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Interior motives: Friends combine love of design in growing business

Interior designers Linda Birmingham, left, Kari Rasmus, Mary Lystad, Julie Erickson and Kris Carlson are pictured at the Designing Women 2 showroom in south Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

Fargo - Designing Women 2, a home and corporate interior design firm, has opened a new showroom called DW2 in the former home of the Bridal Shop at 3223 13th Ave. S.

The business was founded in 2008 by Julie Erickson and Linda Birmingham of Visual Coordinations and Mary Lystad and Kris Carlson of Aesthetic Interiors.

The women had been “friendly competitors” for years before deciding to join forces.

“We decided on the name Designing Women because we all loved the show and we all kind of resembled one of the characters,” Birmingham said.

A new character was introduced July 1 when their friend Kari Rasmus joined the team as a full partner.

“The more they talked, the more I got excited about joining this organization and doing something in the community, for the community. People don’t have to run to Minneapolis. They have other options here,” Rasmus said.

Carlson said the comment they hear most when people visit the showroom is, “Finally, we don’t have to go to Minneapolis to find something different.”

Designing Women 2 specializes in furniture, rugs, art and accessories shoppers can’t find locally anywhere else. Most of their merchandise is one-of-a-kind because they never reorder the same piece once it has been sold.

Custom upholstery is also available for nearly all of their furniture as another way to ensure originality.

The designers have also started commissioning pieces from local artists.

“We appreciate true art, and we’re just trying to place more of it,” Carlson said.

For those who cannot afford a commissioned piece, the women will personally matte and frame a retail piece to give it that custom touch.

The new 6,500-square-foot showroom is about triple the size of their former location on 40th Avenue South. In addition to the extra space, the women are excited about the store’s loading dock.

“In our other location, the five of us and anybody else that was working that day literally hauled sofas through the snow in high heels from the front to the back because semis couldn’t get in,” Carlson said.

While recent excitement has centered on the new showroom, the women’s success was built on their interior design services.

Carlson said their client base today is likely 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial. Referrals from one often lead to customers in the other, as people who have used their services in their home often recommend the team to their employers, and vice versa.

Services range from helping clients in the building stage, to remodeling, to simply restaging or accenting existing decor.

They continue to thrive on the “big reveal” once their work is done.

“We still love that. We love the hugs and the tears,” Birmingham said.

The women said their relationships with each other and their customers is one of the biggest rewards of working together.

“Aside from the business side of it, we are five women that are friends and we care about each other and each other’s families and extended families,” Rasmus said. “There is more than a business relationship that goes on here. It’s a wonderful place to be, and we try to share that feeling with our clients.”