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Famous Interior Design

116 – Barclay Butera: Interior Design Icon

Barclay Butera

Barclay Butera:  Interior Design Icon

On this episode of The Lounge, Nick chats with Barclay Butera. He shares his experience of growing up in the family business, what it was like to branch out on his own, and how important it is to surround yourself with good people.

Getting to know Barclay Butera

Barclay joins Nick in the lounge from California. Barclay attributes much of his success to surrounding himself with good people. He likes to vacation in Paris and swap out pillows in his home for each season of the year. He also loves a good issue of Elle Decor or House Beautiful and a Ketel One martini with three olives.

How did Barclay get into design?

Barclay grew up in a family design business in California. From a young age, he worked in the resource library and was trained by his mom and her staff. From there, Barclay studied political science and economics in college and even went on to complete a year of law school. Ultimately, he ended up back at his mom’s company.

Though there were mixed emotions when Barclay decided to start his own business, his education prepared him for the business side and his mom prepared him for many aspects of design. Barclay needed to develop his own way of thinking about design.

What does Barclay’s business look like today?

Barclay currently employs 50 individuals, 22 of which are interior designers. The team is working on around 100 projects at a time, and many are ground-up construction. He is able to stay organized and keep his life balanced by surrounding himself with a great team who understand the business and have common goals to work towards.

When hiring, Barclay looks for a fresh perspective to help him stay current in design and licensing as well as self-starters who love the business. On a daily basis, Barclay could be running errands, be in client meetings, be spending time in the showroom, or be dropping his pup off at doggie daycare.

The showroom aspect of his business is closely related to the design business. He is able to bring in more foot traffic through the showroom and convert many of those patrons into design clients. He uses the showroom as a tool to show people what they do. Barclay says that the hardest part is being open six days a week and staffing those hours, but in the end, the benefits outweigh the costs.

The showroom has helped Barclay with licensing deals too. The successes in the showroom have helped him prove himself when approaching manufacturers. About fifteen years ago, Kravet approached Barclay with a licensing deal on fabrics, and today, even more products are in the mix, like carpet.

Barclay acknowledges that the awards that he has received are wonderful, but even more valuable are the invitations to speak to students, trade audiences, or business owners and entrepreneurs. He wants to give back and appreciates that he is recognized as a successful entrepreneur.

How does Barclay spend his time?

Barclay has invested money in advertising but also invests his time into getting involved in the community. He is able to spend about a third of his time on business and marketing, a third on licensing, and a third designing, which he loves. Barclay looks at each project from the aspect of the person who will experience it.

In regards to licensing, Barclay mentions that these deals can be hard to come by. He recommends being patient and developing your brand and audience in the meantime so that you are prepared and have something to offer when the time does come.

With the availability of information and products on the Internet, Barclay has seen his margins affected. And while it is difficult to combat how websites, social networks, etc. have impacted the industry in terms of margin, Barclay has decided to stress his superior level of service. The need for good service is imperative.

To learn more about Barclay Butera, visit his website.

  • 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!

94 – Nina Magon: Houston’s Darling Interior Design Star

Nina Magon: Houston’s Darling Interior Design Star

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Nina Magon, Houston’s Darling Interior Design Star. Nina talks about fashion, TV, building the business, and having a laser focus on her goals.

Get to know Nina Magon from hot Houston, Texas (4:49)

Along with the perfect pair of big earrings, Nina loves marble slab ice cream with strawberries and pretty much anything from Neiman Marcus. The master bedroom is her favorite room in the house because everything is the way she wants it, without compromise!

How did Nina get into interior design? (11:00)

Nina has always been interested in fashion. Upon graduating from Southern Methodist University with a business degree in Economics and Finance, she knew she needed to work in a field that allowed for some creativity.
After launching a high-end lingerie store, she realized that she was more interested in the design of the store than the clothes inside. With this in mind, Nina started working in commercial real estate for her dad. Ultimately, Nina was able to marry her interest of fashion and real estate into a career in interior design.
Nina attended the Art Institute of Houston for two years to take the classes she needed before starting her own firm. She then started hiring teachers from the Institute to work for her for things she didn’t know how to do!

What does Nina’s business look like today? (16:23)

Nina’s design team consists of eight:Nina is the Creative Director and Principal. She leads the initial client meeting and concepts every project. Her supporting staff includes a Senior Project Advisor, Lead Designers, Associate Designers, an Office manager, and interns.
Through nine years of experience and trial and error, Nina and her team have implemented quite a few processes and systems. For instance, on average, each designer is responsible for about three projects every three months. Nina’s business major gives her great perspective from both a functional and financial point of view.
● Being on TV (26:00)
Shortly after her daughter was born in 2011, Nina decided to audition for HGTV’s Design Star. she didn’t make the cut, but ended up on American Dream Builders within the next two years. Nina described the show as “The Apprentice meets Extreme Home Makeover.” Though she was completely intimidated by the talent and experience of her competition, Nina made it to the semi-finals and was able to participate in the finale.
While on the show, her team back home continued to run her business with the help of her husband. Nina recalled all of the design points of view on the show. She learned more in five months around her competition than in the past seven years!

