Billy Milner and Jerod Dame are living the Life of Riley — their Deep Ellum shop of funky furnishings that is as much about life as style


LIFE AS ART | Owners Jarod Dame and Billy Milner, with their new four-legged co-owners (and a bust of mascot Riley, left) have created a store that speaks to an urban lifestyle for the modern homeowner. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

J. DENTON BRICKER  | Contributing Writer

Billy Milner first met Jerod Dame on the dance floor at a club in Deep Ellum seven years ago, and they have been dancing through life ever since — with the edge-of-Downtown neighborhood figuring prominently in their lives. Not only did they meet in Deep Ellum, the couple also courted there, and eventually ended up settling down when they purchased a loft together there … and now, have opened a storefront called the Life of Riley.

The “lifestyle store,” as described by Miler and Dame, represents a certain carefree approach to living through home décor and personal care. Their style — reflected in the products, merchandising and placement —is magazine-worthy, but also very livable. For Miler and Dame, when it comes to picking inventory (whether for your home or store), it’s all about comfort and positivity.

“Billy is an interior designer and he creates these rooms, these settings and whenever we go to clients’ houses, people will actually sit in the living room and talk as opposed to hanging around the kitchen,” Dame says. “These amazing spaces make no one want to leave.”

They know something about creating livable spaces that are both functional and fabulous. They parent three children (a girl and two boys) from Dame’s previous marriage and recently introduced two puppies into their family. Milner advises that, when designing a low-maintenance lifestyle, keep it light and fun.

“This is kind of cheeky and fun,” he says. “We don’t really take anything too seriously. We have some soaps [for sale] — one called Filthy Cock, one Filthy Balls…. We’re out of Filthy Pussy. Actually, they are really good soaps made in Hawaii — we’ve used them all and it’s not just packaging. I know people that come in and buy 15 bars at a time because they use them.”

The little things are important when it comes to life but also when it comes to decking out your space — candles, throw pillows and blankets should all be there for a reason.

“Everything has a story or there is a destination or reason why it was picked,” says Dame. “We even have our own private label, all soy candles of seven different fragrances made by a local candlemaker.” They also offer one of the largest collections of travel candles, allowing patrons to take their scents on the road. Milner used to own a store in Atlanta called the Candle Room, which primarily offered candles, but he quickly realized the name was restricting and began to offer a wider variety of items … and not just candles.

Life of Riley does sell tchotchkes, but larger items, like furniture, wall décor and more. Many of their pieces are rare, vintage finds that Milner modifies personally to create a unique fusion of old and new which provides flair and also gives an antiquated gem a new life.

“There is a coffee table/side table that is a dressmaker’s case from France,” Dame explains. “Years ago, some ladies would order their dresses from Europe and there wasn’t cardboard at the time, so they shipped the dresses in cases like this.”


UNCOMMON SCENTS | You can ‘decorate’ your home with fragrances — walking into Life of Riley is an olfactory as much as a visual delight. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

While some of the bigger furniture pieces aren’t huge sellers, they keep them in the store to inspire their customers and help shoppers visualize a redo of their own homes … or to allow a husband a place to sit while his wife shops. The wall art Life of Riley sells is all made by local Dallas artists; many wall hangings are rare gems, like old signs from New York, vintage ad posters and European school maps.

“When I first started collecting maps, I just kind of collected all of them because I’ve always liked maps,” says Milner. “I quickly narrowed it down to just European ones because the colors on them are just so much better. You didn’t see maps with those colors growing up in the United States. These colors are a lot richer and more unusual.”

Sometimes there is just an emotional attachment to an item that may not necessarily make sense, but there is usually a story behind it.

“We had these two guys come in — cute as can be — and there was this red tricycle on the dining room table,” says Dame.
“One of the guys said, ‘Oh I want that tricycle!’ and his partner said, ‘You don’t need that.’ But they ended up buying it.” The backstory, it turned out, was that as a kid, one of the men could never quite make it to the playground in time to get on the few, treasured red tricycles, and ended up with a blue trike. In the end, he finally got to take a red tricycle of his own home.

And that’s what makes a lifestyle store about more than style, but also about living.

Life of Riley, 2636 Main St. Open Wednesdays–Sundays.


Taking care of the neighborhood

The concept of bringing together life and style for Dame and Milner extends beyond their four walls — the entrepreneurial pair also believe in investing in their community. They wanted to start an activity or event that would drive pedestrian traffic to the streets and help the neighborhood grow so Dame put his head together with another business owner.

“A couple of months later, when we realized there wasn’t a lot of traffic, we create the Wine Walk,” he says.

“The same thing happened if we had a big party here — they would have a great time but wouldn’t walk down to Kettle Art Gallery. It’s almost like they needed permission to walk around the neighborhood and still need that permission,” says Milner. The Deep Ellum Wine Walk has grown from four participating merchants to a burgeoning 25 and inspired the relatively new mimosa walk which began with a smashing success after Thanksgiving and has continued into 2016.

— J.D.B.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 22, 2016.