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What I Wish I Knew: How Keith Granet has built a successful 30-year business & what he wants you to know about it.

         

For over 30 years, Keith Granet has led the helm of one of the industry’s cornerstones, Studio Designer , the leading digital project management, product sourcing, and accounting platform for the interior design industry… & one we couldn’t live without. Keith recently sat down with Circaphiles founder, Genevieve Trousdale, to share his insights into the design world, how he got his start, and his recommendations to new designers.

Read on as Keith shares a wealth of knowledge and experience that we consider your mini-masterclass to developing a thriving business in interior design. But first, meet Studio Designer.

DESIGN BY studio designer client & Circaphiles ambassador form design studio 

DESIGN BY studio designer client & Circaphiles ambassador woodson & rummerfield’s

 

STUDIO DESIGNER 

Interior designers, like most entrepreneurs, often begin their endeavors full of high hopes, big dreams…and overflowing to-do lists. Drafting proposals, managing accounting, scheduling appointments, and a whole slew of administrative tasks can take up more than a few precious hours during the workday. Enter Studio Designer.  A fully integrated platform that features an all-in-one project management system, client collaboration portal and designer-specific accounting software- there are few things Studio Designer can’t do. The main objective? To allow designers to spend more time designing and less time worrying about administrative tasks.

We sat down with Keith to learn his secrets to running a successful business for over 30 years…

keith granet, CEO of Studio designer

FROM keith

 

Q. Keith, how did you get into the interior design business?

 A. i had the opportunity to have an internship during my junior year at Gensler. That internship was an eye-opening experience about where my talents lie and what the road ahead looked like for a career in architecture. After graduating, Gensler offered me my first job as an office assistant. Eight years later I was reporting directly to Art Gensler who would become my mentor in learning the business side of design.  In fact, Art wrote the foreword to my first book, The Business of Design, balancing creativity and profitability. 

DESIGN BY studio designer client & Circaphiles ambassador Timothy corrigan

 

Q. Tell us how you got into product licensing?

A. I was working with Barbara Barry in building her business plan and she mentioned she wanted to expand our product design/licensing business. I told her I did not know much about that field and she said, we will learn together. And we did, I helped her with her first license with Baker Furniture, which became the most successful license for Baker at the time. That was over 30 years ago. Since then I have worked with many designers and the products that we licensed have sold close to one billion dollars.

  • Q. What is the smartest investment you made within the first year of starting your consulting business?

    A. Renting my first office. I started my business at home like many people do but then quickly realized I needed to get far away from the TV and refrigerator. It also enabled me to hire my first employee and have a place where clients could come to talk about confidential subject matter that they did not want to discuss in their own offices.

 

  • Q. How do you recommend managing your spending in the first few years of launching a new business?

    A. I always say you can’t cut your way to success, sometimes you simply need to invest in yourself to be successful. That being said, I would be careful about who you hire as your first employee. That will be your greatest expense and you should make sure they are a good cultural fit for you.

  • Q.  I’ve been a Studio Designer user (and big fan) for 15 years. How do you work to cultivate brand loyalty?

    A. Providing the best and most comprehensive product in the marketplace. We invest millions each year to keep the product relevant and serve the needs of the changing environment.

DESIGN BY studio designer client & Circaphiles ambassador marea clark 

  • Q. Have you ever been resistant to a specific marketing trend when thinking about your business plan? Was your intuition proven to be true?

    A. Yes, there are two, what I will call shiny objects that attract interior designers.  first, fame, not everyone wants this but with all the design shows on the air many people think it will jump-start their careers. Most of the time it kills your career because what television is looking for is sensationalism, not professionalism. The second, licensing a product line to a big box store before anyone knows who you are and if you are relevant for the market. With most big box stores you will be the “flavor of the month.” It will feel good first, but it will be gone in a flash. Also, I am a big proponent of never going low too fast. Most successful fashion designers built a couture line before they offered a bridge line. Rarely is anyone successful with starting with ready-to-wear first.

