ginny branch stellinginterviewswhat's in your toolbox

what’s in your toolbox: elizabeth demos

by Ginny

Elizabeth Demos is no stranger to the Design*Sponge Fan Club — allow me to present you with Exhibit A. Prior to establishing her full-service design studio, she owned the successful retail home furnishings store @home vintage general in Savannah’s historic district for nearly 10 years. I spent many, many hours poring over her unique vintage finds and delicious collections of notions and trims. Her store was a happy place for many, and she hired some of my favorite people in the world (Chelsea Cook, Haylie Waring, and Halligan Norris). Now she is channeling her fresh and creative vision into other exciting venues. In addition to her design studio, she is consistently and frequently contributing to publications such as Country Living, Country Home, Southern Living and Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Flourish and 
Holiday with Matthew Mead. Alright y’all, get fired and up and welcome Elizabeth Demos! — Ginny

1. Design*Sponge: What is in your toolbox?

Elizabeth Demos: I would love to say all my tools are contained in a sweet little box but the truth is there are SO MANY things I use that I have to house them in a 800 sq.-foot studio space. So in no particular order here are some of my favorites:

  • My MacBook (for research)
  • Graph paper (I can’t get enough of the stuff)
  • Tracing paper
  • Glue (hot glue, glue sticks, rubber cement, decoupage glue, fabric glue)
  • Sewing machine
  • Retractable pencils (they are everywhere, I think I like to erase a lot)
  • Notebooks big and small (purse size, cause you never know when you might need to doodle and big ones for the studio)
  • Crepe paper (all shades, all sizes, all vintages)
  • Glassine bags (all sizes)
  • Labels
  • Glass glitter
  • Vintage tabletop rotary cutter
  • Vintage steel corner round cutter
  • My petite vintage Kodak paper cutter
  • Oversized rubber stamp
  • Steel upholstery scissors
  • Coke Zero (fuel)

Tools of inspiration:

  • MOUNTAINS of vintage ephemera
  • MOUNTAINS of vintage fabric
  • Vintage bits & baubles, from jewelry to buttons
  • YARDS & YARDS of ribbon (antique & new)
  • Jars filled with old thread (for color inspiration, not really for use, I collect things for color)
  • Magazines (yes, in this day of technology I still like the feel and smell of paper, I’m so old school)
  • I have a cubbyhole cabinet filled with all sorts of treasures that I have gathered during my many antique jaunts. They make me happy and ideas are often generated while staring at my collections.

2. Design*Sponge: Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel I feel  lucky.

CLICK HERE for the rest of Elizabeth’s interview (plus her advice for young entrepreneurs/artists/ designers) after the jump!

3. Design*Sponge: What are on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

Elizabeth Demos:

Print magazines: Marie Claire Idees, Martha Stewart Living & MS Weddings
Ezines: Rue, Lonny
Blogs: Matthew Mead Style, Sweet Paul, Once Wed, Snippet & Ink, Tabletonic, Design*Sponge, cannelle-vanille, sunday suppers, decor8, boligliv.dk, style me pretty, 100layercake, bedlam of beefy, Marie Claire Idees blog
*Books: Graphic Design for the Non-Graphic Designer, My So-Called Freelance Life, Zakka Sewing, Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts and Sibella Court’s book Etc.

4. Design*Sponge: How do you keep yourself organized? Time management is often one of the biggest obstacles for creative minds. Do you have an agenda book and do you make to-do lists?

Elizabeth Demos: I’m an old-fashioned list maker and I keep a calendar.

As for time management, I’ve learned to say “no.” That sounds strange but I used to take on every little thing that came my way, paid or free, so the word “no” has been very powerful for me. The projects and events I accept now are precious to me and as a result they look beautiful. “Quality over quantity” is my new motto. I also pace myself and by that I mean I only look at the next job, not the five after that or I could get really overwhelmed. Most importantly, I’ve learned that down time is well deserved and needed.

5. Design*Sponge: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice YOU would offer to a young entrepreneur/artist/ designer?

Elizabeth Demos: Best advice received, “You get what you give.”

My advice to the entrepreneur: work in the field you are dreaming of for at least five years before you venture in.

My advice to the artist & designer: stay true to you and your art and take business classes.

6. Design*Sponge: How do you combat creative blocks? What tools do you use to keep your creativity flowing?

Elizabeth Demos: I create even when I don’t have an assignment so I have journals full of drawings and notes and if I’m having a lapse in creativity I flip through them and it always sparks something. At the end of the day I’m most inspired by color so I surround myself with objects I have collected for their color.

7. Design*Sponge: In addition to being a photo stylist, event designer/planner and a merchant of marvels, what would you like to conquer next?

Elizabeth Demos: For more years than I can remember I have wanted to design my own line of home décor & paper goods. I’m in the process of finalizing the details of my first book with Chronicle Books right now and hopefully that will open other doors for me.

