by Kate Branum • photography by Dave Burgess
Most of us have something that makes us feel at home–a comfortable familiarity to lean on throughout our lives. As Farah Merhi, founder of Inspire Me! Home Decor, looks back on all of her accomplishments, she feels the same surge of passion that once made her realize home is much more than just a place–it’s an unmatched feeling of happiness.
“Life is short–too short to do what you think you want to do instead of what you really want to do.”
Merhi’s passion for design emerged early in her childhood. Growing up in Central Africa, she recalls watching her mother transform each home they lived in into a bright, welcoming oasis.
“Living in Africa, we didn’t have the resources that we have in America or Europe, like (department) stores or e-commerce sites,” Merhi explains. “So, my mom had to make due with what she had, and she got really creative with her hands; she designed her own furniture and then had someone create it for her. Her excitement and vision and the way she would transform each home we lived in from this dreary-looking space to an inviting, cozy home really stayed with me.”
Though her mother’s interior design talent sparked a fire in Merhi’s soul, she forced her interest to the back burner and pursued a different path. After graduating from high school, Merhi moved to the United States, settled in Michigan and enrolled at Henry Ford Community College.
“When I came to America, my goal was to become a lawyer,” Merhi shared. “Growing up and hearing family members tell me that I would make a great lawyer because of my strong personality and how strong-minded I was stuck with me and shaped the route that I wanted to take.”
Merhi later moved to Grand Rapids and continued her legal education at Grand Valley State University. Feeling as though she was on the right track in the wrong field, she quickly fell into a life rut–she was going through the motions but knew deep down that this wasn’t the life she wanted. She remembers using interior design as a way to escape and channeled the tips and tricks she learned from her mother to renovate her home.
“I never realized how deep my passion for home decor was until I started renovating my home–my love for it really started to come out,” Merhi said. “The way I was being creative and designing my home caught a lot of people’s attention, and friends and family started asking me to come over and help them; that was my ‘ah-ha!’ moment.”
As an additional outlet for her creativity, she created an Instagram page in 2012 (@inspire_me_home_decor). Through this popular social media platform, she showcased her lavish, glamorous designs in an attempt to reach those who needed inspiration for their own homes. Merhi kept her page a secret; she feared that her friends and family would think it was a waste of time, especially because she was pursuing a career in law.
“I offered an aesthetic that wasn’t already out there on social media, which is glam-elegance that doesn’t sacrifice that inviting feel in the space,” Merhi said. “I feel that most people think that glam-elegance in a home equals an untouchable space, and I wanted to show people that you can still put a cozy feel to this style.”
What began as a fun side hobby quickly evolved into something much bigger than Merhi could have imagined. Initially, her goal was to accumulate at least 500 followers for the sake of engagement; however, within a month, Merhi’s page had pulled in over 5,000 devoted admirers.
Managing her thriving Instagram page ignited a sense of confidence Merhi hadn’t felt in a long time; she decided to take the plunge and officially switch careers. After breaking the news to her friends and family, she was pleasantly surprised at the amount of support that came flooding back.
“Life is short–too short to do what you think you want to do instead of what you really want to do, and make a difference,” Merhi emphasized.
As Inspire Me grew, Merhi’s content caught the attention of several large-name brands, including LG Electronics, Kohler, K-Mart, Osram Sylvania and Bernhardt Furniture Company, all searching for a social media influencer with which to collaborate. She was also recruited by clients who wanted her help redecorating their spaces.
“Showing my capabilities brought me partnerships, clients and collaborations that I would have never thought possible–that’s the power of social media right now,” Merhi said.
Merhi always sought ways to keep her content fresh, interesting and current. She began posting short DIY tutorials on her Instagram, as well as weekly how-to cleaning videos every Saturday as a way to personally engage with her 4.4 million followers. She also launched an Inspire Me! Home Decor Youtube channel where she shares step-by-step tutorials, advice segments, organization ideas, cleaning solutions and–of course–decor inspiration. She recently launched the Inspire Me! Home Decor website, home to a series of insightful blog posts, decor-centric articles and links to her videos. Website visitors also have the option of subscribing to a monthly newsletter that keeps them up-to-date on seasonal decor trends.
“Inspire Me! has truly become a platform that people go to to get inspired, to get help, to get their design questions answered and to become aware of brands and products that they wouldn’t otherwise know about,” Merhi stated.
“I feel that most people think that glam-elegance in a home equals an untouchable space, and I wanted to show people that you can still put a cozy feel to this style.”
Despite her busy lifestyle, Merhi maintains a consistent posting schedule. She is adamant about personally running the Inspire Me! Instagram because of the connection she has built with her fanbase and loves reading all of the comments, messages and inquiries sent to her daily. Merhi attributes her growing success to one thing: authenticity.
“My followers, or potential new followers, who visit my page know exactly what they are going to get out of me and what type of videos or pictures they will get in their newsfeeds,” Merhi said. “You have to
be consistent with your posts, and you have to be credible. The moment you are not honest [with your followers], it will show through your posts.”
Inspire Me! Home Decor has reached far beyond the internet: This past year, it’s materialized into tangible products. Merhi recently partnered with QVC, a broadcast television network that specializes in home shopping, to release her first line of Inspire Me! Home Decor products that can be purchased through the channel. She has also launched monthly subscription boxes, providing subscribers a convenient way to place her designs in their homes.
“I want to put a smile on as many faces as possible and reach as far as possible,” Merhi said. “I would also love to have a bigger product line launched and included in department stores and e-commerce sites.”
As these opportunities unravel, Merhi’s excitement about the future of her company continues to soar, driving one foot in front of the other until she reaches her goals. She’s finally found her niche, her calling, her home.