Grand Rapids-based interior designer Farah Merhi tells SEEN why she made the switch from law to home decor and how she built up a 5.5 million Instagram following. She shares more about her home decor lines in 20 questions.
By Stephanie Steinberg
Featured photo courtesy Dave Burgess
1. You were planning to attend law school, but decided to launch Inspire Me! Home Decor instead. How did that come about?
I was about three semesters short of graduating with my political science degree, and the plan was law school when I decided that I could no longer continue in that career path. I was not happy, I did not feel fulfilled and I realized that it was not my calling in life. So I built up the courage to step away from all the time and money I had invested in my career path and gave myself permission to figure myself out. I just needed time.
About a year later, my husband and I decided to remodel our home. The process for some could be excruciating and painful, but for the first time in years, I felt happy and fulfilled. Growing up, my mom had a passion for home decor. She would transform any house we moved into to a beautiful and cozy home for us. I didn’t realize how much her love for it all had resonated with me until I started working on my own home. It was my “aha” moment.
In 2012, Instagram was gaining popularity, it was the social media platform to be on. I loved that it was visual and engaging. So I launched my page on there as a creative outlet and a way to document my remodel process.
2. How would you describe your decor style?
A home should be a sanctuary, a place that reflects your taste and style. Make it unique to you and what you enjoy, but don’t be afraid to make a statement. My personal style is glam, elegant with a cozy, warm and inviting look. Many think glam means untouchable, but that’s not the case. Glam can still be livable and cozy.
3. Favorite project you’ve worked on?
My own home. I have worked with many clients, and it’s been special each time, but my favorite project has been my home and bringing my vision to life one room at a time. I am my own hardest client because I am so picky, and I get to see so much inspiration every day. So to design a home that reflects my style and getting it to the point where I am happy with it has been interesting and yet rewarding to say the least. There is always a project happening in some room somewhere.
4. Where do you get inspiration?
Everywhere. When it comes to designing, I get inspired by nature, by travels, from other interior designers, from a piece of decor that you love so much. I am always searching high and low for beautiful and unique inspiration to share with my 5.5 million followers on Instagram, and what I find also serves as inspiration for me. If I am not inspired by an image, I don’t post it.
5. You sell your products on Wayfair and QVC. How did you start working with these big companies?
One of my goals has always been to design my own home decor and furniture line. Three years ago, my team and I approached them to pitch a partnership that would involve me designing my home decor line exclusively for QVC. We walked into the meeting and discussed the opportunity with them, and they said yes. It was a “pinch me” moment!
As I designed a larger collection of rugs and pillows and now coming up, a furniture line, the question came up, “Where do I want to have my Inspire Me! Home Decor products available for consumers online?” I have worked with Wayfair in the past filming campaigns with them, and I have experienced buying from their site many times over. So they were the natural fit for me to have my collection available for my customer on their site.
I currently also have my Pouf Collection being sold at HomeGoods.
6. Where else can fans find your home decor items?
I now have a website where I sell items I curate for my customers and Insta family. They are able to buy directly from our website. These would be items they cannot find in my current collections. The reason I chose to do this is because my goal has always been to try everything I can to help homeowners make their house their home. And I know firsthand from their direct feedback that they do struggle to find the perfect decor to go in their home. They also struggle to put pieces together to create a vignette. So through my collections on QVC, Wayfair and my website, I am able to do that for them in the best possible way.
7. Any favorite items you’ve created?
Choosing my favorite item is like choosing a favorite child. It’s hard to choose when I have put my heart and soul into every collection and every piece I design. Everything is special to me in its own way.
8. Your @inspire_me_home_decor account has over 5 million followers on Instagram. Any secret to building a big following?
My advice for anyone looking to build a following on IG is to stay authentic. Find a unique point of view you are willing to share with the world. What makes you stand out from the pack? That needs to be your focus. Stay consistent with your content, and engage with your followers in comments and in your DMs. Hold giveaways to show your appreciation for your followers, and encourage them to tag friends to enter the giveaway. That will allow for greater exposure. Be honest and open and stay humble and real, because on social media, credibility is important. Focus on content on your feed, but also take advantage of stories. That’s a great place for you to connect with your followers and show them behind the scenes, and it’s also a good way to connect with them on a more personal level.
9. Who are your favorite accounts to follow — for decor or just in general?
I follow many accounts that share such a huge variety of content from fashion, to health, food, bloggers and more. My favorite accounts to follow are those who are genuine with their content.
10. What’s a big decor trend for 2019 we should all know about?
I know this is something many struggle with, but gold and brass has made a huge comeback, and I am finally seeing people feel comfortable enough to use it in their homes. Another trend that has some scared to try is mixing gold and silver metals together. For years and years we have been told that it’s either gold or silver, but now, mixing the two has become a big trend and I predict it’s here to stay.
11. What’s next for your brand?
I am working on expanding my home decor collection and expanding on my home furniture collection. I have some exciting new campaigns in the works, in partnership with brands I love working with. I currently have new projects in the works that I cannot share just yet but will be able to in the next few months! If you follow me on my IG accounts, you’ll get the scoop as soon as I am able to share! @farahjmerhi and @inspire_me_home_decor.
On to your personal style…
12. How would you describe your style in three words?
Glam, elegant, cozy.
13. One item you can’t leave home without?
My phone! My life is on my phone. I connect with my family from my phone, my business is from my phone. It’s reality, and if I step out of the house without it, I feel lost.
14. You’re never fully dressed without ___?
Perfume! It’s the final touch when I get dressed. I believe when you walk in a room or when people first meet you, it’s nice when you smell good. It starts off any conversation with a good impression.
15. Your favorite piece of decor in your house?
That would be the teardrop mirrors over my fireplace mantle!
16. Your favorite decor find of all time?
My mirrored office desk in my home office. It’s so me! It’s glam yet functional, and I have signed so many contracts on that desk so it has a special place in my heart.
Your Local Love List…
17. Favorite place to buy home decor locally?
Kennedy’s and HomeGoods!
18. Your go-to for breakfast, lunch and dinner?
Forest Hills Foods — there is a large variety of fresh food there every day.
19. If you could decorate the home of anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Oh that’s a hard one. I personally am a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey. During a time in my life when I was struggling trying to figure myself out and my purpose in life, her shows uplifted me, and her words resonated with me. If I could decorate her house, that would be a dream come true because I would love to enjoy a cup of coffee with her and just talk about life.
20. Favorite quote or words to live by?
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” by Muhammad Ali. I box, and when I heard that quote it stuck with me. What it means to me is always act like a lady, be gentle and sweet. But when it comes down to it, don’t let others take advantage of your kindness. Protect yourself like no one can.