By Amanda N. Wegner
A quick glance at the Instagram feed of Mary Alice Myers (@maryalice.home) reveals a delightful grid of colorful tabletop scenes, fun home decor videos (or reels, in Instagram parlance) and glimpses into her adventures, from tossing a football in her backyard to touring a charming croquet club in northern Wisconsin.
In a very short time, Myers has become one of Instagram’s newest home decor influencers, racking up 14,000 followers and counting, and recently launched her own website, maryaliceathome.com. At the heart of her brand are the photos and videos she posts from her own Lake Geneva home. Leveraging her creativity and years of experience as an interior designer, Myers uses her platform to share entertaining tips, highlight DIY projects and bring to life amazing tablescapes and home decor. In addition to the ever-expanding list of followers she has accumulated on the popular app, Myers is also connecting with other designers, entrepreneurs and business owners in the space to develop a community of friends and business partners.
“This all popped up as a surprise, but it has been a delightful surprise,” she says of her success on the social media platform. “And I am very excited to see where this will go!”
A LIFETIME OF CREATIVITY
Myers has always been the creative, industrious and entrepreneurial sort. “Growing up, my mother was artsy and creative,” she explains. “She was an oil painter and did all sorts of crafty homemade things. She was a seamstress, made holiday ornaments, did needlepoint and was a good baker … all things home-related. My grandmothers were like that as well, so I grew up surrounded by home life and creating beautiful things. We weren’t wealthy; a lot of it you did yourself, working to take it that step higher, and I grew up watching and doing that.”
As a young girl, Myers was often left to fill her own time. She explains that she was the youngest of her four siblings and five cousins next door. “You have to fend for yourself and make your own entertainment when you’re the youngest,” she says with a chuckle. That included making doll clothes, painting rocks to sell in the neighborhood and regularly redecorating her room.
Later, Myers channeled these traits, passions and experiences into a career in interior design and home decor. She worked for the legendary home decor brand Laura Ashley and Eggert’s Furniture as the gift and small furniture buyer, and was on the team to decorate the annual Christmas Fantasy house. Most recently, she worked as an interior designer at Lake Geneva’s Paper Dolls Home Furnishings. “I have a lot of background in design and decorating, and have worked on many different aspects in the field,” says Myers.
Through those experiences, Myers especially came to love the art of tabletop decor, which refers to decor items styled on horizontal surfaces like dining tables, coffee tables, side tables, shelves and mantelpieces. Myers uses her experience and well- honed eye to bring together diverse tabletop pieces, including dishes, candles, linens, florals, glassware and other decorative objects to create dreamy tablescapes. This passion has been a significant driver for her growing Instagram audience.
LEARNING THE TOOLS OF THE SOCIAL MEDIA TRADE
As the world first started emerging from the COVID-19 lockdown, Myers chose to retire from her position at Paper Dolls. But she also knew she couldn’t sit idle in retirement. And Instagram, which she had started experimenting with a few months before the pandemic began, offered inspiration.
“I started becoming more interested in Instagram,” recalls Myers. “There, I could follow an interior designer in any state or country and see what they were doing. Then I stumbled upon people who are very savvy and creative with table settings, and I thought, ‘This is awesome, and I can do that, too!’”
Myers first started “playing around” on Instagram in December 2019. “I was building up the confidence to do it,” she recalls of her timid start on the platform. “I didn’t want to be rejected or not have people like my posts. At first, it was just for fun, and I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Initially, Myers took a “see what today brings” approach to posting, but she knew that if she wanted to grow her account, she needed some expert advice, so she enrolled in an online course to learn more about successful social media strategies. In that course, she learned how to better structure her photos, how to use hashtags to reach new audiences, and how to determine which content was working toward her goals. The class also emphasized the importance of having a larger strategy and a posting schedule to maintain a regular cadence of relevant and engaging content. This, says Myers, has helped her create a vision for her platform and deliver content that her existing followers love, while also attracting new followers.
Myers cautions that finding success on social isn’t easy, and a lot of work goes into a single gorgeous photo. “It’s a lot of work behind the scenes. And it’s not just the work of designing a tablescape or setting up the shot. There’s the work of planning, analyzing what you’ve done and adapting to the platform, which is always changing. Like anything else, you have to adapt and keep up with the trends, whether you like it or not. It’s an uphill battle, and I’m constantly learning along the way, and really enjoying the journey.”
Followers of Myers’ account will find a rich use of colors, textures and patterns, combining bespoke pieces with everyday items. There’s plenty of inspiration for creative ventures, as well as regular appearances by Myers herself. She says that she draws her inspiration from the world and objects around her, including leafing through magazines and tearing out pages that inspire her, an activity she loved as a child. Antique stores and flea markets are wellsprings of inspiration for her; a vintage bowl with interesting colors might inspire her to undertake a shelf redesign to highlight the bowl. The pattern of a plate might be the sole spark for an entire tablescape. “[Creativity] sparks from a lot of things,” Myers says of her inspiration. “I can’t say it’s one thing, but the world around me.”
GROWING HER COMMUNITY
As Myers’ following has grown, so have her business partnerships. Toward the end of 2020, she says, companies began reaching out to her with partnership opportunities. In this kind of business arrangement, companies provide products that Myers incorporates and tags in her posts to help amplify the company. She focuses on products in the home and entertaining categories.
Most of the companies Myers currently works with are smaller, boutique ventures. For instance, she’s currently working with a family-owned business out of Tennessee that makes a cream liqueur, and another family business that makes Italian chocolates. She also works with a woman-owned company that produces paper placemats and vases — “which sounds odd,” she admits, “but they are beautiful, energetic and fun.” One of her newest partnerships is with a new company that creates high-end pieces for entertaining. The “craziest” product she was provided through a partnership was a unique garden hose. “It was very cool and one gift my husband loves,” she says.
But perhaps the greatest gift Myers has received in her new role as a social influencer is the community of friends and like-minded entrepreneurs she has cultivated. “One of the most interesting and rewarding things about all this is how it brings together a community,” says Myers. “I have a wonderful group of friends, but some aren’t on social media or understand what it is that I do every day! It may seem like I’m just playing with dishes and taking pictures, but there is much more to it than that. Through this, I’ve found this niche of people I relate to, and [who] understand what I do day-to-day.”
Those friendships moved from the digital world to the real world this past summer when Myers attended a conference in Alabama for tabletop designers. “It was like meeting old friends. It was so great,” she says. In addition to classes and camaraderie at the conference, attendees worked together to create table settings, which will be featured in Hoffman Media’s Entertain & Celebrate Magazine in Spring 2023.
While it certainly requires dedication and hard work to cultivate an online presence and become an influencer, Myers appreciates that she has found a new avenue to do the work she loves. “I love that I can play every day when I’m doing things like this. I can be creative, do what makes me happy and help companies grow,” says Myers. “For me, it really, truly, is fun. Most days, it doesn’t feel like work.”
Find Mary Alice Myers on Instagram at @maryalice.home
Entertaining with Mary Alice Holiday Place Settings Three Ways
- Myers loves whimsical accents for a festive Christmas setting. (left)
- Tartan inspiration and snowflake china create an elegant holiday setting, she says. (middle)
- Using roses and fresh oranges, Myers adds color and texture to this traditional table setting. (right)