The talented Atlanta-area design duo of Kandrac & Kole always welcomes design challenges, but the phone call they received last August set the bar high. The caller, Mary Ann DiMarzio, explained that she’d followed pictures of their work posted on social media and looked up their contact information. She felt the design approach of Joann Kandrac and Kelly Kole matched her own aesthetic, but wasn’t sure they’d accept her unusual job request. Intrigued, Joann and Kelly listened intently to her ideas and buckled their seat belts for a brand new journey. (All photos courtesy of Kandrac & Kole Interiors, Inc.)
The Big Idea
Mary Ann purchased a run-down RV and intended to create a mobile fashion boutique she could take to college campuses, offering students the ability to conveniently shop for event wardrobes. She assembled an advisory council of girls to help select inventory and develop marketing concepts, and hoped the process would add to their business education. This idea encompassed much more than planning a store and Mary Ann saw the distinct need to bring these looks straight to the school, while offering a platform for mentoring savvy students. She longed for a high-end look in the boutique, but didn’t trust her own instincts for interior design. Kandrac & Kole urged her to finalize her branding before they got too far into the design process, wanting Mary Ann to have a cohesive look and feel that would provide instant recognition. Mary Ann saw her immigrant grandmother, MiMi, and seamstress mother, Emma, as her true inspiration: the timeless beauty of their relationship led to a name for the business and is the basis for the nostalgic elegance that the brand conveys. Thus, with the concept firmly in place, the Mimi & Emma‘s adventure was ready to roll.
The Design Plan
Mary Ann wanted the boutique to feel upscale, yet approachable and entertaining. She also realized that she’d be traveling to many different schools and sororities, all with their own color scheme, so keeping her own color palette “neutrally sophisticated” would balance with any location. Kandrac & Kole surveyed the raw material — a used trailer, desperate for rehabbing — and hatched a plan loaded with magic tricks and enthusiastic helpers, including Mary Ann’s contractor hubby, Joey. As you’ll see in the photos that follow, the designers used different textures to bring interest to a backdrop of black, white and soft gray, as well as custom cabinetry fabricated to maximize the space. Joann and Kelly found an easy-clean Thibaut vinyl grasscloth to smooth out the wall surface and chose a Sherwin-Williams paint swatch and a spunky Duralee fabric for drapery to complement the walls. They picked a wide-plank, rustic-looking laminate for flooring and installed faux tin ceiling tiles to glamorize one of the biggest eyesores on the job site.
The construction phase was significant, as the vehicle required a complete gutting. Plumbing and electrical had to be ripped out and the framework evaluated. The ingenious team tackled crazy angles, wiring tangles, odd corners and, well, mobility itself — when the boutique barrels down the highway, everything must be secured or stored away until parking. The handy Joey DiMarzio patiently measured and remeasured every inch, following the plans to the letter, installing every element and finding solutions to every obstacle. Within a few months, Mary Ann’s dream set in motion as Mimi & Emma’s mobile boutique made it’s first visit to UGA.
Once the main details were in place, the accessories practically selected themselves as Kandrac & Kole found items reflecting the vintage spirit of the overall design concept. Those final touches truly give the atmosphere a little extra glow — jewelry hangs from weathered shutters, curvy dress forms show off inventory and whimsically-feminine frames display images of the Advisory Council girls, as well as the namesake team of the original Mimi & Emma. A custom reclaimed wood mirror in the dressing area, created by Beyond the Mossy Tree, whispers the Mimi & Emma mantra Be Your Own Kind Of Beautiful.
In addition to bringing trends right to campus, Mimi & Emma’s mobile boutique strives to spread entrepreneurial spirit to young clients dreaming of their own future careers. Why not take a risk and start a business? Take another glance in that mirror, think beyond the textbooks and let yourself “Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful!” Follow Mimi & Emma and keep up with their travels around the South on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Mimi-Emmas.
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