For decades now, Jayson Home, in Chicago has been the pinnacle of home decor in the United States. We refer to it regularly to find those cutting-edge pieces that we feature in our market pages, its a quintessential resource for ourselves, our friends and readers to furnish their homes. It seems like no matter what your style is, you’re sure to find something that instantly captures your heart. That’s why we jumped at the chance to sit down with Jayson Home Co-founder, Caroline Scheeler to get a better idea of her path to where she and the brand are now.
Jayson Home began in 1997 when the then owner of Jayson Gallery, Jay Goltz and you worked together on expanding his original space into a warehouse full of artwork, furniture, and home accessories. Tell us how you met him?
It all started in 1993 when Jay hired me on to work as an assistant buyer at what was then the Jayson Gallery— rather reluctantly I think, as I had been hopping from job to job for nearly a decade. I was actually working on my second degree at School of the Art Institute Chicago at the time and was really only looking for something part-time— and then I came across Jay’s ad in the paper. In spite of the fact that the only real “buying” experience I had at that time was my voracious appetite for shopping, I got the job. In the end, I was more prepared than I looked, thanks to the collage of all my life experiences— creative parents, art school, lots of travel and decades of working retail jobs in the fashion and home furnishings worlds. In 1997, Jay bought the warehouse building we’re currently in and we opened a beautiful urban garden store. Neither one of us really knew that much about the plant world, but we had an outdoor lot— which is paved in beautiful antique Chicago street pavers— and we knew there was a synergistic opportunity, with the garden being part of the home. The rest is history.
What was the first collaborative period like? Did he tell you his vision, did you suggest your own?
In all honesty, Jay has never really told me what to do and certainly never what to buy. He’s had this fierce confidence in my vision from the very beginning. It was that trust that allowed me to create the Jayson Home brand and let me spend nearly a quarter of my life loving my job and the people I work with. Jay is the essential business counterpart to my whirling dervish of a creative mind.
What did Jayson Home look like then and how has it evolved over the years?
Transforming Jayson Gallery into Jayson Home was actually pretty simple— I just started hitting the flea markets and essential shows buying what I liked, mostly accessories at that time. Once we had the business established, I went for larger pieces and also started bringing in vintage finds from England and France….so that really was the genesis for Jayson Home as you know it now. I truly was then, as I do now, bringing things into the store that I loved in the hope that people would love the things as much as I did. Looking back, the process has evolved from a pretty innocent and authentic place. I think part of what people love about us is that they can “collect” for their homes over the course of time knowing that every trip to our store will be an adventure and they’ll unearth new treasures.
How much of the merchandise you sell is new product and how much are vintage finds from around the world?
Our vintage and antique mix tends to ebb and flow, but it usually hovers around twenty to thirty percent of our inventory.
How do you and your buying partner, Devin Kirk (VP of Merchandising), know where to go to find the right pieces?
Visual Merchandising is a separate function. Devin really has been a critical piece of the puzzle in Jayson Home’s growth. B.D. (before Devin), it was just me! We both have our visions for where to take the Jayson Home brand and we both bring our own personal aesthetic to the table… and it works! It definitely helps that we share the same obsession with shopping and thrill of the hunt.
It must be hard not to keep some of the best pieces for yourself— has there ever been a time when you found something that was love at first sight?
I could make myself sick thinking of all the unbelievable pieces that I’ve passed up in the best interest of the store. Woe is me. But to be honest, Devin and I pretty much only buy things that we both “love at first sight.” Ninety-nine percent of the time, we agree and it’s a no-brainer.
As the co-founder and Creative Director of Jayson Home, you wear many hats. Which is one aspect of your job that you still find exciting and challenging?
I love that my role takes me all over but that means I’m rarely on the sales floor anymore. Whenever I am, it’s such a thrill. And I still love merchandising the store— although it may not be everyone else’s favorite part of my job because I tend to make a mess whenever I do! But my favorite part has to be the travelling— especially when it’s to those off-the-grid locales to visit some dusty, not-so-glamorous market at the crack of dawn. That really is the BEST.
Jayson Home is such a quintessential destination for interior décor. How come you never decided to open up several stores around the country? Was that ever an option you contemplated?
Spreading the Jayson Home love has actually been a longtime dream of mine. And that dream is starting to come true. In 2016, we had a pop-up shop in Sag Harbor with smashing success— so much so that, in 2017, we opened our SoHo pop up shop! And thanks to popular demand and the begging of our NY customers, we’re likely heading back to the Hamptons this spring. Who knows where we’ll move on to after that!
What is something that is specifically unique about the experience of entering Jayson Home and the store?
I think the ever-evolving mix of merchandise sets us apart from anything else. When people come into the store they have a sense of wonder, literally like kids in a candy shop. Our store is not a quick stop— whether they’re long-standing customers or first-time visitors, people tend to linger. They meet their friends and their clients… they hang out.
You can shop Jayson Home’s gorgeous merchandise here!