AHR: The Origin Story

August 15, 2021

AHR: The Origin Story

Everyone has an origin story and although mine’s yet to be optioned by the Marvel Universe and is disappointingly void of epic battles in the streets of New York, I think it will give you a bit of an idea of where the store came from as well as the intention behind it.

From a very young age, I remember being in a space and thinking to myself, “You know, this place has potential”. I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old, what I thought that unfulfilled potential entailed is beyond me. Fast forward to my teen years when I would spend hours redecorating my room, moving my furniture from one side to the other and updating my wall of posters as soon as the new issue of Tiger Beat hit the stands. I would tear ads from Seventeen, YM and Sassy (my favorite) and once I carefully clipped tiny cartoons from a notepad to make a wallpaper of sorts for my bed frame. I was a girl with a sharp pair of scissors and lot of time on her hands.

After graduating high school, I attended the University of Manitoba but had no idea it was home to one of the best interior design programs in the country. My family had no relationship to the design industry. We didn’t know designers and we didn’t hire them. In fact, I had no idea that it was even a job people got paid to do. My only reference to interior design as a career was through Designing Women, a show I loved. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t find my passion in university during my first kick at the can and left to work retail after two years of underwhelming academic performance. Sometimes though, what at first looks like the worst-case scenario ends up paving the way to a future you couldn’t have imagined and certainly couldn’t have planned.

My first job in retail started in a cramped stock room where I worked unpacking totes and steaming clothes in preparation for the sales floor. After a while, I started arranging the clothes on the floor using the visual merchandising directives from head office. I loved it and it must have shown because before I knew it, I was overseeing the visual merchandising directives for all six of the company’s stores, which included two separate brand identities, and creating window and interior displays for both.

That first job is really what set me on my path, although I didn’t know it at the time. After a couple of years I nervously applied to the mecca of window display, The Bay Downtown in Winnipeg. Their windows were the stuff of dreams, it was the tail end of the golden age of window display and visual merchandising. I was thrilled just to be there, winding my way behind the walls of the different departments, and popping into the large street level windows, much to the surprised delight of passersby. I loved everything about that grand historic building, especially the Paddlewheel Restaurant in the basement, which I had visited as a child with my grandmother.

One move to Alberta and several other visual merchandising jobs (Gap and Ethan Allen, where I also did buying) later, I felt I had reached a place where I just wasn’t doing anything new and exciting in visual merchandising. Companies were scaling back on window displays, removing many of them to make the most of their sales per square foot. I took some time off to have kids and when my youngest went to school full time, I also decided to head back to school and finish what I started, this time in the Faculty of Interior Design.

It’s a good thing I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into, because if I’d had even an inkling of just how all consuming a degree in design truly is, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But I did, and after four long years, I graduated. Do I still have a hint of PTSD each time I open AutoCAD or hear the echo of a drafting table ruler sliding its way up and down a drawing? You better believe I do.

I went on to work in both architecture and interior design firms before striking out on my own, but through it all, I had a general feeling of unease. The career I thought I’d love just wasn’t for me, despite the fact that it all added up on paper. I was taking a shower one day and I remember thinking to myself, “Well, this isn’t working out. What am I going to do now? My only other experience is in retail.” I don’t know how to describe the feeling I had at that moment, it wasn’t really a lightening bolt, it was more like a knowing. Like a little key fit perfectly into a little lock, turned ever so smoothly, and opened the door to what was next. Not to be all woo-woo and don’t get me wrong, there were major obstacles ahead: a 59-page business plan, a failed attempt at buying a different location and, oh ya, A PANDEMIC that came to town the week we opened, but that feeling of knowing never really went away and I can still feel it today.

I decided to combine my passion for design, love of visual merchandising and experience in buying to create the shop I’d been searching for. A place filled with the things I love and had been unable to find locally, the things I’d see on Instagram or in magazines and want to buy. We deserve nice things, and we shouldn’t have to fly somewhere to get them. That rug in Joanna Gaines’ living room? We’ve got it. Wanna start a flower farm like Jillian Harris? Let me introduce you to Floret Farm. Oh, you like abstract art, a great pitcher, and tiny felted mice? We do too! We’ve worked hard to curate our offerings and look forward to expanding in some exciting ways. If there’s a specific brand or an item you’re looking for, we want to hear about it and if you’re searching for that perfect piece for your coffee table or mantle, we’re here to help.

An Honest Room is the culmination of years of work, experience, and passion. Although this last year has been a wild ride, I couldn't have imagined the outpouring of support we’ve received. We love creating beautiful spaces and we look forward to years of helping you create the home you’ve always wanted. If you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for reading. I hope you learned a little about how An Honest Room came to be and I hope to see you soon in store!




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