Elizabeth Martin, a Brookstone graduate, moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Manhattan in the Summer of 2013 with the hopes of starting her own lighting line. New York proved to welcome new designers with open arms. She was continually encouraged to keep moving forward and today she is the proud owner of Sullivan + Phenix. By Anna Logan. Photos by Nathan Leduc.
Elizabeth Martin packed her bags and headed to New York City when she was 29. Interested in starting a new career and adventurous life in the city, Elizabeth went to work at a high-end home store in the heart of Soho. The Brookstone grad's position at Calypso St. Barth Home allowed her to explore her passion for interior design and work personally with top designers. During her time there, Elizabeth was able to work on multiple projects within New York City and out in the Hamptons. She fell in love with lighting and was determined to learn more about chandeliers. She made another career move, this time to an international lighting showroom in Upper Manhattan. She was able to work with world famous hotel chains like W Hotels and The Ritz-Carlton. Yet, she still was not satisfied. Admittedly stubborn, Elizabeth didn't like the idea of working for anyone else. So, she struck out on her own and started her line of handmade, high-end chandeliers, Sullivan + Phenix. Elizabeth spoke to SVM about creating her own line, her inspirations and even offers some tips on how to decorate your home.
Even though you offered interior design assistance to clients at a high-end home store in downtown New York City, you transitioned into designing chandeliers. Why did you focus on them over anything else? Moving to New York was a bold move for me. I was 29, and indecisive about what direction I wanted to go career wise. The most exciting part of it all for me was that the world was my oyster. In New York, everything is about who you know when it comes to getting a job. Somehow, with the help of some friends, I landed interviews with a few of the top companies in New York City. As much as I tried to get excited about a position in the ritzy Upper East Side of Manhattan, at the end of the day it wasn’t my passion. Still searching for the niche that fit me best, I decided to take a job in Soho at a fabulous high-end home store there.
I fell in love with all of the beautiful chandeliers that we had hanging in the store. I started to brainstorm and realized that handmade chandeliers were somewhat of an untapped market. I have always wanted to work for myself, so it was there that my idea was born and I became determined to make my dream a reality.
How have you liked transitioning from working for other people in other jobs to creating your own line? Most everyone with a brain that is creative would tell you that we think and operate differently than most people. Truthfully, I can be a little stubborn and I have never really liked anyone to telling me what to do. Obviously this doesn’t work very well in the workplace; so being fortunate enough to work for myself was like a weight being lifted off of my shoulders. I am constantly coming up with ideas and dreaming of new designs for my chandeliers. I definitely have found my passion, and I think a creative outlet in life is one of the best things you can have in my opinion.
Sullivan + Phenix is such an interesting name, how did you come up with it? I really thought long and hard about what I wanted to name my company. I started making chandeliers in my Soho apartment in New York on Sullivan St, which is where the first part of the name comes from. Moving back home to Georgia after my time there was mostly to continue to pursue and grow my business. When I first moved back, I was making my chandeliers out of my apartment at the Eagle & Phenix Mills in Columbus. So the name is a combination of the start of my company in New York, and then the continuation of it when I moved.
What style would you say your chandelier line represents? I would say the line represents a traditional style with a touch of glam. I definitely have a girly side, so I think the pieces are very feminine as well. I have always loved gold, and I think that aspect also adds elegance to spaces where the chandeliers are hung. I like the idea of a timeless look, where clients will always love their pieces and they won’t become a fad that eventually goes out of style.
Who do you consider your greatest creative influences? I love designers who aren’t afraid to take risks. My favorite thing when I go into someone’s home are those “wow” pieces that almost make you gasp at how fabulous they are. This could be anything from a unique piece of art, to a pop of color in an unexpected place. I also love mixing different textures in a room. That said, I would have to say that Kelly Wearstler is definitely one of my greatest creative influences. Another would be my sister, Lulie Wallace! I cannot say enough about how much I admire her, and her work, and how far she has come in her career. She is definitely an inspiration to me, and I can only hope that one day I will flourish as much as she has over the years.
What’s the most important piece of advice for someone buying a chandelier for the first time? Well there are the basics, which are measuring and making sure that the chandelier is the right height and size for the room. Most of the larger chandeliers hang over your dining room table, and the smaller ones can go in bedrooms, powder rooms, and foyers. To me, a chandelier is a piece that people overlook when decorating a room. Most of the focus goes to furniture, curtains, and paint colors. I try to make chandeliers that make a statement. It is
like a piece of jewelry that is hanging in your home.
Your travels have taken you all over the world. Do you recommend any one destination over the others as a great place to buy home goods? I think that choosing a place to travel is specific to what exactly you are looking for. If you are more into traditional pieces, the flea market in Paris is a mecca of amazing antiques and all kinds of accessories for your home. This is on my bucket list for sure to spend as much time as possible scouring the market for one of a kind treasures. Two of my most recent trips were beyond amazing. The first one being to Morocco. I can’t even put into words the sensory overload that you experience in this North African country. I was beyond excited at the opportunity to get to explore everything that this place had to offer. The rugs there were unreal. I didn’t consider myself much of a rug person until I was able to flip through all of the handmade ones in the medina in Fez. Plus, the rugs are much less expensive than they are in the US. I have to admit, I smuggled 5 back home with me that were stuffed in a suitcase.
Last month, I traveled to Tulum, Mexico. This is an up and coming travel destination for young folks. Again, I was in awe at the market there, drooling mainly over the embroidered pillows, and the hand woven blankets. The next places on my list to travel would be India and Thailand.
Finally, which Sullivan + Phenix chandelier do you consider a must buy? I am a little biased because I am the designer, and I want my clients to love them all! The most popular pieces so far are the Laney, and the Riley chandeliers. Please stay tuned because there are some new pieces I am designing at the moment and more fun colors and shapes to come!
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