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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

JOURNAL: Sky & Sea

Osterman, an interior designer in Milwaukee, previously moved to Portland to start her career in a nonprofit organization.
Photo by Katie Craig

Claire Osterman began her dream of owning a small business in a place she thought was home in Portland, Oregon. Until, one day, she accepted change within her career and followed her dream to bring color to Riverwest, Milwaukee. 

Osterman, an interior designer in Milwaukee, previously moved to Portland to start her career in a nonprofit organization.  

Thinking back to when she was a child, Osterman said she recalls always having a love for decorating, rearranging furniture in and repainting the walls of her childhood bedroom.  

“Luckily, my parents were really supportive of that, so I was always exploring interior design,” Osterman said.  

Although Osterman received her bachelor’s degree in anthropology, she longed for a job that would take her back to the love she had always held for interior design. 

“After I was kind of becoming dissatisfied with that career, I started to explore ‘How can I get back into a more creative field’ and I knew that I wanted to follow my passion for interiors,” Osterman said.  

During the pandemic, Claire returned to school at The Heritage School of Interior Design in Portland, while continuing her non-profit job full time. This was the start of her goal to learn how to professionally design spaces and make it a full-time job.  

After Osterman went on a getaway trip to Princeton, Wisconsin, she was inspired by a shop called Horseradish Kitchen & Market.

Osterman said this shop opened her eyes up to the possibility of bringing a space like Horseradish Kitchen & Market to Milwaukee to make it her own.  

After eyeing the same vacant storefront for eight months, Osterman bought the Riverwest gem and started curating products she was going to sell.  

“From the point in time when I was like ‘I need to do this’ to signing the lease, was two weeks. So, I think it’s a lesson in feeling very passionate about something, and to just keep working towards those goals and things can happen really quickly,” Osterman said.  

Now, Ebb and Flow Co. shop is located in the Riverwest part of Milwaukee at 906 E. Center Street, and it is officially five months into business. It remains full of colorful displays ranging from woven baskets to tattoo balms. Osterman also sells products for the kitchen, accessories and scents such as Blomb Parfum, incense and soy candles.  

Ebb and Flow Co.’s name was inspired by the tides shifting based on the phases of the moon and Osterman said she sees this as a reminder to welcome change in life as well as in our spaces. She said she also hopes to make this a reminder for her customers and clients, as they hold a deep place in her heart. 

“One of the coolest parts [of owning a small business] has been interacting with customers and building friendships from those,” Osterman said. 

As the owner of Ebb and Flow Co., Osterman said there comes the fear of the unknown.  

“Day to day, it can be hard to own a small business because you’re really just putting yourself out there and hoping for it to be successful,” Osterman said.  

Osterman said when reflecting on the people who stuck by her side during the journey, the first people who came to her mind were her husband of nine years and her mom.  

“He’s definitely my rock,” Osterman said. “He actually built all of the furniture, in the store, in our garage.”  

The mission of Ebb and Flow Co. goes back to the goal of making interior design more accessible to the average person.  

“I knew I wanted the products that I bring in to represent the type of design that I like. I’m a maximalist, so I like to have more and lots of colors but when you do that, you have to be selective so that it doesn’t become overwhelming,” Osterman said.  

Osterman said she is continuing to bring a piece of her Oregon roots with her back to Milwaukee. Within her shop, she sells Jacobsen Salts which are harvested on the pacific coast of Oregon.

In addition to selling decor, Claire also teaches $15 interior design workshops and hopes to elevate and grow these classes.  

“We started with our color theory class, and in color theory they learn about how to use the color wheel to build color schemes and color palettes for their home. That class has been super popular. We’ve had seven so far, they’ve all sold out,” Osterman said.  

Although the shop is in its first stages of business, Claire is continually dreaming of how she can bring her love for interior design to the next level.  

“I just want to continue to grow the art workshops. I’d love to start working with clients to do interior design in their homes and eventually I’d love to make my own line of products that capture my design aesthetic,” Osterman said.  

This story was written by Mimi Sinotte. She can be reached at [email protected]. 

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About the Contributor
Mimi Sinotte
Mimi Sinotte, Arts & Entertainment Reporter
Mimi Sinotte is a sophomore from Milwaukee, Wisconsin studying Journalism and is an Arts & Entertainment Reporter on the Marquette Wire for the 2023-2024 school year. Aside from this position, you can find her rock climbing with MUFA, reading a good book, creating social media posts for her Marketing Internship with Marquette Dining, or occasionally modeling in Chicago. She is most excited to start writing frequently about topics regarding Arts and Entertainment on campus alongside an amazing and talented female-run desk.

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