Click here to read the full article in 405 Magazine.
First Families of Design
BY JILL FARR
PHOTOS BY CHARLIE NEUENSCHWANDER
Fanny Bolen Interiors: The House Doctors
When she started the company that bears her name in 1984, Fanny Bolen wasn’t necessarily envisioning a family enterprise — but she believes she came by her instincts naturally, and that sometimes an eye for beauty is in your genes.
“My parents were always gardeners, and always beautifying things,” she says. “My children all have great eyes for color, for flower arrangement — I think it’s just something some people have a knack for.”
Fanny welcomed the help of her daughter Bebe Bolen MacKellar when she came into the business in the early ’90s to facilitate some modernization. “I helped get things computerized, sort of brought it into this century,” MacKellar says. Then, after a few years, she was ready for another challenge.
“In 1995, Oklahoma City didn’t have a lot of outlets for buying unique things,” MacKellar explains. “So I dragged Mom to DecorX in Chicago. We were there for the day, I started buying stuff, and Mom said, ‘Where are you going to put all this?’ I said, ‘I think I’ll just open a shop!’”
That was the birth of Bebe’s, which quickly became a fixture for metro residents seeking singular home furnishings. “It went hand in hand with what Mom was doing,” MacKellar says. “She always needed quality accessories, and remember, this was before the ease of Internet shopping.”
The strain of running a business like Bebe’s eventually wore thin, however, and MacKellar decided to sell her beautiful shop to Karen Samis, a former customer who despaired at the idea of the OKC fixture going away completely.
MacKellar took a job in New York City, with a jeweler … but then 9/11 happened. She decided to return home, and re-joined forces with her mother, an arrangement that has made for a formidable decorating team with an undeniable family spirit — one that spills over into their company as a whole, and pervades their decorating mode of operation.
“Our team has a ton of fun,” she says. “The movers we use, we’ve had for a long time, and we’ve been all over the country. They’re like our family, too.”
If there is such a thing as relational decorating, the Fanny Bolen Interiors team embodies it. You get an experience with Fanny and Bebe — it’s more than advice about colors and placement. They want to enhance your home life, and they put their considerable talents to work learning about what you really want, and how best to express it. “What we can pull out of a client is different from what someone else can,” MacKellar says.
Bolen told the story of a client who insisted that they hated red … until she showed them some key fabric choices that she thought would appeal to them, and they realized that they just needed to see it in a different way.
“A good decorator gives you the confidence to make the choices you really want to make deep down,” Bolen says. “You’re like a doctor for their house.”
“Mom can do any style,” MacKellar adds, “and I’d like to think I’m the same way: traditional, modern, French. We can do beach houses! It shouldn’t be our style that we’re imposing, it should always be the client’s, at its highest level. The best it can be. And carried out in the right way.”
Fanny Bolen Interiors — and their impressive results — have built a loyal following. Clients will hire them for a home decor design, and then call on them again for seasonal decorating, entertaining, even choosing their dishes.
Fanny and Bebe’s professionalism, eye for detail and exquisite aesthetic, combined with their comforting, counselor-like approach and infectious enthusiasm, make their service special among their peers.
Their passion for what they do is evident, and their fun-loving personalities make something that can be intense — a decorating project — an adventure.
“It’s a beautiful business to be in,” Bolen says. “I look forward to coming to work. It’s just fun.”