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Meet Leslie Bowman of The Design Bar in Burr Ridge

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leslie Bowman.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
It’s so interesting how much has happened over the last 10 years! I went from being a financial consultant for builders and developers to running the design business I have today – doing a complete 180.

I started my career in public accounting, which was a perfect fit for me at the time, but after a number of years I knew that I needed to pursue my true passion of interior design. I took a leap and left the finance world to go back to school. While I was in design school, I did some design consulting on the side, which helped me form great connections and immerse myself even further in the design industry. I graduated from Harrington College of Design with a Master’s of Art in Interior Design in 2011 and immediately began working with a few partners, building my client base and gaining the knowledge and experience necessary to thrive in this field.

After about three years, I decided it was time to branch out on my own, and thus The Design Bar was born! I started the firm with the intention of providing homeowners a comfortable and approachable process to designing (and building!) their home. I think by acknowledging how emotional the whole process can be and by tailoring my approach for each client, I was able to offer a design process that resonates with all types of homeowners — from those looking to use The Design Bar for a complete design-build experience to those only needing a specific room renovated or decorated.

It was around three years ago that I noticed a need for a more immersive design experience; a place where I could showcase all aspects of the design process for my clients, and where they could come to brainstorm, conceptualize, shop or even just have a glass of wine and chat! When we found the Burr Ridge showroom space, I knew it was perfect for our design clients, and it also provided a platform to display and sell beautiful home décor to the general public, as well. Since opening the showroom three years ago, we’re truly seen tremendous growth! Recently, we won the national ARTS Award for Best Home Accents Store in Midwest/Southwest Region, and that has truly been a “we’ve made it!” moment for our team.

Has it been a smooth road?
It has not always been a smooth road to get to where I am today, although it has always been an adventure. When I worked in accounting, I knew everything about what my job entailed. It was predictable, and the path was straight and narrow. Working in design — and especially in retail — it’s completely different. There are so many facets, variables and challenges. For example, there seems to will always be a learning curve with retail. Although I feel I have a pretty good grasp on it after a few years, figuring out what to buy, what not to buy, what sells, etc. keeps me on my toes because it’s constantly changing.

Specifically though, since opening the showroom my life has changed dramatically. To be candid, these have probably been the most difficult three years of my life – harder than becoming a mom, than becoming a wife, than getting divorced and even harder than going back to school to reinvent myself in my 40’s. If I learned one thing though, it is this — just because something is difficult, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it. And let me tell you, it is that much sweeter when you do it!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with The Design Bar – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
The Design Bar allows homeowners to effortlessly design, build and decorate their homes all under one roof. By offering an all-encompassing one-stop approach to design, we are able to streamline and simplify the design process.

I founded the firm on a philosophy of approachability and ease. I believe everyone should truly enjoy the process of building or designing a home. It’s an important milestone that can be confusing and stressful, so we aim to mitigate these negative feelings – invigorating the process with both trust and excitement.
Everyone who walks into the store is grateful for the experience we provide, because there aren’t a lot of stores like ours anymore. We work very closely with our clients and are truly there to guide them through any stage of a project in order to bring their vision to a reality. In addition, our services aren’t the only priority for us; great care is taken to ensure that store customers are surprised and delighted by the product we offer. I personally curate each piece – rarely ordering the same item twice – so that shoppers can find something fresh and unique each time they stop in. The store is reimagined several times a month to feature new displays and designed vignettes. This level of attention to detail enables shoppers to truly “see” the items as they might look in their own homes.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love how eclectic Chicago is! From all the different and unique neighborhoods to the amazing food and restaurant scene. There is always so much to be discovered. And of course, who doesn’t love the lakefront? It’s the third coast for a reason! Also, Chicago at Christmastime!! Need I say more?

What I like least is our weather in January. I can’t stand the freezing cold.

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Image Credit:
Vibe Tribe Creative, Erin McCarthy Photography

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