By Julie Unger
Design has always been a passion for Elizabeth Fountain, owner of Elizabeth Fountain Interiors in West Palm Beach.
“I’ve been doing it my entire life. I remember as a little girl, there was a store in the town I grew up in,” Fountain recalled, adding that she would frequent the store with a friend. “We would purchase all of this stuff, we’d come back to our homes, and I would decorate both of our rooms. I’d decorate her bedroom, I’d decorate my bedroom, and in six months’ time, we’d completely redo everything.”
Later, in college, Fountain was the go-to decorator for her friends’ apartments.
“It never occurred to me to do this for a living,” she said. “In college, I majored in international business.”
When her husband suggested she pursue decorating as a business, Fountain wasn’t sure what to do. She had a successful career as a professional speaker focusing on communications that took her around the world. She didn’t have any decorating credentials.
However, one day Fountain had someone from a consignment store come to her home to look at some furniture she wanted to sell.
“She came over to the house to look at what we had, and she said, ‘Who did your house?’ I said ‘I did.’ She said, ‘Are you a designer?’ and I said ‘No.’ She said, ‘Well you ought to be.’”
With so many people telling her the same thing, maybe there was some truth to it, Fountain thought.
At the time, Fountain and her husband, a general contractor, had just moved to Florida. When she visited a friend who had also just moved, she noticed that the friend had barely unpacked.
“I went back a month later and offered to decorate,” she said. “They purchased all of the things that I recommended for them to buy. That was really the beginning of me doing this professionally.”
That pivotal moment occurred in 2002, and the rest is history.
“I quit my speaking career, and I became an interior decorator,” said Fountain, who recently opened a boutique showroom in West Palm Beach.
The showroom is open to the public. With more than 3,000 square feet of show space, Elizabeth Fountain Interiors showcases furniture, rugs, carpeting, flooring, artwork, mirrors, accessories, lighting, fabric samples, wallpaper samples, carpet samples and catalogues from vendors. “We are a full-service interior design firm,” she said. “We do floor planning, we sell furniture — we sell everything you absolutely need for your home.”
Fountain prefers to come to clients’ homes to see how they live before creating a design plan.
“Design isn’t taste or style,” she said. “You have to take into consideration how the people live — their lifestyle. Are they casual? Are they formal? Are they into animals such that you’re going to have all sorts of dogs and cats and kids running around the house? You have to take all of those things into consideration.”
Her firm is able to come in and completely redo a house. Fountain is respectful of clients’ budgets, and works to stay within the budget and not surprise them in the end with a larger bill than they were expecting.
“If I see it can’t be done for the amount of money they want to spend, I tell them that up front,” she said.
Working with many different budgets, Fountain’s reputation has been built on more high-end customers, she said.
The key to decorating, Fountain explained, is to do what the client wants, because it’s their home.
“It’s our job to really get into the personality of the people who live in the home and create their nest based on that, because that’s where they will feel the most comfortable,” she said. “With my training in communication, I think that has really helped me in being successful in this business — to really listen, not only to what they’re saying, but to listen and look and observe, and then give them what they want.”
While Fountain doesn’t have a favorite style, she is often attracted to contemporary, transitional and earthy styles.
The best part of her profession, she said, is the creativity. Working with a client, putting together their vision, and then unveiling it, she said, is very fulfilling.
Fountain’s advice for those looking for an interior designer to make their dream home into a reality is to find someone you feel comfortable with.
“Find somebody who they really click with, who they feel comfortable with, who they feel understands what they’re saying,” she said. “Because we’re in the construction business, I have actually worked with other designers, and I am appalled by the way they treat their customers… I think respecting your customer is very important.”
Located off of Decorator’s Row, which is off of Antique Row in West Palm Beach, the Elizabeth Fountain Interiors showroom is located at 5908 Georgia Avenue. It is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with appointments on Saturday.
For more information about Elizabeth Fountain Interiors, call (561) 801-2474 or visit www.elizabethfountaininteriors.com.