For years, clients of interior designer Sharon Nelson didn't have to wonder what Nelson's own home looked like.
All her fabric samples, extra furniture and mirrors were right there.
"One client who came over said, 'Is everything in your house for sale?' " Nelson said. "I looked at my husband and said, 'Not yet.' "
Nelson moved her business and merchandise to the Shops at Tallgrass in October 2009. Two months ago, she expanded into the space next door, doubling the size of her shop to about 3,600 square feet.
Husband Vernon Nelson isn't for sale there, either, but his remodeling skills are for hire. He joined his wife in the business a couple of years ago. The impetus for the move to Tallgrass came when a third family member, Danny Bragg, came on board. Bragg splits his time between the shop and remodeling work.
"They always say don't go into business with your family," Nelson said. "But who can you count on more?"
Nelson grew up in Wichita before leaving for college in Missouri. She's been in interior design her whole career, working for customers around the country. She moved back to Wichita from California in 2001.
For her, the motivation is simple.
"I really think people deserve to live in a pretty environment and it doesn't take a million dollars to do it. However, I don't mind the people" with that kind of money, she added with a laugh.
Nelson said she tries to keep her work affordable by working with what people already have as much as possible and charging an hourly rate for design consulting rather than a fixed fee.
"That way people can control their budget and know what they're spending," she said.
Nevertheless, her store is full of handsome furnishings she's picked up at market shows around the country. She strives for a wide price range, so if that $4,000 high-backed velvet couch doesn't fit your budget, something else will.
Some of Nelson's favorite decorating tools are large mirrors, which make rooms look not only bigger, but also brighter and more interesting.
"It just looks like there's more going on," she said.
A china cabinet made of recycled wood and furniture that's been deliberately distressed show the trend for pieces that look like they've been lived in. There are paintings (originals and prints), preserved plants, lamps, chandeliers and a remote-controlled tapestry that can be lowered to hide a television set. There are tile, drapery and hardware samples.
"We try to do as much as possible so people don't have to go to 50 places to get the look they want," she said.
She's decorated entire homes and single rooms, as well as offices for corporate clients. Generally, she said, Wichitans lean toward the conservative. "But they're all looking for something new, different and interesting. Which is why we go to all the markets."
One of the more unusual jobs she's had was decorating a garage for a client who owned a fleet of Harley Davidson motorcycles, she said.
Whatever the assignment, she said, "It's really fun to see people when you put things together. They're so tickled to be in that environment."