Although Betsey Mosby didn’t start her career in interior design, she did start life with a passion for interiors. “I knew from a young age that design was my interest, thanks to family in the business and an absolute obsession with the field,” says Betsey, owner of Jackson, Mississippi-based Betsey Mosby Interior Design. “I interned for a few designers in my younger years and was bitten by the bug from an early age.”
In college, however, her path veered. Like many family members, Betsey attended Ole Miss, which didn’t offer a major in interior design at the time. And so, also following the family path, she earned degrees in business and accounting. “Though I understand how distantly related that appears to be from design, I wouldn’t change one thing about my degrees,” Betsey says. “Certainly that’s not to say I discount the value a full design degree would have afforded me, but so much of our day-to-day is not the pretty details but the business side. I felt so prepared for that because of my background and wasn’t intimidated by so many of the aspects of owning a business that I think are scary for some.” Today, she’s a successful designer and retail store owner and she hasn’t looked back.
Tell us a bit more about launching your career. What was your earliest job in design?
I graduated from college in 2008, which was, of course, in the middle of a recession. I was thankful for a wonderful accounting job in Memphis at a time that was hard for people to secure jobs. I worked there for a few years, which taught me so much and instilled a hard work ethic along with real-life experience to business training. It ultimately was not for me, though, as I’d known from a young age. I ended up consulting for a few commercial real estate firms, which was my path to where I am now. I began by budgeting their projects, which led to material selection and the need for CAD training and space planning and design classes to teach me the ropes.
When I got married and moved to Jackson seven years ago, I began working with a fabulous interior designer, Annelle Primos, which really was the best training there could have been. She was so gracious to me and is amazingly talented — it was the best apprenticeship imaginable. I owe so much to her, which I tell her all the time. Almost five years ago, I hung up my own sign, and the rest is history! We’ve moved offices and added an employee each year, and just a few weeks ago we expanded our small showroom to a much larger showroom and shop. We’ve really come full circle and are so grateful for all of it.
Where and how do you find inspiration for your work?
Really everywhere — art, fashion and travel are huge and constant inspirations for me, but I think (per project) I look first to the architecture of the space for a lead on where to go. I think everything about a particular client, whether they realize it or not, inspires the design. How many children and animals they have, what types of jobs they have, what city they live in, what colors they love and look good in, their favorite scent and flowers, if they travel, etc. All of those things are factors in how we live, and how we live should be so closely interrelated to our homes. Design shouldn’t just be pretty; it should be functional — that’s the most important part. I think the needed function for each job and client is ultimately what inspires it.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
I’m certainly an old soul with a love of antiques and anything rusty. But at the same time, I have a more contemporary approach to that style and feel. I love abstract art and clean lines paired with a beautiful antique chest, a high-gloss lacquered wall alongside a 200-year-old mirror, acrylic mixed in with an 18th-century side table, or an old French chair with a beautiful contemporary covering on it. I think the juxtaposition of those things makes a room feel both unique and timeless. And it’s also something that can’t be replicated and gives a room a really personal and one-of-a-kind feel. In this world of Pinterest and Instagram, there are a lot of cheap knock-offs to good design. Antique pieces are a true testament to “they don’t make ’em like they used to.” They give a soul to a room that can’t be replicated and is personal and unique to its owners. We certainly work with, and are grateful for, many trade partners and value very much the products that they offer. But adding in one vintage or antique piece can sometimes give a space the character it needs.
Who are your interior design role models?
Annelle Primos, who I mentioned earlier, not just for the amazing mentorship she provided me when I worked for her and beyond. Nancy Price, who is another local-to-Jackson designer who’s been a wonderful mentor and friend to me. There are so many others — I could go on all day! I love Suzanne Kasler’s style and portfolio, and I think no one mixes old and new quite like her. At the same time, I love the work of Kelly Wearstler, who certainly has a much more contemporary aesthetic but approaches design unlike anyone else I’ve ever seen.
What brings you the most professional joy?
