It began with a passion for well-made items and a hobby, but now it’s grown into a decor shop that’s made itself at home in downtown Oregon, Ill.
Cozy, warm and welcoming are perfect ways to describe Simply Home, a unique furniture and home decor shop at 300 W. Washington St., in Oregon, Ill. Owner Diana Weber says her love of decorating and crafts grew from her childhood memories and background as an interior designer.
“I grew up watching my Dad make furniture in his woodworking shop, so I always had an interest in making things and selling them,” she says. “During the 20 years in which I was a stay-at-home mom, I started creating handmade wood signs that I would sell at craft shows. As my kids got older, I sold the signs in local craft stores until November 2017, when I started Simply Home.”
Weber not only creates handmade signs, but also has handmade furniture for sale at her store, along with other home decor accents. “Our furniture and wood shelving is all handmade by either my husband or my father, and we also feature handmade furniture by other local artisans,” she says.
The signs Weber and her assistant make range from small-framed items to large wall hangings.
“All of the signs are made out of pine lumber, which I cut and paint. Most of the signs are a combination of black and white or black and ivory,” she says. “I will do some colors on the signs for holidays, but black-and-white designs seem to be the style that’s in right now.”
The majority of Weber’s signs contain words or lettering which she stencils by hand.
“Family-centered sayings are always popular,” she says. “We do ‘lovey dovey’ signs that a couple could hang in their master bedroom, humorous but appropriate signs for a den or family room, and words like ‘gather’ or ‘eat’ for a kitchen or dining room. There are so many possibilities for these ‘sentiment’ signs.”
Additionally, Weber takes custom orders as time allows and can make signs in practically any size, design, lettering or color.
“Personalizing an order allows my clients to create a unique piece of decor that comes from the heart,” she says. “I will take custom orders throughout the year, but I usually have to stop in early October so I can honor the orders I’ve already taken and increase my store inventory as the holidays approach. A popular custom order would be a sign with a couple’s names and wedding date that could be given as an anniversary or wedding gift.”
Weber takes customized orders for the fall and holiday seasons during late summer or early fall. She usually makes around 40 signs per week and estimates selling between 20 to 30 signs each week outside of the holiday season.
Her strong commitment to customer service means a special order is done to the client’s satisfaction.
“Sometimes a patron will know exactly what they want in a custom order, and other times, I’ll design some samples on the computer using different fonts, then email these options to the customer,” she explains. “I can use a different color palette instead of black and white, and I can also accent the sign with simple, whimsical hand-painted items like snowflakes, mittens and Christmas trees depending on the season and theme of the sign.”
Assisting a customer with a special order means that Weber guides the project to ensure the sign’s aesthetic and artistic quality aren’t compromised.
“I try to make suggestions and offer alternatives if I think a design is going to look too crowded or off balance. I want my customers to love their finished signs, and I want all the signs created at Simply Home to reflect my high standards,” she says.
Weber has found that innovations in the tools of her trade are both time-saving and idea-inspiring. She keeps up with what’s new in the crafting world, and it’s paid off.
“When I first started making the signs, I would have to order a set of alphabet stencils in one font, so all the lettering on my signs was in the same font. I would also have to use individual letters to create the sayings on the signs and space out each letter to spell a word,” she explains.
“With the expansion of the internet over the past 20 years, and with being able to invest more money in supplies, I have found definite ways to improve my business,” she adds. “Now, I can buy stencils in different fonts, find whole word and phrase stencils, and create my own stencils thanks to advances in technology and specialized crafters websites.”
Nowadays, spacing and centering words and phrases on a sign is much less time consuming, since some stencils are pre-measured to fit on standard-sized backgrounds.
“Now, I have a machine where I can design the stencils myself, which is something that I never thought I would have,” Weber says. “All these things save time and money. I appreciate how today’s technology saves time on my projects and helps me stay current with new decorating trends.”
For Weber, the best thing about owning Simply Home is seeing the reactions from her patrons. “I’ve had people walk into the shop and they’ll say things like, ‘It’s so cute in here!’ or, ‘This is my favorite place!’ or ‘I’ve found my new go-to store!’ Listening to my customers’ reactions is very gratifying for me,” she says. “Just knowing that my customers love coming here and they look forward to seeing what’s new in the store is a huge compliment. Sometimes patrons tell me that they’re planning a girls shopping day at Simply Home, and this just makes me smile.”
Weber’s future hopes for the business include hiring more sales associates. “If things continue to go well, and I can hire additional help at the shop, I would like the freedom to make home visits and help customers with multiple room decorating projects,” she says. “It’s always easier to get the feel for a project if you can see the space in person and have a better understanding of how rooms flow together.”
Simply Home has been a welcomed addition to the business climate of Oregon, which Weber credits to personalized customer service and knowing how to keep up with trends in home decor.
“A lot of what’s in our store is handmade, well-built and crafted with thoughtfulness and heart,” she says. “We try to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere when a customer comes into the shop, which I think helps them envision our merchandise in their homes. We just want to make your home an inviting and beautiful place to be.”
Simply Home is open Wed.-Fri. from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Weber is typically in the store during business hours on Thursday through Saturday.
Simply Home is hosting a Holiday Open House on Nov. 8, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Nov. 9, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Some of Weber’s work is displayed on the Simply Home Facebook page at facebook.com/simplyhomeoregonil.