For Jodie Okun, interior decorating is somewhat akin to picking a personal style.
Sometimes you might need a wardrobe overhaul, and sometimes you might just need a few great accessories, but the most important thing is that your chosen aesthetic reflects your personality.
After over ten years of working for other decorators, Jodie Okun launched Jodie Okun Interiors in 2009. Now the Lake Ridge resident is looking to expand her business to include more Prince William County clients.
“Most of my clients are residential,” she said. “I can come in and just do a paint consultation or just a consultation on how to rearrange what they have, or we'll do everything, take a room down to the bones, re-do the molding, etc.”
Okun got her start in the mid-90s doing the visual display for a Macy’s store. Then, when they moved to Virginia in 1999, she ran the design department of French Country Living. After that, she worked for English Manor Gardens and Interiors (now called Savannah’s) in Leesburg for two years.
In 2004, she had twins, took a maternity leave, and shortly thereafter, her husband’s job took the family to Italy for four years.
“I didn't work, but it was such a great experience design-wise to kind of soak all that in,” she said.
Though she lived in Naples, she was inspired by Tuscany.
“They're relaxed and so are their interiors,” she said. “They're not so canned. It's not, you walk into a furniture store and say, ‘I'll take this,’” Okun points to an imaginary display room. “It's more that it evolves over time. They'll have a piece that their grandmother gave them. I want to use the word organic. It's not staged.”
She loved Tuscany’s textures, the stone and mosaics, and the way they brought the outside into the home.
Though Okun likes to use natural elements indoors, that’s not what she means by bringing the outside in.
“I mean that you can't ignore your surroundings,” she explained. “Since we're stuck in the middle of suburbia, I don't want a beach theme, but you could interpret the beach in your house by having the colors of sand and water. But you don't need a shark on the wall.”
When she returned from Italy in 2009, she started Jodie Okun Interiors.
“If I didn’t do it then, I’d never do it on my own,” she said. She started with clients she’d had with French Country Living, and expanded through word of mouth referrals. But she only has one PWC client.
“I’d love to expand my business down here,” she said.
As far as services she can provide, she tailors it to the customer. In addition to redoing a room entirely or helping to choose flattering accessories, she can do Christmas decorating and or help a home buyer envision what their new house could look like.
“People want me to get them the perfect something to go in a spot, but I encourage them when they're out somewhere to pick something that has meaning for them,” she said. “It's fun to have a story with everything that's in their house.”
Okun charges by the hour, but gives a free initial consultation, in which she can assess what will fit with the client’s house and personality. She does this not through giving advice but through asking questions.
“I’m learning to value what I’m worth,” she said, explaining that some might be tempted to take advantage of free interior decorating advice.
Okun prefers to have a budget up front.
“People get nervous thinking that I’m going to spend every penny,” she said. “But I just want to know what I can do, whether I have to buy an antique rug, a rug on Overstock.com or use a rug they already have.”
Sometimes she and the client go shopping together, and sometimes she goes out and picks out items and takes them to the client.
In addition to the Washington Design Center in D.C., Okun loves Brambles in Occoquan, and the antique sellers in Lucketts and Manassas. She also often buys from stores in Fairfax Corner.
“That's what i love about being in business for myself,” she said. “I can source stuff from anywhere. Someone might have an expensive high end sofa, but I might go to Home Goods and accessorize there.”
Sometimes Okun just wants to inspire a customer to step out of their comfort zone.
“I just did a client’s bedroom, and her whole house is all red and yellow,” she said. “In her bedroom, we did all blues and browns, and with every step, she was so scared. You have to hold their hands.”
For more information, visit www.jodieokuninteriors.com, or email Okun at firstname.lastname@example.org.