The New Saks Fifth Avenue (36:33)

It only takes one person to believe in you and give you a chance. For Nina, this was Saks Fifth Avenue. Through friends of friends and a series of events, she was able to pitch her design ideas for a 9,000 sq ft restaurant as well as a bar/cafe in the new Saks Fifth Avenue in Houston.
This project took Nina’s career to a new level and allowed her to prove herself in the hospitality sector. At this point in her career, Nina is able to be more selective about projects, which allows her to focus on high-end residential opportunities.

Getting the word out (42:30)

To this point (other than an upcoming Super Bowl ad), Nina hasn’t paid for advertising at all. She uses an in-house PR employee for social media, which pulls in around twelve calls a month, of which three turn into clients.

What’s coming up (45:15)

Nina’s five year plan includes becoming the largest contemporary, eclectic design firm in Texas. Her more short term plan includes securing one hospitality project before the end of the year.
If you would like to connect with Nina, please visit:
● Website: Nina Magon and Contour Interior Design
● Twitter: @NinaMagon
● Instagram: @contourinterior
● Facebook: @CONTOURInterior

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!

84 – Industry: Christopher Guy talks about Starting his Multi-million Dollar Furniture Business

Christopher Guy

Industry: Christopher Guy talks about Starting his Multi-million Dollar Furniture Business

On today’s episode, we listen as the tables (er, mic) get turned and Phyllis interviews Nick. Then Nick interviews industry giant Christopher Guy Harrison, the owner and founder of the Christopher Guy furniture line.  Christopher explains how he started the company, how it grew, what challenges face the industry, and why it is so hard for designers to compete in the furniture business. .

As many listeners know, Nick recently assembled an advisory panel to give him feedback on the podcast. And one topic that kept coming up was Nick’s story. Who is this paint contractor taking the Interior Design industry by storm!?! So without further ado, the scoop on your podcast host…

Nick May gets Interviewed

“It was kind of inbred in me, I guess.  My dad worked for himself and my father-in-law owned a car wash outside of Chicago so I saw that modeled for me. My godfather owned his own business… I’ve just had all these people around me growing up that had their own business so I guess that’s just what I always wanted.”

As for painting, after Nick’s freshman year at the University of South Carolina, he answered an ad to be a manager for a local paint company. He learned a ton that summer and, entrepreneur that he is, decided to spend his next four summers in business for himself.

Every summer when he came home to rev up the painting business again, his dad would remind him that he was going to school so that he wouldn’t have to be a painter for the rest of his life. In many ways, he was right. Later Nick explains that he very rarely does any painting these days. In fact, this year he even transitioned out of the sales and project management. Two of his employees worked their way up and now manage their own territories in Denver. “So now I get to focus my energy on the marketing and big-picture stuff for the business.”

Nick's team painted one of the most iconic homes in the country

Nick’s team painted one of the most iconic homes in the country

Speaking of owning a business, Nick talks about the nitty gritty. He likes to joke that, “As a business owner, I get to work any 80 hours of the week I want!” He’s usually at the computer by 6am, but that also means he can go to the gym at 10am and, despite the long hours, he loves the flexibility. He also loves meeting people, problem solving, and building systems and processes. In fact, he attributes much of his success to the latter. Building good systems means he doesn’t have to micromanage people and that means happier employees and happier customers.

Nick on Owning a Business

Running a business is a risky endeavor and Phyllis probes Nick on what scares him most as a business owner. “I wonder if we won’t be able to fill the schedule. Even during the times when we are busy, I wonder if the phone will stop ringing. What if 2008 happens again?”

He also talks about a fear that he hears from many small business owners that just doesn’t keep him up at night.  “I know some people are afraid of hiring more people, but for me, I actually feel safer as we get bigger because I know that I can reschedule things easier, and more leads are coming in as I have more people out in the field.”

Tell us about an embarrassing Nick May moment: “I was on a job site and asked a new-ish employee if it was his first day and he reminded me that he’d been working for me for 3 weeks and had met me before… Yikes.”

“A more serious one, one that has helped shape me… A long time ago, I decided to expand the business into flooring/light remodel jobs in addition to painting and I took on a business partner to do that. That did not go well. A year and a half in, it wasn’t working out and I had to buy him out. I didn’t do enough legal due diligence so it led to me walking away with $380,000 of personal debt and I almost had to file bankruptcy. Luckily, I was able to turn it around and avoid that. Eventually, we paid off all the loans. So that was a tough lesson to learn, but it taught me a lot about focus. Now we just do painting. And, in fact, we just do Interior painting, nearly entirely residential. On top of that, we don’t do any faux finishing or even staining anymore.”

And now for a few fun questions!

