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Commercial Design

S22 E3 – Nick in the Lounge Day 3 and Alan Galbraith from John Richard

Thank you for joining the Chaise Lounge on it’s spring High Point journey in 2019. Today is the last double episode of High Point coverage featuring the final Nick in the Lounge where Nick was joined by Jaye Mize of Fashion Snoops, Laura Umansky a.k.a. Laura U and Nina Magon who was the Universal Designer Lounge with her brand new line of Universal pieces.

Part two of this episode is a more classic Chaise Lounge episode where Nick chats with President and CEO of John Richard Alan Galbraith about his company’s experience and market and what John Richard got out of it and what it will be doing in the future.

S22 E1 – Nick In The Lounge Day 1 and Passion Sucks

Welcome back to The Chaise Lounge with seaopn 22. This is the first of three episodes to be released this week all about High Point Market. Today, Nick hosts the first ever Nick in the Lounge with Catherine Heracher, Garrison Hullinger, Phyllis Harbinger and Jarret Yoshida. Then, this double length episode continues with Nick’s Passion Sucks panel with Stacy Garcia, Sarah Willett, Lauren Clement, Libby Langdon and Theresa Dorlini. As always, these successful women talk about how they keep their heads in the business of running their business.

147 – Susan Suhar-Phillips: Interior Design Director at HDR

Susan Suhar-Phillips: Interior Design Director at HDR

Today in The Lounge, Susan Suhar-Phillips, Interior Design Director at HDR, joins Nick at the Porcelanosa showroom in the Merchandise Mart. Susan is Nick’s longest-known friend to ever be on the show. Not only did they go to Junior High together but they also lived down the street from each other growing up! On this episode, Susan discusses how she got started in interior design and the variety of jobs she’s had in the industry. Susan also talks about her big move from Chicago to LAand how it made a HUGE change in her networking pool.

Getting to Know Susan

Susan is the Los Angeles Design Director for HDR, which is a large country-wide firm. She assists with projects at these sister firms as well. Susan has worked with HDR for about a year now. Before that, she was at Eckenhoff Saunders as their Interior Design Director.

Susan originally started out in the fine arts program at The Art Institute of Chicago when she found that being an artist was not a financially successful career path for her as she moved out of her parents home. So, she went in a different direction and tried environmental studies and sciences, but didn’t really like it. On a whim, she decided to take a drafting class at her local community college and at 21, fell in love with it. It was the perfect marriage of her creative side and her science side. This class gave her the exposure to architecture, drafting and interiors that she needed for the “ah ha” moment she’d been waiting for. Susan first received her associate’s degree in Interior Design and then continued her education back at The Art Institute for Interior Architecture. She describes her community college education as gaining the technical knowledge while The Art Institute taught her to push the design envelope. It forced her to look at the world and its interior environments completely differently.

While Susan was in school she also did a couple of internships. Her very first internship was in community college with a furniture dealer. This experience allowed her to become familiar with vendors, materials, pricing, and application. While attending The Art Institute, she worked an internship with VOA which later turned into a full-time design position. VOA exposed Susan to the world of interior architecture and gave Susan a glimpse of how to collaborate with large teams, work on big projects, work with high profile clients, and work late nights. Don’t forget to bring your portfolio to your internship interviews like Susan might have ;).

Networking is Key!… But it May Take Some Time

Susan just moved to LA from Chicago a year ago, and as a result, she now has to start over with her professional network. She feels like networking is the only way to broaden your project base. Susan explains that the more exposed you are, even with your industry peers including competitors, vendors, and clients, the more you’re respected and understood as a contender in the industry. Moving can be stressful enough but it also took about a year for Susan to get used to her new routines, get acclimated with project deliverables, and accustomed to her commutes/travel before she started networking. She now has a good handle on everything and is ready to start.

The Business Today

As a BD, business developer, Susan can go out into the field and promote her company. She gave us some insight that HDR is moving away from hospitality and becoming more of a healthcare giant. Susan also mentioned that when Gary Wheeler joined HDR and took helm of the workplace, he made a significant change to the vision of HDR and where they are going design-wise. This vision is to become more interiors driven. HDR is going to be including the workplace and have strong market sectors between healthcare, work, education, science, and technology.

