The owners of the Clifton Inn near Charlottesville believe interior designer Janie Molster is a “true visionary.”
“Janie has a great sense of what is going to endure and, at the same time, reflects her client’s taste,” co-owner Mitch Willey said.
Willey and his wife, Emily, have worked with Molster on two renovations of the Clifton Inn and with their principal residence in Alexandria.
During the last renovation of the inn 11 years ago, she found two chandeliers made out of shell.
“It sounds like it wouldn’t go in a property like Clifton, but it goes in perfectly. It was a clever way to find something unpredictable,” he said.
Molster founded Richmond-based Janie Molster Designs in 1990 and has expanded it from a cottage industry to a high-profile design business.
Her winery renovation project for Jean and Steve Case, the co-founder and former CEO of America Online, was voted the No 1 tasting room design in the country by USA Today’s 10 Best Reader’s Choice awards in September.
The Cases, who own Early Mountain Vineyards in Madison County, wanted the project to stay local.
“We were heavily vetted,” Molster said. “We were able to hire architects and contractors from our area and support local. That is what we love to do.”
Her design company works with residential, commercial and hospitality projects.
“At the beginning, we were all residential, and it’s still the backbone of the business,” Molster said. “We started doing commercial and hospitality projects about 10 years ago. We bring our residential background to our corporate projects. It helps enhance the design.”
Molster has worked with a variety of projects, from small boutique hotels to retail stores. She finds that retail and commercial customers do not want a cookie-cutter look.
“They are looking for a design that personalizes their space similar to residential clients that want their home to express their personality,” she said.
Andrew Smith, president of the ad agency Initiate-it in Shockoe Bottom, asked Molster to come up with a unique design that would reflect his company’s creative environment.
“We wanted our clients to think this is a cool, creative space and that we can think outside the box,” said Smith, noting that Molster understood his vision and what he wanted to achieve. “We asked our staff to write down 20 terms that were important to them. Out of those, Janie took our words and created a flowing beehive down the hallway. It tells a pretty cool story to clients of who we are.”
About 60 to 70 percent of Molster’s client base is within 150 miles of Richmond, with the remaining largely on the East Coast.
In the past two years, her work has been split evenly between residential and commercial projects.
“This year, we are leaning slightly more to residential,” she said.
The company’s sales have increased between 10 and 20 percent each year since 2009.
“In 2008 and 2009, our sales were steady,” she said. “At the time, people were saying they couldn’t buy a second home, but they were going to renovate or redecorate their current home. That sort of work was prolific during that time period.”
At any given time, Molster has 15 to 25 open projects in the works that range in size from small to very large.
“Managing the volume of work is one of our biggest challenges but also our biggest priority. We make sure we can service everyone extremely well and provide personalized service,” she said.
Molster stays on top of new products and trends in interior design by frequently attending trade shows or antique markets.
“You have to stay current,” she said. “We stay on the edge of what is available. It’s a lot of work, but I think that separates us into a different tier.”
Jim and Mollie Reinhart of Richmond were looking for an interior design that not only was functional and comfortable but also beautiful when they hired Molster to work on their home in 2007. The design was featured on the cover of the November/December 2015 issue of Traditional Home magazine.