A happy client. It’s so much work, and we put our heart and soul into the process. The hours are long, but the payoff at the end, of course, is high. And for me, it’s really so personal because I pour myself into this work. A client who understands the amount of hours and how much we put into it and is then happy with their space is the most rewarding thing. Our clients become like good friends in the process, and it’s often sad for me when the projects are over — which I think speaks volumes about the people who we are fortunate enough to work with.
How do you feel the South’s design scene is distinct from the rest of the country?
I think it’s so much more personal and inviting. So many of my clients tell me that they want their homes to be comfortable, inviting and a place to welcome guests. And I think the design is a bit more sentimental as well. I, for one, have a collection from both of my grandmothers — china, silver, coffee table, oil paintings, etc. We have a beautiful piano from one of my husband’s grandmothers, and our dining table is from his other. They are all my favorite things in my home. Really, with most of my Southern clients, they have special family pieces that have been passed down that they want to incorporate.
Beauty has to function. While we want aesthetically pleasing rooms, we also want our children to be able to play in the living room and the puppy to be able to jump on the couch. Thankfully, with the advent of the performance fabric industry, we can make that happen much more easily today than in past years. But I think, in general, the South is more relaxed, slower-paced and more welcoming. We design for ourselves but also our families, neighbors and friends.
What do you feel is one of the biggest misconceptions about interior design from people outside of the industry?
The expense of the process and the way that the profession works. We work within all budgets and layer in with some of our clients over time, versus having only clients who do their whole house at one time. Sometimes it takes years to complete a project — which is, of course, not evident in the pictures seen online. I think so many people really view interior designers as personal shoppers and think they just go around and pick up items at retail shops or online and then charge for their time. There are certainly those who operate that way, but that’s not the standard procedure.
A good designer should really get to know you and customize your home to your taste … regardless of your budget, which should include special things unique to your space that are either special ordered, passed down or “found.” Not just a random assortment of quickly procured items. Design that’s personal can’t just be farmed out. It’s got to be curated and really thought through so it’s not so much of a “buy this from this link” as it is a whole process of what you need for the long term … what you’ll love forever instead of what’s available today online. It’s hard, though, to explain lead times because we are so accustomed to snapping our fingers to get whatever, but that can’t happen with real, custom interior design. Despite what HGTV leads you to believe! We don’t often “do” bookcases with a random assortment of things. We want your grandfather’s clock in the mix and some beautiful little art pieces you’ve found on your travels. We finish a design 90 percent, but there has to be something that makes the space YOU. And that is something that can’t be bought in a store, generally. We custom order almost everything for our clients, which is not (in most cases) any more expensive than buying something “ready-made.” But it is much more customer-focused and makes for a much more personal space. Your home should not be something that can just be copied or replicated; it should just be yours — which I think is a huge misconception of how the industry works.
I think another misconception is the amount of time that the design process takes. The proposals and the paperwork, etc., are 90 percent of the work. The beautiful, fun design is, of course, what we thrive off of. But really, it’s a small portion of what we actually do. There are countless logistics that go into making just one custom pillow, which I think is hard to understand if you’ve not worked in this industry yourself or worked closely with a designer before.
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What are your predictions for interior design in the next 10 to 15 years?
Certainly, the internet is changing the industry. But while that scares many designers, to me it’s an asset more than a threat. Access to trade-only items (or items that were penned that way in the past) does not make someone an interior designer who knows how to design a home. Being able to buy a designer fabric also doesn’t make you qualified to know the correct scale of the ottoman to upholster with it. Design isn’t going anywhere, even if it’s getting more accessible. If anything, access and approach to “designer” items introduce a broader audience to our industry, even if it requires a bit of process manipulation on our end. Business models always change regardless of the industry. To survive, good designers will have to learn to really embrace social media and the internet, versus fight against it.
Also, while the retail industry has certainly changed with the advent of all things social media and the internet, we still see the value in an in-person retail concept. We’ve just opened a store and are already expanding. We’ve had such a great response — so please stop by if you are in Jackson — we are in Highland Village.
If you could squeeze your design philosophy into five words, what would they be?
Traditional. Clean. Classic. Layered. Serene.
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