We were lucky to catch up with Mary Anne Smiley recently and have shared our conversation below.
Mary Anne, thanks for joining us, excited to have you contributing your stories and insights. Day to day the world can seem like a tough place, but there’s also so much kindness in the world and we think talking about that kindness helps spread it and make the world a nicer, kinder place. Can you share a story of a time when someone did something really kind for you?
In 2000 I lived in East Texas and had a thriving design business there. As it turns out, the area is a mecca for wealthy Dallasites who want get-a-way ranches and fishing and hunting homes. So, though my 5000 sq ft design studio and retail shop was in Athens, Texas, my clientele included the elite of Dallas, including George and Laura Bush even before he became governor. Once I worked with these Dallas clients on their get-a-way homes I often was invited to help them with their homes in Dallas. It was while I was at the home of one such client, newly married, who had just moved into the wonderful 2 story Tudor mansion in Highland Park that we were in the process of restoring that I recieved a very disturbing call.
I was at the time going through a very tough divorce. And in 2000, I had not yet started using my cell phone when I was in Dallas. So I received the call on my client’s land line from my divorce attorney in Athens, telling me I would not be able to come back to Athens. I of course thought he meant that day. In fact, he said, it will not be safe for you to come back at all, as my husband was at his office that morning with a gun threatening him and his secretary if they did not tell where I was. I was shocked.
My client could see the fear in my face, and wanted to know what on earth had happened. When I told her what the attorney had said, I said oh my gosh, I don’t know what to do. I guess I am homeless!
Without even thinking about it, she immediately said, Mary Anne, no worries! You know I just moved out of that 2500 sq. ft. condo that is just sitting there. It has a sofa, a refrigerator, a bed, and a washer and dryer I left there. Go stay there. No one will know you are there or how to find you!
I was so amazed at this, even though my faith is very strong, and I knew this was God’s provision for me.
I did move in, and eventually actually bought the condo from her and lived there for 5 years! During that time is was a sweet, safe place to get through all the distress of the divorce, and sell my design studio in Athens, and the commercial drapery workroom I owned, and move my business headquarters to Dallas. Sadly, my x husband died during this time.
The sweeter end to this story is that 2 years ago, now 20 years later, that same client contacted me after raising 2 sons, she was ready to redo and update her home in highland park. We have now updated her home and are doing renovation on her lake home, and collaborating on building 2 spec. houses on Lake Athens together. It is amazing how God provides and uses the hard circumstances in our life for our good! I am still so thankful for the generous, kind client’s provision for me in a very dangerous and stressful time in my life.
Mary Anne, before we move on to more of these sorts of questions, can you take some time to bring our readers up to speed on you and what you do?
Since graduating with a degree in interior design in 1969, I have been in this business for 52 years. I was drawn as a child to all things colorful, graphic, tactile, and structural. I fell in love with architectural drawings in grade school since my brother would bring construction drawings home from work, and dreamed of becoming an architect. I was not allowed to enroll in architecture at my college (in 1965) because I was a woman, but have gotten to enjoy interior space planning and architectural drafting through my interior design projects, and now through our construction company projects none the less! Taking 144 hours of AutoCAD 20 years ago changed my life! Part of the development of every project I do is presenting the proposed plan to the client in AutoCAD drawings that include furniture, fabrics, and 3D views. So that desire to design in the built environment has more than been fulfilled. We offer full service interior design services, from space planning to furniture selection, finding fabrics, art, and accessories, to installation. Before we even consider furniture, we always look at the “shell” of the house. Because until the space is done right, nothing will feel right no matter what you put in there. That means looking at wall placement and finish, considering lighting layout, and doing a furniture plan to ensure the scale and proportion, as well as the placement will work best for the space. I think the biggest thing that sets us apart is the fact that we now offer our design build services, which offers out clients a seamless transition from beginning to end, to ensure that the desired design is carried out fully and correctly. We also love to solve problems with creative solutions, which often include custom furniture pieces that I design and have built. Above all, our goal is to make this whole process enjoyable and successful for our clients.
Has your business ever had a near-death moment? Would you mind sharing the story?
In the early 2000s, my business was growing leaps and bounds to the point that we had to turn many jobs down. My staff and office space was expanding like crazy to meet these demands. Then, one early morning in 2008, a client for whom we were preparing to sign contracts to start a large project that day called me and told me he was going to have to hold off for a while. He was the first of all projects cancelling right and left! Once the projects we had in progress were complete, I had NO income, lots of debt, and huge overhead. By the grace of God I was able to get out of my lease, but sadly had to lay off all employees and move the office to my home. For a whole year the phone did not ring, and no business came in. We sold a car, jewlery, furniture, anything anyone would buy just to keep the housepayment current. At our last straw, there was a 13K sales tax bill overdue with the state threatening to take our home. 2 friends knowing we were having a hard time surviving came by to talk to us and said God had put on their heart to share the bonus money they had been saving. One was 8K the other was for 5K. Add it up! God was providing for us in amazing and unexpected ways. I finally had to sell my home, but at a time when no real estate was selling, and sold it for what I was asking, which at that time was enough to pay off all remaining debt! From that day forward we put our trust in God to provide for us, and saw amazing provisions one after another from then until now. With in a few months, a client representing one of the parties in the gulf of Mexico oil spill case, called and said he wanted to take me to Vail to redo their Vail home, and then start on redoing their home in Dallas, and then start building 20K sq ft ranch house! from 2009 forward, in the very worst of the recession, I was busier than I had ever been, and put in place a foundation for the business I have today, that operates totally debt free. Faith and trust in God is the key for me.
Can you open up about how you funded your business?
I started out as many do, as a sole proprietor, providing and service and getting paid for it, and that was my money to work with. Essentially that is still the way I work, as I do not take on debt. Whatever I will be out on a project is billed in advance so that I have the capital I need for that project. I now have grown into 2 LLC companies with all the structure in place, and would take on capital debt if necessary, but to date still am able to operate on the revenue from projects, and able to set a portion aside for special need.
- Website: maryannesmiley.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maryannesmileyinteriors/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaryAnneSmileyInteriors/
- Linkedin: Mary Anne Smiley Interiors
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/MASmiley11
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG0DqKN1YyZSy9aikdQk5wg