Books from some of the most well-known names in decorating and furnishing line the shelves of Tammy Trippel’s home office. In those books, she can find the colors, the styles, the fabric and the wood finishes perfect for her clients. But over the past few years, Tammy has turned her sights on Rio Grande Valley artisans to deliver the final “WOW.”
Tammy’s passion for decorating began years ago when she worked in Texas State Bank’s loan department. Visiting her customers’ gorgeous custom-built homes proved to be the greatest perk of her job. Always artsy, Tammy delighted in seeing the unique touches different builders added to their designs.
Tammy left the bank to work in sales for Experian. She covered the region from Laredo to Corpus Christi for 10 years. Then, in 2002, Experian decided to sell her region. Tammy had to decide what was next.
Despite the trepidation that often accompanies self-employment, Tammy decided to open a franchise of Decorating Den, known for their motto: We Come to You. Though the company boasts over 400 franchises nationwide and in Canada, Tammy owns the only one south of Austin.
She knew from the outset that each client would present her with challenges. She would be working with both residential and commercial clients. Some of them would have extensive decorating tasks for her to complete, while others would simply need help with one room. She recalled her days at Texas State Bank and the excitement she felt each time she visited a client’s home. Now she felt an even greater excitement knowing she could take her customers’ homes or offices from a “space” to a place beyond what they envisioned.
Tammy set to work getting the word out about her new venture. Each client had different needs, so Tammy began enrolling in webinars to fine tune her natural gift for decorating. She knows that ongoing training is critical to stay abreast of the latest trends in furnishing and decorating.
Things were running smoothly for Tammy as she completed projects for various clients. Then a chance meeting introduced Tammy to someone who would add an additional dimension to what she had to offer. Tammy’s older son, Tim, is a student at Texas A&M. Throughout Tim’s years in public school, Tammy managed to balance her business, time with her husband and two sons and regular involvement in school activities. She had no intention of changing that once Tim entered college.
Thus, it was no surprise when she joined other members of Aggie Moms on a project to create Aggie mosaic stepping stones. One Aggie Mom caught Tammy’s attention. Trish Motheral.
“She doesn’t use a saw at all,” Tammy said. “She does everything by hand. She has an incredible talent for spatial design.” Trish’s mosaic artistry left Tammy in awe, but at the time, Tammy didn’t realize she would be calling on Trish to help her with a client’s renovation.
The owners of L&G Engineering hired Tammy to remodel their conference room and the attached restroom. Tammy ordered beautiful custom tile from San Antonio to create the backsplash for the entertainment center in the conference room.
“When the backsplash was completed, we had some tile left over,” Tammy said. When she saw the left over tile, she envisioned the perfect finishing touch. “I called Trish and said, ‘Can you make a custom-framed mirror that coordinates with the backsplash?’” Trish worked her mosaic magic, and Tammy’s client was thrilled with the result.
Tammy’s clients told her they often served food at meetings and other events in the conference room. They wanted a place where the food could be served, but they didn’t want it to take up much space. Tammy immediately turned to one of her favorite Valley artisans, Marion Yoder from Yoder Woodworking in Pharr. Rachel Medina from South Texas Contractors Supply first introduced Tammy to Marion, and Tammy quickly realized she had discovered a gem.
“His work is stunning,” Tammy said. “He is a master carpenter who creates custom highboys, buffets and desks. He does beautiful cabinetry, too.”
Tammy contacted Marion and told him about her client’s request. Marion set to work creating a Murphy table built into the room’s wood paneling, like those secret doors revealed when someone pushes a latch on a shelf in a den. Marion’s work of art was the perfect solution.
Another Valley artisan stepped in to help with Tammy’s renovation at L&G Engineering — Alan Leidner from Glassica in Mission.
“I had heard a lot about Alan before I met him,” Tammy said. “In fact, I’ve learned that I had seen a lot of his glass work but never knew it was his. He is very talented and very good to work with.”
Alan made the mirror for Trish’s custom mosaic frame. He also designed the rippled rain glass door fronts for the cabinets in the conference room and added a few other finishing touches to the renovation. Each piece created by Tammy’s hand-picked Valley artisans fit perfectly together, delivering a new conference room and bathroom that went beyond this client’s expectations.
Tammy often calls on local artisan Sam Lopez, too. Sam is an expert upholsterer, and Tammy is constantly amazed by his work.
“A lot of people can upholster,” Tammy said, “but not a lot can pattern-match. He knows exactly what the pattern repeat is on any fabric, so he knows exactly the amount of material needed to allow him to pattern-match on any piece of furniture. THAT is a skill.”
Through Decorating Den, Tammy’s clients have access to vendors from across the U.S. and the world. They offer products seen in industry magazines like Architectural Digest. Tammy feels fortunate to be able to offer her clients such quality products, but she has found a great deal of satisfaction by promoting skilled artisans among us.
“All of them are at the top of their game,” she said. “Number one for me is customer service, so I want high performers.”
One thing concerns Tammy as she contemplates the skilled artisans who have become such an integral part of her business.
“We don’t seem to be training our younger generation to be artisans,” she said. “We need to protect that trade skill. We need to teach the younger generation construction science skills, architecture, carpentry and similar trades.”
Tammy is always on the lookout for hidden gems. Recently she discovered two. Bonnie Moffitt Harms creates incredible custom-made wreaths. She makes spirit wreaths for several local cheerleading squads, soft white feather wreaths for weddings, brilliantly colored ribbon wreaths and wreaths to match anyone’s décor. Bonnie has teamed up with Jennifer Lewis, whose custom-painted ornaments can be found at Barn White. Jennifer is now making ornaments to coordinate with Bonnie’s wreaths.
“These two ladies have popped to the top of my radar,” Tammy said.
Tammy considers herself a facilitator. She looks at her client’s space and has the vision of what it can be.
“It’s up to me to make it happen,” Tammy said, “and I need the best of the best to do that. These people are definitely that.”