Happy Clients and Well-Curated Homes

Behind the Scenes of Elizabeth Malmo's Successful Interior Design Business

Article by Jeannie Tabor

Photography by Sarah Bell, Sélavie Photography

Originally published in River City Lifestyle

For Elizabeth Malmo, interior designer and owner of home décor store Collected, success is defined pretty simply – “we want our clients to love their homes!” However, the process involved in obtaining that success is anything but simple. “Creating a well-curated room or house takes a lot of time. Hours and hours of prep work and planning go into each space.”

Elizabeth detailed her thoughtful design process using a recently completed primary bedroom and bathroom renovation as an example. She started by selecting fabrics and wall coverings. She and her staff then made furniture and lighting selections, mixing new upholstery with antique tables and vintage lamps to give it a collected feel. “We spent hours ensuring each room played well off the next, and the flow felt right.”

Next in her process is schedule time. “We detail every bit of information needed to install all lighting, paint, tile, cabinetry, and plumbing for the contractor. We do countless walk-throughs, dry tile layouts, electrical punch lists and millwork meetings. She even brought in David Lusk, owner of David Lusk Gallery, to help select artwork to complement the design.

Asked about her favorite elements of the design process, Elizabeth described herself as a design nerd. “Printed lampshades, passementerie and lacquered anything makes me happy. I love all the little details of a well-curated home.”

But Elizabeth knows as well as anyone that interior design work is not always easy or glamorous. “My team and I joke that we wear a lot of hats. Half of our job is problem-solving. Designing a space, even a small one, requires a lot of thought and planning, and, as we all know, everything does not always go smoothly.”

Most recently, Elizabeth was challenged to ensure that a beautiful, sizable chandelier purchased for a client’s hallway would reach its final destination. She and her team measured and measured again to make sure that the fixture would clear the doorway. They mapped out a circuitous route to ensure the light fixture made it to its final home: through a side door on the other side of the house, down a loggia, through the family room, up the back stairs, down a long hall and back to the front of the house. She even asked the builder if it would be possible to remove the newly installed windows if they needed to accommodate the size of the chandelier. The answer was “no,” and fortunately, the piece found its way through the house with the windows intact. Thankfully, all the pre-planning paid off, and the lovely chandelier is hanging in its new home.

Elizabeth did not plan to be an interior designer from the start, although her path was somewhat hereditary. Her grandfather, Sam Gully, was an interior designer and someone Elizabeth looked up to, even though he passed away before she could meet him. “To me, he was this magical artistic mind who could play piano by ear, was a master painter and a true creative. My mom always joked that the creative gene skipped a generation, but that is not true. My mom has fabulous taste. I grew up in a beautiful old home with gorgeous antiques, most from my grandfather, and lots of color.”

As long as she can remember, Elizabeth has always been interested in the arts. “In high school, I was that girl camped out in the art studio. I was the T-shirt designer for my grade. And, for our senior prank, I made sure that the pancake breakfast set up in the front entrance had a pretty tablescape.”

But she initially had her heart set on a different kind of job. She attended college at Washington and Lee, where she double majored in Business Administration and Fine Arts. “My art classes were a nice break from all the business courses, but I viewed them as more of a hobby than a career.” She spent three years pursuing a career in finance. She studied abroad at the London School of Economics and interned for several financial firms each summer. Her career path changed after spending the summer before her senior year in New York. She spent the first half of the summer interning for a hedge fund and the second half taking painting classes at Parsons School of Design, where Sam Gully earned his interior design degree.

“I will never forget calling my parents at the end of that summer and telling them I was going to pursue a career in the arts – still not sure what that would entail.” With the help of very supportive parents, Elizabeth decided her senior year in college to apply to the New York School of Interior Design (“NYSID”) to obtain a graduate degree. She attended NYSID and interned for the very talented Miles Redd, eventually taking a job as a project manager for his firm.

Elizabeth moved back to Memphis in 2013 and started her design firm. Shortly after that, she realized the potential of having a retail space. “Not only would it be nice to have inventory on hand, but it would also allow me to promote my style and taste.” First opening booths at Palladio and La Maison, Elizabeth loved the community there but eventually outgrew her space and wanted to consolidate her items. She still shops for clients at both of those design stores.

In 2018 Elizabeth teamed up with friends Gracey Smythe and Biggs Powell. Together, they dreamed about opening two stores together in one space side-by-side, allowing clients to shop two very different styles under one storefront. They looked all over Memphis for the perfect location for Collected and Powell Smythe Antiques and felt that there was something uniquely special about Broad Avenue.  

“We wanted something with charm and history. Broad Avenue Arts District felt like the perfect fit.” They were fortunate enough to find a space that would work for both stores and began construction in 2019. “Broad Avenue has experienced a ton of growth just in the past few years, and the addition of the new apartment building across the street will hopefully drive even more growth.”

Successful interior designer and business owner, Elizabeth is also a wife and mother. “I think finding a work/life balance is very important no matter who you are. Find a few hobbies/activities that are just for you. For me, it’s pilates, tennis, needle pointing and reading. Also, surround yourself with supportive friends and family.” Elizabeth credits her successful balance to her supportive husband, who has a career and lots of hobbies, her three adorable children, her supportive parents (who are building a house three doors down from hers) and a wonderful group of friends.

“Printed lampshades, passementerie and lacquered anything makes me happy. I love all the little details of a well-curated home.”

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