Retail veteran Bradley Odom opened his Atlanta home decor shop Dixon Rye in the refurbished Westside Ironworks, after years of honing his design eye and following his instincts. He opened his 4,800 square foot design emporium in this hot part of town last October, in a renovated industrial space he has created a distinctly Southern sensibility and a mix of "raw and refined" finds old and new. Learned from his years of working for successful companies where customer experience and discovery reigned supreme, no detail was overlooked, from spot-on branding to attentive design associates. Offering interior design services and rotating art exhibitions along with globally sourced goods, his offerings will always vary, and hold up to his motto, "Buy better, fewer things." I was able to visit this new destination when I was in Atlanta this July, and really enjoyed getting to know Bradley, his passion for design is infectious. Ahead, he shares more on how Dixon Rye came to be,
Tell us a bit about how you got into design
At an early age I worked with my Mom on things that at the time I thought were boring, activities that I now realize were fostering my creativity: working in the garden planting flowers, rearranging the living room way to often (sometimes on my own) and many weekends spent running around my Grandfather's upholstery shop. I remember being inspired by the countless people who would drive from all over Mississippi and Alabama to have an heirloom piece reupholstered by him; his quality was impeccable. Looking back on it now, the concept of buying “Better, Fewer Things” was cemented as a value for me from a very young age.
You have a really diverse and exciting background that ultimately led you to interior design. Share with us what your career path has been, and how you landed in this creative, entrepreneurial place.
I’ve been in retail a long time, starting my career with American Eagle Outfitters, then J. Crew and eventually West Elm. I truly believed I was going to be a lifer at J. Crew; I loved my time there and will always be grateful for that experience. As Director of Sales and Training, I had the opportunity to impact different aspects of the catalog business, stores and more importantly, customer experience. I spent 10 years with West Elm, starting when they only had 3 stores. I loved being part of the brands foundation and evolution, and was honored to work with some really creative talents! West Elm really inspired my love for interiors which eventually led me to return to Savannah College of Art and Design where I earned degree in Interior Design. After winning several design competitions, it was time for me take the leap of stepping out on my own.
What were the key learnings that came from your time at J. Crew and West Elm?
Listen to your customer! A customer will tell you what they want, what’s working, and what isn’t. It’s so important to not only find those answers through data (so important), but to supplement and support these numbers with real, live conversations with your consumer. Ask good questions and know that the value of having conversations with someone experiencing your product that’s not emotionally connected to the process will be far more insightful and useful than many conversations you’ll have with your colleagues.
How has the design industry changed since your time at West Elm?
You know, it’s such an interesting time to be in design, but more specifically design centric retail. The post-recession spender has still shown to be somewhat conservative, but is choosing to buy fewer things that will last a longer time, which perfectly aligns with our mission. The rise of e-commerce has also created a customer who’s comparison shopping and upon immediately google searching for an item will come across multiple purchasing options (many of them through paid ads) which ultimately creates less brand loyalty. We know that our customers have a choice to buy from us, and our focus on delighting our customer while clearly defining and establishing our brand is of the utmost importance.
What made you decide to open Dixon Rye in the Westside Ironworks area in Atlanta, and what made the timing right?
Location, location, location. Atlanta is booming and there are so many vibrant neighborhoods with amazing shopping options that we could have ended up in several neighborhoods. Ultimately though, the West Side of town is a great fit for us; we’re situated right in the middle of the home shopping mecca of Atlanta. Ultimately when we first saw our space, we knew it was home. Up until a year or so ago, Ironworks International operated a foundry on the site. Still in place are the 45-foot-high, exposed roofs with industrial wood and steel trusses. So much of our vision for the future is giving homage to the past, enabling contemporary activity with historical context.
How would you describe your design style?
Forever evolving, yet always relying on classic nods. There is nothing I love more than approaching any space with the idea of the juxtaposition of materials.
What do you want the shop and website to attract? What should shoppers come to you for?
We want our customers to have an emotional connection both in store and online established through curiosity, inspiration and wonder. We want to stretch our customer’s vision of what they could see in their home and maybe consider new colors, textures and design solutions that they hadn’t considered. We aim to establish ourselves as a premier destination for home wares and interior design services with front porch service to boot.
The shop is arranged in accessorized design vignettes that provide ideas. Do people come in and say, "I want that whole area? That complete look?"
We do hear that a lot! However, we work to show everyone that most pieces in the store can work together in a different setting and can easily fit in with their existing pieces in their home. It all goes back to that idea of juxtaposing materials, textures and finishes. We’ve worked hard to merchandise a mix of new and old, raw and refined, a mix that we believe is present in most of our client’s homes.
What is flying out the door?
Our one of a kind items and antiques never stay for long (don’t wait when we let you know we’ve had an antiques shipment!). We are thrilled to be expanding our candle selection with Mad et Len (also can’t keep in stock).
What advice do you have for a designer that wants to start their own business or open a shop?
You can’t only have a passion for design; you have to have a passion for customer experience, and curating a product assortment with a clear point of view. There are many great designers out there who love to shop, but loving to shop does not always make a shopkeeper. I love being a shopkeeper, a product designer, and an experience maker. The best advice I can give? Surround yourself with great talent! I have an outstanding team and we all balance each other out so well.
How has Instagram changed your sourcing and the act of discovery?
Instagram is our favorite Internet rabbit hole. We’ve found so many of our vendors through Instagram: so many small businesses that don’t yet have websites are on Insta and sometimes we’ve found them through recommendations, or friends, or followers of followers, etc.
What are you excited about for fall, as far as trends, colors, and styles?
I’m seeing that clients are still very excited about pieces that are unique, one of a kinds, things they won’t find at the neighbors house. I’m also seeing less beige, more color in foundation pieces. I believe the reintroduction of heirloom pieces are relevant—less instant gratification, disposable furniture and instead, investing in pieces that last. As I like to say: #buybetterfewerthings
Cozy upholstery and antiques with character are shown in vignettes around the large space that gets amazing light through the giant windows
The space has a relaxed feel and accessories are well merchandised, blended in among books and tabletop
An array of sofa frames make up the DR Collection sofa and chair offerings
A less traditional shapely wing chair sits next to an antique piece in a casual light and dark moment
Many of his finds would feel at home in a wide variety of settings, and the materiality of the pieces stand out
Another pairing of light and dark, this time with a rustic coffee table and sofa done in dark upholstery
Im seeing a return appreciation to classic entertaining pieces, including tureens and large serving dishes. Dixon Rye has crisp white and rustic pieces from Astier De Villatte in France to appeal to this preference for something that speaks to the past.