House Dallas Dallas, Texas
Interview with Libby Haynes of House Dallas
When did you open your store? I bought it in 2003, when it was Armoires & More, with the help of a great couple who were my design clients & also a business partner of theirs. I was able to buy it from them outright in 2006.
How did you get started in the business? My family moved often when I was growing up because my father worked for an oil company, & my mom decorated our houses to make them a home every time – whether it was for a short time renting or longer term in our own home – so I got my love of it from her. After stints at Harold’s clothing stores & also Ralph Lauren, I stumbled into working for a small home furnishings store in Dallas that eventually grew to 7 stores around the country, & knew from the very beginning that it was meant for me.
What do you love about owning the shop? Of course helping customers find the perfect piece(s) for their home & working with them to solve their decorating dilemmas is everyone’s favorite thing! But what goes along with it, for me, is the love of finding a perfect mix of furniture to fill the store – a mix that is the right offering for our customers of unique pieces that they don’t see other places. And even more fun is putting it together on the floor in pretty vignettes that allow our customers to visualize what it might look like in their own homes. I guess I just love all of it.
PHOTO: c/o House Dallas
Where did the name House Dallas come from? When I bought the store I made the decision to keep the name Armoires & More because there was already a strong customer base. You know, ABC Carpet & Home in New York does so much more today than when they started & what the name now suggests – it’s one of my favorite stores! But over time, the name Armoires & More became limiting. I would meet people & tell them about my store & invariably they would say they knew of it but had not been in because they didn’t “need an armoire.” But names are so hard & the process of changing it is a lot of work. I finally made the decision in late 2012 to change, & change tweak the merchandise mix as well – & I just went in a totally opposite direction with ‘House.’ It feels warm & personal, & that’s what we feel the store is.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of the business? Many customers now have an expectation of finding exactly what they want, & getting it immediately. We have so many different options in furniture, lighting, etc., to offer customers, but it’s just not possible to have it all in stock all the time, but we can order it. Maybe some of the DIY redo shows on tv have contributed to the ‘get it all right now’ expectation! And that also ties into another challenge, which is the idea of getting pieces that are really special & even customized for a next to nothing price. One of our biggest priorities is to offer customers real value for the price in our pieces, but we also work hard to have great design that doesn’t have a mass-produced look.
Do you have a favorite entertaining or design tip? I love a bar set-up for entertaining, & I love a bar cart as a design feature! And it’s not about serving alcohol at all – although I love a nice glass of Malbec or a great craft beer! What is great about having a bar area when you entertain is setting a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere for your guests where they can choose a beverage or appetizer they enjoy while they visit. And make the presentation appealing with all the extras – pretty glasses & serving bowls, accompaniments like citruses, olives, etc. And don’t forget something live in a seasonal arrangement.
PHOTO: c/o House Dallas
Her Favorite Piece in Store?
Our bar carts! We have them made locally in our designs, & customers can specify dimensions & details that are exactly what they need for their space. Again, it’s less about what is ON a bar cart & more about what it conveys to guests in your home – it says to them “we enjoy our friends & love having you!”
What is your favorite quote? That really changes according to what season I’m walking through, ha! But consistently it is “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” Psalm 118:24. It is simple & childlike, but I didn’t always understand that I could decide what I allowed to go on in my head – & what I stopped from going in! – because of how that influenced my thinking & my attitude. So now I try to be intentional about deciding in advance what I will think this day no matter what comes my way.
Favorite vacation destination? I wear so many different hats in my work like that outside of it tranquility is important, so I tend to like places & times that are easy & unstructured. I have a friend who is very generous with his beautiful home in San Miguel de Allende, so I am anxious to get back there for a visit! And I love to fly-fish. My 2 favorite fishing trips have been to Wyoming & Montana, where we fished in & around the rivers of the area – close to Yellowstone & so beautiful! I also had an incredible trip fishing around Jackson Hole one long Labor Day weekend while there was a stretch of 110 degrees days in Texas! Something about getting out of that heat & standing in a cold running river is just hard to beat – but I caught some great fish, too, so it was fun.
