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A Happy Place

By September 10, 2019 No Comments

By Sarah Bahari
Photo by Ralph Lauer

Erasable markers are used to write encouraging notes on backsplash tile behind the stove.

Following a painful divorce, a single mother turns to home decor to build a new life for herself and her two children.

Susie Robb can still picture the closet.

Gray carpet. Neatly hanging clothes. Notecards with Scriptures taped to the wall.

As her decade-long marriage crumbled, Robb would seek refuge in the quiet closet, lying in a fetal position and willing herself to get up. Soon, the closet became more of a prison than a refuge.

“The closet floor was my vantage point for so long,” she recalls. “It was a place of deep hurt.”

Robb knew something had to change. Her marriage was ending, and as a stay-at-home mother to two young children, she would need to find a way to anchor herself and support her family.

And so she has. Three years after her divorce, Robb is the owner of From: Susie (shopfromsusie.com), an online home decor shop that boasts a line of Texas-made products. The spark for the business came to her during the agonizing days of divorce.

“I had a lot of dreams, and one was to someday own my own boutique,” she says. “Fantasies are what saved me. I dreamt of a life that would make me happy, and it became my mind’s sanctuary. It was escapism, but it worked.”

Growing up in West Texas, Robb recalls poring over her grandmother’s issues of Southern Living and House Beautiful magazines, and she later found herself constantly painting walls and rearranging furniture in her own home.

“I like change for the sake of change,” says Robb, who studied ballet at the University of Utah. “Movement calms me.”

With no formal training in interior design or business, Robb took a part-time position helping to fill orders for a small home decor boutique that operated online and in a stall at an antique mall.

She eventually became manager of the business and in 2018 took out a loan to purchase it. After changing the name to From: Susie, she moved the operation completely online, where the business flourished. She shipped packages from her Grapevine home but in August partnered with a business associate to open a fulfillment center.

Merchandise ranges from cotton tea towels to ceramic pitchers, and she has added a line of her own designs made in Texas, including wood cutting boards, steel trays and decorative lanterns. Recently, she began selling antiques she scouts herself, as well.

“Susie has an innate understanding of color, composition and movement,” says Ashley Slater, a friend who handles Robb’s marketing. “She applies the principles of dance and movement to interior design.

“She is so modest and uncomfortable with the term interior designer. She creates beautiful spaces, and she really listens to people. That’s her key.”

When friend Jennifer Simmons bought a house near Lakeside, she enlisted Robb’s interior design help. The house had formerly been used by drug addicts and needed gutting. Robb showed up to help tear out baseboards and remove needles left behind in kitchen drawers. The two then worked together to give the home a modern farmhouse vibe.

“She didn’t have to do all of this,” Simmons says. “We were paying her to design, but she showed up for the hard part. She was with us from the beginning. She took my ideas and turned them into something so beautiful.”

Divorce and single motherhood have instilled in Robb a deep empathy that her friends say is evident in her work.

“Home decor is her vehicle,” Slater says, “but her heart is to serve others. That is her core.”

Robb’s home is accented with pieces from her collection, including an open lantern set.

Pillow covers come in a wide variety of colors and styles.

For more than a year, Robb struggled to save her dying marriage because divorce went against her religious upbringing. Over and over, she made pros and cons lists. And over and over, she prayed for guidance. She says she always heard the same answer.

“ ‘I’ll be with you wherever you go.’ ”

“That is all I heard from God. I believe God cares more about our souls and less about legalities,” she says.

Robb now leads DivorceCare classes to help others navigate the painful process. Topics range from finances to child custody, and 95 percent of attendees are women.

By teaching the courses, Robb hopes to help change the conversation surrounding divorce and religion while encouraging people to consider how we view single parents and families. Robb says her own children, a 6-year-old son, Adam, and 5-year-old daughter, Sarah, are now thriving.

“My children and I are still a family,” she says. “People tend to see single-parent families as less than, as somehow incomplete. But not all families have to look a certain way, and we need to start accepting that.”

She also does public speaking; in April she gave a presentation to the Southlake Newcomers Club about trends in interior design and home decor. Robb dreams of someday opening a brick-and-mortar store that marries her two loves, a place where women can shop for beautiful pieces but also gather and talk about difficult topics — adultery, divorce, love, loneliness.

“I am not afraid to fail,” she says. “Nothing could be worse than that closet floor, and I’ll never forget that. I choose this life.”

THE DETAILS

Susie’s items are only available online at shopfromsusie.com