By Hollie Deese

When Jessica Davis was a little girl, the most she knew about interiors design in a pre-HGTV world was what she saw on “Designing Women,” the 1980s-era sitcom centered around an Atlanta design firm.

Even with a lack of real-life Sugarbakers aside, Davis still grew up hugely influence by woman in the arts. Her great-grandmother was a potter and her grandmother was a graphic artist, before computer programs. “And my mom was very artistic, and she’s a hairdresser now,” Davis says.

Davis didn’t land on interior design right away – she started college with a major in fine art but soon talked herself out of it, worried about the viability of making money as an artist. She tried graphics for a semester and hated it. Then her counselor suggested interior design.

“And I really didn’t know that much about interiors,” she says. “I agreed to give it a shot and once I did, it was absolutely the perfect for me. So it was just discovering through different types of art, which one was the best fit.”

The Hendersonville native takes a direct, assertive approach with clients that come to her business JL Design when they are looking to be challenged and not for a designer who agrees with all of their ideas.

“And once I build rapport with someone, they appreciate my candor and my honesty,” she says. “We spend a lot of time on the front end doing discovery work that I think is so important. And then we present concepts to ensure that we’re all on the same page as far as the overall look and feel.”

Which works because there isn’t a specific Nashville style, at least not anymore. Think a traditional Belle Meade home with a shocking piece of art hanging in the foyer or a condo downtown with antique appointments.

“I’ve enjoyed seeing that evolve over time,” Davis says. “When I started my business 15 years ago we were hard pressed to come across very much contemporary design. There were really no high rises. And so I feel like I’m very fortunate to have seen this evolution happen in Nashville.”

In fact, Davis says one of the turning points in her career was when a client at the Icon in The Gulch had some of her grandmother’s antiques she did not want to part with, but had no idea how to make them with in a contemporary concrete box.

“I really love to practice this vintage modern type design, that juxtaposition between these very new modern pieces and old pieces, whether they be family heirlooms or antiques or just something that’s personal,” Davis says. “I think of those pieces in my own home, and I would say almost every piece I own tells a story.”

She loves when people come over and the pieces start conversations, so suddenly she can be telling a story about her great-grandmother and her pottery that helps carry on that person’s legacy in the best way.

“There’s a reason that I didn’t want to go into large healthcare and hospitality design,” she says. “There’s a reason that I’m not primarily focused on commercial design, though I find a lot of inspiration through those channels. I wanted to work in someone’s personal space. I mean, this is where someone’s going to raise their family. They’re going to laugh, they’re going to cry. They’re going to fight illnesses. I mean, this is where you live your life. And to give us the opportunity to come into that space and really try to make it functional and beautiful for you and your family and tell your story is just a real honor. And I feel so, so fortunate to do what I do every day and certainly don’t take it lightly.”

Because of that care she is able to go beyond just decorating a house to carefully selecting items to help reflect someone’s personality or story, paying homage to pieces that they already own that she knows are important to them, in creating spaces that they couldn’t create on their own.

“I think that takes design on a whole other level,” Davis says.

Davis shops everywhere from Habitat for Humanity to Apple & Oak, pulling a solid mix of items from retailers and antique stores when sourcing for her clients, embracing the mix of textures, eras and styles that Nashvillians love.

“I love to mix color,” she says. “I love to mix pattern. I love that whole vintage, modern feel. So even though I do some contemporary work or some transitional work, where I really shine is very layered, with lots of dimension and an eclectic mix between materials.”

And the result is always playful, family-friendly and never boring to live with.

Contact: JL Design