Wednesday, June 24, 2015


In construction there are tons of deadlines and people to coordinate. If one person runs behind (like the carpenter) it causes a domino effect for the rest. Painters cant paint what's not built, electrician cant hang lights if room is not painted, flooring cant be installed, plumber cant install toilets without flooring.... and on and on...

Here are some more progress pics of the stairs

Well this has happened more than once on this job and the closer to end that I get the more people are getting stacked on top of each other. The carpenters continually underestimate their time and pushing people behind. Some things, like the brick floors being laid... if I put them off again it would be a month before they could come back so I let them install and just covered the floor for the painters to get back in.

All last week I spent 2-4 hours every morning on the site and often spent an additional 1-2 hours in the afternoon. I answer questions, check on progress, meet subs current and new as we move into the outdoor repairs before painting. Since the homeowners do not live here yet I am the liaison and make many major decisions. Remodels are notorious for uncovering problems and issues that require a answer to keep things rolling.

On very rare occasions I have issues being a woman on a job site, some men can get too fresh. I have one particular sub who is constantly too fresh. I can handle some  smack talk on a job but he tries to box me in a room, makes comments as I walk in front of him and he tries to touch me. I told him again to stop and followed our meeting up with... if he was unable to behave appropriately that I would have someone else complete the project. I'm WAY over it! Everyone else on this project has been respectful. I occasionally have a little difficulty with a new sub who does not realize my 20 years of experience are not just picking out paint colors and fabrics. That I have a lot of knowledge on residential construction.   They soon realize I know a lot more than they expect and I can say my pursuit of getting my degree in interior design has added so much to abilities.

I have a meeting tomorrow to show my final selections and prices for the apartment clubhouse furniture, accessories, drapery and art. I'm ready to get that going. Below is a picture of all the fabrics and paint colors.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Collaboration outside the office

Other types of collaboration happen with developers, contractors, other designers and subcontractors. The Pennebaker's have connections with other people in the community that send or refer them work. These kinds of projects include apartment complexes, retirement communities, local hospitals and universities. Sometimes there are other designers involved and we merely provide the product and other times we select every item and finish. I also have residential designers that work through me and are provided a small commission for selling our products.

On commercial projects the builder/developer coordinates all the subcontractors. On occasion I may be involved in decisions about a certain aspects and I will communicate directly with the management teams to provide answers via group emails, phone calls or texts.

On some of my residential projects I often, hire, recommend and oversee subcontractors like, electricians, carpenters, plumbers, flooring installers and painters. Coordinating all these people can be very complex and time consuming. For new subs, it has taken time for me to gain their respect as they begin to understand the value, overall coordination and detail I add to the project as well as my 20 years of experience and knowledge in residential construction. We all have to work together to create the best outcome for the client. Both sides have to listen and understand the other. Sometimes the design doesn't work exactly as drawn or sometimes the sub may have never done anything like you are asking. Both sides must be open to modifications and new ideas.

The most important person to collaborate with is the client. They are the reason for any project. Their happiness is the most important thing in any project. Their needs, wants and desires should be considered an addressed wherever possible. They rely on me to help them navigate through all the complex decisions. Construction and remodeling is very stressful and often overwhelming for home owners. I feel it is my job to help them understand the process and decisions they are making.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Since the design department is new here and it only has one employee (me) the collaboration that takes place is more about people specific jobs and division of responsibilities. Adam Pennebaker (co owner of Pennebaker Enterprises) is the COO (Chief Operations Officer) and he deals more with vendors and the delivery center. Bo is the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and deals more with financial and legal.  I report more to Adam on most projects and my office in located inside the Ashley store. Adam and Bo have offices in a different building so I don't see them everyday. When I place an order if its an Ashley product it is already in the computer system that automatically places orders. If its a non Ashley item or a custom item I make a manual Purchase Order and give it to Sarah who is Merchandise Coordinator/ Expediter. She enters the items in the system so I can write a sales order on the computer. This allows the item to be attached to the sales order when it is received at the delivery center.  The delivery center is 36000 square foot building for receiving and organizing deliveries of furniture. There are teams to receive product and check it for damage. If it needs assembly they do that there. Then we have teams of delivery trucks and a service van. Art work, mirrors, lamps and some accent furniture are received at the store in the small warehouse area by the floor designer and floor support.

