Paul Jeffrey’s light continues to shine as a top designer and inspirational mentor.
PHOTO BY ROB BALLARD PHOTOGRAPHY
This road-to-success story is one that must be heard, inspiring many to turn what they think may be a pipe dream into reality. Paul Jeffrey’s journey went from a concept car designer to a Walgreens employee to founding his own furniture company, Paul Rene Custom Modern Furniture and Cabinets (paulrenefurniture.com) in Phoenix. But having faith during times of struggle is what helped this award-winning designer in his rise to stardom, and for him, being that example for others—and forging a path for others—is what keeps his creative juices flowing. We tap into his lifetime commitment to the community and find out what it was like to be one of the designers chosen to participate in the inaugural season of the HBO Max series Ellen’s Next Great Designer.
What has been your mantra throughout your rise to success? If I want to live in a more just world, I’ll have to do my part to create it. To give more context to that statement: My dad worked in a factory that paid him enough to put three children through college. That factory work had gone overseas, and when it left, Detroit and a once-proud working-class community vanished with it. So who will fix it? I decided to commit my life to fixing it.
How have you used your platform to give back? By living, socializing and working among the little man and woman with humble means. I mentor many across the nation and a few in other countries. I love to teach the lessons that I learned along the way, that if taught in middle school, high school and maybe younger, there would be no unhappy people because all would know how to self-actualize, how to bring into existence the person we all envision ourselves as.
What was the highlight of being on Ellen’s Next Great Designer? Developing each piece for the various contests. I do my best work when I’m under pressure. We had 40 hours to design and build our furniture. Ultimately, we were supposed to be judged based on originality, execution and how well we adhered to the theme. That pressure woke me up. I love that kind of focus. I love being forced to make a decision and executing it without doubting my decisions.
What keeps your creative juices flowing? Believe it or not, it’s not furniture design. Humbly, I’ve mastered a certain technique for consistently developing fresh design ideas. What wakes me up in the morning is the hunger to bring my vision [of fixing it] into the now— to show others that I’m not crazy, to demonstrate to others what I’m talking about can be done, so they will join me.