After decades of gaining experience under the best designers in the community, designer Ari Crum started her own business, Evergreen Designs. Now sprinkling a touch of beauty all around Central Arkansas, she sat down with AY About You to share her inspiring story about gaining a second chance at doing what she truly loves.

 

AY: What is your design background?

 

Ari Crum: I was in the corporate world until I had my first daughter, Libby, who just celebrated her 17th birthday. I retired out of that when I had her. My husband was like, “Hey, why don’t you get out of the house and go do something,” and so I took a continuing education class for floral design at Floral Express.

 

It was kind of like a Monica and Chandler [of TV’s “Friends”], you-should-be-a-chef kind of thing, you know? And so, with my cousin, we started a company called Little Black Dress, where we did all the planning for more than 100 weddings over the course of the next six years before I had my second child.

 

AY: What happened after Little Black Dress ended?

 

AC: I worked as the head wedding and event designer for Tipton & Hurst for about six years. I learned so much, and that’s where I fell in love with Christmas. I’ve always done it in my house. I mean, I go over the top for all parties, but I really just fell in love with Christmas and how to decorate for it.

 

AY: Is that when you started your own design studio?

 

AC: Because of the non-compete stuff, I really couldn’t open a company,  but I still designed friends’ houses on the side, and I planned parties when friends called. I planned some weddings on the side, and then two years ago, I met Paul Guess. I felt like my world changed when I met him.

 

AY: How did your world change?

 

AC: Last year, he invited me to decorate and design more than 30 trees at his warehouse before the VIP Guess and Company Christmas at the Warehouse event, so that was awesome. I decorated more than 40 houses and two or three businesses where we designed the front store windows. We also shot four or five different videos with more than 100 photos, and it was wonderful to collaborate with him.

 

AY: What type of services are you providing, and what is your main focus?

 

AC: Our main focus is really seasonal, but all holidays, not just Christmas. If someone called and needed us to do a tablescape for Easter, we would come in and do that.

 

AY: What would you say inspires you, and do you have any books or magazines that you frequently keep on file?

 

AC: I grew up with Real Simple, and I feel like my whole life revolved around all of those magazines. I learned so many wonderful tricks of the trade.

 

What inspires me is, obviously, my children. But I also love walking into a meeting with a client and getting their vision, and then making them leave while we’re decorating their house, and they come in, and you get that look on their face of, “Oh my gosh, this was my stuff that you just turned into this?” It’s seeing our vision from their vision turn into reality.

 

AY: What’s your style?

 

AC: I would say classic, like wisteria in the garden. I try to tell my friends and brides when you go back and look at your photo in 20 years, do you really want curly roses or would you rather just have a pop of blue somewhere else? Do things that are classic and timeless versus what is in style right now. We can add that to the look, but just make sure the bulk of it is all classic.

 

AY: What type of questions do you ask your clients before you begin to work with them?

 

AC: We love to meet with clients before we plan Christmas, especially if they’re just a little tired of what they have, and they’re like, “I love these ornaments, but can we add in a different color?”

 

So, the first thing I ask is “What’s most important to you?” There are so many different styles when it comes to Christmas and weddings so when you walk in your home, do you want it to feel like you’re walking into a certain place or do you want it to be more family-focused?

 

AY: What else do you love about your process?

 

AC: We love shopping with our clients and them telling us what to buy. They give us a budget, and we go into shops and find pieces.

 

AY: That sounds like a fun part of your job, going shopping with “the list.”

 

AC: Yes, we call it our concierge service. Once we had 15 clients we needed to shop for, and our brains would go 900 miles an hour. So, we would walk in, shop for one and then check out, but go back in to shop for the other one. It was a lot of fun.

 

AY: Why do you think it’s so rewarding?

 

AC: [The clients] don’t even know what we’re buying, so when we show up and we’ve got what they said and got their vision, it’s that thing that the kids are saying right now, “She understood the assignment.” And that’s what I wanna hear.

 

All in all, I’ll say the No. 1 question we always ask is: How do you want someone to talk about your wedding or event the next day? What do you want them to feel? Do you want it to be elegant, romantic, enchanting or boho vibes? We want to know what you want your friends to be tagging and saying about your event the next day. That’s a very important question with our brides.

 

Ari Crum

Ari and business partner Clarissa McWherter

 

AY: How do you stay organized?

 

AC: If it weren’t for Google Docs, we’d probably be lost. My business partner, Clarissa McWherter, has a background in engineering so she has that brain. Not only is she a wonderful designer, but she’s the one that really keeps us on track and focused.

 

Another organizational tool that our clients really like is when we take down their Christmas decorations and when we’re storing it, we’re packing it properly. It’s not just thrown in there. We’re also saving stuff we didn’t use because after two seasons of not using it, I save it to donate. If you’re done with glitter, you’re done with glitter because in five years that may not be in style. So, we really push them to donate it because I know that a lot of those places would love new stuff.

 

AY: What would you say your favorite thing is about spring, and how does the season inspire some of the things that you’re working on?

 

AC: Oh gosh, I could be in tears right now. I mean I was driving on the street today, and I love that I can see green. It makes me so happy! And we’ve literally been talking about colors for three weeks. Yes, we’ve missed color.

 

I love that right now, you don’t have to have a $700 floral arrangement on your table. You can go out and actually cut some fresh floral from anywhere. All of this stuff is just growing like crazy in everybody’s backyard and, I mean, just use what’s around you to make these tablescapes. That’s kind of my favorite thing about spring; I can just go in my backyard and create something amazing.

 

AY: When you’re designing, do you think that the floral aspect is the most important?

 

AC: For a wedding, I would say my most important thing is you have to have a great linen, not just your classic white and black, but some texture and color. That’s what I feel sets a ballroom apart from anything else, is when you walk in and you see those linens that are just gorgeous and colorful. Then, you have a great simple, beautiful all-white arrangement on top. That’s a win-win for everybody.

 

AY: What are some techniques you would use to make an outdoor space come to life?

 

AC: I love all the natural things going on. I love a good set of cafe lights to make it look more like a room. I love to throw a rug on the grass and make it more like it’s living quarters.

 

AY: What is a project in particular that you’re most proud of?

 

AC: We knocked it out of the park with the Cattle Baron’s Ball for the American Cancer Society. I was really proud of our team.

 

AY: If you weren’t an interior designer, what would you be doing?

 

AC: Well, sadly, my husband passed away when my daughter was 2, and one of the things that I promised him was I would be happy. I quit the corporate world, and I got to do this because I want to do this. I honestly don’t think I would be doing anything else unless I could go and decorate homes in Italy, because that’s my favorite place in the whole entire world.

 

I really, really am so happy with what I do, and I love our little company, and I’m just so excited about the future of it. I think we’re on the right path to doing good things. It was a complete career change at 30, and that’s what I think is really cool. It’s almost like a second chance.   

 

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