Sisters and Dwellings co-owners Julie Umhoefer and Jenny Haley have one goal in mind – to help their clients make their houses into dream homes.

What started as staging service to furnish vacant houses for sale on Madison’s west side around eight years ago has turned into a Fitchburg retail store space that opened in October 2019 on 2924 Hardrock Road. Dwellings offers interior design services, complete with a furniture showroom.

Dwellings was inspired by the sisters’ experiences growing up in the family’s furniture store. Umhoefer and Haley recall sitting inside that store one night as teenagers, brainstorming the names of the business they might open one day. The name Dwellings came to them immediately, and they decided to stick with it – as is their decision-making style.

The sisters got their post-secondary education before starting Dwellings – they both ventured to school, Haley for business and marketing and Umhoefer for interior design.

Around eight years ago, the sisters combined their expertise and the connections they made through their family furniture store with vendors and brands to provide services on Madison’s west side.

But the building Dwellings inhabited then didn’t suit the burgeoning potential of what the business could offer. After seeing examples of showrooms with aesthetically pleasing furnishings, the sisters saw an opportunity to have their own – but not in the Madison space, which was built in the 1980s.

The Fitchburg space fell into the sisters’ lap.

“This was always our dream,” Haley said, looking at her sister with a smile.

The sisters do both in-store and in-home design consultations around Dane County. They discuss space needs, take its dimensions and customize it with North American-made furnishings and decor, the Dwellings website states.

The reasons for hiring Dwellings vary from client to client – some simply want to give their living room a facelift or bring the entire house into the 21st century, the sisters agreed.

Clients have the option to choose from paint, design and accessorization consultations for $150. For $500, the sisters will dedicate five hours to help a client design their new home.

Showroom furniture includes sofas, ottomans, tables, bedroom sets, reclining chairs and other accents, the website states.

Haley said if a piece of furniture doesn’t fit the clients taste, there are an array of fabrics and materials available in store for them to choose from. She and Umhoefer provide a casual and comfortable atmosphere for clients to explain what they want both in-store and in client homes, Haley said.

But Umhoefer said the sisters challenge clients to think outside the box and encourage them to try new and emergent trends.

Filling the Dwellings showroom is charcoal greens, deep navys, rustic reds, burnt oranges, creams, blacks and golds.

The sisters concurred those colors reflect how people are gravitating toward a modern and contemporary feel inside the home, shifting away from the minimalist industrial vibes of the previous decade. The aforementioned colors pair well with natural wood finishes and all things Earthy, they agreed.

Email Emilie Heidemann at or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.