What is something you have learned in the business that you didn’t expect? Early on after buying the store the idea of failure was so scary, so black & white. But along the way I’ve had lots of failure on varying scales, so I’ve learned that it’s an inherent part of the process. I think I thought that I would arrive at the place where there was only success & ease – which I now know is just wrong! The possibility of failure on whatever scale has just become a current in the background, & it really is part of what drives me in always trying to move the store forward & make it better.
PHOTO: c/o House Dallas
“We aren’t about creating cookie-cutter looks in a blanket way for customers. We are interested in helping people realize the vision they have for the home in which they live, where they do life with their families, and yes, where they have invested their hard-earned money. They might not even know what that vision is yet, but that’s why we are here, to help that become a reality.”
-Libby Haynes, on shopping locally in-store vs shopping online
PHOTO: c/o House Dallas
What items are your best sellers? Dining table are consistently a category that sell well for us. We have a 2 different local builders who make dining tables of our design for the floor, & we also make them to customer’s specifications to meet exactly what they need for their space & taste. And we have several tables from a couple of boutique manufacturers that are very design driven in their details & finishes that we love – as do customers! It makes me happy that our customers value the idea of gathering their friends & loved ones around a table to share a meal & be together.
What inspires you? After I learned how to ride a horse & fell in love with the majestic animals that they are, my boss at the time gifted me with his personal horse, which he couldn’t ride after open heart surgery. For 12 years, one of my close friends & her husband generously kept Alamo on their ranch about 90 minutes southwest of Dallas. Alamo died last year at 22, but almost every week for those 12 years at least once & sometimes 2 or 3 times a week when I could, I spent hours with him riding on trails & through the hills of Bosque County on their ranch. Not only did it keep me centered & helped clear my mind, it fueled my appreciation for the beautiful countryside we have in Texas, & so close to home. It just goes back to that idea of what a difference our surroundings can make in our ability to enjoy life – even when there are a lot of things that make that challenging!
PHOTO: c/o House Dallas
Tell us about your team members. Oh my gosh, there isn’t enough room here! Everyone who works at the store is a giant blessing, & each one brings so many gifts. I lose track of how long they’ve each worked here, but a long time! Lisa, who has been here a little over 2 years, is the new one, ha! She is a mom to 4 kids(!) & she’s here 2 -3 days a week. I love how she really engages people – she’s truly interested in them & she gets to know them in ways that amaze me no matter how long or short a time they are here! I talked Teresa into finally working here maybe 4 years ago, & I really try my best to get her to come to work every single day because we just laugh & laugh all day, but unfortunately she has a life beyond here, too! I love to watch her help our customers, because she leaves no stone unturned trying to find the exact piece that will solve their problem or will be exactly what they are envisioning. And no one is a stranger to her – she’s a hugger, & such a loyal & encouraging friend to everyone. Bonnie has worked at the store for more than 8 years, I think. She is so thorough & detail-oriented, so I know she will have everything covered when she’s here. Her motto is that she wants every customer to leave happier than when they came in, even if by some stretch they didn’t leave with something – & she dedicates herself to that! Probably everyone would say that Jose is the glue that keeps us together. There is nothing he can’t do or figure out how to do or create or solve. He keeps us thoroughly entertained as well, & that goes a long way! So not only are they all great, they are also creative & talented & bring a great eye to what ultimately makes the store what it is for customers.
