Entrepreneurs Thomas and Kathy George find their greatest joy is ensuring the happiness and satisfaction of their customers. Although it’s a simple concept, it’s one the couple has tapped as their guiding star since beginning their retail journey and attaining success over the last 25 years in the premium denim world. Today, in addition to their E-Street Denim Stores on Chicago’s North Shore, their downtown Lake Geneva clothing boutiques include E-Street Denim, Bloomingbyrds and ShoShoo.
Their home goods outlets, Brick & Mortar and Brick & Mortar Home & Outdoor, according to the couple, represent furnishings that emphasize the importance of “slowing down and smelling the roses.” Their philosophy, Thomas adds, is that “Home is not about trend or the right stuff; it’s our lives and where we choose to live them. It’s casual, but with purpose — stylish, but with taste.”
To celebrate our 12th annual “At Home” section, At The Lake turned to this down-to-earth couple for their thoughts on home furnishings, design and décor.
YOUR STORES OFFER WONDERFUL VIGNETTES OF FURNITURE AND ACCESSORIES. CAN YOU ASSOCIATE ANY PARTICULAR DESIGN STYLE TO THE DÉCOR THAT’S FEATURED?
Design style is so personal to each individual and labels such as traditional, farmhouse, mid-century modern, etc. don’t truly exist in full décor anymore. We are known for mixing the styles and creating a beautiful, eclectic look.
WHAT TYPES OF DESIGN TRENDS ARE YOU SEEING FOR 2018?
Color trends are still greys and blues with pops of color, including lime green and red. Textures are soft in nature, providing comfort and making your home inviting. There is a “high” design trend of elegance and glitz of gold in the market which is not our customer base, but we have brought some gold tones to our mix with other trends and style.
DOES YOUR PERSONAL DESIGN STYLE CORRELATE WITH WHAT’S FEATURED IN YOUR STORES?
Our personal style is not necessarily our stores’ style. We have a very simple beach style with white and wood tones and pops of red that lend itself to an easy lifestyle. White slipcovered furniture and beautiful, warm wood tone tables are a central focus. Our house gets a little bit of a lift usually in the spring, fall and then for the holidays. Changing up flowers, pillows, wall art and sometimes rugs and throws gives us a different look into each season.
IS THERE ONE PIECE OF FURNITURE YOU SHOULDN’T SKIMP ON?
You should never skimp on your sofa or your dining table and chairs. These are the most used items in the house, and where you entertain and socialize with family and friends.
WHAT ARE A FEW DESIGN IDEAS TO USE TO FRESHEN UP AN AREA OF YOUR HOME?
Freshening up your home is as easy as changing a wall color, pillows, wall art and rugs. These simple, cost effective things can give you the much needed change you may need.
HOW BIG AN IMPACT DO YOU THINK SHOWS ON HGTV HAVE HAD ON THE PUBLIC’S INTEREST IN HOME IMPROVEMENT AND DESIGN?
HGTV has impacted a great deal of people in that they feel they can do it all. The reality is that these shows are subsidized and the cost [for updates and furniture] they show you is not reality. We love Chip and Joanna [of the show Fixer Upper], but their costs do not include her designer pieces that she places in homes. If the client wants to keep any of it, it’s all extra. For Flip or Flop, the costs are cut because the vendors give deals for being on the show. It’s best to just sit back and enjoy what they are showing and if you think you can do it … really do your homework and find out costs for your budget.
WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE TO YOUR DESIGN AND MERCHANDISING SUCCESS?
Being in fashion for as long as we have, you learn color and form quickly. We believe it is either in you or not. Our team at Brick & Mortar are very talented and they are the reason for the success. We are very lucky to have everyone that has such a love for what they do.