Mount Pleasant interior designer hopes for success with footrests

Julie Vaccaro, president of "My Slipcover Designer", sits with some of her slipcover designs. (Brad Nettles/postandcourier.com) 9/10/12

The next time someone props up their feet on an ottoman, Julie Vaccaro hopes it's one of hers.

The South African native operates an interior design business in Mount Pleasant, but now she's expanding to include custom-made footrests, including decorative slipcovers on top of them.

From colorful patterns to solid prints, slipcovers can be custom-crafted to fit any size ottoman through her new business, My Slipcover Designer, a subsidiary of JV Custom Interiors, her bread-and-butter mainstay.

Vaccaro contracts with a carpenter to build an ottoman to a customer's specifications, offering not only indoor footrests but outdoor ones built with weather-resistant materials. Cedar frames the outdoor ones. Birch completes those for indoor use.

She also designs the slipcovers in a variety of sizes with solid colors that can be washed and printed designs that can be dry-cleaned.

Vaccaro even uses exotic embroidered material to liven up a footrest. For instance, she used a fancy fabric made in Uzbekistan as a tent covering for a wedding to slip over a 34-inch diameter custom-built, round ottoman with four matching pillows. Price: $1,200.

Not everything is that expensive, but she definitely aims for a higher-end market.

For example, an 18-inch floral printed ottoman lists for $295. Ottomans will start at about $225.

“Our market is not the Target market,” she said.

Vaccaro hopes to be in select upscale retail stores locally soon with a goal of going national one day.

“A lot of my work has gone out under a designer,” she said. “I wanted to make my own (product) to make a name for myself.”

Designing home and office interiors was not her interest growing up.

She wanted to design buildings and earned a degree in architecture.

But her passion changed.

“I decided I like to do the inside more than the outside,” Vaccaro said. “It's prettier, there are more choices and there are more fabrics. I like that.”

So, she turned her studies to interior design and brought her career passion with her when she moved to the U.S. 10 years ago.

In 2006, she started JV Custom Interiors and worked out of her Mount Pleasant home. In 2010, she moved her business into a 2,000-square-foot shop on Ben Sawyer Boulevard.

Now, with two employees and herself, and after 18 months of researching the ottoman business to perfect the right materials for indoor and outdoor use, she's branching out and heading for the world of retail.

Vaccaro even wants her own line of signature prints.

To do that, she's contacted local colleges and wants students to come up with unique designs. In return, she promises 5 percent of the sales back to the college and another 5 percent to the students whose designs are selected.

And though her new business is building ottomans and placing specially made slipcovers over them, she also makes slipcovers for other items such as chairs and headboards on beds.

“I've even designed boat cushions and grill covers,” Vaccaro said.

She estimates slipcovers are 60 percent of her interior design business.

“I just finished a project downtown,” she said. “I slipcovered every piece of furniture. The woman moved in with her cats. The furniture was leather, and she didn't want her cats clawing the leather.”

“It's pretty popular,” she said. “An ottoman is a quick item to change, and we offer 400 different choices among sizes, fabrics and styles.”

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.