As Design Director, Susan, has six designers that work underneath her with experience in design ranging from fifteen years to just out of college. The hardest thing she has to do job-wise, is making sure that everyone is always staying busy and billable. Also, she has to make sure that schedules and work plans are laid out to support the entire staff so no one is being under worked. Susan doesn’t like doing time sheets, master specifications, project manual specifications, and the critical features that are called out for specs because they are very time consuming but on the bright side there are people on her staff who love writing them.

Susan has been surprised to find how different designers are regarded in varying firms within the industry and how a designer is incorporated into commercial projects. Commercial is so collaborative in working with engineers, architects, contractors, and subcontractors. It was a surprise to see how many people it took to complete a project as well as the amount of info exchanged and necessary documents.

HDR has an interior design summit that includes all 10 offices. All 30 designers meet in the Chicago office to kickoff Neocon. It’s a way for their firm to stay connected while they get exposure at Neocon. Neocon, for Susan, is the design “fiscal year” when new products are launched so they can be the first to use them.

What’s New?

Susan recently spoke at Neocon and it went so well that it was standing-room-only to fit everyone in there! Susan was very nervous, not because of the public speaking aspect, but because of her topic. Jinsop Lee’s TED talk on 5 human senses and product design was so inspiring that it got her thinking in terms of how this could be related to interiors. So, she spoke about designing based on the human sense and what that means- how we can break it down to understand our sensual impact. Susan feels like there’s a loss of humanity with technology, and this is how we can reel that back in.


Benjamin Moore’s Scruff X helps with those nasty scuff marks you get on your beautiful white walls when a sofa or chair rubs up against them.

LVT Porcelanosa (Luxury, Vinyl, Tile) Link Floor is getting put in commercial spaces, multifamily homes, and hotels because it is a high-end durable product. Vinyl stays cool and doesn’t absorb any smells. It stays fresh and is easy to clean.

Highpoint Market

Nick worked with Steelyard to bring hospitality design to High Point Market. Nick will be hosting a panel discussion on what it takes to move from residential to hospitality. It will be part of the Viewpoint Panel series titled, Hospitality Insiders Share All: What it Takes to be a Designer in the Hospitality Sector on Sunday, October 15 at noon with Gary Inman, Nina Magon, Patrick Sutton, and Todd Ellenberger

Let Nick know if you are going to highpoint and he would love to meet up with you there! Leave a Review on iTunes and ask us about our internship opportunities by using the Question? tab or emailing admin@thechaiseloungepodcast.com.

  • Upcoming Events

Casual Market Sept 12 – 15

ICFF Miami– Oct 3 – 4

IDS – Oct 13 – 16

High Point Market Oct 14 – 18

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13

KBIS – Jan 9 – 11

  • Wrap Up

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com. Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business. See ya!

82 – Robin Baron: New York Interior Designer, TV personality, and ASID chapter President

Robin Baron Design

Robin Baron: New York Interior Designer, TV personality, and ASID chapter President

Live from New York City, your Nick May and Robin Baron in NYCHost Nick May interviews Robin Baron, and HGTV network star designer, on today’s episode of The Chaise Lounge.

A New York City girl, ‘born, bred and raised,” Robin states when asked how she became interested in Interior Design, “You know, it just is a part of my being, I’ve known since I’m a very young girl, maybe 9 years old, I started writing compositions for my grade school about wanting to be an interior designer and my equal passion was fashion design. I’ve always known it and actually started my career in fashion and then transitioned into Interior Design.”

Robin actually studied fashion and interior design simultaneously in school, starting her education on the east coast before transferring to UCLA to complete her degree, but leaned into a fashion design career after graduation. Robin describes to Nick her very first collection in fashion, and how she started her own business at just 19 and 20 years old.

“I moved back to New York, and the truth is, the fashion industry is a very tough industry, it’s a tougher business. I really started doing interior design because clients started to approach me to do their homes and their apartments. I was doing some antique dealing on the side as a hobby, and it sort of blossomed. What I loved about it was; I do have a bigger impact on people’s lives by working on their homes.” Robin describes as her transition from fashion to interior design.robin baron commercial

Robin Baron Design is a nice sized, full service firm comprising of 6-7 full time staff members mostly focusing on residential, with a small amount of hospitality and commercial design. Tune in to hear Robin tell Nick about the areas of the country she’s worked and the first growth of her interior design business. “Over the years, I’ve definitely grown, I have been bigger in the past in terms of staff, but I felt I had to make a decision ‘how big do I want to get?’ I really wanted to have my fingers on the pulse of every job.”

