by Danielle Vigueria
According to the National Women’s Law Center, nearly two million women have left the workforce since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The country is experiencing the lowest women’s labor force participation since 1988. In the face of such challenging times, Western Home Journal would like to celebrate several exceptional women who continue to make a difference in the Bend business community.
These resilient women show us that there is no set formula for being a successful leader—no particular gender or age or educational background. From kitchen and bath and interior design, to home remodels and real estate, they are using their unique talents and perspectives to provide services that enhance the business landscape of central Oregon.
Jessica Merryweather Pollard
Jessica Merryweather Pollard is the owner of Merryweather, a home décor and gift store that opened in July of 2020. After carefully renovating an ideal space in the Historic Box Factory, Jessica and her small team are proud to offer a thoughtfully curated collection of home essentials, unique statement pieces, and elevated accessories. She also provides in-store and at-home design consultation services by appointment.
whj: Do you have a role model?
My mother and father are my role models. They taught me the importance of having a strong work ethic. For example, our family owned a Morgan horse farm in Ohio that required a lot of hard work. Starting at a young age, I was expected to contribute and had my own list of chores. My parents also taught me to try new things, to live a life full of variety and adventure, and to be joyful.
whj: Is there a key moment you are most proud of in your career?
When the large Merryweather sign was installed above our store, my husband and I realized the dream of starting my own business was becoming a reality. Then, when we opened our doors to the public and saw our first customers walk in, it was a proud moment for me. I felt like I was carrying on the Merryweather name and entrepreneurial spirit. I now have the chance to do something that I love as the business owner. It’s been rewarding to share the store with our local community and visitors alike. I’ve made many new friends and business connections in the process.
whj: How do you set goals for your career/business growth?
The goals during our first year were to introduce Merryweather to the community and to develop strong relationships with our customers. To start a business like this from scratch is a major undertaking. We literally started with blank sheet of paper as opposed to just buying an existing business, buying into a franchise, or opening an additional location like a chain store might do. In that respect, Merryweather is truly a locally-owned business that took a lot of passion and grit to create.
It’s been a very busy first year. Many folks are doing remodel projects, building new construction, and making Bend their home. As the business grows and more customers find us, it’s important to me that we continue on a steady path rather than grow too fast. Our team will focus on offering a unique selection of great products and providing excellent customer service. The fun part is that the store is always changing as new things arrive, but the overall feel is relatively stable. We love it when our customers stop by to say hello, see what’s new since their last visit, and leave feeling inspired, whether they make a purchase or not.
“When the large Merryweather sign was installed above our store, my husband and I realized the dream of starting my own business was becoming a reality. Then, when we opened our doors to the public and saw our first customers walk in, it was a proud moment for me. I felt like I was carrying on the Merryweather name and entrepreneurial spirit.”
–Jessica Merryweather Pollard, Merryweather
Nelson Tile & Stone
Nearly nine years ago, Bend native Jennifer Nelson transitioned from staying at home and raising her family to a career as a kitchen and bath designer. Alongside her husband, Chris Nelson, she helps manage their growing business, Nelson Tile and Stone. What began as a tile installation business nearly two decades ago, today is a full-scope kitchen and bath store that offers everything from on-location quartz and granite countertop fabrication, to trending tile selections and much more. With Jennifer’s guidance the company proudly provides many specialized items and services to the local kitchen and bath industry, making Nelson Tile and Stone unique to the Central Oregon community.
whj: What inspires you?
I’m inspired by anything that has layers of practicality as well as simplicity. Take a faucet, for example. Something may look pleasing overall, but can it easily be used by anyone aged 4 to 94? I know such things do exist, and when I find them, I want to build off of that. When I see something that considers layers of thoughtfulness, I grab onto it and implement it into my projects.
whj: How does your team help you get the job done?
Our team is a huge part of our success. In our industry I noticed that it was common for people to be upset with long projects, unresponsive project managers, and outdated design. We’ve built a team of in-house experts and have been able to tighten all of those processes up for our clients. I feel very fortunate to be able to handle a large part of each project with resources on our own team. They not only make things easier for me, but they really enhance the entire customer experience.
whj: How do you approach growing your business?
I try to think outside of the box and look for better ways to get projects done. Using technology and innovation has kept us ahead of the competition. Recently, while working with a local cryptocurrency expert, I’ve taken initiation as one of the first businesses in Bend to accept Bitcoin as payment. While this doesn’t have a lot to do with kitchen and bath design, it’s just another way to show that we are always evolving with every aspect of our industry and I think it will be an exciting offering to many of our clients. In 2022, we plan to build a new state-of-the-art facility and specialty showroom. I’m really looking forward to bringing in more talent and surprises that Bend hasn’t typically offered in the past.
whj: What advice would you give someone starting out?
