From the age of 8, when she was given the freedom to design her own childhood bedroom, Jessica Bernard knew she wanted to be a designer. Now, at 33, Bernard is one of the city’s most in-demand designers, blending timeless style with contemporary attitude. AY About You caught up to the whiz kid and new mom to learn more about her company, J. Ruby Interiors, her passion for living spaces and what the future holds.

 

AY About You: What is your background?

 

Jessica Bernard: I’m from Little Rock, and I went to Little Rock Central for high school.

 

I went to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville first and studied business, and that didn’t go as well as I thought just because microeconomics and macroeconomics were not my thing,  so I said, ‘Let me tap into my creative side,’ because I’ve always loved to do art.

 

Georgia State University had an art program, along with an interior design program, which got my attention and made school a lot easier for me. I got my degree in interior design, which was part of the fine arts program.

jessica bernard

AY: Where did your interest in interior design come from?

 

Bernard: I got my interest in doing design because my mom was also an interior designer. That gravitated me towards it a little bit, but I kind of still wanted to do my own thing. I first got interested in design, I would say, since I was 8 years old because I got to design my own bedroom.

 

AY: Is your mother still doing interior design?

 

Bernard: She kind of helps out every now and again when I need some help, but other than that, not really. She does sculpture now.

AY: How long have you had your own design firm, and when did it open?

 

Bernard: I did an internship with WER Architects in Little Rock. It’s an architecture firm with an interiors program. Then I worked at a furniture store called Core ID in Little Rock. They specialized in modern European furniture. I had a couple clients while I worked there. After gaining experience in commercial and residential, I just decided to go off on a limb and start the entrepreneurial process and start my own business. I opened J. Ruby Interiors in 2018.

 

AY: How would you describe your design aesthetic, or, put a better way, what design approach do you enjoy working in most?

 

Bernard: I would describe it as contemporary, approachable luxury design. I do like traditional, as well. I can incorporate some traditional pieces, but I would say mostly contemporary — still luxury, but very comfortable, not too stuffy, like you don’t want to touch something. That’s what I like to call approachable.

jessica bernard

Incorporating bold colors can be a low-cost way to have a major impact on a home.

AY: What types of projects have you completed thus far — all residential, residential and commercial, one-room projects or whole-house jobs?

 

Bernard: Most people reach out to me about their homes, but I do commercial, as well. I do have that background, but the majority of my work has been residential so far.

 

As far as projects, a lot of times people call me up for just one room, but that sometimes evolves into something else, especially when we do our consultation. We might be discussing one room, and then it’ll be like, ‘Oh, can you look at this room as well?’ I’ve done an entire house, a couple houses altogether.

Jessica Bernard

Time spent at home during 2020 created a huge demand for fresh, relaxing home spaces.

AY: What is your thought process in assessing a job? 

 

Bernard: I like to think about how the space is functioning for the client and whether that function is meeting their family’s needs or the business’ needs. I guess this is kind of cliche, but I like to use the principles of art and design as form follows function. Are the clients using the space that they want? Is it intended for the use that they really want to use it? Is it functioning for their lifestyle, whether they have children or they’re a bachelor or elderly? I look at that first.

 

From there, we go into budget. What do you want to invest in this space? That really helps me understand what actually can be done in order to achieve the overall goal. A lot of times, it’s an educational process. I like to break down my design process.

 

AY: What are ways clients can make that budget go further?

 

Bernard: That depends on the room you’re dealing with, but all in all, if you really want to make a big impact, a lot of times investing in furniture does the job, where other times it could be just paint or surfaces like the floors.

 

I think when it comes to budget, the biggest question for the client is how long do they plan on staying in this space? Are they going to be there for five years, 10 years, or do they plan on selling soon? If it’s a space they don’t plan on occupying for a long time, I try to push them to something that would be easier on the market, but if it’s going to be their permanent home for five to 10 years or more, then I really try to incorporate what the client wants as far as colors go while still keeping it classic. You can incorporate those bold colors but in a more classic way, whether it’s tile or pillows or flooring. I’m not afraid to use color.

AY: Did you find that 2020 created a pent-up demand? Are you still getting work from that pent-up demand even now?

 

Bernard: Yeah, I believe people realized how much time they spent at home and a lot of the times they wanted to create spaces within their home that worked for them, whether it was a work space or a family space. A lot of people had the mindset of let’s make this place a place we would go to if we were to spend time out of town or on vacation.

 

In a commercial space, the focus is how can we make this space feel more like a home space where people don’t mind coming in to work and they can feel comfortable. More like a lounge-type area where it doesn’t feel like a trip to the office. Maybe it’s just an open-office concept with laptops and lounge areas versus a traditional office setup. I think that grew out of people working at home a lot which blended the commercial and the residential.

 

AY: What are some trends you are seeing today that define what your clients are looking for?

 

Bernard: A lot of people are looking at the — I would call them multipurpose rooms that service multiple functions, whether it’s a game room, office, entertainment space, homework room for kids, playroom. A lot of times, people have these bonus rooms and really don’t know what to do with them, you know? I feel like a lot of people are trying to step outside the box and create these multipurpose rooms that fit their lifestyle well.

 

AY: What are a couple of recent examples of this that you are really proud of?

 

Bernard: On one recent project, they called it their media room. She has guests come and stay, so we created a Murphy bed within the wall that functions as a cabinet and it looks like a cabinet, until it’s time to go to bed. The client uses it basically as a sitting area where they watch movies and entertain their guests, but at night, it functions as a bedroom.

 

Another one would be a bachelor who had a couple of spaces that he wanted to get better use out of. He didn’t have a need for a dining room so he wanted to create a game room, and we turned the dining room into a pool hall.

 

AY: Have you found that your age to be an advantage, or is it a disadvantage?

 

Bernard: I say that it has its advantages and disadvantages. Age does bring a lot of fresh and new ideas, but at the same time, I do get questioned because some of my clients are older than me, and they’re kind of curious to know about the experience that I have. That makes age a factor sometimes, but not really. I think my passion and drive basically speak for themselves in my work.

 

AY: Speaking of advantages or disadvantages, what is your opinion of clients on social media like Pinterest? Is that a good thing?

 

Bernard: I truly encourage it because I really like to know what they’re thinking as far as design and direction. I use it as a guide, really, to see what they’re thinking, and I play off of those ideas. A lot of times, they will show me those images, and we’ll come up with something totally different. Maybe it’s just one thing out of those images that they show me, like, ‘Well, I really like this one thing and not the entire picture.’

 

To me, the overall goal is client satisfaction. I like to use those resources and kind of make them our own.

 

AY: What sets you apart in this business? What would you like to be known for?

 

Bernard: I would say something that sets me apart is I’m an artist at heart. I look at each one of my clients like a new painting or a new subject, and I’m very eager to ‘paint.’ I just look at it like it’s a new piece of art, and I treat each individual client separately and differently. It’s not just a cookie-cutter type of design.

 

I also like to really explore and get to know the client. Most of my clients, we’re friends afterwards. I like meeting new people, and it really gets me out of my box because I am somewhat of an introvert, but once you get to know me, I’m a lot of fun.

 

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