Are there any restaurants or shops in the area that you like to visit? Are you kidding? – we live by our stomachs around here! We are fortunate enough to share a parking lot with Rex’s Seafood – you will be hard pressed to find fresher, yummier dishes or fish at their to-go market. Down the street from us in Inwood Village is Rise, which specializes in soufflés – out of this world! And around the corner from Rise, Mesero just opened – a Mexican kitchen. It is so yummy & pretty inside. On the other side of Rex’s is a fabulous nail salon, Pampered Soles. I can’t keep a manicure, darn it, so I don’t get a lot of them, but their pedicures are heavenly & last forever! Across the street is Tart Bakery, which gets plenty of our business! Last year on Teresa’s birthday they made a round cake with leopard spotted frosting & pink trim for us to give her! Further down Lovers Lane from us is the cutest clothing boutique call Lou Lou (named for the owner’s dog). She has really fun clothes, shoes, & jewelry at affordable prices – & she is always doing great promotions. And, yes, there are a several other great furniture stores as well! Those are just a few of the locally-owned businesses in our neighborhood that make it such a draw for shoppers!
Any store mascots (kids, pets, good luck charms…)? For years my 2 English bulldogs, Scout & Pilgrim, came to work with me every day. One regular diner at Rex’s never shopped with us, but stopped in weekly to visit Pilgrim! Now every once in a while my bird dog Huckleberry visits, but Huck & disaster often go hand in hand, so his visits are only on special occasions!
PHOTO: c/o House Dallas
Her Favorite Customer Story?
There are too many good ones to pick just one! But we really love it when a new customer comes in because they loved the look of a friend’s room or home who is an existing customer – that’s a great feeling. And it’s so fun to become friends with customers who have shopped with us over the years – we not only know what they already have, but we get to know their families or about their families through their visits & what they are shopping for! Over the years customers have shown or sent us photos of their rooms with our pieces – which we love – so now we are starting a section on our website featuring our customers & their good taste in furniture!
What is the importance of customer service to you? People have so many choices now in how to shop, & it is incredibly easy for a small-ish brick & mortar like us to get lost. If we aren’t offering something to the customer that they can’t find elsewhere – & without any effort, at that – then there is no reason for us to be here. And beyond that, even if we have a nice product, there is still competition so we have to bring something to the table to keep customers interested & invested. We understand that it’s often difficult to visualize what you need in your space, & even more so to visualize the end result of all the pieces working together. Shopping online or even in many big stores, customers have to walk through that process on their own. But we truly want to help with that, to help customers create an environment in their homes that enriches their lives. Everyone really just wants to be heard & validated. And my goal is to make the store an extension of that as well, first by creating that atmosphere with the people who work here. We spend a lot of time together, so I do everything I can to make the environment happy & stress-free, & I think customers can sense that as well. So it’s good for everyone!
PHOTO: c/o House Dallas
Customers really appreciate the whole shopping experience, & we try to contribute to that in a lot of different ways. We burn the candles we sell, so people often ask about the wonderful smells. Our floors are 50’s oak from salvage that we just stripped the orange-y color from & left natural – those probably get more comments than anything! And we play music from Pandora mixes – we each have favorite stations that play in rotation depending on who is working, & we get lots of questions about that as well. Just like your home, we have an ambience, too, that we hope contributes to a happy experience here!
What are your top 3 favorite stores in the world? I am a huge admirer of Ralph Lauren, & I love how he has created a lifestyle in his brand, & wasn’t satisfied at just having “stores.” So I am always in awe at his flagship store – now stores – in Manhattan. I go in & never want to leave. The creativity of his teams are just breath taking. As far as around the globe, really you can find wonderful retail stores to suit any taste, but I could spend days & days wandering through all the wonderful boutiques in New York City, being inspired, wishing I could have 10 different kinds of stores! And in the US I’m not sure anyone does visual merchandising better than Anthropologie. Every store is really delightful from an innovative standpoint.
House Dallas in a Nutshell…
1. Coffee or Tea? Iced tea –Sonic, unsweet, with lemon.
2. Salty or Sweet? Who could pick one over the other??
3. Beach or Mountains? Mountains!
4. Beer or Wine? I love all the craft beers coming from this area lately!
5. City or Country? The country is what makes city living bearable.
6. Cats or Dogs? Dogs dogs dogs!