I’m a big follower of the advice that design is 20% talent and 80% hard work. I would say to put the time in with the practical business aspects. Learn the parts of a transaction that aren’t glamorous, and bring technology to a project where you can. Embrace teaching yourself something new instead of relying on others to do it for you. Our strength comes from a foundation of many things, so keep pushing yourself and learning!
“I try to think outside of the box and look for better ways to get projects done. Using technology and innovation has kept us ahead of the competition.”
–Jennifer Nelson, Nelson Tile & Stone
Kristin Lear Rosati
Kristin Lear Design
A Bend native, Kristin Lear Rosati describes herself as a “mountain girl who has traveled the world and come back home.” After earning a degree in fashion merchandising and living around the globe in more than 30 different homes, she recently returned to Oregon and founded Kristin Lear Design, a boutique interior design firm. With her husband, Mimmo, a tableware designer, and her Labradoodle puppy and faithful companion, Puccini, by her side, Kristin is translating her love of design into beautifully crafted spaces for her clients.
“Growing up in Bend, I have a great understanding of the local culture,” says Kristin. “And now I also understand what it is like to move here from somewhere completely different.” Kristin brings a unique worldview, a love of South American flea markets, and a curious spirit to her work and she is happy to have the opportunity to share her creativity with the Bend community and establish new roots in her hometown.
whj: Who or what inspires you?
I am always amazed by my friends. I do not have one mentor in particular, but I feel so lucky to have the most creative friends—artists, antique dealers, clothing designers. They inspire me and I often draw on their work. We have built a great community of female artists and we all lift each other up.
whj: How did you come to this career choice?
I’ve always been very visual. In high school, I started designing store windows for a local ski shop. I just had a natural eye. Then, I got a degree in fashion merchandising and went to work at a major department store. My life path took me all over the world and as I moved each time and set up a new home, I began to realize that I had an interest and gift for interior design. It was a very organic transition.
whj: How do you set goals for your career?
I am not the type of person who has a fixed, five-year plan. My goal is to always grow as a designer and keep the work interesting by taking on different types of projects. I love my job because there are so many sides to it. One day I could be working with an architect on a new build and picking out all of a home’s finishes and the next I might be helping a homeowner rework their guest bedroom. Large, small, modern architecture or classic Tudor style—I really enjoy every project. I would love to continue to evolve and explore throughout my entire career.
whj: How do you handle the work/life balance?
For me, I don’t feel like I have to balance. I enjoy my work so much; it’s just a part of who I am and how my mind works. I naturally notice things as I go about my day and I am constantly being inspired. The balance for me is really about pairing the technical parts of interior design—specs and measuring and logistics—with the creative stuff.
whj: What are some ways that you are involved in the community outside of work?
I’m a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer. I support children who have been abused or neglected and their parents and work to reunite them. It’s important to me that they know—especially the women—that no matter what you’ve experienced in your life, you can still follow your passion.
“I love my job because there are so many sides to it. One day I could be working with an architect on a new build and picking out all of a home’s finishes and the next I might be helping a homeowner rework their guest bedroom.”
–Kristin Lear, Kristin Lear Design
Wendy von Kalinowski
Studio von Kalinowski Design
For Wendy von Kalinowski, owner of the full-service design firm Studio von Kalinowski, helping clients find balance and inspiration in their homes is essential. After working in many areas of the design industry, including spending time in Europe focusing on hotel and restaurant design, Wendy reestablished her roots in Sisters and has been serving Central Oregon for the last 14 years.
Along with her husband, Mark Smeltzer, a master craftsman and builder, Wendy works to understand a house from the inside out and creates homes that respect her clients’ lifestyles as well as the natural environment. She helps homeowners move away from preconceived notions about design and realize they can have beautiful and functional spaces that are truly individualized and meaningful.
whj: What inspires you?
Overall, nature certainly inspires me. The ocean, the mountains—always changing landscapes and colors. I’m also very inspired by Japanese and Scandinavian design. It’s so thoughtful and purposeful and clean. I went to Japan with my father when I was 16 and was taken by the design and architecture. There’s such an incredible mix of new and old, and everything has a sense of balance and harmony. And that doesn’t necessarily mean symmetry—nature isn’t equal, but it is balanced and that is something I adhere to in my work today.
whj: How do you set goals for your career?
I think we should all be more mindful about our development. I just go where I feel I can be my best or do better. I try not to limit myself to doing just one kind of design. I’ve worked in residential design, corporate design, healthcare design, hospitality design, and I’ve even taught design. I did not take the easiest path, but I believe it has been more enriching and I have experienced a lot of different approaches to design and creating solutions because of it.
whj: What is your design philosophy?
