May 2018

Decorating Den Interiors: The Design Process Beautifully Simplified

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: M.Kat Photography

Enterprising and ambitious are defining characteristics of a person with an entrepreneurial spirit. Add gumption, creativity, and a solid work ethic and you have Saudah Muhammad, owner of the Lowcountry franchise of Decorating Den Interiors, the nearly 50-year-old Indianapolis-based business that began as a window treatment company has evolved into a full-service interior design resource.

Graduating from Hilton Head Island High School in 1988, Muhammad joined the Air Force that fall. “Being the oldest of four, I felt it was my responsibility to find a way to pay for college on my own; I initially joined the military for the educational benefits,” she said. Meeting her husband, John Brown, at her first base assignment (his third), her military service was interwoven with a penchant for computer science, earning a nursing degree, traveling the world, and raising three children. She retired from the military in 2016. Not intending to let any grass grow under her feet, she started work on building a business that embraced her passion for design and that would bring her back to the Lowcountry.

Travel played a significant role in Muhammad finding joy in decorating and design. “Because we moved around constantly redecorating our home every time we got to a new place, I got to really fall in love with design. I saw a lot of different places in Europe, lived in Germany for a time, and took a few courses along the way. I would get asked, ‘Who decorated your house?’ Well, I did. Friends would ask if I would decorate their homes. Decorating was a passion, but really just a hobby, because I couldn’t do that and the military at the same time.” Launching her Decorating Den business in 2017 has been a lot of work. “I still love doing it though; it hasn’t taken away the love of the hobby at all.”

Muhammad and Brown are retired military entrepreneurs, working side-by-side on their respective businesses. With a background in budget analysis, Brown guides the administrative side of Decorating Den, along with running his own start-up, College Hunks Hauling Junk & Moving (known for their distinctive green and orange trucks). “John watches my marketing funds and watches the business plan,” Muhammad said. “It’s great having an expert in that role, and I am learning that part of the business as well, so we both know what’s happening as we grow.”

As a Decorating Den designer, Muhammad’s first goal is getting to know her clients. That is achieved by asking a few smart questions, followed by a whole lot of listening. “My part is just like any interior decorator. I go into the home for the initial consultation and get to know the couple or the family, see how they live, and find out what exactly they’re looking for, their color schemes, if they have pets, and what fabrics and materials would work best with their lifestyle. I explain how the company works, how I work, and if we feel that we’re a good fit, then I make that follow-up appointment and come back with a design presentation. Something that sets me apart, is that initial consultation is free; I never charge for that first appointment.”

The design presentation is something that morphs over time, Muhammad said. “It’s not something that is set in stone. By no means do I ever get it right the first time; it would be nice if I did. I come back with about two or three different design presentations; we kind of tweak and move things around, so they get to something they really love. That’s my big thing. I always ask, ‘Do you love it?’ because I want that sense of awe every time they walk into their home.”

Through her franchise relationship, Muhammad has all the resources her clients could ever need. “Decorating Den provides everything for your home: furnishings, flooring, carpeting, tile, accessories, artwork, custom closets, lighting, kitchens, backsplashes, counter top.” With over 138 design vendors, Muhammad has travelled extensively, visiting showrooms to have the first-hand knowledge necessary to achieve stunning results—just what her customers order.

One of the many benefits of working with Decorating Den is that all the material selections and design decisions are made in the client’s home. “Think of me as your project manager,” Muhammad said. “I take that stress off you. You don’t have to go from store to store shopping; I bring all the samples to you. I love fabrics and I love textiles. I melt when I see all these fabrics. I do all the planning and ordering, and I receive all the products. Once I have everything, we select a date and we install it all. I take pride in myself and my business because I am there for every type of customer with any size budget.” When the dreams are bigger than the budget, Muhammad suggests taking the project one step at a time, maybe one room at a time. “We don’t have to make the whole pie; let’s cut it up into pieces and prioritize what we’re going to do.”


Saudah Muhammad, owner of Decorating Den Interiors

Many of Muhammad’s clients are in transitional phases of their lives, moving from other parts of the country to build a Lowcountry life or retiring from their work life, which fits well with her design aesthetic. “Design-wise, I’m drawn to more transitional styles. Someone who used to be traditional, but wants something a little different, but doesn’t want to quite step into modern or contemporary; that’s me. Not cold, but cleaner lines, less fussy.”

Muhammad and her husband live in Hampton Lake in Bluffton and are also property owners in Hampton Hall, where they enjoy being part of the communities. With a passion for travel, a love of the beach, and full professional lives, the couple has found retirement to be not the least bit retiring. “When I have time, I enjoy going for a run on the beach; we like cruising, and this summer I want to learn how to paddleboard,” she said. With a new granddaughter in New Mexico, it’s very likely there will be some travel on their calendar as well. Hard working, enterprising, creative, ambitious … and with a whole lot of gumption, Saudah Muhammad is designing life beautifully.

For more information, please call (843) 422-2034 or visit smuhammad@decoratingden.com.

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