How Jennifer Adams Went from Housekeeper to Home Design Maven

A man’s home is his castle—even when that home measures a scant 1,000 square feet and houses six people. Just ask interior designer Jennifer Adams, CEO of Jennifer Adams Worldwide, who grew up in that most humble abode in small-town Oregon with three siblings and two parents.

“Even though our house was small, it was a place I was proud to call home because of the hard work and creativity we put into it,” Adams says about the DIY projects her family would tackle, like building furniture from scratch—out of necessity more than hobby—and redecorating to maximize their tiny space.

“Back then I didn’t realize that was design; I was just making my room more interesting and more comfortable. I think that part of my childhood instilled in me a love for design.”

Since then Adams has leveraged that DIY ethos and eye for design into an award-winning, multimillion-dollar empire that includes her own household product line, Jennifer Adams Home, sold at Costco; roles on HGTV’s My First Place and Hallmark’s The Better Show; and a syndicated newspaper column, considered by some as “Dear Abby Meets Martha Stewart.”

Despite this soaring success, the 40-year-old holds firm to the lessons she learned in her formative years. “Growing up, even though we didn’t really have a lot, I never knew any different,” Adams says. “It’s just the way it was. I saw how hard my mom strived to make our home a comfortable and welcoming place, and that inspired me.”

Adams and her sister started a house-cleaning service as teenagers, advertising their business around town via homemade flyers. She picked strawberries and worked retail jobs to help the family make ends meet.

“It might not be a traditional adolescence, but it gave me a work ethic which I really believe helped make me who I am today,” she says.

Living in such tight quarters also taught Adams to be resourceful, she says: “My parents worked so hard to provide for us four kids that it made me realize that anything is possible with the right attitude. We really had to work for what we had—and that felt normal to us.”

And that resourcefulness extended to her bedroom, she says. “My room was my own space, and I would constantly move the furniture around, paint the walls different colors, and at one point I even dyed my carpet navy blue! I learned how to be creative and innovative in order to make my space a place I enjoy, and that’s something I’ve taken with me to this day.”

Eventually that passion for design became a viable career option for Adams when she spied an interior design school advertisement and decided to apply. She was accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, through her charitable work with Self Enhancement Inc. in Portland, Adams hopes to inspire younger generations to chase their dreams, even despite humble beginnings like her own.

“You have to put yourself out there and dream big,” she says. “If you have your heart set on something, work hard, learn, be patient and strive to be better, dreams really do come true.”

A faint but discernible dividing line separates achievers from dreamers. What makes the difference? Attitude. So, instead of complaining, remember 10 things.

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Chelsea Greenwood

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