EAVESDROPPER INTERVIEW: Greenhouse Design Studio

Lately, I (Jennifer) have been rather fascinated by the idea of starting a business. Maybe it’s just a phase or growing pains, like when I wanted to be a photographer or a food critic. But nowadays, every time I walk into some of Austin’s most beautifully curated shops (like, Spartan or Take Heart), I get all proud and giddy over the women who own them and the fabulous jobs they’ve done building a business around a product or mission they love.

So when Tolly told me about San Francisco-based Greenhouse Design Studio, I kind of flipped. Owners Laurie and J.P. Furber source all of their eco-friendly, vintage pieces (mostly housewares and home décor goodies) from collectors around the world, as far as Eastern Europe.

I stopped by the Country Living Fair last weekend to visit Laurie and J.P. on the Austin leg of their southwest pop-up shop roadshow. Aside from the classic and sustainable design of their products, my absolute favorite part about the Greenhouse collection is the thought and precision that goes into selecting every item.

When I discovered that Laurie was a former VP for Pottery Barn, it all made sense. She has a true vision for Greenhouse and the kind of lifestyle they’re trying to promote – something that’s simply beautiful, tasteful, and wholesome for the planet.

Laurie and J.P. will be at Hotel San Jose with their traveling Airstream today (Monday, April 30) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for their last pop-up shop of the tour.

But the fun’s just about to start over here on Austin Eavesdropper. I asked Laurie to pop in for an Eavesdropper Interview to dish about the inspiration behind Greenhouse and her curation process.

Let’s do this, Laurie!

1. I want to know more about you! What were you doing before Greenhouse Design Studio?

I always thought I would be a curator in a museum, but took a detour into merchandising right out of college and never turned back. Before Greenhouse, I worked for Pottery Barn. You may have heard of it. I had one of the best jobs: running the mail order division, and I learned a lot there about product, marketing and, most of all, service. All that has come in mighty handy as I launched and nurtured Greenhouse.

2. Describe your journey to becoming a small business owner. How did you decide to “take the plunge?”

My journey to becoming a small business owner was more about my family than it was about my career. My oldest children are teenagers and after years of travel and spending twelve hours a day outside my home, I wanted to change my life to a simpler one that would allow me to spend more time with my family. When my daughter was finishing her sophomore year in high school, I retired from my corporate job so I could spend her last two high school years with her, and be home for my son when he started high school. I haven’t looked back. I love running my own business, I love having my husband as my business partner, and I love dropping my kids off at school every morning and picking them up every afternoon. It’s a dream.

3. You curate beautiful, sustainable, and vintage pieces for your business. What’s your favorite part about the curation process?

Every piece in the collection is something I would have in my own home, so shopping for the collection is like shopping for myself. It’s all fun, but I have to say my favorite part is shopping flea markets around the world. Meeting collectors and hearing stories about the history of the things we buy is so great. I love to pass those stories on to our customers to keep them alive.

4. In addition to promoting a sustainable, beautiful, and comfortable lifestyle through Greenhouse Design Studio, what else inspires you?

What doesn’t? Just looking around my own city of San Francisco is a great opportunity to hone my editor’s eye. Staying in a great hotel will inspire something, eating in a new restaurant will inspire something, even eating in someone’s home. When we were in Lyon, we stayed in a private home and our hostess used vintage jam jars for everything from condiments on her table, to yogurt in the morning, to flowers, to her homemade jam. They were so chic when used in the right way, so of course we started collecting them and now they’re part of the Greenhouse line.

5. What advice would you share with a creative, aspiring business owner?

Find something you love and make a career out of it. Then work will feel like play. I wake up in the morning and can’t wait to start working again.

6. What’s your secret to living a sustainable and beautiful life?

Beautiful is easy: I have a wonderful husband, three beautiful children, and I live in a lovely town that’s like being on vacation every day of my life. Sustainable takes a little more work. The secret is this: remember that when you throw something away, it doesn’t go away, it just goes somewhere else. Try to make each decision about what to use, what to buy, or what to throw away better than the last decision you made.

It was such a pleasure getting to know Laurie! Along with the beautiful online store, Greenhouse runs a very active Green Community and Healthy Home blog. Check it out to keep up with Greenhouse Design Studio and for some great green living resources.

Thanks for visiting Austin, J.P and Laurie! Safe travels back to San Fran!

IMAGES /// courtesy of Laurie Furber and Greenhouse Design Studio