When I am working on a home, I want to create an environment that is a daily journey of inspiration for those who live there. I want it to help them feel protected and hold them in all of their senses. It’s not just what you see, it’s about what you hear and feel, how you navigate spaces, and also light. Light is very important. We are guided by light—natural and synthetic. If you don’t have light, you don’t have anything. Everything is defined by light.
whj: What advice would you give someone just starting out?
For people even thinking about design, I’d say follow your heart and don’t be afraid. You will run into obstacles, but there’s always a solution. Don’t let one setback challenge or derail you. I’ve seen many people in this industry quit because they didn’t feel good enough. There’s a place for everyone in design, there are so many options, and there’s always someone who can help balance where you don’t feel like you are strong. You don’t have to be limited by the expectations of others or the boundaries you put on yourself.
whj: How do you stay connected to your community outside of work?
I volunteer at Sisters High School with an organization called Aspire. We help students with their post-graduation plans. Since we are not a big town, students aren’t always exposed to all the possibilities life after high school can offer. It’s important to help these kids find a sense of possibility, and I get so excited to see them advance and succeed. I’m also a board member for Sisters GRO, a graduate resource organization that grants college scholarships. Through fundraising and other support, it is amazing to see what this small community can do for our students. GRO awarded over $200,000 in 2020. My personal hope is for more students to pursue design and architecture.
“I try not to limit myself to doing just one kind of design. I’ve worked in residential design, corporate design, healthcare design, hospitality design, and I’ve even taught design.”
–Wendy von Kalinowski, Studio von Kalinowski
Anne Mastalir & Allison Clouser
Anne Mastalir and Allison Clouser, co-founders and principal designers of Design Bar, met when their children were in the same pre-school class in Portland. Now, more than a decade later, the two have reunited in Bend and combined their shared experiences as interior designers to create something special.
Design Bar, which opened in 2020, is a boutique interior design showroom that offers a carefully curated collection of home products from flooring and fabrics to furniture and accessories. In just over a year, Anne and Allison have built a team of women who inspire and support each other and believe in the power of collaboration and a combined aesthetic.
“Our concept is to deliver a very thoughtful, unique design experience to our central Oregon community,” says Anne. “We don’t offer an endless amount of product—we work hard to bring together high-end, globally influenced design and a selection of the best products on the market. The process inspires me and our team, and hopefully it does the same for our clients.”
“Our concept is to deliver a very thoughtful, unique design experience to our central Oregon community.”
–Anne Mastalir, Design Bar
whj: How did you arrive here?
Anne: I studied business in college and worked in tech and executive search for most of my early career. Then I became a stay-at-home mom for ten years. Design really started as a hobby for me. I found a passion for renovating while I was working on my first home. I love envisioning how a space can transform and then witnessing the process. From there, I started to flip houses and ultimately, I decided to start my own design business.
Allison: It’s funny how similar our stories are when it comes to finding our way to design. I was in corporate America before I had kids also. Then I stayed home for a number of years raising my kids. During that time, I was renovating my own homes. One day a dear friend who was a designer asked me to come work for her. I learned a ton from her and eventually started my own design business.
whj: How do you set goals?
Allison: I think during our first year of business we watched what was happening in the community and listened to our clients and that has guided our decisions. It’s a very interesting time. The expectations in our town are changing. Bend has had a major influx of people from all over. And we are hearing our clients say they want better resources for materials and furniture. We are planning to expand that portion of our business this coming year to bring that to our community.
Anne: Yes, the aesthetic in Bend is changing and there’s a need for our business to provide options beyond the mountain, rustic design that has dominated in the past. With the new wave of people moving in from big cities, there’s a tremendous opportunity for Design Bar to bring a more metropolitan aesthetic to Bend, but in a thoughtful way that is still true to Central Oregon.
whj: What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Allison: Just start somewhere and start learning. The great thing about our industry is that you don’t necessarily need formal training. If you have a good eye, if you have the ability to look at something and see the potential in it—that goes a long way.
Anne: I agree. You either have the eye or you don’t. I’d tell anyone starting out to just go for it. Be true to yourself. I went down a traditional, ‘responsible’ career path and eventually found myself questioning my choice. Think about what your passions are and what talents you have and imagine what you can do with them. Be brave and bold enough to build out that personal truth. It can be scary, but it can be amazing.
whj: How does Design Bar support the local community?
Anne: We believe so much in giving back. We donate a percentage of our earnings to a locally-owned nonprofit called Furnish Hope. It’s such a great organization. They transform houses into homes for people transitioning out of homelessness. To me it just speaks to the real power of design. It can bring peace and serenity into lives and enhance opportunities for individuals to connect.
“We watched what was happening in the community and listened to our clients and that has guided our decisions.”
–Allison Clouser, Design Bar