Nick asks Robin when she first felt the need to take on help, and how she identifies people that will be a good fit for the company, “I think you have to first define ‘what are your goals?’ because unless you know what you’re a goals are, you don’t know how to set a blueprint or a plan to get there. That also applies to who you hire and when you hire them. I wanted positive people around me, someone who’s jaded or negative does not jive with my own sensibilities, so understanding who you are and how you work is very important.”

Robin is the current ASID President of New York Metro which significantly impacts her schedule among other things in her business, “it’s a lot of extra work but it’s very rewarding.” Robin talks about her goals she had when she started in this position with Nick. Robin has been featured many times on television, “The more high profile you are, the more things come to you. I think this goes back to talking about ‘what are your goals?’ My goal was to do TV and to be a spokesperson and to be a little more public and so I’ve taken steps and done things to help prod that along a bit.” Be sure to listen to the show to hear Robin list a few of those specific steps that she’s taken to get to where she is today, especially with the TV roles. Robin talks about how her TV appearances have brought her new clients and how being herself in that role helps attract clients.

Robin attributes her success to “my positive attitude, giving 1,000%, which I know we all do, I give without expecting the same thing back and I think being authentic, being true to who you are and what your beliefs, and belief structure is and you know, working like a dog!” She also talks about how everyone defines success differently.

When it comes to time management Robin states, “It’s definitely a challenge on a day to day basis, and I do try to take it one day at a time. I try to give as full attention as I can to what’s in front of me. Often it’s the shiniest thing that gets my attention, and having a great staff certainly helps. They help me organize my time; sometimes they have to force themselves to be the shiniest thing!”

Nick and Robin discuss social media and marketing and specifically the power of video as a media for marketing. “We all have our marketing tools at our finger tips with social media, so it’s critical that we know our goals and we take what we do and make them work for us.” Nick talks about how to use social media creatively, and how you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money to get yourself out there.

As far as what is next for Robin, “I’m working with an agent; I’m working on some licensing deals that are coming out soon, more TV and spokesperson gigs, among other new things that will be announced soon!” To learn more about Robin and see some of her amazing work visit www.robinbarondesign.com or follow her @_robinbaron on Instagram.

If you are interested in joining me up in Vail, CO next week, please register for the Vail Social Media Summit for Aug 2-3. If you are interested in posting a job you have in your design firm (you need an intern, a JR designer, a SR designer, etc) please visit our new Job Board for interior designers.  If you are looking for an internship in interior design, an interior design job, or anything related, see our open jobs.

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com.  Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business.  See ya!


76 – Two ends of the Interior Design business: Super high end commercial design to down-home residential design

Felderman and Johnson

On today’s show, you are getting a two for one show, with two separate interviews with two great design firms. Before you press play, make sure to check out www.thechaiseloungepodcast.com for new videos that Nick posts for his listeners, these videos include information on who’s coming up on the podcast, listener mail, and much more!

Stanley Felderman & Nancy Keatinge: FKA Studio

Based out of Culver City, California, this married design duo does many things beyond architecture and interior design, including product design, strategic planning, and much more! “We really collaborate on every level,” says Stanley as he discusses how the breakdown of tasks within their office works. Nancy explored many avenues after school, including documentary filmmaking. After meeting Stanley in the early 1980’s, Nancy pivoted to the design world. Nancy talks about being inspired by the home she lived in growing up, which was designed by Arthur Elrod, the famed mid-century designer. Of his background, Stanley says, “I always wanted to be an architect, I was born in the Bronx, to a very poor family and we lived in a tenement. I always fantasized about building a world that was prettier and much more fun to be in, so as long as I can remember I always dreamed that architecture was something that would liberate me.” After attending an art school, Stanley was offered a prestigious spot at the Pratt Institute studying architecture. After graduating from Pratt, Stanley worked for a large architectural firm, at the same time, Stanley helped out on a large project for a friend, which ended up launching his career. “The reason I had the success was that I was willing to take a risk, I had a full-time job at a great firm and had potential, but this call to do something creative, which was only meant to last a few weeks. I made the decision to quit the safety net, and take the risk and do something creative and that became the foundation to everything I am doing now.”
The pair talks with Nick about how they first met, and when they started working together, including the cross-country move from New York to California. Stanley talks about the growth within the company in the early years, and his deliberate approach of keeping the office small, in order to preserve the day to day design component in his work. Tune in to hear more about some of the big name clients the pair have and the work they do as a team.  To find out more about this dynamic duo, please check out their website at fkastudio.com.

