When designers and workrooms team together beautiful things happen—and end up on customers’ windows. In celebration of that teamwork, Draperies & Window Coverings set out to showcase the stellar efforts of creative teams through a Designer & Workroom Contest. With this issue we present our Grand Prize winners: designer Judy Ciaciura, DJ’s Draperies and Interior Design, Vadnais Heights, MN, and workroom Stacy Gardner, Maplewood, MN.
MAKING AN IMPRESSION
Ciaciura and her business partner, Donna Willman, started DJ’s Draperies and Interior Design in 1988. “Our specialty is custom window treatments, focusing more on the fabric treatments, of course, than on the hard window treatments. We do very detailed, custom work. However, we do custom furniture, we do space planning, I do commercial as well as residential,” Ciaciura says.
DJ’s is located in a St. Paul suburb, in a little commercial district off a major freeway, in a little white building with blue awnings. The partners bought it a few years ago.
“We don’t rely on walk-in traffic,” Ciaciura says, “but it’s really nice to able to have our customers come in and take a look at what we’re talking about. The majority of our work, of course, is done in the home.”
In all, there are seven on the company payroll including installers and upholsterers—there are another half dozen contract employees.
“We are kind of perfectionists around here,” Ciaciura says, adding that the company’s tagline is “Quality leaves an impression.” She believes that once customers see their completed projects they understand that and appreciate their work.
MAKING CUSTOMERS HAPPY
Ciaciura started in interior design quite young in 1972. Having received an education in design and passing the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam, she worked for two other companies before becoming vice president of DJ’s. Design has been her life’s work. “I’ve had a passion for interior design all my life,” she says. “So it’s really the only thing I know, but it has been a fun and exciting career.”
It’s been good for customers, too. They are the beneficiaries of Ciaciura’s work and many have remained loyal throughout her career. “When we first went into business, my business partner and I had worked for another company for 10 years. We couldn’t solicit our previous customers, but what we did is we started using our pictures in our advertising, which was something that really wasn’t done then at all, other than real estate people.
“It started working because when someone is inviting you into their home, it’s really nice if they could see what you look like. Well, we started using it and it almost became kind of our logo. So we have stuck with that.”
The company authors an article once a month in a newspaper called The Home Zone, which is delivered to homebuyers who receive the paper free for the first two years they are in their homes. Building on that idea, DJ’s plans to stay close to former customers through a newsletter to be mailed four times a year to a list of 2,400 clients.
“Our customers are happy because we make them happy,” Ciaciura says. “We do surveys on them. Every one of them gets a performance evaluation. They respond, and that’s a nice way to get our testimonials, too.”
What turned out to be the winning treatment was a project completed for someone Ciaciura would describe as a special customer. The family raises horses and lives in a large, gated ranch, she says. Privacy was not an issue, and the room didn’t get direct sun, so they just wanted to enhance the window and finish off the room.
“You have to let them be involved in that decision-making, so you need to walk them through the pictures and let them feel very much a part of the final decision. The way that treatment turned out was the way I visualized it before she and I even started looking through the pictures.
“She had been to several places already, and most of them design studios, and she couldn’t seem to get anybody that could help her with those window treatments,” Ciaciura adds.
For some of the details, Ciaciura points to the puddled drapery panels. “What we do is put a drawstring in there so that the bottoms are drawn real tight so when you pick them up to vacuum you can plop them back down. They are not loose on the bottom.”
TALK ABOUT DETAIL . . .
Then there is that pin tuck section in the panels.
“The drapery is actually made in three pieces,” says Stacey Gardner, the workroom on our winning project. “That pin-tuck section is a section of fabric that I cut and turned 90 degrees. Then I took pin tucks in it between the embroidery stitch. There’s a kind of an embroidery stitch going across the top of the fabric. So between each of those embroidery sections there is a plain section of fabric. So we took a pin tuck in each of those plain sections leaving the embroidery visible between the tucks. That took some time to put together, but I think the outcome was really nice.”
Gardner continues, “That was Judy’s idea. She’ll come up with the designs and give me a sketch or a picture or something I should follow. Working with Judy has been very pleasant because not only does she describe what she wants in a real good way and give me clear sketches of what she wants to scale, but also she’ll once in a while leave me a little freedom to work things the way I feel would look best in the detail sections.”
Talk about detail: All the trim on the drapery panels is a double-layer: gimp and ball fringe. “The little balls on here had a type of wire cloverleaf shape that is over the top of them and DJ’s took the time at the customer’s house to open each of those up and spread it so it was nice and dimensional so that it gave an open look to each,” Gardner explains.
The detail work in sewing is something Gardner personally enjoys. “I’m not somebody that takes things and throws it together real fast. I’ll take time to stop and think about it before I begin cutting. I don’t want to make a mistake. I’ll take time to figure out what path I’m going to take. I guess I’m not the fastest worker, but I sure enjoy putting it together when I do it.”
Originally from Mesa. AZ, Stacey Gardner moved to Minnesota when her husband’s work brought them north eight years ago. She has worked with DJ’s Draperies and Interior Design since then.
Like so many workrooms, Gardner learned sewing from her mother, whom she describes as an excellent seamstress and who taught her a lot. Gardner would watch her mother sew and she would help Stacey with the things she was working on.
Gardner got her first home sewing machine on lay-away. “From there we just added a machine here and there. It was a real slow transition into the industry. I just gradually built up my equipment and my workroom,” she says.
Although she describes herself as a part-time workroom, Gardner works on professional equipment. Over time she as added a serger, a walking-foot machine “to go through nice thick layers of fabric,” a blind hemmer, an industrial serger and a tacker.
“I didn’t buy anything new. My husband has always been just so supportive, so we would take a little money here and there and invest in a machine, and so that’s why it builds up slowly.” Her husband also built her workroom table. With her equipment, it fills up the space in her basement.
“It’s real comfortable. The only thing is, it doesn’t have windows down there—can you believe it? No windows in my drapery workroom. But I find that there are a lot of advantages to that as well. I go down and it’s a quite space and there’s very little distraction. I can put on classical music and work. I can concentrate very well.”
“I find such joy in taking a bolt of fabric and somehow bringing that to a finished product that, hopefully, is what the designer is expecting and will bring beauty to someone’s environment, to their home wherever they are.”