Slifer Designs celebrates 30th anniversary
July 30, 2014
EDWARDS — The valley's first interior-design company started the way so many valley companies do — with a favor for a friend.
In 1983, Beth Slifer had recently married Rod Slifer and moved to Vail. After living in town for a while, she was asked if she'd take a crack at redecorating a penthouse condo at the Lodge at Vail that had lingered on the market during one of the valley's occasional downturns.
Slifer was new to the design business, but her mother was a successful designer in Florida. Using her mom's advice and her own instincts, she redid the condo, which sold in a matter of weeks. The former consultant for a chemical company was now an interior designer.
"All of a sudden I had people asking me to do their units," Slifer said.
At the time, much of the property in Vail dated back to the 1960s. Many of those units were "a bit worn," she said. "The time was right to upgrade."
Slifer continued to rely on her mother's advice and contacts as she established the business, which stayed a small operation through most of the 1980s.
"Our office was in the basement of Rodney's real estate office on Bridge Street," she said.
Changing with the times
After the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships, the valley shook off its doldrums and started growing in earnest.
"Beaver Creek really took off — it really was a shot in the arm for my business," Slifer said.
It didn't take long for Slifer Designs to outgrow its space on Bridge Street. Success brought a move to Avon, into what's now the Christy Sports space. The company has moved twice more and now occupies a large, comfortable space in The Riverwalk at Edwards. There's also a good-sized warehouse in Eagle.
The years have brought significant changes to the items sitting in the showroom and warehouse, too.
Favored looks have gone from "ski camp" to Southwestern. Then came clients asking for interiors in the style of European chateaus.
Today, design favors cleaner lines and comfort, combined with an eclectic mix of styles. Colors are trending toward more neutral hues, but, Slifer said, the style pendulum is already swinging toward incorporating more color and variety.
It's a challenge to keep up, but, Slifer said, "The creative mind loves change."
A new generation
Through the years, Slifer said she believes her company has established new standards for interior design in mountain resorts. And many of the company's mountain resort clients have hired Slifer Designs for their homes elsewhere.
Business is good — or at least getting better — these days. But as with virtually any business, the company has gone through peaks and valleys. In 2008, the last year of the previous decade's boom, the company employed more than 100 people. These days, the staff is about 40 people strong.
"The hardest part was contracting our staff," Slifer said. "At one time we had 18 people on our commercial and architectural staff and only had enough work for two."
But Slifer is proud that the company with her name on the door is able to provide "good, professional" jobs, giving people a chance to enjoy what the valley has to offer.
"When we're not busy, people can enjoy themselves," she said. "When we're busy, well, the good times are even better."
A new generation is now in charge at Slifer Designs. Slifer turned over day-to-day operations of the company a few years ago to current company president Yvonne Jacobs, who is "about the same age I was when I started this," Slifer said.
"The company is in great hands," she said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and on Twitter @scottnmiller.