Boutique Design Events and Trade Fairs

After designer Libby Sims Patrick decided to take a leave of absence from her stressful job as principal at a big Atlanta firm, she eventually resumed working on a contract basis from home. “One thing led to another,” she says, “and suddenly there were seven people working out of my basement.”

That was about 20 years ago—and her eponymous company now employs 16 full-timers (including a dozen designers) and several freelance workers. Nearly all of them are women, including two principals: Jenny Rutledge, who’s been with Patrick almost from the beginning, and Melissa Wylie. “We really like our size,” Patrick says. “We’ve always been about caring for our employees’ quality of life and work environment.” 

Crowne Plaza North Augusta, Georgia

The firm has managed growth partly by sticking to mainly regional projects, such as its recent award-winning work on the Crowne Plaza North Augusta and the spa at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Resort & Spa at Grand National in Alabama. “One of our objectives of late, though, has been to widen our profile,” she says. “We’re trying to get involved in more submissions, in getting more things published. We’ll be designing a booth at BDNY, which typically is handled by a nationally known firm.”

Libby Sims Patrick

As she considers the future of the industry, Patrick has ideas about finding a place for herself within it. “I do think about transitioning ownership of the firm,” she says. “It’s a smart thing to do and I’m surprised that more don’t do it. I’d like to get into development, maybe create a hotel brand, for example. We are already doing some of that work for our clients.” Two niches she’d like to explore are “hometown hotels”—boutique properties in smaller cities like Decatur, Alabama, where she grew up—and wellness hotels that go beyond “spas and smoothie bars and are about a true lifestyle, maybe with a cooking school element or mindfulness aspects.”

The Belleview Inn, Belleair, Florida

Photos: Sims Patrick Studio