In the store there are a lot of other people that I interact with or have specific rolls. The store manager and assistant manager help with portions of the computer ordering system that are only accessible by them. The GSR's (guest services representative) do all the paperwork, receive all types of payments or financing and handle guest sales orders  I track all my jobs and payments and send my commission sheets to one of our accountants. We also have a person in charge of all advertising which is geared towards the retail side and none on the design side, so I interact with her very little unless I need business cards.. Although I'm no longer one of the 12 sales person on the public retail side of Ashley furniture, I am still friends with them and interact with them when I am out on the sales floor. I have access to product lines they do not so much of my work is done on line in my office.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Manic Monday

Monday morning the paint crew of 7 was at the Martin house priming, caulking, staining and painting. The cleaning crew was also there removing dust and debris left by the carpenters and plumbers so the painters have clean surfaces to paint. The carpenters still not complete, but closing in with painters on their back. Lighting delivered and placed in the correct room.  Electricians starting Tuesday morning hanging lights and replacing old switches and plugs. Controlled chaos.

I walk in to the garage as I make my full job site inspection and notice a puddle on the floor. I look up and yes water dripping. I guessed it was an A/C unit since I knew there was one in the attic above the garage. One of the painters overheard me and went up into the attic to check it out. And it was the A/C so I turned it off and called the service tech. The subs have been leaving the doors open too much so the A/C gets overworked and freezes up. Also there was 6 months before I was put in charge where the A/C filters were not being changed and dust got into the unit. I have an a/c cleaning lined up but I'm not doing it until the dust stops.

Next I had a sub lined up to start forming up the new front steps to be poured. And to work on replacing the rotten boards on the eaves. But after not being able to reach him he eventually texted me back that he had to much on his plate. He flaked out after promising to do the work, so I'm in the process of finding a replacement sub.

In between all this I was working on making final selection and presentation digital boards for the apartment complex club house that I have been working on for months now. Furniture, art, lamps, rugs, accessories and drapery. Stopping and starting all afternoon.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Even the best plans go awry

My large residential project for the Martins is my daily challenge. I go there 1-3 time a day to meet with subs, discuss issues (with remodel there is always something), keep people on track, job site clean and make sure they have the supplies they need. The carpenters are very behind and at this point the painters have stopped because they can't do anymore. So I made a new schedule for the carpenters to focus on the kitchen and be out by Friday morning so the painters can get in there. The problem is I have electricians, sound and security subs planned to start Monday, so I reworked their timeline a bit and pushed them back a few days. The painters need 4 days to finish painting if the carpenters get out of the way. So Friday (maybe Saturday if the painters will come) Monday Tuesday. The electricians can start up stairs while the painters finish the 2 story foyer and living room on Monday. The iron stair railing is getting installed starting Wednesday so the painters must be done in the foyer Tuesday.

Yesterday as I was leaving the job site, after meeting with the plumber,  I did my standard walkthrough. I noticed a dark spot on the unfinished wood mantle in the study. I walked over and was it was water dripping from above. I found a bucket and placed it to catch the water. The house was built in the early 1990's and had been unoccupied for 8 years. You never know what kind of issues will pop up. I got the plumber to turn off the water so we could assess the issue. We had to access from the wall behind the shower faucet inside the vanity, so today I had the carpenters remove all the drawer guides and cut a hole into the wall for the plumber.

I told the homeowners I could probably get the house in a condition to move furniture and boxes in but we would need a few more weeks before they live there. We will have a few things to finish up and a punch list to do.  Pushing up the moving timeline due to his business travel schedule is understandable but not practical. So I continue to do my best to keep the job running smoothly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Global Perspective in Design

 My internship is not typical since I have already worked in the field of interior design for 18 years. I work for the Pennebaker Enterprises, two brothers who are licensees of 4 Ashley Furniture Homestores in Hattiesburg, McComb, Meridian and Macon Georgia. Ashley Furniture Industries is the number one selling furniture brand in North America and the largest home furniture manufacturer in the world. They sell home furnishings and accessories through two distribution channels: independent furniture dealers and through over 500 Ashley Furniture HomeStore  Ashleys has manufacturing and distribution facilities in Wisconsin, Mississippi, California, Pennsylvania, Florida, China, and Vietnam

