Accents and accessories to make a house your “home”
When writing a showcase on their respective businesses, it’s always nice to be able to get to know these individuals through the perspective of their clientele, but it’s even more fun when I can count myself among their customers.
Such is the case with this month’s cover feature subject: Susie Smith, owner of Backstreet Home Decor - the landmark San Clemente boutique on El Camino Real with a second high-profile storefront in the heart of downtown on Del Mar Street - a thriving business that evolved from a single mom’s desire to spend more time with her young children.
In 1978, Susie was working as a dental hygienist. But as rewarding as it was to have found success in the career path for which she had pursued her education and training, her full-time hours kept the young mother from being at home. For fun, Susie began making dried and silk floral arrangements for herself and her friends - her creations were met with such overwhelming response that she started selling arrangements out of her garage and as demand increased, she even began teaching classes in floral design.
“I was a mom, a single one and working full time,” she says. “I longed to be at home with my children and wondered if perhaps I could turn this hobby into a real business.”
With the encouragement of her friends, Sue “took a flying leap of faith” and opened Backstreet Home Decor and over the course of the following 35+ years grew from a 500-square-foot shop to the thriving business it is today. Between the two locations, Backstreet Home Decor and Backstreet on Del Mar encompass 5,000-square-feet of showroom space filled with fabulous fine furniture, lamps, mirrors, wall art and what is arguably the largest selection of the most stunningly realistic, gorgeous custom silk florals, trees and foliage.
Susie now has a staff of well-qualified associates that will provide in-home consultation specializing in full service, accent, accessorizing - as well as residential and commercial Christmas and holiday décor. This could involve “pulling together all the existing design elements in a home, or accenting a room with different picture frames, artwork, trees and florals, creating a new look or accent or designing a complete makeover.
“Client budget vary, of course,” says Susie. “Sometimes we do several rooms at a time, but for many clients, we just suggest that they start with a single room and then go from there. I like to start with the home’s foyer. When we get the right feeling for the entry, the rest of the process begins to flow from that direction.”
Looks can definitely be deceiving. From the road, the main location - located on El Camino Real - appears to be a small storefront, its windows displaying beautiful decorative items, jewelry, handbags and accessories. Step inside, however, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll discover that you could literally spend hours looking at all of Susan’s wonderful offerings, which range in style from Old World to contemporary.
Each piece is reflective of Susan’s keen eye for color, quality, texture, design detail and style - a fact not lost on the scores of professional designers who regularly shop here to decorate their client’s homes.
Beverly Stadler, past president of the Orange County Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers, who has been buying Susie’s designs for her clients for nearly 30 years says “Susie is fabulous to work with. She has endless creativity and style. And her accessories and decor are fabulous ... and at incredible prices too! I recommend Backstreet to everyone - designers and clients.”
Homeowners who have taken advantage of Susan’s in-home consultation rave that she was able to suggest just the right furniture, decor, florals and color palette to create the look they were dreaming of - a fact that I can personally - and happily - attest to.
When our family moved from San Clemente to San Juan Capistrano two years ago, Susie’s showroom the first and only stop I needed to make for the decorative items and accessories that would make our new house a “home.”
Friends and family have all complimented me on my “design style,” but I have to give credit where credit is due. Susie would be too humble to call herself an “artist,” so I’ll do it for her. Her vision of color, texture, line, shape, natural proportion and balance resulted in the beautiful floral arrangements and wall hangings that adorn our home, along with just the right accent and “statement pieces” to visually tie everything together.
“The ideas keep coming everyday from everywhere,” says Susan, when asked where she derives the inspiration for her designs. “Gardens, trees, flowers, photos, magazines and people. I have so many ideas and it’s such fun to work with my clients to make their thoughts and concepts into real pieces for their homes.’’ She credits her suppliers with providing the very best materials in the industry for her to work with, and is known by the design profession to have the best selection of silk florals and trees in the region.
The best testament to any business owner’s success are the comments that come directly from satisfied customers like Lloyd W. Glass of Coto De Caza who says “Susie is fantastic. She has done great work, with no problem, just great results since I met her years ago. She is the real deal.”
Cindy Caster of Dana Point echoes Lloyd’s sentiment and adds “Susie has a great eye for all styles and she is a joy to know and work with.”
While everything in her store speaks of high quality, her prices are surprisingly affordable. Because of longstanding relationships with vendors from the top decor lines across the county, Susan is able to acquire furniture and accessories at substantial discounts - which she in turn passes along to her customers.
“We only LOOK expensive,” she says. “What sets us apart is that all of our florals are custom designed on the premises. We work with our clientele to create exactly what they want. We really try to come up with the unusual - unique items that you just won’t find in every single store.”
Susie would like to thank all of her friends and clients for their business for over 35 years. “Because of your loyal support, my adrenaline is still pumping, my energy is flowing and I still LOVE designing! Thank you so much!”
If her gorgeous showroom and principled business practices weren’t enough to draw you in, Susie is one of the nicest people in town - genuinely passionate about what she does and more importantly, equally enthusiastic about building and developing long-term relationships with her clientele.
“The customer is most important, not what they are buying,” says Susie. “So many of my customers have become my good friends. I am blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.”