 

  • Q. What are your top tips to finding new hires for an interior design business?

    A. The problem with hiring people is that you don’t get to date you have to marry them first. So there needs to be a leap of faith that the fit is right. I always say “fire fast, hire slow.” Two tips, make sure the person is the right cultural fit for your company and second check references. It amazes me when designers don’t check references. This is a small world and you can find out a lot about a potential employee but simply by asking.

 

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT NEXT? 

Eager to learn more about the workhorse of the design studio? Attend a live demo every Tuesday at 2 pm for an in-depth look HERE and…

Exclusive Offer for Circaphiles members: Enjoy your first month on Studio Designer free of charge. Reach out to info@studiodesigner.com when you sign up, and let Studio know you’re with Circaphiles!

A melting pot of culture, art, and creole, there are few things I hold more dearly than my “hometown” of New Orleans. Last month, I went back to my Southern roots with a trip home to the Northshore of New Orleans. My cup was overflowing with all the charming design, architecture, art, food, and French 75s! NOLA is filled with such rich history and some of the best unassuming destinations to shop until you drop.

Today, I am sharing my list of the haunts I visit every time I’m home. Plus, my tips for shopping, and the strategy I always use to uncover treasures every time you hunt.

xo Genevieve

 

 

 

Genevieve’s top tips to uncovering treasures:

EXPLORE:

Not all the good finds are in the “shotgun” shops along the notable Magazine Street, peek through alleys and courtyards for tucked away treasure chests.

 

TAKE YOUR TIME:

Magazine Street is a full 6 miles long so make a plan for more than one day of meandering, not only to look at shop goods but also the building beauties gracing the street.

HUNT:

The architecture of New Orleans is a mix of Spanish and French influences, most evident in the Creole Cottages and Shotgun Houses throughout the city. If you’re building a home and want to bring in a little New Orleans style, go to The Bank Antiques to discover a treasure trove of architectural salvage (all those intricate hardware pieces, doors, decorative mantels, etc). That may take a half day to get through their 48,000 SF warehouse.

 

CONNECT:

Talk to the shop owners. Most are deeply passionate about their trade and can impart a wealth of knowledge. Tell them what you’re in town to do and what you’re interested in. Southerners love to show their hospitality and recommend what their city has to offer.

 

BID:

Bring your paddle to  Neal Auction House and score some rare and one-of-a-kind antiques from homes across the South.

 

FOLLOW:

@bigeasyestatesales tracks estate sales in the area.  Pick up an authentic piece from an original New Orleans home. 

 

And now, the list you have all been waiting for!  Dive in below to discover a few of my favorite spots for antiques, hand-sewn window treatments, linens, jewelry, and stationary. A true taste of New Orleans design, you will leave each and every shop below feeling divine.

Genevieve’s MUST VISIT SHOPS!

 

  1. Kevin Stone Antiques on Magazine St.: Owners Kevin Stone and Mark Diamond are backed with 15 years of experience in antiques and interiors with merchandise ranging from furniture to wall decoration, lighting, accessories and garden elements. Kevin is especially versed in Gustavian and Swedish pieces, I learned on a recent design project.  Plus, they have the cutest Frenchies to accompany your store visit!
  2. Antiques de Provence in The French Quarter – Transport to the South of France in an instant with a visit to this sophisticated multi-level shop. Brimming with provincial furniture, garden fountains and pottery, mirrors, lighting, art and more, you will bathe in French fashion. Be sure to visit the charming adjoined courtyard on your way out.
  3. B. Viz Design: After sourcing textiles worldwide (from Paris to Istanbul, London to Cape Town), Rebecca Vizard brings them back to her studio on the shores of Lake Bruin.  They repurpose and repair centuries old fragments, salvaging precious trims and stitches from skilled artisans of the past, hand cutting and sewing them to sturdier fabrics,  creating unique one of a kind pillows…a process Rebecca likes to call “regal recycling”.
  4. Katie Koch Home: New Orleans native Katie Koch designs and engineers hand-sewn window treatments from the simple and tailored to the lush and opulent. Her imaginative drapery creations truly transcend all trends!
  5. Leontine Linens: At Leontine, every stitch sewn is done out of passion, out of a love for an art that was once fading. Founded by Jane Scott Hodges, Leontine preserves and reinvents this classic art form, infusing it with a modern twist.

