Gina T: Great Service, Great Products, Great Design and Some Good Advice Just in Time for the Holidays

October 23, 2011
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Joann Lammens caught in a rare moment of actually sitting down.

Joann Lammens caught in a rare moment of actually sitting down.

To those iconic creators like Steve Jobs and (Bill) Hewlett and (David) Packard who started wildly successful businesses out of their garages, add La Verne, Calif.-based interior designer, Joann Lammens.

Now more than a quarter-century ago, she started assembling floral arrangements in her garage or on her living room floor. With her toddler daughter, Gina, in tow, she peddled her wares to designer showrooms in Los Angeles. As her florals became more popular, the line of delivery trucks backing up to her home garage grew longer, forcing her to search for a suitable building in downtown La Verne in which to continue her business.

Today, her scores of clients may not know about those early struggles of a single mom trying to establish her business. What they know is that they wouldn’t call or consider anyone else to handle the interior design of their homes. Their adoration of her and her work verges on the messianic. They’re true believers.

“She just transformed our home,” said Mary Waldusky of Glendora. Waldusky asked Lammens  to redesign and refurnish one room, a magical makeover that soon spread to her entire home.

“I wish you could see it,” Waldusky said. “It’s so gorgeous. It’s everything I could have wished for.”

One of her wishes was to have Lammens create a room for Waldusky’s autistic daughter. “She took a limited space and made it both a functional place for her to do her arts and crafts and a showcase for her Disney and Alice and Wonderland collections,” Waldusky said. “It’s beautiful, very personalized and just very, very creative.

“Joann is a very caring person who listens,” Waldusky added. “At times, you wonder how she is going to pull everything together, and when she does, you think, ‘I couldn’t have done that in a million years.’”

After Lammens re-imagined the undersized living room of Christina Chick’s Upland, Calif., home, turning it into a parlor, she and her husband spend most of their time together in that exquisitely remodeled room. “It’s very warm and inviting,” Chick said. “We come in with our coffees, and we just sit and stare at everything, whereas before, we went, ughhh, and shut the door.

“I have to tell you, after she finished it, I sat in it for two hours, staring. I was blown away. There wasn’t one thing I didn’t like. She is very talented. She has a way. She somehow can bring all these different elements together, and make it work.

“Whereas I might have idea, she has a vision,” Chick added.

One of Lammens’ secrets is she has access to furniture and accessories that few others have. She has cultivated loyal relationships with a vast number of suppliers, while always staying on the hunt for what is fresh and new and exciting.

“Our goal is to make every single house captivating,” Lammens said. She has that special knack for turning spaces into places where people want to nest.

While well known for her use of lush, rich, grand, warm and inviting colors and tones, she doesn’t short-cut or cookie-cut any element of design. “Each client’s personality has to come out in the home,” Lammens said. “In my first consultation, people would think I’m writing a book, because I ask so many questions. But what I’m doing is finding out how the family uses the space, what colors are they comfortable with, do they have kids under the age of five — which would then rule out sharp corners and the use of glass.”joann

Indeed, Lammens uses one word, details, to describe her longevity in the finicky world of changing interior design tastes and styles.

“Details are the key to success,” Lammens said. “If you go into a room that’s not detailed — that’s not finished — that room won’t wow you. We deal in details. Every fabric, every piece of furniture  is critical. The cushions on a sofa, and how they sit,  are just as important as the whole sofa.

“All those details make what we do notable. I believe that’s what people see.”

The two Gina T stores in downtown always shine, but never more than during the holidays.

“We celebrate all the holidays, of course, but nothing seems to bring family together like Christmas,” Lammens said, seated at a large dining room table inside her Gina T HOME store.

At Gina Accents and Interiors on Bonita Ave., the store is stuffed like a Christmas stocking filled with one-of-a-kind ornaments, which can be personalized, and a small forest of different themed trees that run from the traditional to a “wonderful, whimsical Santa snowman tree, to a gingerbread tree, to a rustic tree featuring a cabin, a moose and other country touches.”

Dottie Gunderson of Glendora will call Lammens during any season. “Joann is very modest, but I’m sure she’s done half the houses up here in Morgan Ranch,” Gunderson said. “She’s so honest and easy to work with. There’s nothing that woman can’t do – ultra modern, contemporary, old school – she has all the solutions. She has an eye for it.”

For years, Gunderson said she shopped in the two Gina T stores and never knew that Lammens was the owner. “She’s so unassuming,” Gunderson said. “She’s just a good person, a sweetheart, really.”

In more than a quarter century, Lammens has transformed spaces – from single rooms of small residences to the impressive lobbies of churches and bank buildings.

Like those other garage entrepreneurs, Jobs and Hewlett and Packard, Lammens knows that it’s the quality of her work and design that will keep customers coming back.

Despite maintaining two large downtown stores, the recession hasn’t slowed her or her business down a bit. Asked if she could share her winning business strategy, she was a bit embarrassed, reluctant to dispense advice outside her realm of expertise.

Then she whispered, “Do what you do – and do it well.”

Gina T. Interior Accents, 2152 Bonita Avenue, La Verne (909) 593-8478

Gina T. HOME, 2316 D. Street, La Verne (909) 596-4198


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