Flipping & Flying
Between real estate, designing, owning businesses, writing, raising a daughter and flying planes, there is nothing Paula Rallis cannot conquer.
Paula Rallis has forged her empire from Charleston through Las Catalinas. According to her blog tagline, she is “flipping houses, flying planes, [and] changing clothes,” but between her modern aesthetic and perfectly curated feed is a businesswoman, mother and wife—sharing her life and creating a social community based on authenticity.
On a stormy summer Saturday about five years ago in New York City, thundercloud after thundercloud rolled in over John F. Kennedy International Airport. The Rallises had just spent the month of August unwinding in the Hamptons, enjoying the “Sunday of summer” and plenty of sand and surf. Now, they were in-bound on the train to JFK, soaking in the last semblance of calm before the storm. In the distance, a travel nightmare was brewing of the likes not witnessed by many before.
When Paula and Ron Rallis arrived at the airport, they discovered that—along with every other flight—their trip home had been cancelled. After the storms had forced every plane to the ground, causing backups and delays galore, their flight had been one of the last to be nixed. While pandemonium of this magnitude might send some spiraling into chaos, Paula Rallis doubled down and kept her eye on the prize: getting home to Greenville for an absolutely could-not-miss meeting. “When we were scheduling flights, it was going to take an extra day and a half and with the meeting, we didn’t have an extra day and a half,” she says.
So she and her husband devised a game plan. They split up into two different rental car lines, but at that point, the queues were overflowing like the Hoover Dam had collapsed. When they finally reached the front, they learned all the cars were sold out. Rallis recalls, “I looked into trains; I looked into busses. [It got] to the point where I started asking other people that I had heard were headed in our direction if we could get in their rental car, and they looked at me like I was crazy.” Nearly out of options, the Rallies were able to convince a friend to send a pilot the next day. Talk about crisis management skills.
“I’m the type of person that gets very upset when I don’t know how to do something and I love learning. So, when we got home I thought, ‘That’s it, I’m taking flight lessons.’ I need to be able to jump in a plane and know how to fly it,” says Rallis. This is how Rallis is different. She began her career working for the American Cancer Society, then moved on to start The Scout Guide Greenville—a boutique style magazine. She built up the Greenville chapter and sold the franchise. She hustled, started branding and investing in herself. She followed her passion for design and teamed up with her husband, now a house-flipping duo. Together they have amassed a portfolio of over 500 homes and 40 commercial properties and founded a home-lifestyle store, Paula Rallis Home. Oh—and all while training for a pilot’s license in the meantime. Continue reading this story in our interactive digital edition.
…There is much more to the woman behind @paularallis than beautifully curated squares of stunning locations and dreamy interiors—Rallis has shared some of her most personal moments with her following, including her recent struggle with infertility. Her social media platform has given her a direct line to connect with women across the country and the world on a deeper level, creating a community of meaningful conversation and interaction. Join the conversation and continue to South’s Q&A with Rallis.
Q&ASouth: Your blog intro is “Flipping houses, flying planes, changing clothes.” Can you tell me more about what you do?
Paula Rallis: My husband and I are in commercial and residential real estate—[my husband] started flipping houses in California when he was 19. When we met, he moved to South Carolina and we joined forces when we got married six years ago. And now we flip together!
S: Your feed presents a more modern aesthetic to Southern lifestyle and travel. Can you talk about how you developed your style?
PR: I think my style has always been evolving. My family is French—my grandmother and mother were both born in France. My grandmother was an interior designer and she learned in Paris by looking in store windows. Then she moved to the states and kept at it. I feel like she has had a huge influence on my personal style and my design style; just being more modern, simplistic, minimal. I think that has had the biggest influence on me, that and traveling.
S: Your photos are stunning. How do you put that together?