Image1: courtesy of sunday shop.   Image 2: courtesy of alexa pulitzer  with photography by em ferretti   Image 3: courtesy of julie neill  with design by anne wagoner interiors 

  1. Mignon Faget: Though Mignon has long been known for her bold jewelry, I always stop by the flagship store to check out their latest glassware designs, as the taste and craftsmanship lasts for decades.  My collection grows every time I visit!
  2. Sunday Shop: Logan Killen Interiors creates spaces that are calm, cool and comfortable with all things interior design that you would seek to enjoy on a slow Sunday morning. Each piece is created with colors, textures and materials that soothes the soul, and unlike the traditional New Orleans aesthetic.
  3. Alexa Pulitzer: As a handwritten note type of gal, I swoon over the stationary from Alexa Pulitzer. Since 1995, Alexa Pulitzer has been creating whimsical papers in her native New Orleans, and now her collections can be found in esteemed retailers around the world. Stop by to discover a bespoke touch that is personalized for each and every one of your pen pals.
  4. Renaissance Interiors: If you are in search of quality consignment, look no further. Discover the treasures straight out of stately New Orleans homes. I scored a lovely vintage oil painting of the Coliseum by Eugene Colignon for $100!
  5. Julie Neill: The art and craft of bespoke lighting, especially in plaster, is Julie’s passion. If you are a designer, make an appointment at the workshop so you can see her team in action.  A New Orleans native, the tropical climate, the picturesque architecture and the off-beat way of life are an unending source of inspiration for Julie.

Where to grab a cocktail after a day of shopping 

After a long day popping around New Orleans, it is time for a well-deserved cocktail…or two! Whether you have a sweet tooth or looking for a drink on the rocks, these decadent restaurants have every refreshment you could fancy.

 

Monteleone Hotel: – The most luxurious place to land in the French Quarter, the Monteleone Hotel has my favorite milk punch in the Carousel Bar…just the thing you need to cure your hangover or if you are craving something sweet during happy hour.

Bar Marilou:  A spirited sanctuary for craft cocktails, natural wines and French-inflected fare, Bar Marilou is bedecked with books, eccentric curiosities, inventive, sophisticated cocktails and elevated French classics. Inspired by romance, rebellion and spirited with easy elegance, everyone is welcome and long, leisurely nights are encouraged!

Lilette: Book a reservation for imaginative French and Italian-inspired cocktails and cuisine. 

 

What are your favorite New Orleans haunts?

We recently chatted with circaphiles ambassador & Colorful, creative designer

Sara barney

 

Sara Barney is the Founder and Principal Designer of BANDD DESIGN and has mastered the art of creating refreshing and colorful designs. She has centered her design process around being highly collaborative while favoring the individuality of each client. Today, she is unlocking what it’s like to work with a team and what she’s learned along the way. 

 

1. What did you wish you knew when you started your design firm?

That you’re not going to be able to please 100% of the people, 100% of the time.

 

2. Was there something unexpected that you learned from your team along the
way?

Our team has taught me that everybody brings a unique skill set and together it makes us whole. We don’t all have the same styles and ways of working but it makes for a perfect, well-rounded team with a lot of perspectives!

Circaphiles_SaraBarney

Image: bandd design

photography by Ryann Ford  design by bandd design

3. If there is one piece of advice you would give a design student, what would it
be?

Take business classes! You might have an eye for design, but you need to know how a business runs, in general, to make it profitable and find opportunities. Also, spend some time learning about residential design, as most design programs focus mostly on commercial design. It’s a whole different game.

 

4. How have you directly reached out to a potential new client?

I’ve messaged people on social media that have interacted with our account and that live in and around our area to see if they’re interested in design services. You can say that I’ve ‘slid into their DMs’.

