We had the good fortune of connecting with Karl Rowley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Karl, every day, we hear about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
When I started remodeling my Palm Springs condo in the mid-century modern style, I couldn’t find new home decor items that had a retro feel while still being stylish and modern. Then one day I discovered a service that produces custom home goods on demand. As a graphic designer, I decided to create my own exclusive designs. This was the spark that started my online store.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My work is very design-oriented. I research, plan and design everything myself, here in Palm Springs, California. I try to create products that I enjoy personally in my daily life. Plus, on the advice of a tech-savvy mentor, I started a blog and YouTube channel where you can follow my mid-mod findings around town and most of all, do-it-yourself projects to remodel my home and products reveals. This is the best advice I’ve ever had because the most exciting thing of it all, besides making sales of course, is doing videos of those DIY projects or samples unboxing. I could do this all day, every day. I feel it creates a more personal connection with my customers and fans by letting them discover a bit of who I am. All this is tied together by a desire to revisit the timeless mid-century modern style in a stylish and colorful way, and help customers rediscover the joy of design and color in everyday items. Simplicity is the hardest thing but the most beautiful one when done right. So along this process, I’ve learn to be extremely patient and never give up. There’s so much to learn when running a store by yourself. It’s a huge endeavour that can suck up most of your free time. But every step adds up to an incredibly gratifying feeling. Very few careers provide this level of freedom. As for my brand, it is evolving from a fun hobby to a stylish brand with quality products, adding new ones regularly.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The uptown design district offers a myriad of design stores of all kinds. Start around Palm Canyon and Tachevah and walk south towards Downtown. It’s a 20 minutes non-stop walk but you’ll probably take the afternoon while shopping around. On your way, you’ll find a lot of stores, galleries, and shops to visit. My usual suspects are Grace, Christopher Kennedy, Pelago, Trina Turk, Shag Store, Just Fabulous. Along the way, you’ll find many popular eateries or coffee spots like Eight 4 Nine, Koffi, and Trio. Once you get to dowtown, don’t miss Destination PSP with lots of fun mid-century modern items. There are many restaurants to choose from with sure bets like Lulu or Las Casuelas but in recent years the selection has extended a lot. If you like seafood, one of the best in town is Ruben and Ozzy’s Oyster Bar & Grill nearby on Tahquitz where they cook in front of you if you sit at the bar. Then a few steps away, on Arenas Road, east of Indian Canyon, you’ll find Palm Spring’s lively bar scene with something for everyone and one of the best burgers in the valley at BlackBook with an amazing selection of cocktails and martinis. Don’t miss the fun ShowTunes at Quadz. Of course, you need to make time for Palm Springs main attraction: The Aerial Tramway with the largest rotating cabin in the world and breathtaking views of the desert when on top of the San Jacinto mountain. But my ultimate favorite place is Sunnylands, the mecca of mid-century modern architecture and design. This private estate which you can tour, plus gorgeous public gardens, is one of the least known gems of the Coachella valley with a history of world leaders and famous stars. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There is a funny story about two artists from different eras without whom I would never have opened my store. This shoutout is a bit different because they don’t know about it. The first one is late photographer Slim Aarons who created “Poolside Gossip” in 1970, one of the most famous Palm Springs images. The second one is Josh Agle, aka Shag, who is currently the most renowned mid-mod artist with a store in Palm Springs. I discovered them while shopping with a friend for an oversized canvas or artwork for my living room. We found a huge reproduction of Aaron’s famous photo in a gallery but it was out of my budget. Then we visited Shag’s store for the first time, a revelation to me with such creativity and a unique style. I was thinking out loud how cool it would be to have Aarons’ picture in Shag’s style, and make it huge. My friend looks at me and simply says, “You’re a graphic designer, do it yourself!”. That’s how I embarked on a crazy project, for my own pleasure, of digitally recreating that famous picture around a pool but in a funky colorful style inspired by Shag. The result is the most stunning and unique piece of art. Upon seeing this incredible 60″ x 48″ canvas, this same friend suggested I develop my own designs, put them on home goods and sell those online. And this is how, thanks to these 2 great artists that I’m now designing for my own mid-century modern online store! I still have this frame on the wall and to this day, Shag is still one of the artists that inspires me the most.