Nestled in an unassuming spot down south lies Love Ding, an oasis of interior design goods, vintage furniture and art.
The brainchild of Denise Roberts, Love Ding represents the meeting point of her years of interior design and her love of collecting vintage pieces. Those who venture down south are rewarded with a sprawling store filled with unique vintage, quirky gifts and modern home furnishings from the nation’s best independent designers.
The name in itself is my nickname as a kid…
Owner of Love Ding
Walking around the store, it’s clear to see the amount of time and effort Denise has put into curating her collection. “This store means everything to me,” Denise tells me. “The name in itself is my nickname as a kid… from day one my dad gave me the name Ding, and it’s my baby; it’s what I’ve created.”
Even as a child growing up in South Austin, Denise knew she had design in her veins. Watching her father renovate their family home inspired her love of interiors. “I’ve always known I liked design – I always fed off of my dad and watched him build stuff, I was always his right hand man,” Denise tells me. “Since I was a kid I was rearranging things, painting my walls, so that’s just been in my blood since I was a little girl.” This interest led to a career in interior design, until recently, when Denise decided it was time for a change.
The decision to trade in interior design for a chance to pursue a career on her own terms came quickly. “I’d say there was a big day where I decided [to switch gears]. It’s way more creative and relaxed. In the design world you’re doing it for other people and this was a way to do it for myself.”
The collection of vintage furniture Denise had accumulated over the years helped her start Love Ding. “I was going to estate sales and finding really cool, really great shaped pieces of furniture… I had a big collection of stuff, really cool stuff and I moved it to the space.”
When sourcing pieces from estate sales, each comes with its own story. “It’s usually a bunch of old ladies’ houses, and I can tell how cool the lady [is] based on the stuff in her house. Sometimes you can compare her furniture style with her clothing – like, this lady [has] it going on!”
When the ladies do have it going on, the competition for their possessions is fierce. “People can get pretty aggressive with estate sales – people get there early, and if you’re not taking off and getting in the door first thing you’ll get run over – it’s pretty intense!” Denise laughs. “Everyone’s busting in the door. Sometimes we’re chasing each other trying to find the one chair.”
Usually, Denise is up against old rivals, regular frequenters of these sales looking for that great piece. “I see the same group of people at estate sales –you try not to notice them, but you start to see familiar faces.“
People can get pretty aggressive with
While her enthusiasm for design was present ever since she was a child, Denise’s tastes have developed since then. “One time I told my dad I was gonna paint my room two different colors,” she recalls. “He said, ‘I’m not helping you’. That was my first experience. Each wall was blue yellow –looking back it was awful, but at the time I loved it,” Denise laughs.
Now, Denise cultivates her tastes and finds inspiration in the sprawling online design community. Bree Emery of Design Love Fest is one of Denise’s favorite sources of inspiration, and in the design world, all it takes is one contact to tap into a world of makers. “Once I tapped into that handmade maker scene it was easy – they all know each other, it’s like its own world that I slowly found my way into,” Denise tells me. “It’s a huge community. You find one cool maker and they know a bunch of other ones.”
An important part of establishing a Love Ding was setting up shop in South Austin. As a third-generation South Austinite, her ties to the area run deep. “I grew up in the house my dad grew up in as well, so we’re all from a very small South Austin area. I went to the same high school as my sister and my dad went to. My mom, my dad and my grandfather are all from here.”
Denise isn’t swayed by the remote location, instead working on the principle that if you build it, they will come: “I was thinking where I shopped for vintage things –I’d travel 30 minutes to go way east and way north, but there was no place down south. I thought, I gotta show my south Austin people some love!”
On the future of Love Ding, Denise is taking a laid-back approach, content to let her baby grow naturally. “It’s been a big collection that happened over time. I had no idea where it’s gonna go, but I’m taking it day to day.”
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