By Emily Williams-Robertshaw
Homewood-based interior designer Julie Terrell has a new holiday venture that mixes her love of art and design as well as her answer to a seasonal plight.
About three years ago, Terrell began making custom heirloom stockings, first for herself and then for her clients.
Last year, she piloted a business selling her stockings online through her Christmas collection and saw a great response.
“I think it actually helped me to decide this was something I enjoy doing and wanted to do,” she said.
This year, she has fine-tuned her business and branded it Merry by Julie Terrell.
“There are some really unattractive stockings out there,” she said, with a laugh. “This really came out of a personal search and a struggle.”
In her work as an interior designer, Terrell identifies her style as eclectic with roots in her love of old world European design. It’s timeless classic with an edge and she’s found that she constantly evolves, adding in elements of something bohemian or quirky along the way.
Terrell developed her stocking design after growing tired of searching for stockings that matched her own vision.
“I had purchased about three different stockings over about 15 years and I was never excited about them,” she said. “I would pull them out the next year and think, that’s not the timeless look I was hoping for.”
After failing to find a stocking that was adaptable and made of quality materials, she decided to make it for herself.
“I created the pattern by myself out of paper bags, basically,” she said. “Then I tinkered with it trying to get the shape and the silhouette just right.”
What she came up with was a vintage-inspired shape that incorporates mix-and-match elements so the stocking can evolve along with her own style.
“I tend to change up my aesthetic every few years, just a little bit, not an overhaul. So, I wanted to be able to add things to the stocking one year or simplify,” she said.
Stockings come with interchangeable collars that aren’t permanently attached. They can be temporarily secured with ribbon ties or vintage cuff links and personalized with porcelain charms that Terrell makes herself.
“The idea of having accessories that you could add to any stocking, I liked,” she said. “Even if you have an heirloom stocking, you might want to give it a little something extra.”
The porcelain charms are about the size of a poker chip and are etched with letters to personalize the stocking. Their look and design were conceived completely by Terrell, born out of her return to ceramics.
In college, she majored in art history with an art minor, and she continued taking at least one studio class throughout her pursuit of her master’s in art history.
“I took my first ceramics class in graduate school and I just loved it,” she said. “I enjoy working with my hands and that has taken on different outlets over the years.”
Creating the charms got her back into the ceramics studio, until the pandemic hindered her ability to frequent the shared workspace. Now she has her own kiln at home to fire the pieces.
The charm was the answer to the question, “What can you do besides embroider a name?” They are secured to ribbons and can be removed or exchanged.
“I like options,” Terrell said. “I like flexibility.
“If you are a host and you have a few different gatherings over this season, it would be nice to switch out a charm but still have something special remain for your niece, nephew or a grandchild.”
Hunts for Materials
One of her favorite parts of the process is the search for unique fabrics, ribbons, trim and cufflinks, which she hunts for online and in small shops.
She likes things that are different from the average. Some are home interior fabrics, but some of her favorite finds have been fashion materials made for small batch use.
This year, her top finds are a black and white plaid wool that was used in wool suiting, as well as a Chanel fabric she has used before that is a blush color with metallic elements.
“I also found a really pretty red velvet,” she said. “I had not done red before because I could not find a red that I loved. Red is hard because it can get too kitschy or too dramatic. This one was made for women’s suiting, so it’s a little bit lighter than some of the other reds and I just love the texture.”
She has also been loving a grosgrain trim she found that originally was from a millinery and designed to use on hats.
“It’s a really interesting material and I love that it has a history,” she said.
On her website, Terrell offers options for people to mix and match stockings that are ready-made as well as ribbons, charms and cufflinks.
“It’s more for people who can’t really picture it or can’t decide,” she said. “It’s kind of like putting an outfit together. I pull from what I have as far as stockings and collars, and you can mix and match.”
One of Terrell’s favorite processes is the fully custom projects.
There is a lead time of about eight to 10 weeks, but she gets to really collaborate with the buyer to help realize their vision.
A favorite custom piece she has created was one of her first stocking projects for one of her interior design clients.
“We had been working on (her new home) from the very beginning, before construction and all the way through decorating and furnishing,” she said.
It was a lengthy process, and Terrell decided to make custom stockings for the client as a housewarming gift.
“By that time we were totally in sync, so I knew what she liked and I knew what would work for her space,” Terrell said.
The result were reversible stockings with an upholstery fabric on one side and a Chanel tweed on the other so the homeowner could switch up the look.
Through her online shop, Terrell is now mailing off stockings not just to established clients but to customers she’s never met from places such as Pebble Beach and Los Angeles.
Creating Advent Calendars
It’s just the beginning, as she continues to find new inspiration to create her own spin on classic seasonal decorations, like her advent calendar.
The piece featured nickel-sized charms numbered for the days of advent and hung over a framed antique mirror on a decorative easel.
“I love an Advent calendar, but a lot of them are geared more towards children rather than that sophisticated aesthetic,” she said. “Once I started thinking about that, I went all the way down the rabbit hole.”
Her advent calendars were inspired by her stocking charms. As she created the charms, she would store them by hanging them over framed pictures on easels.
“When I did that, I thought, well that could be a really interesting Advent calendar,” she said.
She’s found that the Merry business has allowed her to practice more of her creative abilities.
“As a designer, it certainly is a creative field but not all of it is creative. You’ve got purchase orders and sales tax and lots of logistics,” she said. “You can really get bogged down in the business of it, the paperwork and accounting. It has been nice to get a little more of a creative outlet in addition to the parts of design that aren’t.”
For more information, visit merry.julieterrell.com.