When the Pandemic Hit this Design Duo Built their Dream Business: Curious How?

Ever found yourself in the thick of an upholstery order wishing the lead time was shorter, that the process was a bit more user-friendly (more information please!), or perhaps a bit less intimidating.  Denver-based designers Lindy and Jordan Williams had those exact thoughts. AND they decided it was time to do something about it.

Meet Saltwolf!

Image via saltwolf

SALTWOLF

A to-the-trade, modern furniture line, the brand is the answer to all of the frustrations the duo experienced as designers. In the midst of a global pandemic, they forged ahead to create the one-of-a-kind business model that features lightning-fast turnaround times (ahem, they ship every Friday and offer white-glove delivery), a web-based ordering system that allows for email updates at every step of the way, and luxury fabrics that are ALWAYS in stock.  Rest assured, the eight-way hand-tied spring system remains a sustainable choice in all parts of their furniture.  

We sat down with the duo to learn more about their brand, their journey, and their pieces! 

Linden sofa in Indigo linen,  Image via saltwolf

this summer saltwolf is hitting the road in their mobile showroom,  Image via saltwolf

FROM THE FOUNDERS

 

Q. You started this brand in the midst of a pandemic and without a background in furniture making, quite an undertaking. Where did you start? 

 A. Like many interior designers, we started by making custom pieces for our client projects. Once we learned more about the way the trade furniture industry works and saw the opportunities to modernize it, we realized we could make it so much better. The timing at the start of the pandemic definitely wasn’t ideal, but in hindsight, it gave us space to develop and refine Saltwolf in meaningful ways before we officially launched the brand.

belgian linens, italian leathers, and american-made performance velvets that are always in stock,  Image via saltwolf

 

 

Q. As interior designers yourselves, what key elements were you looking for in the pieces you created?

A. Quality, simplicity, and sustainability. We create pieces we would have in our own home and that could confidently sell to our own clients. The style of our launch collection is simple, but classic and works in many different aesthetics. The market is flooded with fast, cheaply made “throwaway” furniture which is heartbreaking for so many reasons. We are passionate about making pieces that will truly last the test of time.

  • Q. Can you give us a breakdown of what is unique about your pieces and the aspects of their creation? 

    A. we think the most unique thing about our brand, and our furniture pieces is that they can be configured, specified, and ordered completely online, but without compromising on quality. Online-only furniture brands have historically been cheap and fast, and direct to consumers, not designers. While luxury, made-to-order American furniture in the trade space has been only available through third-party showrooms, sales reps, and outdated ordering systems. Saltwolf is the first brand to offer luxury trade furniture fast, only to designers and only online. As designers ourselves, we know this model is overdue in the industry and we are confident it will help so many designers be more efficient, more profitable, and more successful.

 

  • Q.  What has been the most surprising part of your journey?

    A. fabric sourcing! Finding high-quality and responsibly made fabrics we can stock to meet our lead times has been really hard. After many hours on the phone, trips to textile mills and months of research we finally found exactly what we hoped for with our Belgian linens, Italian leathers, and American-made performance velvets.

 

 

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT NEXT? 

 

Saltwolf is hitting the road this summer to (safely) bring Saltwolf to you! Their Mobile Showroom creates the unique opportunity to touch and feel the pieces from their line and large format samples of their stock materials. This past month, along the golden coast of Southern California, we were honored to lift up Lindy and Jordan in launching their new endeavor as they made their first stop in Southern California. Two days filled with friends, face-to-face conversation, relating to challenges in the industry, and, of course, plenty of comfortable seats! 

Be sure to stop by their site to see where they are pulling into town next and bring one of their luxury, handcrafted pieces to your next project!

this summer saltwolf is hitting the road in their mobile showroom,  Image via saltwolf

this summer saltwolf is hitting the road in their mobile showroom,  Image via saltwolf

CREATING GLAMOROUS INTERIORS WITH SHOWSTOPPING STYLE

The Learning Curve of Licensing Deals: What is the roadmap to a successful licensing deal? Michael Berman will reveal raw and real experiences during the formation of his product licenses for Kravet, Rohl, Walker Zanger, and Brown Jordan.

