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Shaunda Spell, Designer

Featured Article

Mill Agent & Design Company

A Designer Fabric Store, Design Center, and Boutique Firm

Article by West Knoxville Lifestyle Staff

Photography by South Made Marketing

Originally published in West Knoxville Lifestyle

The beloved discount fabrics brand Mill Agent, founded in 1938, closed one hot day in July 2022 only to re-open a few short weeks later in the Bearden-area Design District under an expanded brand, Mill Agent & Design Company. Husband and wife owners Martin and Judy Abrams, whose family purchased it in 1963, sold it to husband and wife owners, Shaunda Spell and Stephen Sallas. The torch was passed under a new interior design vision.

Shaunda, who has a degree in Residential Interior Design, is not related to the Abrams but was an independent designer who kept the Mill Agent staff busy as she curated custom projects across the various brands they carried. Fresh out of interior design school, her first entrepreneurial venture was Lifestyle Designs, a business to serve clients with remodels and new construction.

“Martin and Judy took such good care of me and my clients. They saw how hard I worked and hustled for clients. I brought them a ton of business - especially in 2019 which was a banner year for me with them,” Shaunda says. “Looking to retire, they approached me about taking over the business right before Covid. That timing was impossible, but I always knew somehow, I would own Mill Agent one day.”

Fast forward to 2022, Shaunda had met and married Stephen, and now had a blended family with six kids (2-year-old twins, plus a 6-, 10-, 13-, and 15-year-old). Judy wanted to meet their kids, so she and Martin came to dinner. Stephen had served with the Army National Guard for 12 years but was now ready for a career shift. “We all started talking shop and it turned into a business dinner. Stephen and I both knew my interior design business was going well and imagined how much more we could do with a brick-and-mortar space.”

The Abrams’ lease was up in July, and their expectation was to close Mill Agent and retire.

“So, we jumped quickly. Stephen left his job and became co-owner/operator, or as we like to call him - the Muscle behind Mill Agent,” Shaunda says, laughing. They had six weeks to pack up, move locations and rebrand Mill Agent with a whole new concept under new ownership.

“It was such an honor that they entrusted us with both the legacy and the future of Mill Agent.  It makes me smile when clients walk through our doors and share stories of the days when it was on Gay Street, and they would shop there or be taken to browse with their parents. But we knew this discount fabric store was ready for a new business model for next-generation clients and designers,” says Shaunda. Carrying large inventories of bolts of fabric is not sustainable now when customers want to choose and customize fabric and its application. “Now we are able to better serve them, rather than have clients select from what we have in stock.”  

“What sets us apart? As Mill Agent always had, we have designer fabrics and can custom-create cushions, upholstery, draperies, pillows and bedding, wall coverings and window treatments, but we also carry furniture and lighting lines.”

As the reimagined Mill Agent & Design Company, they offer a design team with residential and commercial degrees equipped to create floor plans and tackle remodels with skill sets to complete full-scale projects, planning, and management. The boutique firm has also done salon and hotel interior design, among other commercial projects, and have had area builders reach out to them to produce floor plans, layouts and 3-D renderings. 

Other services include paint consults, art curation, staging and styling, purchasing parameters, and furniture plans. Shaunda, in fact, custom-designs furniture pieces working with local wood workers to build and install.

“In short,” Shaunda sums up, “We are a designer fabric store, design center with workrooms, and a boutique firm.

“We can blend both worlds, soft goods and pretty things as well as the construction-side and the functionality, out of one brick-and-mortar space,” Shaunda adds, “filtering goods and professional services we have at our fingertips here for my full-scale design clients.”

In turn, they can better serve walk-in fabric customers who may need more than just fabric. Her vision of Lifestyle Designs as an umbrella brand under Mill Agent & Design Company can fulfill her ambitious dreams to encompass full-circle design services in the Knoxville market.

The new owners, who were both born in Florida, but grew up in Knoxville, have survived the blood, sweat, and tears invested into the first year of the business. They met when Shaunda’s sister introduced them for a design project. Converting a school bus into a traveling RV was a family dream, but after his wife passed away, Stephen still wanted to fulfill that promise to his four kids.

“We started working on the project together,” Shaunda says. “We first became friends and then started dating. We married six months later, became pregnant two months later, had twins eight months later, and bought a business six months later. A year after that purchase, we started renovating our home. It’s definitely been one wonderful whirlwind.”

Shaunda, as lead designer, has a support team that is a family affair. Her sister, Ciara Mattice, helped her in getting the new business going and her mother, Jeza Postelle, is the firm’s office manager and also brings her custom seamstress Perfect Stitch business and nearly two decades of experience working for two of the original founders of HGTV to the family enterprise.  “I grew up with the love of interior design and home remodels going with my mom to HGTV sets,” Shaunda says.

Shaunda describes her design colleagues as a powerhouse team who strive to be diligent, straightforward, and transparent. She wants the Knoxville market to understand that “Mill Agent is not the discount fabric house in town anymore, but we know design is an investment and we take meeting client budgets seriously. We are careful stewards of their resources without compromising quality,” she adds.

Although walk-ins are welcome, Mill Agent & Design Company strongly recommends those looking for assistance with a project make an appointment with one of the designers.

“We design for our clients’ personal taste. It’s meant to be a personal and unique experience. How can I make what they like look the best?” Shaunda adds. “We are very collaborative and give a little more control to our clients – which makes it harder on us – we want our clients to love it.”  


Finally, she reminds clients, it’s supposed to be fun.

“Design can be very stressful – a lot of to-dos and decision-making. We are a lot of fun, easy to work with, and we have a good time. I like to consider us lights in the project that keep the hope going during the process,” Shaunda says. “We believe God has had His hand on this from the very beginning and our team is composed of visionaries who hold the vision and breathe life into each client’s project.”

Project videos can be seen on 

Learn more about Mill Agent & Design Company at 

“It’s such an honor they entrusted us with the legacy and future of Mill Agent, but we knew this discount fabric store was ready for a new business model for next-generation clients and designers.”

“It’s supposed to be fun. Design can be very stressful – a lot of to-dos and decision making. I like to consider us lights in the project that keep the hope going during the process.”

  • Shaunda Spell, Designer
  • Shaunda Spell, Designer

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