Images: Aino Photography //

 

If you are, like us, drooling over Monica Geller’s eclectic kitchen’s style and the variety of chairs her dining-room table had encountered throughout the show, (which was mentioned here on another note), you are going to love this story!

Chair Whimsy is an Austin based business, owned by Wendy Conklin, dedicated to the curation and styling of antique-inspired dining chairs.

From an elementary school teacher to an educational consultant, and finally to a female entrepreneur- Wendy is that person you’d want to have a nice cup of coffee with, and ask her at least 100 questions. We got 7 (:

chair upholstery

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself

My name is Wendy, I live in Austin, Texas, for 15 years. I’ve got two daughters ages 20 & 17, my husband, and my two dogs, Zeus & Nike. 

I’ve changed my career several times; first beginning as an elementary school teacher, then an author, and finally an educational consultant where I trained teachers all over the United States.

Six years ago, I took a couple of upholstery courses (32 hours each) and during the second class, I decided to open an Etsy shop.

Chair Whimsy was born in December 2012. It was just a side hustle at the time and I worked all the time…my regular job as a consultant took up 40+ hours a week and any spare time I spent on Chair Whimsy.

I kept my day job until last September when I decided to take a leave of absence for six months to see if I could get a line of chairs manufactured and increase the sales of my Etsy shop.

After six months, I had things going so I called it quits for good and dove into chairs full time.

What a relief to only be doing one job instead of two. It was and still is a scary thing to give up a regular job to do chairs full time.

But I’m so much happier pursuing this and its a new challenge every day for me. I love it.

 

How the idea of ‘Chair Whimsy’ came to life?

My idea to create a line of antique-inspired dining chairs came about a few years back.

I live in a historic district and most of the homes around me are old houses.

My house, however, was built 15 years ago with the look and charm of the old homes…but it’s new.

We’ve got crystal door knobs, transom windows, and great woodworking, but no headaches of needing to redo anything in the home.

My home ultimately became the inspiration for creating my line of chairs.

Upcycling antique and vintage chairs (my business on Etsy) has its issues.

These chairs are old and often need repairs. I began thinking…what if I could create a line of chairs that had the charm of old chairs, but were new, sturdy, and full of the old charm.

I began thinking…what if I could create a line of chairs that had the charm of old chairs, but were new, sturdy, and full of the old charm.

chiar whimsy

For over 2 years I searched to find someone who could help me make that happen. And finally a year ago, I met someone who had the know-how and connections.

And most importantly, he was willing to mentor me. I’ve started with three different chair designs that can be used alone or mixed and matched at a dining table.

And I’ve got 32 different fabric and chair combinations.

 

 What’s the biggest challenge of your work?

The business side is the biggest challenge.

I so wish I had gotten an MBA when I was in school. Everything might not directly apply to what I’m doing, but I think I would feel more confident. I’m learning so much about this as I go.

chair whimsy austin texas

From where do you get your inspiration?

I love visuals, so Instagram, Pinterest, and magazines are my favorite pastime…when I have the time.

I’m drawn to certain styles, but I can appreciate most styles and have been able to design various looks for my past clients, even though it’s not necessarily what I would have in my own home.

chair whimsy austin texas

I love color most of all. When I’m mixing and matching fabrics to use together, I need them in front of me so I can “play” with them.

Playing with these fabrics is how I get the best looks.

design inspiration chair whimsy

 

Describe your working process with a client.

When I have a client place an order for something custom, I have them send me pictures of their space.

I ask all kinds of questions like what colors do they want to incorporate, (what colors do they hate), and what style of print are they attracted to—like florals, geometric designs, ethnic prints, etc.

Then, I go fabric hunting at local to the trade vendors to show them the various options of what I think would look great on their chairs.

I send tons of pictures, they respond, and we narrow it down. I decided early on that I didn’t want to be an upholsterer. I’m a designer.

Upholstering is the means to the end for me.

velvet chair

What are your tips for someone who wants to start a business?

The best way is to start a side hustle.

That way, you don’t invest too much time, energy, and money until you know what people want from you.

It’s great to test the waters and see what works and what doesn’t work without investing too much.

When I first started on Etsy, I designed my chairs and put them on ready to purchase.

While that can be good, most people have certain colors that they want.

I learned quickly that the best thing to do was to offer the chair frames for purchase and then allow my clients to have them customized for their space.

That’s when I really started selling chairs.

colorful chaors chair whimsy

With my new line of chairs, I do have a variety of options for clients to choose from based on my sales over the past six years.

My collections include farmhouse vintage, classic romantic, and boho chic.

Within these collections, there is a selection of different types of fabrics so that I can reach most people.

It’s all about what people want to buy, so you have to pay attention and be open to what others want from you.

 

What is your philosophy of colors and decorating with colors?

I love colors and couldn’t imagine a room that I would love without at least a little color.

My personal belief is that people should surround themselves with things that they love.

If you love turquoise, make sure you put it in your room. Research shows us that our surroundings have a huge effect on our happiness.

eclectic chairsSurrounding yourself with beautiful things and colors that we love, makes us feel more alive and brings joy.

Recently, I’ve had clients order colorful chairs from me because they realize their space needs something, it’s too bland and neutral.

Honestly, these neutral spaces are the perfect canvas to have color thrown in there.

I think we need to stop worrying about what is right and wrong when it’s our own space…and just go with what we love.

 

I think we need to stop worrying about what is right and wrong when it’s our own space…and just go with what we love.

 

chair whimsy

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