Designed to Shine
St. Louis interior designer Jessie Miller emerges as one of the hottest new designers on “HGTV” Star.”
Jessie Miller knows first-hand that following your dreams isn’t always an easy path. She was forced to redirect her career after getting laid off from her job in real estate, and took the opportunity to pursue her passion for interior design. After hitting a rough patch that left her feeling like she had nothing to lose, Miller decided to shoot for the stars. She auditioned for and landed a spot on the latest season of “HGTV Star” to compete against other designers for the chance to have her own show. See her in action on Sundays at 7pm on HGTV.
ALIVE: What inspired you to become a designer?
JESSIE MILLER: I have been inspired to design my whole life. My earliest memory of designing is scribbling red marker on the back of a faded red-velvet wingback chair in my parents’ bay window. I was trying to fix the faded color, but of course I got in trouble, and the chair was hauled down to the end of the driveway as trash. One of our neighbors saved it and had it reupholstered, and when I saw the revamped wingback in their home, it all made sense. After college, I found myself working in the residential business and quickly became successful selling condominium and loft homes in rehabbed historic high-rises. It was an exciting time in development—properties were moving quickly and people were investing in urban living again. I learned hands-on about building and designing homes.
ALIVE: What are some of the hurdles you’ve overcome along your journey from real estate to interior design?
JM: After the real estate market crashed in 2008, I struggled to find a job making the kind of money I had been—or even a job I enjoyed. I was stuck in an uncreative office doing a job I hated, working with people I had nothing in common with. I decided that if I was going to be broke, it might as well be doing something I love! Shortly after that, I had a freak accident that was incredibly painful and expensive. I could barely walk, let alone work, and medical bills drained my bank account quicker than I could keep up. It took a long time and a lot of energy to get back on my feet physically and financially.
ALIVE: As one of the contestants on the newest season of “HGTV Star,” what are some of the challenges of designing for TV?
JM: We have unbelievably short turnaround times, we have to pick our paint colors before we start designing and shopping, we have no internet access, no catalogs, no text messaging or phone call capabilities, no directions to stores and no idea what will be in stock when we get there. It’s all just a shot in the dark. It’s sheer luck if your items show up by the time the challenge is over—you often just have to work with what you have.
ALIVE: How would you describe the Jessie Miller design aesthetic?
JM: Sexy, fearless and unexpected. I love the tension of [mixing] mid-century modern with traditional. I use lots of black and white, brass finishes, classic furniture shapes, abstract artwork, vintage accessories and leopard-print fabric. I like to design rooms that make people want to do fun things. My biggest influences are fashion and music. Fashion for colors, pattern and materials, and music for the way it makes me feel. While working, I listen to anything from Miike Snow to Jay-Z—different genres of music make me visualize different things.
ALIVE: What advice do you have for others working to become interior designers?
JM: You truly have to be passionate about [design] to ever be successful. When I started over in my late twenties, everyone doubted me. I have had more criticism and public humiliation than anyone should ever have to endure, but I stayed resilient. Even now, as a finalist on “HGTV Star”—a huge accomplishment—clients question my decisions every day. It’s just a part of the business, so get thick skin immediately. Stay true to yourself, have consistency in your brand and no matter what, always let your haters be your motivators.
Designed to Shine
Photo credit: Courtesy of HGTV