SheKnows HomeStretch: Meet the designer – Maria Bailey Benson

Feb 19, 2010 at 5:31 p.m. ET

Get to know Maria Bailey Benson and how she went from answering phones for her dad's furniture shop to owning her own custom design business.


Meet the designer

Maria Bailey Benson is a furniture aficionado and third generation entrepreneur. While growing up, she spent countless hours working with her father in his custom furniture and upholstery business. Today, he has returned the favor by inspiring Maria to fulfill her dreams of launching an upscale furnishings and interior design boutique called, Nyla Simone Home, in Tempe, Arizona.

Like her father, Maria always had an innate understanding of how things work, leading her to pursue a career in engineering. She earned two degrees, a bachelor of industrial engineering and a master of science in industrial engineering, from Georgia Tech.

Thanks to her father, who has designed and manufactured furniture for nearly 40 years, Maria developed an unbelievable passion for fine furniture and interior design. Nyla Simone Home launched in September 2007 and is a luxurious, yet sensibly priced retail experience.

Maria has come a long way from answering the phones and rolling fabric for her father. She is back in the family business, selling fine furnishings–most of which are made in America (including her father's custom designs)–and feels blessed that her life has come full-circle.

See more pictures of Maria and her team >>
See before and after pictures of the room Maria designed for HomeStretch Season 2 >>

Q&A with Maria

Q: For SheKnows HomeStretch, you partnered with a mom to help her redesign a space in her home. What do you like about helping moms design rooms in their homes?

A: I love helping moms. I, too, am a working mom and I know firsthand how easy it is to slip into a state of total disarray. The challenges of work and home can often be overwhelming, so working with them to create a space that is beautiful and functional is really exciting. My goal is to help moms create spaces that are aesthetically pleasing, yet very maintainable.

Q: What advice do you give moms who want to update a room in their home, but don't know where to start?

A: I always advise people to:
(1) Create a plan! Everything starts with a plan. Get things on paper. If you don't know where to start, look at magazines and find something that inspires you. Once you have an inspiration or an "example" of what you want your room to look like, start listing the functions and storage needs you have in mind for the space.

(2) Identify your budget. You have to know how much you want to spend in order to achieve your desired look and function.

(3) Enlist a professional, if at all possible. Enlisting a design professional is like outsourcing the headache, leg work, and the worry. Once you have a plan and a budget, you can have magic elves (or, in our case, Design Angels) do all the work! It is definitely a good way to go.

Q: What is your favorite room to design?

A: I love bedrooms, especially children's bedrooms. I think of bedrooms as sanctuaries and places for renewal, and I love to help people transform their intimate living spaces.

Q: Who is your dream celebrity client?

A: My dream celebrity client is Michelle Obama. She is the ultimate fashionista and working mom.

Q: Tell us about a memorable design "oops."

A: Several years ago, my business partner and I took on a design project and decided to paint the rooms ourselves to preserve the budget. Well, we are excellent painters and everything was going great except the paint seemed a little off. We just assumed that it would tone down as it dried—it didn't. After painting an entire family room (20 x 20, plus the ceiling), we realized the hardware store had mixed the color incorrectly! The "light sage" dried and was more of a SEA FOAM. Straight drama—there was no way we could work the color. We had to go back and redo the whole room and the ceiling.

Now when we have projects that involve painting, I follow my own advice and I enlist professionals!

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