Is it weird that Nick May, your host, is not an interior designer? Well, it shouldn’t be. Tom Brokaw interviews people all the time, and he is not a firefighter, a head of state, or a convicted criminal. So, I guess you could think of me as Tom Brokaw… but better, because I actually do know a thing or two about the topics we discuss: business and interior design. I’ve been in and around business and interior spaces for over 15 years, and have worked with a few good designers, and lots of bad ones. Don’t get me wrong, most of them were great people and at least decent designers, but many of them were a mess when it came to running a business.
My clients have asked me to do a lot of things over the years, and designing a few spaces has been one of them. I know I am NO interior designer, I’ve learned that. I have also learned that there is a TON to know about interior design and what it takes to design a space that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing (and the two do not always co-exist). I may not have all the answers for design, however, what I do know a lot about is building a business: building systems, marketing, managing employees, and sales. These are all topics that many interior designers need help with, and this is why I started The Chaise Lounge. However, I do not think for a second that designers would expect, or would want, to learn from a painting contractor. As an industry, we don’t carry the best of reputations for running a business. What I do know though, is that designers love to hear from OTHER designers that are successful, so I figured that would be a better format.
A little about me…
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in an upper middle-class family. My parents were country club members, my sister was an equestrian, and I played soccer. No white picket fence, but you get the idea. I was raised in a home where interior design wasn’t foreign and my parents entertained a lot, so I was introduced to the art of conversation at a very early age. What does this have to do with painting? Everything. This was my training ground for being around successful people, learning how to carry on a conversation, and build rapport, like networking 101.
In college, I started a painting business and painted for many of our neighbors, and my parents’ friends from the country club. I did not know much about painting at the time, but the Benjamin Moore store that I bought materials from was always willing to lend information, support, and product knowledge. Each summer, I would hire my friends, market and sell exterior painting jobs, and climb ladders. Year by year, it got easier and easier, and my dad would say, “Now Nick, remember, you are going to school so you don’t have to paint the rest of your life.” Well, I showed him.
After having a few odd jobs out of college (one being a project manager for a large homebuilder), I decided that working for others was not a great fit for me. I needed to work for myself but, I did not know what I should do. After my wife and I bought our first home, I decided we needed to paint our walls something other than white. So, on New Year’s Eve, after coming home from my cube (corporate inside sales job), we went to Home Depot, only to find that it was a very popular thing to do on New Year’s Eve. Lots of people were going to bring in the new year with a paint brush in hand. Of course, in true Home Depot fashion, there was only ONE guy behind the counter and lots of people waiting around. So, I started helping people decide what paint to buy, what brushes they would need, and what prep tools would help. On the way home, I had an “Ah Ha” moment… I needed to start painting again. Since this realization, we have built a very successful paint contracting business in Denver, CO called Walls by Design with a staff of about 25. We work with lots of designers, are members of ASID, and I personally, attend designer functions.
In 2013, I started a co-op with 6 other companies called IDI: Interior Design Initiatives. The seven companies pool resources to host a ‘lunch and learn’ every other month for designers, where we bring in a speaker and provide a fantastic lunch. It is always held at Builders Appliance Center on a Friday at 11 am. IDI has been hugely successful and was my inspiration for starting The Chaise Lounge in order to expand the idea. Today we are one of the top interior design podcasts, are downloaded in over 100 different countries, and are excited to see what the future holds.