8. Design*Sponge:  Where do you like to shop for inspiration?

Elizabeth Demos: Estate sales, flea markets, Etsy, fabric stores, museums.

I miss my own store terribly and have not really found anything quite like it to inspire me. Even though I closed the shop I still attend trade shows to keep up with what is new and for general trend and color forecasting. (The National Stationery Show, Surtax, ICFF, NYIGF, Americas Mart)

9.Design*Sponge: If you could peek inside the studio/toolbox of any designer/artist/craftsman, who would it be and why?

Elizabeth Demos: Oh my, this is so unfair, I can’t just pick one. In one way or another all of these people have affected me creatively: Martha Stewart, Matthew Mead, Shauna Faust, Rebecca Thuss & Paul Lowe, Laura Normandin, Sibella Court.

10. Design*Sponge: If you could make a master mix-tape of music that is inspiring you at the moment, what would it be?

Elizabeth Demos: I have schizophrenic taste in music so Pandora Internet radio is my friend while I work. Stations in rotation in the studio currently (I must be feeling folky): Matt Costa station (could listen to Mr. Pitiful over and over again), Joe Purdy, Brandi Carlile that is when I’m not listening to NPR quiz games and news.

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  • It kills me that after all of this time, Design*Sponge still does not have a copy editor. You were “pouring” over her finds? Really? Ahhh!

    But, as always, a wonderful profile…

    • mariel

      we do have a copy editor, but this must have slipped by accidentally. i’ll make sure that this spelling is included in our style guide so the error doesn’t happen again.


  • What a great post! This is my new favorite blog, amazing work. LOVE those black and white pumpkins- a fresh spin on a classic tradition.

  • Love this. The halloween inspiration especially.
    btw, the matthew mead blog link goes to “flea market style mag”

    • michele

      i just tested it on 2 browsers and it goes to his blog for me. what site is it bringing up for you? when you roll over the link what url do you see?


  • when i roll over it the url is fleamarketstylemag.blogspot.com. i did some more clicking around and he is affiliated with the site, I’m just not sure how.

    • michele

      that’s so odd. there’s no link to that by his blog link…i’ll test it a few more times and see if i can replicate the error.


  • copy editor or not, you do great work in culling out interesting trends, people, styles. so good with the morning cup of coffee before i sink into my world of investments and banking! thank you for a daily dose of pretty.

  • Liz has always been a great inspiration to me & felt so lucky to live right around the corner from her first little shop in Savannah many moons ago. Thank you for featuring such an amazing talent!

  • Wow, I LOVE those painted pumpkins! How cool! But I’m really just commenting to say, PLEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeease tell me where that awesome yellow lamp is from in the first pic.

  • Wow! I desperately want that aqua pin cushion with the gold base that is on her pallette tray. What an inspirational selection of spools, theads and ribbons!

  • Love the pumpkins, especially the spider & web, I ‘ll give that a go this year and there should be no need for the elastoplast for once!

  • I’m sending a GREAT BIG thank you to Ginny & Grace for featuring me! I’m really flattered to be in such good company. May I ask that you make a tiny correction, I do not style or art direct Southern Flourish or Matthew Mead Holidays, I’m just a very happy contributor. I never lay claim to work I didn’t do.

  • the matthew mead link goes to flea market style for me, too – rolling over the link, it shows “http://fleamarketstylemag.blogspot.com/” (i’m using firefox on a pc)

    • ah! i thought you guys meant his blog link went there- he’s associated with that mag so that’s why it links there. :) i’ll double check with ginny to make sure liz specified that link.


  • I was always very proud to have my products included in Elizabeth’s beautifully curated store and feel fortunate that I was able to visit it in person. It is a real treat to have a peek at what she is up to. Kudos!

  • Oh I loved this interview! Liz, you’re so talented and your pictures and styling never disappoint. I, for one, will be first in line to buy your upcoming book!

  • i miss @home vintage general! Liz had the best ribbons for sale…no where else here sells vintage ribbon. The whole store was eye candy! Glad to hear that you are on to big things Liz, & having fun designing & writing : )

  • I believe that pretty little flower (with a not so pretty name) is the scabiosa stellata.

  • Oops! I gave the name to the wrong flower. The little yellow flowers are called billy buttons. :)

  • I love that yellow lamp…do you mind me asking where you purchased it from? And I love the white pumpkins…that inspired me to do a similar project. :)

  • So glad to see Liz Demos featured–she’s an amazing talent! I was fortunate enough to visit her beautiful shop before it closed. My husband and I were in Savannah on our honeymoon and we bought the the most adorable Christmas ornament from @home — a little wreath with two tiny red birds perched in the middle. It’s still one of my favorite holiday decorations.