Behind the Scenes with Emily McCarthy
June 2, 2015
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Emily McCarthy is my new hero. She has impossible amounts of style and the business sense to match which is a proven powerful combo. One look at her space and you'll see that this lifestyle expert isn't afraid of color; no not in the least. She pairs punches of it with leopard and gold, the loveliest stationery and vintage inspired barware. We caught up with Emily to see just what makes this monogram lover tick. It's a world filled with pretty and fueled by creativity. Click here for even more captured by Kelli Boyd.

SMP: Tell us a little about your business.

I often have a hard time describing my business because it encompasses many things but I think overall, it's all about branding. Whether it's your business, event, party, home, etc - there is a way to brand everything! I love helping clients create their own signature look and carrying it through all aspects of their project. I have recently moved into a lifestyle brand by licensing furniture designs with Taylor Burke Home and fabrics/wallpapers with Cotton + Quill.

SMP: What did you think your dream job was before your dream job found you?

I actually wanted to be in Fashion Merchandising - I started working at the Atlanta Mart at age 18 and loved diving into the fashion industry.

SMP: What's your favorite quote that describes your creative process?

I tend to work better under pressure - deadlines drive me and bring out the best creative juices! Also, I do a lot of thinking while driving or falling asleep at night. I think those are the times I am the most still.

SMP: Some words you live by?

"What's for you won't pass you by" - Lillian Breed (My Grandmother) - I also have this print available in my Shoppe!

SMP: Any guilty pleasures?

Cookie-dough Ice Cream, Reality TV

SMP: What was the tipping point in your business that made you feel like it was going to thrive?

When I felt like my full-time job was causing me to close doors in my business - I finally made the plunge to go full-time with my business and never looked back. It was the best decision I've ever made. I came to a crossroads where my creativity was being inhibited by working for another company. I knew what I was capable of on my own without someone dictating my designs.

SMP: What is your favorite item in your home?

My baby grand that belonged to my Nana Lillian.

SMP: What's your best tip for balancing work and personal life?

Time restrictions. I firmly believe in shutting off work at nights and on the weekends. I have set hours that I don't budge for - once I'm home, I'm not responding to emails or stressing about work - I'm focused on my family and children. I've learned that everything can wait until the next day and nothing is life or death in my industry.

SMP: If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?

My message is to be original rather than copying what everyone else is doing in the industry--strive to think of your own spin on things. Individuality will get you a lot further in your career and help differentiate you from the crowd. I love the book "The Purple Cow" by Seth Godin - it explains this perfectly.

SMP: Your most prized possession?

My wedding ring

SMP: Your top 5 design tips?

White Paint brightens up any room! Don't be afraid of white!
At the same time, don't be afraid of color!
Slipcovers are my favorite way to salvage vintage and family pieces
Use outdoor fabrics inside for family homes - easily cleanable!
Take the inside outside! Don't be afraid to use furniture, throw pillows, and accessories on your porch or outdoor living spaces!

SMP: Your secret to success?

Balancing Work and Playtime - finding time for me!

SMP: What design trend do you think will stand the test of time?


SMP: One thing every style savvy homeowner should have?

A great bar or spot for entertaining on the fly!

SMP: One small design change that can make a big impact?

Fresh Paint!

SMP: Best moment of your career so far?

Seeing my designs come to life! Whether it's the new bar cart, fabric on a chair, invitation or product design - it's that moment of seeing the finished project that drives me.

SMP: Advice you’d give to your younger self?

Follow your gut and don't let anyone inhibit your signature style and design.

SMP: Three things every home should have?

A sentimental/family heirloom, something trendy and something unique from travels

SMP: What is the hardest lesson in business you've ever learned?

Not having contracts and not charging before design work has been completed. Never, ever do a design for a client unless they have invested in your time and talent. They won't feel the need to be dedicated to your business and time, which is the worst thing than can happen to a business owner. Your time is valuable and no one should expect it for free.

SMP: Number one interior design tip?

Hire a designer - even though I love dabbling in interiors, I find that hiring an expert will always prove its value. A designer is trained to be more knowledgeable about room layouts, perspective, big picture, etc and brings tips to the table that I would have never thought of. It's great to have someone from the outside to push you outside of your comfort zone.

SMP: What’s a typical work day for you like?

Dropping my son off at school, hitting Pure Barre, office during the day and home by 6pm.

SMP: Do you have any secret talents?

Playing the piano and flute - I was almost a music major.

SMP: If you could dine with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

Iris Apfel

SMP: Your favorite instagrammer?

That's a tough one! I would say I love Pencil Shavings Studio for her perfect blend of work, home life and her witty humor!

SMP: Your go-to recipe?

Pasta! I just use what's in the pantry - no recipes necessary.

SMP: What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?

Move my family to Italy for a couple of years!

SMP: Your most memorable moment?

Having my first child.

SMP: One place everyone must visit in their lifetime?


SMP: The best advice you’ve ever received?

Go ugly early (By my great friend, Whitney English) - she is referring to just getting a product or design out there and figuring out the logistics later. Don't worry about everything being so perfect that sometimes you just have to put it out there! No one will ever know how perfect you wanted it to be - just go for it!

SMP: What was the first job you ever landed?

Chick-fil-a and I still love that place!
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SMP: Stranded on a desert island question... what's the one cocktail you would take with you?

Prosecco and maybe a dash of limoncello :)

SMP: One thing you can’t live without?

Green Tea and Coconut Oil

SMP: Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hard to say, but I think mostly focusing on the lifestyle brand part of my business because it will allow me to focus on my family.

SMP: Why do you think your business has done so well?

Because I have strived to create different products and designs that didn't exist - if something was already out there, I didn't want to provide it. I always ask the question, "How can mine be different?"

SMP: If you could do it all over again, would you change anything?

Not at all because I think every project taught me me the valuable lessons I needed to make changes in my business. I think the hardest lesson for creatives to learn is how to charge accordingly. I would rather clients pay for me because they respect my talent, not because I'm the cheapest on the block. I find that creatives devalue their own talents by not charging what they are worth.