High Point Market: Hospitality Designers Share All
Today in The Lounge, Nick hosts the Hospitality Insiders Share All: What it Takes to be a Designer in the Hospitality Sector panel with guests Gary Inman, Nina Magon, Patrick Sutton, and Todd Ellenberger. The panel was recorded live at High Point! Nick also talks with Lynne Lawson of Lawson Dream Team at Norwalk Furniture during High Point. Lynne and Nick discuss how she finally entered into interior design and how she did it with no interior design education.
Hospitality Insiders Share All: What it Takes to be a Designer in the Hospitality Sector
The panel begins with each designer introducing themselves and talking about how they began their careers in interior design. They all work in varying design firms, from large to small. Both Gary and Nina have fashion design backgrounds and then later moved to interior design. Patrick is the son of a pioneer of ‘travelism,’ so he spent his childhood seeing the world and enjoying its architecture. He loved the world of architecture but felt something was missing. In order to complete his story, he stopped doing architecture and began designing interiors of buildings. Todd started thinking about interior design in high school and right out of school began designing handmade draperies for high-end residential clients. A few years down the road and he now works for Hirsch Bedner Associates.
The designers talk about their transitions into the hospitality sector and some of the difficulties they faced in changing from residential to hospitality. They discuss the differences in design, such as logistics and fabrics, as well as the change in monetary profits. They also chat about how long it really takes to design a hotel from start to finish. For more input, listen to the full panel!
Getting to Know Lynne
The last vacation Lynne took was in Europe when she visited Austria and Switzerland this past summer. She fell in love with Switzerland during her two-week stay. Lynne lives in Columbia, Maryland and the last home decor piece she purchased for her home was a convertible cocktail to dinner table. The one room in her home that she would never put on Instagram, is her daughter’s room because it’s still in transition from her moving out… Lynne plans on converting it to her ‘woman cave.’ “Beer, wine or cocktail?” Lynne prefers wine.
How Lynne Got Started in Interior Design
Lynne previously worked at IBM for 19 years, as a salesperson, consultant, and a consulting principal. She would sell mainframes to NASA, classified agencies, the White House, House of Representatives, the Senate and the World Bank. She left because she was traveling a lot, lost her younger brother, and turned the age where enough was enough. She thought about what she really wanted to do with her life and decided to go ‘interior design.’
Decorating Den Interiors is a 47-year-old business of individually owned and operated franchises. It is for both start-up interior decorators with no experience and interior designers with degrees who want to take advantage of the business, marketing, and public relations opportunities that Decorating Den Interiors provides. To get into Decorating Den, you first have to contact the corporate office and they take you through a series of steps: you qualify the company and the company qualifies you. At the end of the day, you should be able to run your own franchise! If you move forward in the process, you are then given both business and design training. Some of their training includes how to recieve leads and how to market your business. You are encouraged to have a grand opening seminar to generate leads so you can get started on designing. In the beginning, you continue to receive training from a manager as well as continue going to CEUs (Continuing Education Units). Lynne says that running your business from a series of consistent and repeatable processes makes it successful!
The Business Today
Lynne’s team is made of three people: Lynne’s husband, Bruce, is the general manager and IT guy; Lynne is the decorator; and Lynne’s daughter, Laura, is the interior designer. They have done some commercial work mostly for funeral homes. Lynne defines an interior designer as someone who is classically trained to design and decorate a home. A decorator, like herself, can essentially perform the same tasks, just without a degree. For example, Lynne does not move walls; when it comes to architectural changes, that’s where her line is drawn. She and her team mostly work on furnishings and finishes.
Lynne has been named the top decorator in Decorating Den three times, which is unprecedented in Decorating Den’s history. Decorator of the year is based on decorating, not sales. Every year there is a dream room contest, if you have done beautiful work throughout the year, you can enter this contest with a design board. It is then judged by magazine editors from House Beautiful and others as well. The room is entered into different categories and you have to be the top in all categories to win designer of the year!
Designers Den provides substantial training on how to market your business. Before training, Lynne would go and promote her business with flyers door to door. Now, it’s all about internet presence and her digital footprint. Laura stays on top of all Lynne’s social media. Lynne’s number one leads source is from repeat and referral customers. Number two is search engine optimization, which they keep track of by asking their clients where they heard of her business. A small phone interview determines if a client is a good fit. At any given moment Lynne has 7-15 projects going on. She also does paint color consultations, which is another way to bring in more business. Lynne prefers Benjamin Moore paint because the colors are just beautiful.
Lynne’s favorite hat to wear is the ‘interacting with clients’ hat. She also loves doing ‘the reveal.’ Lynne’s clients love the experience of the reveal as well because when the photographer comes in to take pictures, it makes them feel like they are on TV. Her least favorite thing to do is placing the order for clients. It’s nerve-wracking so she always quadruple checks it before ordering. Lynne never work with vendors that aren’t IT savvy.
Down the road, Lynne does have an exit strategy, which is selling to her daughter. Lynne would stay on as a senior designer, pick her projects, and only work with ideal clients. She would also help out her daughter with the business, even in retirement.
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