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Meet Desiree Harper of Struttura

Today we’d like to introduce you to Desiree Harper.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Desiree. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on
It’s an honor to be included in such a great feature of inspiring stories. Thank you for including me.

I’ve been in Atlanta since 2001, it’s a great city full of opportunity. Through 8 years of college in the fine arts I learned a great deal of art history and application, but not much in the way of marketing and business management. That was gained with years of experience through trial and error. After college at Jacksonville State University in 2001 I moved to Atlanta, attended Georgia State and then began working in commissioned art, murals and then decorative finishing. I have always loved the tactile creative process, it’s exploration and freedom. In 2001, after college, my business Studio D Atlanta was born. As a single mom the importance of supporting my family of two while staying relevant and inspired in the creative community was paramount. My young son and I lived in an artist community in Old 4th Ward of Atlanta for a time which greatly helped facilitate connections with positive influencers. Since then I’ve been involved with a number of creative and design networks here in Atlanta. It’s of upmost importance to stay inspired. We have to feed our souls. In 2011 my partner, Simon and I joined forces and to create Struttura. We met on a project for a mutual designer and discovered we had the ability to not only easily collaborate and critique each other’s work, but turn it into a profitable company. Soon after we formed Struttura. It’s definition is “Structure, essence and body of work” in Italian. It fit perfectly for us. The synergy we share to problem solve is invaluable at times and keeps projects efficient and operating at a frequency we could not maintain alone. It has made an enormous difference. Finding your tribe, duplicating yourself, delegating to a great team and remaining open to change and process is the greatest advice I can offer. Because of this gradual success the quality of life increased dramatically for my son and I. My schedule now affords me the liberty to spend the most precious resource we have- time, with those I need to.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Business was anything but smooth for the first few years. Advertising never had a return, it was all referrals. The market downturn in 2007 was devastating to the the housing market and as an artist and decorator, you are the first to be cut from a design budget. In the interim, I didn’t close the shop and refused to quit.

Eventually, the market turned and the housing market improved. Those tough times made me appreciate the growth and prosperity we enjoy today. I love the smell of sawdust on a construction site. It’s a humbling reminder of growth, rebirth and fortitude. I learned conditions can change at any moment so it’s important to be present, grateful and aware.

The key is not giving up and it’s never as glamorous as it looks, but completely worth it. My closest friends and family say I have what they call ‘grit’. I’ll tell you what, the more experienced I become, the prouder I am of the friction that polishes the gem. Those success stories are the ones I relish most.  It’s grace under pressure. Keep your chin up and smile, darling. Make it fun.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
As a team of artisans and architectural finishers catering to high-end residential/custom homes and commercial clients we specialize in natural and authentic Italian and decorative plasters, an array of lime and millwork finishes, gold and silver leafing and finer finishes such as Faux Bois and murals from time to time. We finish exterior stone and brick with authentic Italian lime and plasters in addition to our many interior finishes. We love meeting new clients every week, it’s always a unique collaborating experience.

Referrals have always been the source of business. A customer is a one-time transaction, a client is a lasting relationship. Our greatest compliments are clients who call throughout the years to finish new properties or remodel their forever homes. Today we work in high end residential, commercial and hospitality.

It’s an honor and a joy to collaborate with the best architects, designers and builders in the industry. They supply great bones and we apply the polish. Clients brag on our professional team of artisans. We are very proud of our crew and most of them have been with us for many years.

What were you like growing up?
As an only child to parents in the military that divorced early in my childhood I grew up in two regions; the North and the South. My father retired and became a vintage auto enthusiast and my mother in federal defense, worked her way up to the Pentagon. My parents were and are quite different people and I like to believe those differences gave me the wherewithal to be relatively dynamic later in life. Both parents paved their own way in their own fashion, following in no one’s footsteps. I followed suit. I just wanted to make a living at something I truly enjoyed.

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Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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