By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Life by design
Wildflower women: Presley Terry
Presley Terry

Presley Terry is making a mark on Statesboro with her eye for detail, her interior design expertise and her loveable personality. But a few years ago, the young mom and wife who was just embarking on a career in design was entirely unsure how her future would unfold in a brand-new town — especially when her family’s move came just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally from Oneida, Tennessee, Terry, 26, and her husband, Trey, have been married for five years and have two sons — Rayden, 5, and Levi James, 2. Just six months into their marriage, Trey’s position with Norfolk Southern Railroad was cut, and while the company offered him the choice of one of three alternative opportunities, all would require the newlyweds to relocate.

Upon hearing the news, Terry, who had recently finished school, says she just sighed, then asked Trey which location of the three would be closest to the beach. His answer: Millen.

“We could live in a town called Statesboro,” she recalls him telling her. “It’s an hour from the beach and Savannah.”

With that, their decision was made.

“He took the Millen job on a Friday and had to be at work Monday,” Terry said. “I packed up our entire house by myself and drove our stuff and family to Statesboro. We were living here by the end of January 2020 — and COVID hit in February.”

Terry had studied interior architecture at Pellissippi State and received her two-year degree, so she was optimistic about the move. Rayden was just a baby, and she had plans to be a stay-at-home mom and do design work remotely. But, as it did for so many, COVID brought an unexpected pause to those plans.

“I think because of COVID, I was more isolated down here than I would have been,” she said. “Everyone can relate to this — during COVID, we felt sort of stuck. I was stuck in the house, couldn’t get out and do anything, not knowing a soul. Getting a job was not even an option for me because we had no help with our baby, and I couldn’t put him in daycare because of COVID — not that I wanted to, anyway. Friends and family felt so far away, and I just wanted to go home.”

Presley Terry
Terry and her husband, Trey, contemplate their options while shopping for landscape plants at Southern Scapes Nursery with the help of sons Rayden, 5, and Levi James, 2. (SCOTT BRYANT/staff)

In July 2020, after many lonely months, the local park finally opened back up, and Terry and Rayden jumped at the opportunity to get out of the house. There, they would play and feed the turtles, and Terry began to walk or run each day in an effort to feel better about herself. While she ran, she prayed, asking God why He brought her family to Statesboro and sharing with Him her deep longing for more human connection.

“In August, I started noticing a group of women with baby strollers at the park, working out the same two days a week, and I wanted so badly to meet them and join their group and finally meet people,” she said.

Within weeks, she had found the courage to do exactly that, and she credits that mommy workout group — Sweat Like A Mother, or SLAM — for introducing her to some of her best friends here.

“That is when things finally started to turn around for me,” she said.

As her relationships grew with the women in the group, her network also grew, eventually leading to an introduction with Brandon Jones, owner of Watersedge Design Company — a connection that soon would help Terry blossom in Statesboro.

At the time, Watersedge wasn’t offering or planning to offer interior design services, and with a small child at home and the pandemic just easing up, Terry wasn’t quite ready for the responsibility a full-time position would require. Still, both of them saw an opportunity for growth.

“I started just doing little projects here and there to let my creativity out,” Terry recalls of her early work with Watersedge. “I just worked on these projects at home, and those projects became more frequent, and then they became bigger projects, and eventually I did have to put Rayden in daycare and went full time.”

Presley Terry

Today, she serves as the Lead Interior Designer at Watersedge, working with a variety of homebuilders and clients to add custom touches to homes that fit their unique styles.

“Brandon trusted me to just do my thing, and the company and I grew at the same pace, and everything just fell into place,” she said. “I am now working on high-end projects, building the portfolio I dreamed of, seeing those designs come to life, having happy and excited clients — literally living my dream.

“It’s not huge in the grand scheme of things, but I am proud of it because it allowed me to grow at my own pace, and it’s perfect for me and my family. I can be the mom I want to be and the designer I want to be, without feeling guilty on either side, and that is huge for me.”

Terry’s passion for design and architecture has been passed on to her through generations, and she’s proud to continue in their legacy.

“My dad and grandpa were both Realtors,” she said. “I grew up in the industry, being around these beautiful homes from a very, very young age. I remember looking at blueprints (at) probably 5 or 6 years old and knowing what the symbols meant — doors, windows, stairs — and I could go through the house and visualize what it would look like.”

She’s also developed a visual eye for colors and styles, an art in which her grandmother was also gifted.

“My grandma passed when I was 5, but I was told that she drew the first catalogue for Jim Barna when he first got started,” Terry said. “They were good friends, and he asked her to help him.”

Barna is the founder of a Tennessee-based manufacturing company specializing in log and timber frame homes since 1976.

“She didn’t design the floor plans, but she was a fantastic artist and drew the exterior elevations. She also water-colored the look of the iconic color combination of the Tennessee log home. The brown log home with the green roof — my Nan came up with that,” Terry said proudly. “Of course, growing up knowing that as well, I wanted to be sort of like her. I just thought she was the coolest.”

Presley Terry

At a young age, Terry recalls instinctively picking up on how the design and layout of spaces, whether a restaurant or someone’s home, could affect the way she felt.

“I became fascinated by the physiology of how certain elements of a space could alter your mood or make you feel a certain way,” she said. “I was probably in third or fourth grade when I started drawing my own house plans and keeping them in a folder. I still have the folder to this day.

“I wanted to be an architect because I knew about that before I knew about interior design,” she said. “My dad sold houses, and I knew I wanted to design them.”

It’s a dream that’s become reality through a combination of hard work, invaluable connections and her faith in God’s plan — but Terry admits that the journey hasn’t been without its share of doubt and uncertainty. As a newcomer to Statesboro, she had not yet built a resume of experience, a solid portfolio or connections with industry locals, which put her at a disadvantage. She knew the competition consisted of other talented designers, and she questioned whether she would find an opportunity to prove herself without first returning to school.

“I was conditioned by society to think that I needed to have a higher degree to be successful,” she said. “When I graduated with a two-year degree I had started my family, and (then) I was sort of forced to move to a new place. COVID hit, and there was no help for us down here.

“I found it very difficult to go back to school, and I mentally beat myself up over it,” she continued. “I felt like I failed a little bit. A part of me was saying I would not be successful without it, but another part of me was saying, why do I need to have that to be successful? I can do it.”

Today, as Terry makes a name for both herself and Watersedge, that success is undeniable. Her current projects include the largest she’s tackled in her career — 8,000 square feet — as well as something new for the community that she’s excited to be a part of, though she can’t yet share the details.

While the move to Statesboro just over four years ago forced her to step far outside her comfort zone, miles away from her extended family amid an unprecedented global pandemic, Terry says she has grown to love her new home, and she appreciates the doors that have opened since.

“Moving here was not something we planned for our family, and it was extremely hard in the beginning, but it really has been the best thing for (us),” she said.

“I was fortunate that my personal life and my professional life came together so perfectly; it was such a God thing,” she continued. “… I could not have done what I do (now) in my little hometown in Tennessee, because the clientele just isn’t there. This town (is) just perfect for me and my family.

“I will never stop saying God put me here because he knew my heart and my dream, and He knew I would thrive and blossom here doing what I love.”