 

Arte gave Circaphiles the key to their studio doors in Belgium for an inside look at their latest collections with testaments straight from the ladies at Forbes + Masters and the man behind JAB Design Group.  In Antwerp’s ancient stock exchange, Arte debuts their Spring wall coverings collection via the “Nomads” video.  Tons of sand and palm trees were trucked in to build the scene, all surrounding an interpretive dancer.

Wake up in the jungle, be amazed by the mysterious tropics, and pass through the wild desert. Join us as Arte uncovers their latest collections and takes us on a journey of discovery of opposites.

 

We recently chatted with circaphiles ambassador & SOPHISTICATED SOUTHERNER

marea clark

After a decade of practicing with the industry’s most lauded interior designers, Marea founded MCI and quickly garnered a loyal client base in the Bay Area and beyond. Her aesthetic effortlessly combines sophistication with approachability, resulting in timeless, comfortable interiors that reflect her clients’ tastes, habits, and lifestyles. Today she is unlocking her studio doors to give us a peek at how her firm ticks!

 

 

1. What did you wish you knew when you started your design firm?

Sell upfront. Make sure you agree on a budget at the beginning of each project. This reduces the selling that you have to do throughout the project and eliminates a lot of headaches for your client, your team, and you.

2. Was there something unexpected that you learned from your team along the
way?

Just like clients, it’s important to understand each employee’s individual goals in order to best work together.  

 

 

3. If there is one piece of advice you would give a design student, what would it
be?

Work at a fun and collaborative firm where you can learn a lot. Whether you don’t know what you want to do long-term, you want to start your own interior design firm, a furniture line, or work for someone who you really admire, early in your career it’s best to find a supportive environment where you can thrive. Seek out design professionals whose aesthetic aligns with yours, and who actively invest in the growth of their team. I spent 10 years working for some incredible interior designers in Los Angeles and San Francisco before I started my own firm, and I reference those experiences every day in my work. 

4. When a client asks for a resource, how do you answer them?

We are open and transparent with our clients about resources, but we are also upfront in our agreement with clients that we charge a fee for any goods purchased within our agreed-upon scope during our project, whether we purchase the goods or not. And for services, that we charge a fee for services that we coordinate and manage. 

 

 

5. How have you directly reached out to a potential new client?

All of our clients have been inbound leads, whether from word-of-mouth or otherwise.

We recently chatted with circaphiles ambassadors FORM DESIGN STUDIO

The brainchild of Joshua Rose and Rafael Kalichstein, FORM Design Studio is a Los Angeles firm based on sustainability and beauty. With an eye on harmony, the duo functions on the school of thought that the basis of any good design begins by believing that spaces speak and learning how to listen. AND we were lucky enough to get the keys to their studio doors to learn how they began their studio and the unexpected things they have learned along the way.

 

1. What did you wish you knew when you started your design firm?

Design is as much about information management as it is about creativity.  Having a robust accounting and project management system is critical to a firm’s success.  Having real-time access to up-to-date budgets and specifications will give you the freedom to be as creative as you can be and the power to execute your vision.

2. Was there something unexpected that you learned from your team along the
way?

Our associate designer has been our right-hand for nearly seven years.  She came to us with an incredible education from a wonderful design school in Nantes France.  Quickly, she introduced us to a creative game, which we still use at the outset of each project.  After a high-level intake with our clients, we play her game, conceptualizing within structured parameters, sketching, and brainstorming ideas that are then culled together in a group session.  Many key design details of our projects originate from this process.

 

 

3. If there is one piece of advice you would give a design student, what would it be?

Seek out successful firms doing work that moves you and excites you.  Learn as many of the creative and technical skills as you can—master them.  Then, do everything in your power to make yourself indispensable to one of those firms.

