This on-the-go mom dishes on designing for HGTV’s Property Brothers, her classic-but-chic style and her newest business venture – Blu Home. Open October 1, the beautiful furniture and accessories showroom resembles a mix of Anthropologie meets Tampa's Oxford Exchange.
WHO: Chelsea Dunbar, age 31, founder and president of Blu Interiors, a full-service interior design group, and a partner in Blu Home, a retail furniture and accessories showroom on Osprey Avenue in Sarasota.
WHAT I DO: I attended Savannah College of Art and Design for my bachelor's degree in interior design. After college, I worked at a couple architecture firms, and had the opportunity to work on a lot of amazing commercial buildings all over the world. After I decided to start a family, I founded my own residential interior design business in Atlanta. We started out just designing for neighbors and friends, until another designer friend in Toronto shared with me that HGTV's Property Brothers was looking for a design team to help with its Atlanta season. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Then, in the middle of shooting the show, we found out we were moving to Sarasota. I finished out the season and moved to Sarasota permanently two years ago. Since then, we've expanded our interior design work, including all over southeast Florida.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH JONATHAN AND DREW SCOTT? We all had to spend a lot of time together with the crew for filming. After every house we completed, Jonathan would ask for a walk-through and move pieces around if he didn’t love the placement. He has great taste and really liked working with me on the design aspect of show.
They are really nice and very fun to hang out with. They actually love karaoke and Jonathan texts me for decor advice and referrals a lot. They're both really good guys.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW LOCATION: Nicole, my business partner, and I have been dreaming of opening a furniture showroom since I moved to Sarasota two years ago. This collaboration allowed us to open our location on Osprey Avenue in Sarasota so we can better serve residents, designers in Sarasota and our own clients.
I bring a lot of design experience from Atlanta, and most recently, Nicole was a showroom manager in the Boston Design Center for Edelman Leather. We want to be a part of the design community here and hopefully showcase pieces that haven’t been previously available in Sarasota. From a style perspective, the showroom carries an array of pieces ranging from transitional to contemporary. We want to offer those pieces that you can really live with and are comfortable, durable and unique. The beauty of what we do is that we have a lot of custom options and a designer on staff that help you pull all of your ideas together for your space.
FAVORITE INTERIOR DESIGN TREND RIGHT NOW: Oooh, there are so many. Metallics are big right now. We love gold and mixing metals and using them in unexpected ways. I am also really into graphic patterns on everything. We are seeing bold patterns on rugs, light fixtures, drapery panels and more.
BEST INTERIOR DESIGN TIP: Hire an interior designer! OK–just kidding. Plan everything before you get started. That way, you can really think through decisions, and it can really help to see all of your selections on one page. We like to put images of everything together in PowerPoint to see how they work together visually. A lot of furniture pieces are custom and can’t be returned, so it’s best to be sure you love it before you buy it.
FAVORITE ITEM IN THE STORE RIGHT NOW: It would be the Jessica Zoob pillows we have in the store. The Passion series is one of Jessica’s most celebrated works. The pillows feature six paintings that reflect the various seasons in a love affair. Spring brings a sense of anticipation. Summer is full of energy and color. Autumn can bring tempestuous storms while winter feels crisp and still.
MY STYLE: My style varies from day to day, mostly because I am a busy mom and half the time I'm sleep deprived. Often, I’m more worried about getting the kids dressed for school than pulling things together for myself. On the days I’m running behind, you will find me in workout clothes. On the days I have a little more time to myself (never!), I would say I typically lean toward classic and chic. I am rarely on point with being too trendy. I normally end up stealing fashion trends from my younger designers.
HOW HAS YOUR STYLE EVOLVED? I am really making an effort to be comfortable but look pulled together. My outfits have to transition from carpool drop-off and construction sites to meeting with clients at the showroom. For me, versatility is key when I get dressed in the morning. Because every day is so different in my world, I really have to make sure I keep my schedule in mind. I recently broke a pair of Louboutins trying to walk around on a construction site. Not my favorite fashion moment!
WHOSE STYLE INSPIRES YOU? My girlfriends! I have made some amazing connections in Sarasota, and I am really inspired by how fashion-forward some of my friends are. I love the events season here because I really get to see what my friends are wearing. I am so looking forward to my favorite event, Wine, Women and Shoes, where all the ladies in town are ultra-fashion conscious.
FAVORITE DESIGNERS: From a designer perspective, I am really inspired by Tory Burch’s bold use of colors, and I LOVE Kelly Wearstler. Everything she touches is amazing. I really love Max Azria, too. All of his clothes seem to work for me.
MY GO-TO ITEMS: My grey Hunter Boots, which are perfect for construction sites, and Bourbon and Boweties jewelry. I seriously love everything so much that we had to sell it in the showroom! I’m also a huge fan of the Hayden Reis beach bags. They look great and have a ton of pockets for on-the-go kids’ stuff.
FAVORITE ITEM I OWN: One of my designers, Jessica, bought me a gold Rebecca Minkoff clutch for Christmas, and I literally carry it everywhere. It’s my “wallet” where I keep everything, and I can put it in my day bag for work. It also doubles as a clutch at night when I go out and matches everything.
FOR A NIGHT OUT ON THE TOWN: I Rent the Runway! My secret to looking good is this subscription. I have a constant rotation of beautiful designer clothes coming to me weekly. I get to attend so many wonderful events every week, especially during season, so it’s the only way to keep up! A recent favorite rental was a romper by Rachel Zoe.
Chelsea is wearing a skirt by Jenni Kayne and a Ramy Brook shirt (both from Lotus Boutique), Pella Moda heels from L. Boutique, and bracelets by Bourbon and Boweties (found at Blu Home). Her hair is done by Sarah Eckert of Poised Beauty Salon in Salon Lofts.
A Florida native, Alicia King Robinson is the director of public relations at Sarasota-based ThreeSixOh Public Relations and the blogger behind New Version of You. Her love of fashion and eye for stylish living began at an early age. Meant to inspire, she explores fashion and the evolution and ever-changing versions of ourselves with style-inspired content.