by Jesma Reynolds
photographs by Lissa Gotwals
Jamie Meares, owner of the stylish downtown shop Furbish Studio and author of the blog I Suwannee, is a design-world favorite. Just about every notable lifestyle blog has highlighted her at some point, and she’s been featured in magazines like Lonny, House Beautiful and Elle Décor. A regular speaker and panelist at blogging conferences and networking events, she is known as a tastemaker by many.
The Winston-Salem native and creative writing major launched her blog after getting a pink slip from her “big girl job” at an advertising agency and has since parlayed good old-fashioned storytelling into a highly successful business that now comprises a retail store, online shopping, and interior design services.
I Suwannee – a Southernism for “I have never in my life seen such” – covers everything from decorating to fashion to personal anecdotes, and offers plenty of creative inspiration.
Known for being fearless, unpredictable, and funny, Meares has a knack for combining seemingly incongruous things into a bold, original style. “I’ll try anything once,” she says on her blog.
The approach is a large part of what has made her so popular. That, along with what her friend, the well-known designer Nick Olsen, calls “relentlessly girlie taste.”
“There’s still a 13-year-old girl not far beneath the surface, and readers sense that,” Olsen says. “She knows how to have a good time and doesn’t take decorating (or anything) too seriously.” She recently dyed her hair bright red after years of DIY bleaching. It took three months to get the exact, not-too-orange red. Will she keep up the rosy hue? “Yup, staying red because ain’t nobody got the time to go back.”
This penchant for fun has clearly struck a chord with her audience. Her fans – about 12,000 visit her blog daily – freely throw out words like “love,” “obsessed,” and “girl crush.”
Meares’s charm and wit have connected with her audience because she is one of them. At 33, her interests range from fashion, to food, indulgent TV shows, and decorating. She writes as if she’s talking to her good friends. Raleigh native and New York stylist Frances Bailey says, “She’s funny in that Tina Fey, smart-girl way.”
Recently she pondered the condition of a well-worn cowhide rug in her living room in a post entitled I’ve Got the Itch: “I’m all for worn and torn, but this guy is one vacuum away from needing a comb over. I think we’ve had it for at least 8 years, so it’s certainly earned its keep but it hasn’t always been all dead cows and ponies and rainbows – there have been shortcomings. Dirt just sits on it, and Brian Meares has this way of being sort of oafish with his feet and mussing up anything that’s not permanently affixed to the floor, so it’s always janked up around the corners. Lastly, it sucks to lay on, and I’ve taken to posting up on the floor for my Jane Fonda leg lifts at night – I just want something soft to cuss into when my plank starts to plummet.”
Olsen says, “She gets more chuckles out of me (and I’m assuming the majority of her readers) in three or four words than a comedy writer could with an entire sketch.” When she’s not telling, she’s showing. She uses her blog and social media – Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter – to share whatever is on her mind.
And the mind of Jamie Meares is an eye-popping bazaar of color and pattern. She claims everything can be art and exhorts her followers to be bold in mixing. The “Dare to Mix” Furbish mantra is on full view at the 1950s bungalow she shares with her husband Brian and their dog Rowdy, who can be seen in the Shop Dogs feature on page 104. A veritable kaleidoscope of color, pattern, and texture, flowery chintzes are layered with serape rugs, kantha quilts, pottery, artwork, design books, and objects of all kinds.
It’s a look that’s contagious, and has led to a growing number of design “e-clients,” readers turned customers who want to live in a Furbished home. In response to demand, Meares is launching a wholesale line with exclusive products this year so that they “really tell the story of the layered, daring mix we love to see in homes.”
She has dreams of opening more Furbish stores, getting into television, and seeing more of her interiors featured in national magazines. Considering her success to date, she appears headed down the right path. Pal Olsen sums it up: “If she accepted members to her cult of personality, I’d join, pay dues, and drink all the Kool-Aid in the punch bowl.”