4. When a client asks for a resource, how do you answer them?

We happily share resources.  Our contracts are clear.  We have strong relationships with our vendors, workrooms, and partners, and our clients do not shop us.

 

 

5. How have you directly reached out to a potential new client?

The vast majority of our clients are referrals from clients and their networks.  The bulk of our roster, at any given time, is filled with repeat clients.  Having said that, we have successfully made contact with potential new clients by sending congratulatory bottles of champagne for new property acquisitions in areas where we have worked.

How Russian Art & a Taos Wood Carver Unite to Hit All the Right Notes

Esteemed furniture makers Casa Marrón open their studio doors to detail two of their latest feats, the Nicolás Buffet and the Vicente Cabinet. 

 

Jeannie Brown’s love affair with one-of-a-kind pieces began well over thirty years ago, long before her work found its way to other designers. Surrounded by Spanish architecture in her native California, her distinctive style combines her roots with the styles she discovered during frequent trips to New Mexico. Set against a stately backdrop of vivid blue skies and red-and-purple mesa mountaintops, she became familiar with the work of a Russian artist and carver, Nicolai Fechin, who had made his home in Taos in the 1920s. Unbeknownst to many, countless carving details and styles that are now considered native to New Mexico resulted from the carving done by Fechin. 

 

While designing and manufacturing furniture in Los Angeles, Brown came across Fechin’s work on a trip to Santa Fe. The skilled artisans, whom she has known and worked with for years, began implementing inspired versions of his intricate carving details into her custom furniture pieces and collection, Casa Marrón

When russia meets taos

So, when a client with an extensive Russian art and artifact collection came to Brown to help design their Santa Fe home, her worlds collided. “The clients had lived in Russia for many years and have quite eclectic taste,” Brown explains. “The design challenge was to create a home here in Santa Fe that honored their love of Russian art and artifacts and spoke to the unique style of Santa Fe…and successfully married the two.” Now, that sounds like a tall order to us!

 

Brown sojourned to Taos with her clients to introduce them to the history of Fechin’s work and share the details of the craft that would be used to develop their own pieces. They fell in love! Guided by Fechin carving details, Brown designed one of the most challenging pieces to date…the Nicolás Buffet. 

 

Requiring hundreds of hours of hand carving by skilled artisans, the piece features a variety of sculpted decorative motifs, hand-forged decorative nails, and doors with chipped carvings. The interior of the buffet was specially designed to house the client’s extensive artifact collection that includes pieces from Russia and other parts of Europe. The result? A triumph that marries the mastery of Fechin, the evocative surroundings of their new home, and exquisite functionality… and that her clients can’t get enough of. 

 

“Jeannie knew we had a few “sacred cows” that needed to be incorporated in the new plan, so she carefully designed furniture compatible with our treasures. The new furniture from her Casa Marrón furniture line is simply superb: beautifully crafted with outstanding details yet totally functional. We are utterly thrilled with the results.”

Customization is central

Just as Brown’s team did not shy away from the challenges set forth by the Nicolás Buffet, she dreamt up a second piece for this client. This time they requested a cabinet to house their extensive serving collection and landed on a variation of a piece in the permanent in-house line. Thoughtfully adorned with hand-forged decorative hardware sourced from France, Brown conceived “lightning bolt” shaped panels with wood backing paired with intricate Spanish carving details. The creation served up equal parts art and function.

 

The Vicente Cabinet is a part of the full line of furniture fabricated by Casa Marrón. Their handmade collection centers on the balance of clean, simple, geometric shapes and carved, textural details that stimulate the viewer’s senses by drawing them into marvel at the minute details. Fully customizable, the collection of tables, chairs, beds, and more can all be created in the wood species and finish of your choice. With her long-time experience as a designer, Brown ensures every detail is fulfilled properly.  How about that for satisfaction?

 

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT NEXT FROM CASA MARRón?

