“An interior designer and a Navy pilot go into business together …” sounds like the setup for a corny joke, but it’s in fact the very real story of Hunter and Meredith Ellis, the husband-and-wife team behind the fast-growing James network of showrooms. Meredith is an industry lifer: The daughter of an interior designer, she worked for Bunny Williams earlier in her career, then for designers and showrooms in Los Angeles. Hunter’s background is more unexpected. In addition to his time in the military, he’s been a TV news anchor, a documentarian and a reality show contestant.
It’s an unorthodox matchup, but it’s clearly working. The Ellises opened their first multiline showroom in Austin in 2015, where they represented a handful of fabric lines. In eight short years, they’ve expanded into Houston and Dallas, and are on the verge of opening up a New York showroom this month. On this episode of The Business of Home Podcast, they discuss how they’ve been able to cut through the noise and stand out in a crowded landscape, share thoughts on the rise of digitally printed textiles and explain why they want to bring a dose of Texas hospitality to the Big Apple.
Crucial insight: The Ellises do not run James like a platoon, by any means. But two key values from Hunter’s military background have helped shape his approach to the business. “Teamwork and standardization,” he says. “Standardization in the military is what kept us alive … people would say the emergency manual is written in blood. When you have a standard operating procedure, everyone can recognize when something deviates from that, which minimizes mistakes. That, and having a cohesive team—a team that gels, a team that can handle the pressure moments—that’s the other element.”
Key quote: “We’ve had people come to us time and time again: How do you guys do this? I would love to replicate this,” says Hunter Ellis. “And while I can give them the nuts and bolts, at the end of the day it comes down to the fact that there are two of us who are very passionate about this idea, this brand, our growth and our expansion. We’re going to make this work. You can’t replicate that. It’s the two of us approaching it from two different perspectives.”
The Thursday Show
Meanwhile, on the latest episode of The Thursday Show, host Dennis Scully and BOH executive editor Fred Nicolaus dissect the most recent news in the design industry, including Shopify and Faire teaming up, an illness afflicting quartz fabricators, and Banana Republic’s big push into home. Later, T Magazine design editor Tom Delavan shares his thoughts on ivory boucle, quiet luxury and what it takes for a project to catch his eye.
Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode is sponsored by Four Hands.