Photos By Dov Plawsky
From Betsy Helmuth’s earliest days, interior design has been central to her life. “I grew up in Missouri with very humble roots,” she says. “We couldn’t afford to turn up the heat, and our house had a constant chill. However, I always loved pulling up to our house because we had bright orange, hand-me-down drapes that seemed to glow with warmth when our lights were on. Those drapes made it look so cozy. I learned from an early age that it was the little things that made a space feel like home.”
That very same understanding compelled Helmuth to apprentice with acclaimed interior design firm Thom Filicia Inc., after an impromptu move to New York City in her early 20s. “After my internship there, I opened Affordable Interior Design with a mission to bring that high-end look to people with low-end budgets,” says Helmuth of her company’s first Brooklyn location. “Nearly 3,000 clients later, our firm is growing faster than ever. Last year, we helped over 400 clients and this year we are on track to transform 600 spaces.”
With a popular website and a healthy roster of clients Helmuth could easily have operated without a physical storefront once she closed her Brooklyn location. “I have a lovely home office and could have easily worked there and saved a lot of rent money,” says Helmuth. “But I don’t think of it as rent, I think of it as marketing and also as an investment in our new hometown. When I moved to Dobbs Ferry with my family, I wanted to plant roots here. I decided to become a part of the fabric of the community since my family and I plan on being here for the long haul.”
And Helmuth has done just that with her chic design store that recently opened at 103 Main Street in Dobbs Ferry. Clients can stop by for one-on-one meetings, appointments, and consultations, plus the space will also be open for design parties and classes. The location is a reflection of both Helmuth’s design sensibility and the driving forces that compelled her to open up a shop in the first place.
“First and foremost, the storefront reflects our brand,” explains Helmuth. “We used the colors from the logo — an ombre effect that spans navy to teal to light blue. All of the items inside were sourced online, which is also where we find all the furnishings for our clients. We were on a tight budget with this space but wanted a look that would be sophisticated. Using our curating eye, we scoured Overstock, Wayfair, Amazon, and Ikea and spent less than $1,000 to design the entire space 450 square foot space — from scratch.”
And the storefront is more than simply a template for great design. “I think of our storefront as a billboard — it is marketing for what we do. The interior reflects how we design with furniture displays and style bookcases,” notes Helmuth. “The walls are covered in images of the spaces we’ve designed and art/photographs by a local artist, Monica Schulman. The shop windows are changed seasonally with [local] themes. For the holidays, we had a twinkling wonderland display featuring Dobbs Ferry blue [a royal blue hue] with white. For spring, we have pastel pinwheels and a collection of watercolors from one of our favorite painters, and one of our designers, Kelsey Surock.”
Currently, Helmuth schedules clients for design plans and sells her interior design book, Big Design, Small Budget, at the storefront. A new edition of her book will be coming out this year. Helmuth also records a weekly podcast, Big Design, Small Budget, from the storefront. “It gets 15,000 downloads per month and brings us a lot of visibility, online business, and book sales,” she explains.
Ahead, Helmuth plans to start holding interior design classes in the storefront. “I taught them in Soho for two years, and they were a big hit,” she adds. “I would also like to start hosting networking events. It is a lovely space that is very flexible and is in a central location in the Rivertowns. I have hosted some Rivertown Chamber of Commerce events in the space. But I want to make it more of a regular occurrence.”