Annie Tropple: On Interior Design and Career Cultivation
Annie Tropple is the creative force behind Home Design by Annie. As a young college student, Annie was given a glimpse into the glamorous world of high-end design through an internship. Long story short: she was hooked! Following a brief sojourn in California, Annie made Minneapolis her professional home. After working with a few incredible local builders, the 2009 market crash spurred Annie to start her own business. Since then, her focus has been growing her company and her family.
Tell us about Home Design by Annie.
We are a boutique design firm focused on residential projects, with a few commercial interiors sprinkled in from time to time.
We work with builders, architects, tradespeople, and homeowners, collaborating to create one-of-a-kind spaces.
With a broad range of experience, we specialize in new construction, remodeling, and furnishing projects. We work all over the Twin Cities metro area - from Edina to Stillwater.
What was your first job growing up, and what did you learn from it?
At 15, I was a cashier at my grandparents' (later my uncle’s) grocery store in Rockford, MN.
Even though my family owned the store, I still had to follow the same rules as everyone else! I learned responsibility, working hard, and being on time can gain you respect and better roles in a company.
Oh, and I discovered how much I look like my mom! I would hear that about ten times a day as I rang people up - you must be Jill Francis’ daughter, you look just like her! As a teenager, I put on a fake smile when people said it, but now I love it.
How did you get your start in interior design?
While in school, I interned downtown at Marshall Fields Interior Design Studio. I learned a lot there, in particular, that I didn’t like the corporate setting (and hated paying for downtown parking).
Later in college, my uncle was dating Billy Beson, who happens to be one of the most talented designers in Minneapolis. He offered me an internship at his company (it was called William Beson Interior Design at the time).
My main role was the glamorous job of organizing the resource library. However, some days I attended meetings with Bill and got to watch him work his magic with high-end clients in their gorgeous homes.
I will never forget one of the first meetings I tagged along on. We were at a home on Lake Minnetonka. One of the rugs he sold to the owner was $125,000, and he had me try on her diamond wedding ring, which was the biggest rock I've seen to this day.
The experience opened my eyes to a whole different world. He taught me that with hard work, networking, and confident communication, the sky is the limit.
I also got to intern alongside Lola Watson at WBID, who taught me so much about class, research, and the history of design. I will forever be grateful for my time there, and the dear friends I made.
What was your first professional design job?
Shortly after graduation, I needed a change of scenery. I decided to shake up my life. My younger sister had moved to California on her own the year before, and I decided to do the same!
After Christmas in 2004, my sister and I drove off to California. It was scary, but I'm thankful I took the risk. It was one of the greatest decisions I’ve made.
I arrived in California with no job, but a goal to work at a design firm in La Jolla. Luckily, I quickly got a job there at Inplace Stuido and had opportunities to work on the most incredible homes all over San Diego County and all the way up to wine country.
I stayed for nearly three years until I began feeling like I needed to settle there or move back home. My dad had a brain aneurysm while I was home for Christmas during my last year in California. Luckily, he survived with very few side effects. Being close with my family; I took it as a sign that it was time to move home. I'm so happy I did!
Tell us about your career path in the Twin Cities before starting your own company.
After moving home, I took an interior design position at Hendel Homes. I worked on a nearly 9,000 square foot home that was a Dream Homes in the Parade of Homes. I learned about construction, the home building process, and how to be a stronger, more confident designer.
Rick Hendel and his team are incredibly talented, skilled, and detailed. Rick opened my eyes to cabinetry, millwork, and design detail possibilities.
In 2009, after nearly three years at Hendel, the market crashed. There wasn’t enough work to sustain a designer on staff, so I was let go. No one was hiring interior designers at the time, and with my boyfriend’s (now husband’s) support, I decided to start my own business. It was a scary decision. Luckily, though, I had clients right away, and my business took off.
In 2015, I was approached by REFINED Custom Homes to work on a new construction project. Shortly after I began, the Project Manager launched her own firm, Blend Interior Design. I was recruited to join the team, and after much (much, much, much!) thought, I took the risk.
Soon after, I became pregnant with my second child. I learned a lot at Blend and worked with great people. However, during my maternity leave, I decided to follow my heart and break off on my own again.