PR: So I started shooting with my friend Carrie (@carrieelizabethphoto) probably about four years ago, and I really loved her style and I feel like that kind of evolved my aesthetic as far as my feed is concerned as well. And Angela (@angelazionphoto), who lives in Greenville, shot for The Scout Guide, and I’ve always loved how creative she gets behind the camera. I try to control as much as I can in terms of what I’m wearing. I try to mesh with a photographer that I love hanging out with, or that’s really fun to be around and shoot with; or that I know that I can plug things straight into the feed.
S: You’re based in Charleston and Costa Rica. What is special about living in each place?
PR: Last year we spent almost zero time in Costa Rica because of COVID, which was very sad. We like to go [to Costa Rica] as often as we can—do three weeks on and three weeks off, or go down for an entire month and a half. As for Charleston, we work in Greenville and we wanted a separation between where we work and where we live. I feel like Charleston is just a really good mix of people—I like that my group of friends is from all over and that Charleston is a little bigger of a city [than Greenville].
S: So, why Costa Rica? Is there some history there?
PR: So—I don’t know if you can call it running away at 19—but my husband left college and ran away to Costa Rica. He started going down there when it was literally just a dirt runway. He just fell in love with it and would always talk about how he wanted to take me to see it—he wanted me to see where he loved going, but he didn’t expect me to actually want to live there. I think something that makes it so great is the people. The people are just so kind and generous—I feel like I’m going to cry talking about all of this—but they are just wonderful people. I feel like we’ve traveled a lot and it’s just a completely different vibe down there. People are just happy.
S: What is special about traveling in the Coastal South?
PR: We have so many gems in the South and that’s why I love being a pilot: the landscape I see flying in the South is incredible… We love Sea Island and we love Palmetto Bluff. Reynolds, in Georgia, is very near and dear to my heart. We promote the Ritz all the time and I love going back and seeing all the people I grew up with. Those are our main spots. I love an Asheville weekend and the Highlands are still one of our favorites.
S: How do you balance a high-travel lifestyle? You’ve been pretty candid about some of your personal struggles on your platform, can you share a bit more about what happens behind the screen?
PR: [Ron and I] really love what we do, so that’s easy to share. For a while I didn’t want to open up about trying to create a family and infertility; but to me, I couldn’t walk around anymore and have people not know what’s going on in my life. People could see why I might have been short when they saw me last or why it might look like I’m crying. I’m not very good at hiding emotions, so I feel like if I don’t share I can’t be genuine. I try to be as transparent as I can be about the hard in our lives as well as the good. How, yeah, we flip houses and that’s a lot of fun, but we also move a lot and how frustrating that can be, and sometimes it’s exciting and sometimes it really sucks. I try to show as much as I can of what’s actually going on.
S: Do you get a positive response from your followers?
PR: I’d say—with infertility—as soon as I started sharing I just got a flood of women also sharing their experiences. A lot of people have said they could never share something like that; but since I started, I was like, “Now I can’t not.” So with that, yes, the response has been great.
But you always get a mix of people. You’ll get, “Oh why is she using a filter?” or “ Why did you record that, you look terrible.” You never know…it’s one way or the other, and you’re not going to please everyone. I just try to be as genuine as I can be, but sometimes it does cripple you. Sometimes it’s just a little overwhelming, like, “Oh, you never share your kid,” or “You share your kid too much, that’s not safe.” There are some things—like in the past year with the climate of our country—as a business owner, [posting something political] might affect me negatively but I can’t not share that as a human being. That’s been hard as well. I’ve had people in the South unfollow my store and say they don’t want to shop with me anymore because I shared my political opinions.
S: What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the lifestyle/travel influencer scene?
PR: You can’t force it and you can’t try to be like someone who’s already out there, because that person is already doing that. If it’s a natural thing you’re already doing—for example, if people are already reaching out to you about travel recommendations—that’s probably an organic transition into a blog or an Instagram. Anything that’s forced just isn’t going to work, or any content that’s being heavily inspired by anybody else just isn’t going to be truthful. If it’s something you love, then do it—just make sure it’s you!