Pictured above: Members of Shine Interior Design Studio  in Lonoke include Stacey Breezeel, left, Natalie Biles, Heather Kramer and Ashley Fiant.

In 2020, Shine Interior Design Studio in Lonoke was a 1-year-old firm just starting to gain momentum among residential and commercial clients when COVID-19 turned the planet upside down. The company’s phones stopped ringing, giving founding partners Stacey Breezeel and Natalie Biles serious pause about the future of the company.

 

Two weeks later, clients came back in droves, and the interior design firm was off and running harder than ever. Today, the partners can list clients in multiple states and projects ranging from the acclaimed Grumpy Rabbit restaurant in Lonoke to sleek commercial design and tasteful homes all over Arkansas. The firm, an AY About You Best of 2024 finalist, is also a leader in creating healthy, sustainable living spaces, having recently been awarded for its work in that area.

Shine Studio provided interior design services for the Grumpy Rabbit in Lonoke, and the studio also offers services for a variety of residential projects.

AY About You caught up with interior design’s dynamic duo to talk about the growth of the firm, the drive to maintain balance and the goal for spreading Southern charm and function worldwide.

 

AY About You: Talk about your background and training in design.

 

Natalie Biles: I live in Lonoke, my husband and I and our three boys. I graduated in 2004 from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville with my degree in interior design, worked in the residential field after getting out of school, where I gained extensive experience in high-end residential interiors, new-
construction renovations, those sorts of projects, before I took time off with kiddos.

 

Stacey Breezeel: I grew up in Beaumont, Texas. I went to Harding University [in Searcy] and graduated in 2009. I started practicing at an architectural firm and was able to gain my national licensure while I was there. I’ve been in the commercial industry ever since I graduated. I now live in Little Rock with my husband and our daughter.

AY: How did you two find each other and form a partnership?

 

Breezeel: I was right out of school and started working at an architecture firm where her husband worked. He kept saying, ‘You’ve got to meet my wife. She’s amazing. You guys would hit it off.’ We became friends and just stayed in touch, even through different moves and different life stages, just encouraging each other while figuring out how to be an interior designer and a business professional. We always joked about the idea of collaborating and having a business together but didn’t really have an opportunity until 2019, when things just started lining up to where kids were in school and the timing was right.

 

We also wanted to set something up that supported women. We’d seen a lot of women professionals leave the industry because it was very difficult to be a woman or a mom in the workplace in the design field. We wanted to establish something that was sustainable, something that was encouraging and supportive and a little bit different than what we were seeing in our area.

 

AY: So much of success in design projects relies on chemistry. Are you two a good match because of how different you are or how similar you are?

 

Biles: Both of us have different strengths and different personalities and different areas that we’re very strong in. Stacey’s very detail-oriented and works very well on project management and project coordination and can really shine in that part of a project. I love the big picture and the starting out and the finishing up. That has worked really well for us, and it gives us a balance to pull the other one to maybe zoom out more or zoom in more. That really helps us be able to offer a wide range of things, and I think our staff all together, everybody has very different experiences, and we’re able to bring those different experiences to our clients.

 

Breezeel: I think with every project, we start with a similar process, and it’s a foundation that we learned through formal education and through work experience. We want to convey to clients, here’s your time to dream, here is your time to set the stage for how you want the space to reflect your personality. We start that conversation, and every single project is based on the individual or the company. We want it to represent them and their goals and their passions.

 

AY: What sets the firm apart?

 

Breezeel: We are very efficient with our time. We hit the ground running on every project that we work with. We’re very collaborative as a company and with other consultants that we work with. We feel like there is a good balance of using that precious time at work, but also, the time outside of work is really precious with our families. We’re wanting to strike a balance, and I think we’ve been successful at that. We’ve been in business for five years now, and we’ve brought on staff. It’s been a process, and I feel like we are achieving that goal.

 

Biles: We complement each other very well. Stylistically, I tend to lean a little bit more traditional, a little bit more Southern, but I like to blend it with clean lines. Stacey brings a contemporary look and style to things, but you see common threads through our designs that do not necessarily repeat the exact same style. Our overall passions for friendliness and approachability are exactly the same. People say all the time, and it’s one of the biggest compliments to us, that they’re able to talk to us, we’re approachable, and we make the process less scary and less intimidating.

 

AY: How wide is your market area?

 

Breezeel: I would say our main focus area is across the state of Arkansas; however, we’ve built relationships with different professionals in Mississippi, Texas, and we’ve done projects in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Oklahoma. We have the capability to work on projects all across the United States, and we have.

shine studio

AY: Did the COVID-19 pandemic help prepare you for working with out-of-state clients? In what way?

 

Biles: In some ways, we were already practicing. We were already setting up Zoom calls. We were working with a digital platform where we share our design boards and messaging with our clients. When COVID hit, it got very quiet for us for about two weeks, and then it went crazy, and we had so many projects, so much work. People were sitting at home, going, ‘I need paint. I want to remodel my entire kitchen.’ They weren’t spending money on vacations. They decided to spend money on their homes and businesses, so it really was a huge boost and increased our business, but I think the tools that we already had in place to be remote and flexible really helped us make it through it.

 

AY: A lot of designers talk about idea books and Pinterest as a good tool for setting a starting point. How do you take those ideas and turn them into something original?

 

Breezeel: A lot of times, we can see commonality. I think starting with Pinterest and inspiration is absolutely a great way to start with a client. It kind of narrows the focus. We then take the commonalities found in those inspiration photos, whether we keep seeing a certain light fixture that shows up in a photo or a certain tile or a certain style that keeps popping up, and we can pick up on those commonalities and integrate them into a space.

 

A lot of times, your space defines what is actually possible, what you can do. Sometimes your budget defines what you can do. Maybe you can’t take down the wall you want to take down. Maybe an opening needs to be created instead, or maybe you can’t fill this wall with tile because it’s mainly windows. We also push our clients. Even though we start with an inspiration, we like to bring something new that they have not seen before. There’s a whole world to choose from, and we like to see something new.

 

AY: What is something that a prospective client can do before engaging a designer to better imagine the form and function of a space?

 

Biles: It’s always very helpful when someone has taken good notes and just writes down, even if it’s very free-flowing stream-of-consciousness, what they would like out of the space, what they would like to do, how their family lives, how their business works, what they want to convey. When people have confidence in that, that goes a long way in defining their project.

 

Some people aren’t ready to do a project yet. Some people need to take stock of what they want to convey, what their end purpose and their end goal is. “I want to entertain 12 people.” “I want to be able to host my family’s Easter dinner.” “I want my business to be able to serve better or have a more fun environment.” Having their goals helps us so much. We want to be able to cheer our clients on to reach those goals.

 

Shine Interior Design Studio

115 N. Center St., Lonoke

501-777-5373

shineidstudio.com

 

READ ALSO: Fork Smith: Exceptional Eateries Can Be Found Across the Land