It is rare to find creative people, like Stephanie Jones, who bring artistry to everything they touch. She is a talented painter, professional photographer and co-founder of two iPhone applications, and I would argue that her role as a mother of three (the two youngest are twins!) requires creative leadership as well. Stephanie’s talents are many, but today we are focusing on Me & Mrs. Jones, her decorative painting studio where she and her staff oversee a retail store, conduct training workshops and design custom furniture.
While Me & Mrs. Jones has many layers of activity and inventory to enjoy, Stephanie’s premise is simple: Create a place where clients and students can come to be inspired, and then access all of the instruction, materials and tools that they need to go home and make something gorgeous.
Stephanie has fulfilled commissions for both commercial and residential settings, and her appeal extends far beyond local popularity. Not long ago, she painted and glazed a table for Tobi Fairley, a designer in Little Rock, Arkansas. The table left Memphis, went west to the Little Rock studio, and then on another truck to Richmond, Virginia, for their Symphony Showhouse. It was pictured in the The Washington Post and in Traditional Home magazine—it was (she thinks) her most “well-traveled piece.” Stephanie’s custom furnishings are on display in homes from Nantucket to LA and even in the UK.
Introducing “Me & Mrs. Jones”
Stephanie’s husband convinced her to move from her hometown of Chicago to Memphis in 1989. She remembers vividly that the dining room walls of their first home had been glazed in a 1980s rag-rolled look, and there was a damaged place that needed to be fixed. Stephanie begged her artistic friend Shelley Bolton to teach her how to repair the wall. “After that, I was hooked and picked up any available sort of training workshop, or evening class at the Memphis College of Art, or free demo at Home Depot—literally anything I could to learn different products, finishes and techniques,” Stephanie explains. Her dedication led her to apprenticeships with accomplished finishers and training with some of the best in the business. After years of freelancing, Stephanie opened her own studio in 2012, Me & Mrs. Jones, located in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of Memphis.
While each piece or room that Stephanie creates is different, her overall work style is soft and subtle, well-executed and well-suited to the space or piece. Color and details are imperative. She particularly loves “a lacquered or high-gloss finish in a bright color, or in white; a soft, layered look finished with glaze and/or wax; stenciled or patterned pieces, especially combined with gilding; and anything with lines!”
Decorative Painting Trends
“This is definitely freshen-up time, and for a lot of people it’s freshen-up on a post-holiday budget, which means tons of shopping the attic and putting a new finish on an old piece is happening,” Stephanie describes. She has recently delivered five nightstands and has one more in the works, noting that her “clients seem to be focusing on cozying up in their bedrooms!” She is also seeing a lot of old buffet/credenza pieces being repurposed as television stands for big, flat-screen TVs. Another trend she has noticed: All the old armoires that used to house the big TVs are having shelves added back in and being redone as bedroom storage pieces again.
“My view is a little biased, but the trends seem to be a continuing appreciation for things that have been in the family (with an updated finish, of course) and excitement about rescuing and redoing a treasure from a flea market, thrift shop, Craigslist or the curb,” Stephanie says. In terms of decorative painting, Chalk Paint® and milk paint have exploded in popularity, and with good reason. They are non-toxic, water-based, pigment-packed and easy to use for a wide range of looks, and require a bare minimum of prep work. “It’s a whole new day for anyone who enjoys painting, whether on Saturday mornings or as a profession.” Stephanie points out that Annie Sloan (who developed Chalk Paint®) and Marian Parsons (who has reintroduced milk paint to a new audience) have shown a new generation the fun and satisfaction of transforming an old piece of furniture into something personal, creative and lovely to live with. “It’s addicting and contagious.”
In the retail space, which is open two days a week, plus by appointment, are Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint®, Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, and all of the companion products that go along with those, plus books, stencils, special brushes, hardware, and some vintage furniture and accessories.
The furniture for sale at the studio is Stephanie’s work alongside pieces by staff members Kim Bennett and Jessica Mayhall. Stephanie also includes things she finds at flea markets that are perfect just the way they are. She also carries stencils from five of her favorite designers, as well as the best paints and brushes available. Also, check out her list of Faves on the website. Here, she generously shares resources, inspirations and go-to spots for stencils, hardware and more.
Introducing the workshops has been “the most fun surprise of all” since opening her studio, Stephanie says. “In the business plan someone (Mr. Jones!) made me write last year, I anticipated teaching two or three a month, but the response has been so fantastic that I am trying to figure out a way to fit seven or eight in to keep everyone happy!”
The workshop schedule is announced a month in advance in an email newsletter, as well as on Stephanie’s Facebook page and website. (Anyone who is interested can find all details on the studio page at mrsjonespaintedfinishes.com, and then use the online signup form.) They keep the groups to a maximum of ten, depending on the topic. A floor cloth workshop or the “Having a Bad Chair Day?” session would be limited to four students, for example, so that everyone has plenty of space and gets all the attention and instruction they need. Classes range from beginner, “easy-breezy” level to advanced techniques for experienced finishers. “We do have the occasional girls’ night sort of thing, too, by special request.”
Stephanie relies on several talented people to get it all done. She describes her cousin Kim Bennett as her “right hand and left brain,” and says that Jessica Mayhall “saves the day on a regular basis.” Also on board: Catherine Wilfong and Lou Walker, who help with workshops and events; bookkeepers Cheryl Westlake and Katherine Kaelin; display specialist Karen Klawinski; and graphic designers Laura Beck, Sally Walker Davies and Jonathan Christian. She refers to her staff as “her friends” and points out that she relies on their talents heavily, especially during the fall Cooper-Young Festival. “Our teenagers get roped into all the key tasks like stenciling shopping bags, prepping workshop supplies, picking up and delivering furniture, keeping the studio mopped and dusted and the flower beds mulched. It’s a total team effort…I’d be lost without them all.”
One indispensable layer of Me & Mrs. Jones’ success is the owner’s charismatic personality; as the saying goes, Stephanie never meets a stranger, and she loves the variety introduced with every project, every day. She describes the studio and her career as an artist enthusiastically—“It’s fun and creative and messy and flexible. My days are all about making the world a little prettier, teaching other people how, and being able to be there for my family … who wouldn’t love that?”
For more information about Me and Mrs. Jones, visit the website: http://www.mrsjonespaintedfinishes.com
All photos (except for the one of Stephanie) were taken by Stephanie Jones.
P.S. Our Louisville editor, Heidi, posted about chalk and milk paint in fall 2012. To view, click here.