Whatever you can dream up! Connect with the studio today to get started on your next project…

 

We recently chatted with circaphiles ambassador & Stylish entertainer

Danielle ROLLINS

Founder of Danielle Rollins Interiors, she is known for her bold, feminine and fresh designs. In addition to interior design, she is an internationally known tastemaker and trendsetter, clothing designer, author, and online influencer. Today she is unlocking her studio and giving us a look at how she created a successful firm and the lessons she has learned along the way.

 

1. What did you wish you knew when you started your design firm?

I started off working the “old-fashioned” way, straight-up markup. Several years into working feeling like I couldn’t work any harder than I already was, couldn’t take on more work in order to make more, I threw in my own capsule clothing collection which really taught me the value of margins.  I had to reevaluate my design business.  With the help of other designers who have been very generous with their business structure, I have been able to create a business giving the same creativity but in a way that was more balanced. Subsequently, understanding the numbers has made me a lot more confident, and comfortable charging what I charge. Margins need to be the equation from the get-go and the numbers never lie. 

2. If there is one piece of advice you would give a design student, what would it
be?

I did not go to design school, but the advice I’d give to anyone in a “creative” field is don’t rely on your creative gifts only. Take business classes. And to any student, take every internship opportunity you can to learn from others in the field. And while I hate to say this, I’d say it to anyone in school, make sure you’re really passionate about what you’re doing and that you’re good at it without having to be “taught” to do it.  

 

 

3. When a client asks for a resource, how do you answer them?

Because I have the “influencer” side of my business, and I’m generous about sharing information, I’m very used to a following who expects sources.  I have managed those expectations by offering virtual design packages. I try to educate a client’s expectations from the beginning of the relationship and the compensation that is earned from decades of building trade relationships. 

4. How have you directly reached out to a potential new client?

I have always been more of a word of mouth referral, but I do have a steady tick of potential clients through Instagram, too.  I make sure I or someone on my staff follows up immediately.  

We recently chatted with circaphiles ambassador & COLOR-HAPPY designer

LIZ CAAN

Here at Circaphiles we like to surround ourselves with inspiring friends, and Liz Caan certainly falls into that category. Founder of Liz Caan & Co., based in Newton, Massachusetts, Liz is a Circaphiles ambassador we are especially proud to have help lead our members. Known for layering pattern, color and texture, her designs are full of personality. Today, she is unlocking the door and giving us a peek inside of how she started her firm, what she wishes she knew then and more. Read on…

 

 

1. What did you wish you knew when you started your design firm?

I wish I knew a lot of things but I really wish I knew how much business management, business development, project management, and operational processes and procedures we would need to not only develop but also refine, change and continue to refine and change as we grew. Every year we find ways to do things better and more efficiently which is just as enjoyable as the design aspect. …it’s just a different part of your brain. While I love designing, it only accounts for a small percentage of my time. A lot of my time is spent problem-solving, teaching and mentoring staff and interfacing with clients. . .

2. Was there something unexpected that you learned from your team along the
way?

All my weaknesses as well as how much I enjoy teaching and mentoring and
developing. I learned that I needed to hire people who are good at the things I am
weak at or not really interested in or have no time for. I learned that we needed a team
with very different personalities and skillsets to be successful. We can’t all be type A
and alike. I needed to cultivate a team that had the skills and the temperament I
lacked.

 

 

3. If there is one piece of advice you would give a design student, what would it
be?

Much of design is about understanding who you are designing for (clients) and with, like architects, contractors, artisans, and workrooms. My advice would be to develop the most incredible and acute listening and observation skills. The best design is about collaboration and understanding the client’s values, goals and objectives so you can try and enhance their life through informed design which means you are always listening with your eyes and your ears.

4. When a client asks for a resource, how do you answer them?

We are pretty transparent about our resources. Many of our workrooms will not work directly with a client, only trade, so sometimes we even introduce the client to the artisan. They love getting a behind-the-scenes look and it gives them a personal connection to the piece being made for them.

 

 

5. How have you directly reached out to a potential new client?

I actually have never done this. Hard to believe but luckily our phone rings, and our clients give great referrals and our Social Media is a big source of new business.