Boardman-Miller at one of her current renovation sites
built her design business, Lime Chandelier, on the premise of one simple
question: "Can you do drapes?"
It was 1996 when
Miller, fresh out of graduate school, had only recently arrived at the
guileless conclusion that she didnít want to work for anyone else. So
after hauling her sewing machine to and from the homes of family and
friends to peddle her stylish slipcovers, she confidently answered yes.
Over the years she
kept answering yes. Yes, I can paint. Yes, I can do interior design. By
age 30, she says she had a growing client base and her first million in
Miller is one of
the few design professionals who provides interior design, construction
consulting and home purchasing services in one shop. The former
Chicagoan credits the success of her business to having an open mind.
"I had a
client who didnít like her general contractor," Miller recalls.
"She said, ĎWhy canít you do it?í They were having to deal
with general contractors who were great people, but they werenít
coming to the job with that design sense, so they werenít getting what
Miller jumped at
the opportunity. Soon, she would find herself thinking about where
outlets should be placed, whether a particular painting would fit on a
divider wall, or where the chandelier could go once rewired. Her
business took off.
"By 2003, I
had 30 people in my office," Miller says. "I loved every
minute of it."
Then the housing
market crashed. When the recession slammed the nation in 2009, her
design business experienced a long fall from grace, plunging from $4
million a year in business to zilch. Miller was devastated.
months I didnít have a business," she says. "It was the
first time I thought, ĎWow. What am I going to do?í"
With her two
daughters nearing school age and her husband equally ready for a change,
the Millers began searching for a community with an exceptional
Montessori school system. Miller says the family landed in Milwaukee.
"We drove up
here, and within two days we had rented a house in Bay View and
moved," she remembers. Though it took a couple of years to settle
in, Miller says she slowly rebuilt her clientele ó and began to
embrace Brew City.
wasnít much later when yet another client asked her a question that
would reignite her design desires: Why didnít she have her Realtorís
Now, "When a
client comes to me and says: ĎHereís the budget to remodel the
house,í it gives me room to find something that isnít perfect, but
weíre going to do this and youíre going to move there in three
months. I can see the long view."
So far her efforts
are paying off. Though not every client demands the home purchase,
remodel and interior design trajectory, her clients say it helps that
Miller has 360-degree vision.
Sarah to come out to my house and incorporate old and new pieces,
re-decorate and style," says one client, Mollie Warner Cope.
"To her, no job was too big or too small. She can handle everything
ó carpenters, painters and fussy husbands."
creative, all the other stuff, my job is to manage expectations,"
Miller adds. "Itís to keep them from walking the plank. My
favorite thing is getting a new project and creating what itís going
to look like in the end. Itís about the hunt."
Next on Millerís
list is to spruce up the city. She has made it her mission to use her
design and Realtor skills to "bring Milwaukee into the 21st
ton of charm in these houses, but people want more than one bathroom and
more bedrooms," she explains. "All of these great industries
are here and there are no houses. I want people to move back into the