It was a difficult decision, but I'm so happy to be back on my own! And I'm thankful for the clients and business associates that have stayed by my side through the process.
I have been fortunate to have lots of exciting projects since being back - including new construction, a 9,000 square foot remodel of an island home, furniture projects with clients old and new, and more to come in 2018!
Tell us the story of why and how you started your business.
Simple (not really): market crashed = no one is hiring = hire yourself!
One of my friends and clients at the time was a lawyer, and she helped me get the legal end of my business set up. My husband and I worked hard on getting things up and running.
We consulted with the right people, networked, and set up a website and Facebook page. Facebook was a free, but excellent, tool for networking.
What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up anywhere from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. (depending on when my youngest child starts chatting in his crib) every day. Some mornings, you’ll find me at the 6:10 gym class to get a workout in before the day takes off.
Then it’s feeding the kids, getting them ready, and greeting our nanny. From there, no day is the same until 5:00 when the nanny goes home, then our dinner, bath, and bedtime routine begins!
After the kids are down, I either put in an hour or two of work, clean up, get random things checked off the to-do list or relax with my husband.
Tell us about a hard time in your life.
Career-wise, it was starting a business, growing it, gaining confidence, learning to sell, paying taxes, dealing with hard situations, etc., etc., etc.! Lots of blood, sweat, and tears but so incredibly worth it.
Personally, the hardest thing I’ve gone through started shortly after my husband and I were married. We ended up on a multiple year path of IVF treatments which were physically, emotionally, and financially draining.
During that same time, my otherwise healthy, non-smoking mother-in-law (who was 55 at the time) was diagnosed with what ended up being Stage 4 lung cancer. It led to an extreme amount of stress and anxiety (on top of all of the stress and anxiety that already goes with infertility).
After a few rough years of treatments, and being extremely sick for almost half of my pregnancy, our daughter Isla was born in 2013. Words can’t describe the joy she brought (and still brings!) to our lives.
Fast forward a year and a half, we traveled to Chicago for another IVF treatment, and I became pregnant with our son, Luca. I didn’t think I could love another child as much as I loved Isla, but then Luca came along, and proved me wrong!
My mother-in-law became worse just before I gave birth to Luca. My husband spent most of the time after Luca’s birth by his mom’s side in the hospital. She ended up passing away three weeks after he was born.
That five year period was challenging. However, it made me so incredibly thankful for my two beautiful, healthy babies that I'm lucky enough to call my own, and my friends, family, and health.
I learned I could get through more than I ever gave myself credit for, and that's a life lesson that has forever changed me for the better.
If you were to start your business over today, what would you do differently?
I would change the name of my company - I hate it! I still to this day can’t think of anything else I like better, though, so it is what it is!
What do you believe is your single strongest skill that’s helped you succeed?
I genuinely care about my clients, and the relationships I have with them as well as builders, architects, and the other trades I get to work with. My passion is creating a beautiful end product that my clients are going to love.
Tell us about your life outside of your business?
I love going out to eat, spending time with friends and family, traveling, working out (when I have time) and enjoying a glass of wine! Oh, and how can I forget lake time. I grew up on a lake, so I'm there as often as possible. There's something about a lake that's so calming and resets me every time.
How do you balance your career and family/personal life?
When my son was born almost two years ago, I decided to work three days a week. It feels like the perfect fit now (or close as I can get). I get to spend precious time with my kids while they're little, but I also pursue my passion. Easy is definitely not a word to describe the balance, but it's worth it.
What age do you want to retire at? I have no idea. I love what I do, and usually, it doesn’t feel like work. I think I will do it until I don’t enjoy it anymore, or until I'm to busy with grandkids and travel!
One travel location on your bucket list? There are so many places - I want to travel the world! If I had to name one it would be Norway to learn more about my roots and experience the beauty of the country, or Fiji to stay in a luxurious hut over the water, or…
Are you an introvert or extrovert? A little of both, but more of an introvert.
What is your favorite blog, podcast, or book? I just read “Permission to Parent.” With all the noise we hear from media outlets, social media, other parents, etc. I was getting overwhelmed by all of the differing opinions. This is a great book to help navigate the world of discipline and communication with our little ones in a respectful, caring but firm way.
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