Since the Pennebaker Enterprises design department was started in August 2014 and is fairly new, I'm going to address the global perspective from my experiences on the sales floor as well as from the design department.  I have had our delivery center service clients in Louisiana, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. I have even served clients that live in Missouri and Arizona with design services and furniture for condos in Orange Beach Florida. In both cases I never met the clients nor saw the condo. We communicated by phone and internet and all I had was a floor plan. On commercial projects we order from vendors who probably manufacture overseas although we don't deal directly with any international business.

During the years when I worked for myself I have helped make a Hindu and Buddhist alter, designed around many cultural needs, artifacts and styles. I enjoy learning about other cultures and religions. Being in the buckle of the Bible belt my willingness do design for other regions has met me some scrutiny in the past but I believe that is narrow minded and un-Christian.

On the retail side of the store, where I worked for 2 years prior to my promotion, I have served many nationalities such as Mexican, European, Arabic, Asian and Indian. Occasionally language barriers make the process more difficult but we always find a way, sometimes their children interpret, or the bring a friend, I've even had a translator on the phone. On rare occasions we play charades to communicate the sale. Often they are, immigrants, international students at USM or even doctors that move to the local area. We offer many ways to purchase from the obvious cash, check and credit cards to interest free financing with good credit and even a no credit check financing option and layaway. We are able to offer a purchasing solution to fit anyone's needs.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Never a dull moment

On Wednesday after having my schedule clear for the rest of the week I ended up making 4 appointments for Thursday and Friday. All related to current projects... thank goodness.

My big residential project for the Martins took a turn. The homeowner need to move in by June 20th which is a real push but I'm going to give it my best shot. We still have half the house to paint and most of the flooring, all new lighting, some carpentry, appliances, stair railing etc.. Its a lot to do but I a made a schedule of the last month and if everyone shows up it is possible. Its a big enough house for people to be working in different areas.  So we will see.

Here is a picture of some progress and one of my favorite changes in the house... the balcony cat walk
 this project started out because the railing was actually a balustrade with 6" spacing on this open section and 10" spacing on the stairs. Too dangerous for the kids ages 1,3 and 7. It was also ugly I called it the upside down wedding cake

 we had some other things to do in the foyer like a wider front door, as well as speaker system and security system that needed access inside the walls. we removed the sheetock in these areas and the kitchen
I opened up all 3 of the railing space and removed the upside down wedding cake. I also raised the two side areas up, added moldings and 11" 2 piece crown.
 This is the beginnings of the new railing. absolutely stunning. I cant wait to see them installed.
This project takes up a lot of my time and Wednesday I was asked to design a pool,  pool house and outdoor kitchen as well. The homeowners said if I wasn't involved they didn't want to do it. WOW! That made me feel great.
I also have some apartments I had been working on for a rehabilitation facility. We had bid on the job in September and just this last week got the final approval with a purchase order his week. So I needed to finalized the selections of art and rugs. Luckily the furniture was still available. I sat down with the lead Doctor to select art and rugs. We wanted each apartment to have a different feel even though they all have identical furniture. She picked out a lot of different art and rugs and I told her I would group them and email them for her approval. Of course being a holiday weekend for those not in the retail or restaurant biz. I don't expect an answer until Tuesday.
I also had to submit my paint colors and granite selection for the McComb apartment club house interior. I always make a spreadsheet for this. I don't have a window so I go outside often to check my colors.

I rounded off the week by meeting with a sales associate at Sunbelt lighting for the Martin residence to finalize a few loose ends on the lighting. Most of the lights were already there but I needed to sit down and hash out a few last decisions. My first choice dining chandelier was too expensive my second choice got discontinued so I'm looking for a third. Never a dull moment!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The normal chaos

The great thing about being a designer is that everyday is different. Completely unique. You never really know exactly how your day will go. The worst thing is .... repeat the previous sentence. Sometimes I wonder how I do this and go to school.

