Multi-tasking mom of five, thriving business owner, decorator— there seems to be nothing Broad Ripple interior designer and store owner Mandy Skelton can’t do. Except perhaps sleep in past 5 a.m.
Thankfully for us, Skelton is passionate about Belgian design, handmade ceramics, and antique sourcing. So much so that fitting it all in means waking up at 3 a.m. (a residual habit from carrying her twins) and taking calls from relentless writers named Liz while she picks up the kids from school. She answered my questions with a thoughtful, impassioned ease — all while passing snacks to the backseat.
For those that haven’t visited her Broad Ripple home store Willa Gray Home, here’s what you’re missing: From the first step in, Skelton’s rich world treats visitors with a trip to Antwerp without that pesky airfare. Warmth, authenticity, and handmade character abound in the form of carefully curated objects, art, and rare furniture. Put simply, it is what design dreams are made of.
These days, the store is brimming with Skelton’s favorite things as she is busy stocking up on inventory for the holiday season and sourcing perfectly-imperfect antiques and homewares for her design clients.
“Our inventory is always changing,” she says. “That’s one of the benefits of being an independent business. I work hard for people who shop with me to find beautiful, heirloom quality pieces.”
When asked what item she likes best, she can’t choose and laments not having room for it all in her own home. “I am obsessed with everything in the shop at the moment,” she says. This includes a collection of handmade ceramics by East-coast artists, a weathered Spanish renaissance bench, a mid-century bar cart by Cesare Lacca, and a rustic Gustavian chest.
Skelton’s love of treasure hunting for her own home was the kindling that sparked dreams of a retail space. “It was something that gave me energy and so I decided to pursue it as a passion project,” she said. “I truly believe that if someone is following their passion, there is an instinct that grows success.”
Now nearly two years later, that energy has become a thriving business and design destination for many in the Indianapolis area. So how do the logistics work when managing school and family schedules along with a creative business? Skelton says a shared digital calendar for the entire family keeps things organized on the home-front. “I don’t know what I would do without it,” she says. At the office, google docs and note taking keep everyone on the same page.
Skelton is also sure to schedule guilt-free time for herself during the day, which can be lunch with friends, a walk, exercise, reading, etc. — and stresses the importance of surrounding yourself with positive, hard-working people who believe in your shared mission.
One last tip? Let go of female competitiveness. “I never give into the hype of competitiveness, especially with other women,” she says. “We should support one another and if you are doing good work, you shouldn’t have to worry about what others are doing.”
With the holiday season in full swing, Skelton’s customers can count on Willa Gray Home for luxe hostess gifts and worldly treasures for the aesthete. We think you’ll love their luxury Baobab Collection candles, a stack of curated coffee table books, handmade throws and ceramic mugs for snuggling up this winter.
Skelton also loves their small batch handmade soaps by Tatine, their selection of guest towels, sets of oak bourbon tumblers, stoneware trays and ceramic bud vases — all of which make stylish gifts. Prices start at $40.
Wonder how she’ll be decorating this season? When it comes to the holidays and festive party-throwing, Skelton believes simplicity is key. “I personally love fresh greenery,” she says, “especially magnolia branches in beautiful vessels or woven down your table through candlesticks.”
Regardless of the season, Skelton lives and designs with intention. Her words to live by: “Choose gratitude every single moment of the day. We all have bad days, but refocusing, forgiving myself and being grateful help me through tough times.”
Liz Sweet is a former interior designer and shelter magazine editor. While she is currently a freelance writer living in Chicago, she and her family called Indy home for the past six years. She’s currently missing: Tinker Street Restaurant, yoga at The Hot Room and the Monon Trail.
Willa Gray is an Indy Maven partner.