Patti Johnson: Patti Johnson Interiors

Based out of Lebanon, Ohio, Patti talks with Nick about her background, which includes much relocation around the country due to corporate moves from her husband’s company. “When I was a child, it’s something that I can remember from a young age of maybe 7, when my parents went out, I would rearrange the furniture, I’d draw houses and do space planning,” Patti says of her first motivations to design. Patti studied interior design at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, MI, however, she never finished, and although she took many courses over the years, she doesn’t actually hold a formal degree in interior design. Patti talks about the shift she’s seen in designers who are more willing to share sources and trade secrets when that hasn’t always been the case in the interior design network.
Like Nick, Patti also attended the 2016 Spring High Point Market, she states, “I really find it very, very valuable to see what the current trends are, to see what’s new and fresh in the market because I think it takes quite a while to make its way back. A being here in Ohio, we have very small design centers, so it’s really important as a designer to be able to offer my clients the latest and greatest.”
Patti talks about the difficulties she faced when moving from location to location. She talks about the length of time it takes for a business to get established in a certain location, and how moving frequently can make it very difficult to do so. Nick asks how long her most recent business has taken, “I would say I’ve been here almost 5 years, and for the first two years I had probably almost zero work here. It probably took 3 or 4 years before it finally took off.” Patti talks about the effect the status of the economy has on her line of work, especially in an area like Ohio. Patti describes the scope of her work, which is primarily ‘whole home’ renovations, and even some exterior work. Patti says, “I feel that you do the client a better service by transforming the whole home, not just the kitchen, so that’s how I prefer to do it.”
Nick asks Patti how she wins clients, especially with moving around so much, to which Patti answers, “Everybody is internet shopping, everyone’s on the internet, so having a web presence is important, having a website, people find you. I’ve just been blessed to have the work come to me.” She also talks about the work she’s gotten after volunteering to design show houses and the press that comes from that.
Patti is involved in something called a ‘mastermind group’, a group of designers of all different phases in their careers, who get together quarterly to learn and talk about a new topic in design. Tune in to learn more about the mastermind group Patti’s involved in, and how creating your own mastermind group could benefit you as a designer. Nick asks Patti how the group impacted her business, “Confidence and charging what you’re worth. You learn, really, how to be a better solo-preneur, I really needed to have that connection with other people who wanted to elevate their business.” Nick asks Patti what she thinks holds people back in attending things like a mastermind course, or other events that can help them grow their businesses. It comes down to time and cost, which can be a real investment.
Follow Patti on all the social media platforms, including Instagram or check out her website at pattijohnsoninteriors.com.
We’d love to hear your feedback or even better if you’ve listened to The Chaise Lounge and felt you’ve learned something new, please share our show with your friends and colleagues via social media, just be sure to tag us @thechaiselounge, we’d really appreciate it!
If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com.  Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on InstagramFacebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business.  See ya!

31 – Lynn Coit: Commercial designer in Denver

Elsy Studios


I have interviewed designers from all across the country, but today, I finally interviewed an interior designer from my own back yard of Denver, CO. Lynn Coit owns Elsy Studios and focuses on commercial design.  Lynn was trained as an architect, but has always had a love for interiors.  Her firm is growing, has a staff of ten, but will grow to over 20 within the next decade.  Lynn went to school in Mississippi, and while traveling to California, stopped in Colorado, and just never left.  Lynn and her team focus on projects in Colorado but have taken on a few clients across the country.  As a mom, she tries not to take on work that requires too much travel.

A few things that Lynn shared:

  • To get new clients, don’t shy away from small projects.  A lot of large clients started with small projects for her.
  • Network with your vendors and build a team.  She has received lots of referrals from her vendors to get her into some large commercial projects.
  • If you are an interior design student, get involved in organizations to build your network.