I started out Monday morning by going to breakdown my table from the tea. No ones dishes and flatware had been washed so I had to pack up dirty, dried up, crusty plates and silverware. (Frustrating and gross) On the good side I helped raise money to support breast cancer patients in the pine belt and I got my card and brochure in the hands of 440 women. 

When I made it to the office at 1:30 after unloading my car at home, my boss needed me to work on the Claiborne PO's. We conference called with the designer in Texas to verify what furniture to order.

My 3 oclock appointment called to move it to 3:30. She is phase one of a home renovation that we have been planning for months. We are taking in a 3 car garage and adding 2 bedrooms and bath for their two girls. Sheetrocking had just finished so I measured for her flooring, shower tile and picked out paint colors. After the girls move phase 2 is kitchen, dining and new front entry. We are changing how you enter the home. One of the girls rooms is going to be a large laundry room and the other 2 guest rooms will become one with a large walk in closet for their son who is in college. Phase 3 is adding a workout room and sun room/ porch off the back for the pool. We are also redesigning
the exterior entry roofline. This is an ongoing project but is moving smoothly so far.

Tuesday I selected flooring and finishes for a new veterinary clinic. A sub called me on my Martin job and I went straight there to meet him. Finally got lunch at 1:30 and completed my PO's for the Claiborne. Later I went to Provision living to measure and work on specifying furniture for a small apartment sample apartment. The living space is 8'9 x10'7 and is open to the bed room that is only slightly larger. They are very cute with nice colors and carpet. But a very difficult layout. (Oh you architects really need a designer to help you) The space could be so much easier to use with a few changes. If I put a love seat on the solid wall like they drew I have no where for the TV because the coax is in the middle of that wall the other coax is on the wall where the headboard has to go HUH??? Anyway I cant change that but I will add some art lamps, towels and a cute shower curtain to add some warmth. I'm hoping I can put up a window treatment too.

On the 20th I begin my invoicing for any invoices outstanding or client bills for design time. If I get it collected by the end of the month I get it on my next months commission statement. Last month with final projects in crazy mode, I forgot to put that someone had paid their invoice on my commission sheet and now I wont get paid on it for 2 weeks. UGH! My 1K+ mistake. I will get it but now I have to wait.

No more official appointments for the rest of the week but I have tons of things to do. I'm sure that will change... it always does.

Monday, May 18, 2015

And so it begins...

Welcome to my summer internship blog. I already work for Pennebaker Enterprises in furniture sales and design as I complete my degree at USM. I work directly under the brother owners of the company Bo and Adam Pennebaker. They own four Ashley furniture stores and also sell other brands of residential and commercial furniture through their other endeavors. In August of 2014 they offered me a new position created as they expand their sales and client services in new directions.

My internship starts in the middle of several projects that I have been working on in various stages. There are also other projects that come into the mix and are completed in a shorter amount of time.

Some of my larger ongoing projects are:

Martin Residence- major home reconstruction/ remodel 5000 sf- we are finally painting but the carpenters are behind so subs are stacked on top of each other working. I visit this job daily. I am in charge of everything from design to managing subs. It has been a challenge.

River Park Apartment Complex in McComb- I have been involved in selecting all interior and exterior finishes. In addition I am furnishing the clubhouse and one apartment with furniture, art and accessories.

The Claiborne- a multi phase retirement community- There are apartments, assisted living and full care. I am working with a designer in Texas named Linda Youngblood who was hired by the developer to specify all products and finishes.

In addition to working on all these this week,  I supervised the installation of nine apartments of furniture in Ellisville for a Property management company that rents them to Halliburton, for groups that come to train for a two month class. We had a tight deadline to meet and it was down to the wire and had to reselect some furniture to complete it in time. Some products were not on our delivery truck and I spent much of the day tracking down the products location to ensure we completed the job as promised.

I spent Friday setting up a table for a charity event. I was once on the gala committee for the Pink
Ribbon Fund, when I went back to school I did not have the time to devote to them. A few months ago they asked if I could contribute by designing and furnishing everything a table for the Downton Abbey themed tea. Although it was a week after finals I managed to pull it off working on it some during the semester but mostly during this last week. My table was Library inspired with synopsis of books written during the 1920's