Following a successful career as a fashion buyer, Rehoboth’s Jess Weeth returned to the beach to be close to family and raise her own
Intro and Interview by Katie Riley | Photography by Keyanna Bowen
Lead Photo by Meghan Shupe
Growing up in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, designer Jess Weeth spent hours rearranging furniture, cutting out pictures of rooms she admired and analyzing color, scale and style. “I have loved fashion and art since I was a child and have always leaned more toward the creative side of things,” Weeth says.
After a successful career as a fashion buyer for Abercrombie & Fitch, Weeth returned home to Rehoboth to raise her family and put down roots. She channeled her passion for design into her own home and soon attracted the attention of friends and family, who noted her natural talent and eye for quality, honed through years of meeting with designers and textile producers around the world.
Last year, the Rehoboth-based designer — whose work was recently featured in House Beautiful — opened Weeth Home on Rehoboth Avenue, where she meets with corporate clients and homeowners. The studio also operates as a retail boutique that sells a curated collection of art, fabric and accessories that reflect Weeth’s breezy, sophisticated aesthetic. We recently sat down with Weeth to discuss her journey from fashion to interiors, her coastal roots and why home is now more important than ever.
KR: Tell us a bit about how you got started?
JW: I always hoped to do something creative and thought about art or architecture, but instead I headed to college to play tennis and study liberal arts. After graduating from Duke, I got a job as a buyer with Abercrombie & Fitch. It had that blend of creative and business that I liked. I spent the next seven years traveling the world, going to London and Paris to meet with designers and touring factories in China, South Korea and Turkey.
KR: How has your background in fashion prepared you for a career in interiors?
JW: The production side of apparel was a great education on quality versus trend. I learned how much things cost, negotiated pricing, listened to designers communicate their changes and then saw how things were eventually produced. It was a really immersive experience, and as much as I loved the creative aspect, the business training was invaluable. Ninety percent of interior design is sourcing and communicating realistic expectations with clients, so the business aspect really prepared me.
KR: How did you end up back home in Rehoboth?
JW: I had spent seven years as a buyer, and after meeting my husband, we began to consider relocating from Ohio back to the East Coast, to be closer to family. We looked at moving to Philadelphia, Baltimore or New York, and then serendipitously, my husband was offered a job as brand manager at Dogfish [Head Brewery].
Photography by Meghan Shupe
KR: How did this lead to you to interior design?
JW: At our first home, in Ohio, we did a full renovation, and I got really into the process. When we moved back to this area, we purchased a fixer in Lewes and did another full renovation. I started blogging about the process, and friends and family began asking for help with their own projects. It led me to take courses at the Interior Design Institute, where I learned the fundamentals of things like how to create an electrical plan and other practical aspects that you need to consider in addition to aesthetics.
KR: How did your coastal roots influence your design aesthetic?
JW: This area of the mid-Atlantic has a feel that I really love, but here in Rehoboth, you get that barefoot feeling. Nothing is too precious. I want something to look artfully done, but you don’t have to tiptoe around the house. I also love that there is a generational component to the houses here: Families over time keep coming back to the same streets, evolving the family compound. Nothing is static; things are passed down, and the story of a house is told.
KR: How did it feel to have one of your projects recently featured in House Beautiful?
JW: It was incredible to have a publication like that feature something and to also dig into our area and showcase the design around here. It was definitely a “pinch me” moment and something I was proud to be a part of.
KR: How has the reception been, coming back home?
JW: It’s been humbling to see my name on a studio on Rehoboth Avenue, to have the support of my family and be back where I grew up. I feel excited that I get to get to share my passion and let people discover their own style in the store. I really love that aspect of it, almost as much as a yearlong design project. There’s that thrill of watching customers come in and see what they discover on their own.
KR: You have a five-year-old and recently had twins. How do you balance work with being a busy mom?
JW: I have the most supportive partner, and that is critical. He encourages the passion that I have for doing this. There’s a risk element to starting a studio, and there have been big leaps of faith that I couldn’t have done on my own. I also think having kids is grounding and helps me find that balance. The right sofa length is not life and death (laughs). It really brings you back to what’s important in life.
KR: What kinds of things do you take into consideration when working with clients?
Any “musts” for you when designing?
JW: I love working with people who have that balance of loving design but also trust in the designer. I enjoy the process from inspiration to execution, and often clients are unsure what to ask their builders and architects. I love being able to help them communicate their wants and translate that vision for them. As far as “musts,” I think it’s vital to have architectural details that are true to the house. I also think it’s important to have quality pieces and an appreciation for the classic and timeless pieces, juxtaposed with things that are modern and fresh.
KR: Homeowners have spent so much time at home the past year, realizing the value of their personal space. Any advice for homeowners who want to invest more in their homes?
JW: This past year, as people realize they can live wherever and work remotely, has made homeowners reevaluate their spaces. My advice would be to consider how you live, whether you need space for schooling or work, and then to trust your instincts. Find inspiration in what’s out there, but don’t be swayed from your own personal style and don’t slap a trend on a house that doesn’t make sense. Take your cues from your home, your area and the bones of the house. Invest in quality pieces and buy only what you truly love.
KR: Dream project?
JW: I would love to get my hands on some of the old houses in Lewes. Pilottown Road, Ship Carpenter Square — I love that area, and I love working with older homes. I work with a lot of new build projects, and I enjoy it immensely, but the sense of history in older homes, the character and the amalgamation of different periods that goes with that just can’t be matched.