love using light neutrals in big spaces like halls and stairways and great rooms, and then reserve some really rich colors for smaller rooms like offices, powder rooms, and bedrooms.

Removing stuff from any room is using a great place to start if you want to improve the room. 

Any furniture that you buy, whether it’s used or new, think of it as something that you could move from room to room or house to house. A lot of design itches can be scratched by just rearranging furniture.

The sooner you can admit when you make a mistake the better and embrace that what you had in your mind isn’t going to happen. Sometimes you just want to fight for it but you can’t.

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