It’s safe to say that when it comes to hospitality, Southerners have a knack for taking things up a notch! One of my very favorite memories from Bridal Market last year was when Alabama-based designer Heidi Elnora invited Kristin and I to see her new collection. Instead of seating us at a runway show, she had us over at the AirBNB she and her team were staying in for the week, offered us PB&J sandwiches and M&Ms, and let us spend as much time as we wanted admiring each and every gown. After days of running around the city in our highest heels, it was such a breath of fresh air to experience such gracious Southern hospitality! This is one of SO many reasons we were thrilled to learn about Heidi’s latest and greatest project: the heidi elnora Atelier, located right in the heart of Birmingham. She poured her heart into turning this downtown warehouse into the ultimate destination for brides, and I’m completely confident that any gal would feel comfortable and confident while dress shopping at the gorgeous space she created!
Tell us about the beginnings of the heidi elnora Atelier—why did you want to open the atelier, and how did you get started?
Heidi: Ever since I started heidi elnora 10 years ago, I have dreamed of owning my own building. It was one of the many items on my bucket list. Last summer, after my reality show aired on TLC, I decided to start looking for a permanent place to set up shop. Lo and behold, there she was, an empty brick box that was built in 1891 on the most perfect cobblestone street, Morris Avenue, in downtown Birmingham, Alabama. I immediately contacted my husband and my real estate agent, and within a few days, we were under contract!
Tell us about the renovation process! How did you find the space and transform it to fit your vision?
Heidi: I basically bought an 8,000 sq. ft. empty box (no plumbing, electrical or HVAC), but to me, it was the perfect canvas to begin creating my atelier. I basically became a general contractor for seven months, making sure that every wall, plug, paint color, and detail was perfection. I would literally be at the building every morning to discuss the daily plans with my builder, and every night, I was on Pinterest and Houzz, pulling ideas and additional details together. The majority of the goods used in the building were sourced locally from wood mills, iron workers, local artisans, and even a rock quarry from Alabama for a specific local marble for the mini bar in the bridal suites. (Yep, we have a mini bar in the bridal suites–you never know when you need to celebrate with rosé!)
Just for fun, here are a few before pictures!
Tell us about what y’all offer to brides and gals.
Heidi: We offer everything, from our 70+ wedding gowns from our three collections (heidi elnora, Build-a-Bride, and Hello Darling), to creating a couture gown from scratch (brides fly in from all over the country for this), to buying your bridal lingerie (For Love and Lemons), wedding shoes (Harriet Wilde and Badgley Mischka), veils, accessories, garters, rehearsal dinner dresses, and bridesmaid and hostess gifts. The heidi elnora Atelier can dress you from head to toe and everywhere in between!
What sets the heidi elnora Atelier experience apart from other bridal salons?
Heidi: What sets the heidi elnora Atelier apart from other bridal salons is that I took the BEST pieces and practices from all the stores that I sell to or have visited and incorporated them into the atelier, creating the ULTIMATE bridal experience. I call the atelier the “Barbie dream bridal boutique” because it is just that–it’s EVERYTHING!
What is your single best tip for a bride about to start shopping for her wedding gown?
Heidi: Stay true to who you are. Do not allow friends, family, or a bridal stylist to persuade you into wearing something that doesn’t make your heart smile. You have to LOVE your dress…almost as much as you love your fiancé :)
Do you have a favorite memory of the heidi elnora Atelier?
Heidi: It’s probably people’s expressions when they see it for the first time. It’s truly lovely–all 8,000 sq. ft. of it.
What is your current favorite wedding dress in the store? If you were to get married tomorrow, what dress would you wear?
Heidi: I would probably have to go with one of the dresses from my Hello Darling line. They are more relaxed in terms of fitm and very lightweight. They are light-hearted and full of whimsy, and that is where I am now being a mother of two little boys.
What is your favorite memory from your own wedding day?
Heidi: Seeing my sweet fiancé/now-husband, Jeff, at the end of the aisle, and knowing that I was getting to spend the rest of my life with him.
What is the single greatest lesson you’ve learned in business?
Heidi: That God has got this. All of my worrying does nothing to move things faster, or make things happen more efficiently.
Name three items every gal should have in her closet.
Heidi: A great pair of comfy black jeans with the knees cut out, a chandelier, and an organized shoe closet with lots of year-round boots.
Thank you so much, Heidi! Be sure to follow along with her and her gorgeous atelier here:
This post is brought to you by heidi elnora Atelier–thanks for your support of the brands that make Southern Weddings possible!