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Local business owner has a clear vision

Posted: June 2, 2010 4:56 p.m.
Updated: June 3, 2010 4:55 a.m.

In addition to selling a variety of home furnishings, Stephanie Laney's shop, Clear Images, serves as a showroom for her interior design work.

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Twelve years ago, Stephanie Laney opened Clear Images in Stevenson Ranch. For five years, she poured her time into the store, providing quality home furnishings and decor items to her customers.

Everything changed in 2003.

Her 43-year-old husband, Patrick, died of a heart attack while playing basketball. 

At the time of his death, Patrick was running a custom glass company, and he was in the middle of some of the largest jobs of his career. Stephanie had to close Clear Images to finish these jobs and take care of their two daughters, who were 6- and 8-years-old at the time. 

She ran Patrick’s company for a year, and when she was finished planned to take some time off. Instead, she met a contractor and started working with him on custom homes in Westridge, as the in-house designer and purchasing agent.

She worked with the builders, subcontractors and homeowners, and since finishing those jobs, she has worked as a freelance interior designer.

Seven years later, Stephanie has reopened Clear Images because she missed having a store.

“I love the interaction with customers,” she said, “(and) having a way to show them what is happening with design.”

The store is now in the Westridge Center at the corner of The Old Road and Valencia Boulevard, and it also functions as a showroom for Stephanie’s interior design business. 

Anything in the store can be customized for a particular home. This includes the stone fireplace mantel on one wall to a granite counter with a handmade, iron base, used as the shop’s checkout counter. 

She has a relationship with many local subcontractors, and can put people in touch with just about anyone they may need to do work on their home. 

Stephanie understands that building, remodeling or decorating a home can be stressful. She tries to alleviate that stress as much as possible. She likes to think of herself as “part-therapist, part-designer.”

“I decorate houses according to the people who live in them. Their style; their flare,” she said. “When I pick a color, I pick a color they like to wear.”

She said her decorating comes from the client’s style, not her style. She wants the house to tell a story.

Clear Images might seem a little out of place in the Santa Clarita Valley, with an atmosphere typically found in shops in Santa Monica or West Los Angeles.

The store is modern and fresh. Most of the pieces are simple, yet striking. Nothing in the store is ordinary.

“I want to share with this valley what they are lacking,” she said. That is why she wanted to open her store here and not somewhere in Los Angeles.

Also, she said she has a connection to the Santa Clarita Valley; she has lived in Stevenson Ranch for 17 years. Her daughters, who are now 14 and 16, have grown up here.   

“I love the people of this valley; there are a lot of good people. It is my home,” she said. 

Even though Clear Images is a high-end store, Stephanie doesn’t want would-be shoppers to be intimidated. 

“It is fun here. We’re not pretentious, and we enjoy every customer,” she said. “If you want to buy a candle, we’ll sell it to you, and if you want a chandelier, that’s great.”

Stephanie has a positive energy and zest for life that radiates throughout her store. She seemed genuinely happy to talk to every person who walked through her doors.

Her hope is that Clear Images will become a destination business. That is why she will be hosting community events. She plans to have an art evening at the end of the month. All the merchandise will be cleared out of the store and local artists and photographers will be featured. 

In creating the new Clear Images, Stephanie has been influenced both by her experience in the contracting business and in life. 

About two years after her husband’s death, something happened that helped shape her attitude about life. While in line at the bank, Stephanie overheard two women chatting behind her.

One of them got her attention; they worked at a dermatologist’s office and noticed a questionable-looking mole on the back of Stephanie’s neck.

She had just seen her dermatologist, but made any appointment anyway. It turned out to be melanoma, and the doctor caught before it took a serious turn. 

Not long after the incident, Stephanie’s aunt went to see her dermatologist. While she was there, a nurse asked if melanoma ran in her family. She proceeded to tell her about Stephanie’s experience. It turned out the nurse was one of the women in the bank. She called in her daughter, who turned out to be the other woman Stephanie met at the bank. 

Stephanie’s aunt started thanking them, and told the ladies the story of Patrick’s death. One of the women started crying.

She said she was at the gym playing basketball with Patrick when he died. 

The experience changed Stephanie’s perspective. After Patrick’s death, she said, she was mad. “Thanks a lot Pat, you left me with all this. I’m so alone,” she said. “He sent (that woman at the doctor’s office). That is when you know there really is something in the universe.”

Stephanie’s eyes glazed over as she said, “she was there for my husband’s death and she saved my life.”

“Talk about a life-changing experience,” she said. “Everyone wants to learn something when something tragic happens, and sometimes we don’t know what to learn. I learned to be grateful.

“Shame on me, that I was complaining that I was being left to raise my children. What a treat, I am here to raise my children.”

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