White House Design, “They are the best in the business.”
A new house, a fresh start, a clean slate. The idea of designing the perfect home can be exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. There are so many choices from paint and wall coverings to furniture and lighting, deciding where to begin can be daunting. That’s where White House Design for Life can step in to transform that big empty space into exactly where you want to spend all your time.
Sparked by an interest in furniture and launched with the opening of her first retail store in 1978, owner Karen Arakelian has been helping to create cozy spaces and show-stopping rooms for decades and just continues to grow her brand. From her first store, Red Barn Furniture that her mother helped her to finance, Arakelian grew into White House Furniture in 1982, followed by the opening of Uptown Country in 1994 which was then moved and renamed White House Living in 2004.
Arakelian was firmly placed in the world of furniture design and sales and soon expanded to include home accessories, window treatments, and wall coverings. As she worked to curate and sell the best quality furniture and accessories she could find, she soon recognized that interior designers were frequent customers and so she opened a trade-only division of her growing empire branding it White House Design Resource. Today many top interior designers frequent her stores to gather what they need to fashion the rooms of their clients’ dreams.
With all the pieces in place to create rooms from the ground up, Arakelian decided to place her varied businesses under the umbrella of White House Designs for Life, but each retains its own showroom and purpose. Her latest venture is the opening of one of only two Hunter Douglas showrooms in the United States. She said their automation capabilities grew her interest in the company and she was sold by their commitment to their products. In short, Arakelian says, “They are the best in the business.”
Finding the best is something Arakelian extends to her search for employees. She takes much pride in her staff who she calls highly skilled and truly regards as family. She depends on them as she calls herself the queen of delegating and credits much of her success to knowing the right person to hand the job off to. Arakelian recently handed off a new home design to her trusted interior designer Tanya Woolley.
The clients had downsized to a newly built townhome and were looking for design help with the entire home. They had brought along some of their furniture and purchased some more, but they didn’t have a direction. “I collaborated with them spending time looking through books, looking at our products. They had a good feel for what they wanted and great taste, but they didn’t know how to create the layout and design,” Woolley says.
Everything in the home was builder-grade and painted white allowing the new design to be laid on bare bones. The client wanted warm colors, straying away from the typical grays, but also didn’t want anything too jarring. Woolley was able to add pops of color that weren’t overpowering but created interest. The client also did not want silver or shiny brass, leaning more towards traditional color that was warm without being gaudy. The stunning light fixtures checked those boxes providing a bit of glamour and drama, but not taking over the spaces. “I’ve done a lot of homes and rooms but this space is particularly special because it’s not what is typically done in the market today. The diversity of style and color that the client appreciated allowed me to show more skills like being able to incorporate bright color which was good for the client and for the design,” Woolley says.
Being able to take advantage of the custom furniture that White House Design offers also gave Woolley a chance to showcase her design talent. The home has two offices, one on the first floor for him and one upstairs for her. The first-floor office has to serve the dual purpose of office and guestroom, but the space is limited. Woolley incorporated a built-in Murphy bed that can easily fold away into the wall when not needed and she flanked that with cabinets and shelving. The upstairs office has a single purpose but it is in the loft so oddly shaped requiring a custom-sized desk and shelving. The client wanted the shelving and cabinets to store her office supplies and equipment away from view, but also wanted bookcases for display. The shelving, desk, and storage were all custom built to fit the space with units that can slide out when needed and be pushed behind closed doors to offer a more streamlined appearance. For display, the bookcases have interior lighting that also gives the room ambiance.
Working her magic in tight spaces was one challenge, but Woolley faced the reverse problem with the two-story foyer that if done incorrectly would overpower the rest of the house. While this space truly put her design skills to the test, Woolley says it also turned out to be the room she most enjoyed working on. The foyer is large and not only houses the dining area but is a space that can be seen from many other rooms in the house, including upstairs. Because it has such a large impact on the overall house, it needed to flow well with the other spaces. Woolley said shape and sizing was really important for the furniture, light fixtures, and accessories. Too small would be lost, too large would take over the space so Woolley needed to find the perfect balance and tie it all together with cohesive color and pattern. To give the foyer personality, the large expanse of walls became ideal locations to showcase art and design pieces that work to add beauty and interest and also to draw the eye up and into the magnificence of the space.
The townhome came together beautifully and met all the needs of the homeowners. Woolley’s years of experience are showcased in this space and as Arakelian comments, “Tanya is one of White House Living’s best.” And with her decades of experience in the industry, Arakelian knows a good find. Seeing projects come together successfully under the hands of her team and enjoying the smiles on the faces of clients is what keeps Arakelian going. Because business has been so good to her and allowed her such success in doing what she loves, Arakelian wanted to give back and so founded The Gloria Foundation to benefit domestic violence victims. She supports the foundation through sales at her luxury consignment shop, Design Consign.
Despite wearing so many hats, Arakelian has no plans to slow down. “I love what I do and I get up and thank God for another day. I tell my sons to find something you love and you’ll be happy to do it forever. We make people happy. When they come in to buy furniture or get to see their new room, they are in a good place and I love helping them get there,” she says.