Ashley Childers Offers Designer’s Touch at Emporium Home

She was a dancer. That is what Ashley Childers did and who she was. For years, she was a student of the body’s movement and form. She studied dance in college, even ran her own dance studio for 13 years.

When Childers and her family left Conway for Little Rock, she left that world as well. And then suddenly, dance wasn’t what she “did” anymore.

Childers grew up in a home that acted as a very creative space, one where her mother was an interior designer, so as she settled into their new house years later, she naturally took to making it her own.

The problem came when she couldn’t find the furnishings she was looking for, so she started sketching. Fast forward about five years and Childers is now the CEO and creative director of Emporium Home, the line of home furnishings people can’t stop talking about.

Just over three years ago, she nervously launched the Emporium Home wholesale line at an international show in New York with just a few lamps and occasional tables. Since then, the line has exploded onto the furnishings scene with the “feminine edge” and “livable luxury” that became its calling card.

Now they have showrooms in Atlanta, Las Vegas and High Point, North Carolina, and the line includes everything from seating and gemstone chandeliers to wallpaper and a brand new rug collection.

Though Emporium Home is well on its way to becoming a household name, Childers does things a bit differently. For starters, she designs every piece.

“Most people think, like I did, that furniture lines design their own stuff. They don’t,” Childers says. “It really helped build our name a lot faster because people were intrigued by it. I thought everybody did that. I mean, why wouldn’t you? It’s so much fun. I don’t know why you would take the creative part out of it.”

That’s not all that people are intrigued by. Childers is one of the few home furnishings CEOs who is not only young, but also a woman.

But that doesn’t faze Childers. She’s too busy living by her mantra: Design what you like. From day one, she has stayed true to the concept that if she wouldn’t buy it for her own home, she won’t produce it.

“I love everything I design, so I put it in my home. People react strongly to that. I’m super humbled by the response we’ve had, but I’m still going to design what I like, what I see as the vision for our brand, and I’m pretty unapologetic about it.”

Decidedly striking out on a quest for authenticity in her work, Childers’ designs lack a certain jaded quality that comes when you pander to the cry of the fad. Instead, she goes in search of the adept craftsmanship required for high-end artisan pieces, even if that search takes her across the globe.

France, India and Vietnam have all held some of the more transfixing elements with their silk saris, glass beads and vibrancy of daily life. There’s something about watching somebody cast brass with their hands that is unexplainable for her, that pushes her to invest in the cultures of these artisans, furthering the conversation of design possibility.

Stateside, Childers travels to various markets, but also has a storefront in the Heights neighborhood of Little Rock. Emporium Home unexpectedly turned into a family business with an all hands on deck approach, including Childers’ husband as the company’s president and her mother-in-law as CFO.

The attention they’ve earned from national and international press and businesses alike is a proud feat for Childers, who doesn’t buy into the negative Arkansas misconceptions she keeps bumping in to at trade shows. In fact, she’s blowing them out of the water.

“It feels good when we’re at a show and people ask us where we’re based, expecting us to say ‘New York,’ and we get to tell them we’re from Little Rock, Arkansas,” she says.

But Childers isn’t running for The Big Apple anytime soon. That authenticity she subscribes to comes with a passion for creating environments that make people feel nurtured and rejuvenated, spaces that feel like home. For Childers, that’s in The Natural State.

“Arkansas is a nurturing place to be. I love to come home here. You can slow down a bit, not be in such a hurry and take in the beauty. It fosters creativity and I love our community because of that.”

Maybe in her college dance classes she never expected this role for herself. Maybe she’s just as surprised about how far Emporium Home has already come as anybody else. Maybe the pride she feels when someone chooses to live every day seeing one of her pieces in their home isn’t quite the same kind of pride she felt at the end of a recital, but there is the same zeal bursting beneath the surface.

“It’s not work, it’s art. I get to meld my passions and my job, to build a company that is an extension of me and my personal aesthetic. That’s the ultimate artist’s dream,” she says. “When you have the confidence to be creative without barriers, that’s when beauty is born.”

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