Favorite Podcast memory:  Interviewing Tom Felicia in High PNick and Eric Haydeloint felt a bit surreal. Even though he’s super approachable, I just felt like maybe I wasn’t qualified to be talking to him…And Eric Haydel – He has become a friend now. I originally met him at ADAC in Atlanta and he just got super specific with me in the interview, which is so helpful.
What is the one piece of technology you can’t live without:  I feel like I’m cheating, but I would say my iPhone. I’m constantly in awe of how many tools it has replaced for me. And also just having everything in the cloud, usually in Dropbox or Google Drive, especially since my office manager is in Chicago and the rest of my team is out on projects in Denver. We also use Google spreadsheets for scheduling.

(Phyllis also mentions that Microsoft Onedrive is easy to use if you’re in a Microsoft heavy office.)

What are your favorite podcasts:  Startup—at least the earlier seasons.

Small Business, Big Marketing by Tim Reid in Australia

Super Agents Live—sort of the same format as The Chaise Lounge, but he interviews successful real estate agents. Phyllis also recommends this one.

What is your order at Starbucks:Soy Grande Latte—Either White Chocolate or Vanilla. My family teases me that I like to have a little bit of coffee with my cream and sugar.  [P.S. Phyllis drinks a Grande Latte with Coconut milk if you’re ever looking to bribe her!]

Favorite Vacation spot: Vietnam and Italy. Next on the list is a riverboat tour!   (Phyllis recommends Seabourn cruises).

What music do you listen to:  Country + Top 40—I call my station “Nick’s Mix” on Pandora.   I actually got to meet Darius Rucker back in South Carolina back before he was super famous so I’m a big fan of him.

Christopher GuyChristopher Guy

Christopher grew up in the U.K. and even lived in Spain for a few years of his childhood. Eventually he landed in property and real estate in the U.K., getting into the furniture business quite a bit later—- not until he was about 32. It all began in 1989 when the interest rates in London shot up to 16%, collapsing the market, and eventually Christopher found his way back to Spain. Around that time, a coincidental meeting with a friend who owned a furniture reproduction company got him thinking about manufacturing high-end mirrors.

“I was a bit naïve. That’s the beauty of youth. I thought, four pieces of wood. How complex can it be?” So he set out for Jepara—a coffee village in Indonesia, charmingly described by Lonely Planet as “a dusty little village not worth visiting”—and spent 5 years there, learning everything he could about the trade.

Eventually, with a little bit of luck, traders began to catch on and carry his line. And then much later, in 2007, he expanded the company into a full furniture line and renamed it Christopher Guy.

File Aug 21, 7 04 26 AM

Christopher Guy showroom in Atlanta at AmericasMart 2016.

The Inspiration

Sort of like the early James Bond movies, Christopher wanted his furniture line to make people dream about a different lifestyle. In fact, he designed the line thinking about how Coco Chanel would decorate her home if she were still alive today. “Coco Chanel was both elegant and edgy. And that has become the slogan for the company. Elegance with Edge.”

Growing up in Europe, setting up business in Asia, and distributing his line worldwide has given Christopher unique insight on the differences from one market to another. “In Europe, manufacturing brands think of themselves as fashion houses, whereas in the U.S. they think of themselves as cabinet makers. There’s a difference in the way they market themselves. In Milan, people walk around in stilettos, At Highpoint, people walk around in Nikes. Highpoint is very productive. Milan is all about glamour. Our approach at Chris Guy is that you can’t have one without the other.”
It certainly hasn’t been easy, though. “It becomes a lot more complicated when you start getting into all furniture for sure. When you start getting into upholstery that means importing because the quality of the local supplies in Indonesia won’t do for national standards.” And that means customs and duties and all the challenges that come with that. “It’s much more challenging, but you expand your market.”

Industry Problems to Solve

It’s been so challenging, in fact, that Christopher began building a software platform to streamline the whole process. “The costs for an individual brand to distribute, market, and sell world wide are just prohibitive.  This software will help bridge the gap in the communication between suppliers and distributors. It’s a problem I see all over the world—in each of our showrooms—and nobody else was doing anything about it.”

Another problem that he sees in the industry is the current model that many suppliers are tied to, selling directly to Interior Designers at a discount. This model makes the price points really inaccessible for the end-consumer if they were to shop directly with the supplier. And that means these brands can’t compete with direct to consumer suppliers like Restoration Hardware. And with the uptake in online shopping, not being able to list prices online just isn’t sustainable. “So I think the industry needs a total re-think. What should the discount be for Interior Designers so that the online price for consumers can be lowered?”

You can learn more about Christopher and the Christopher Guy line at ChristopherGuy.com 

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!


74 – Bobby Berk: Millennial Interior Design and product King

Bobby Berk Home

Today on the Chaise Lounge, your host Nick May has the pleasure of continuing his conversation with Bobby Berk, who you may have first heard during our episodes from the 2016 High Point Spring Market.

Bobby Berk: Bobby Berk Home

Nick interviews Bobby from his new office space located in Los Angeles, California. Nick and Bobby look back at the Spring 2016 High Point Market and Bobby discusses what he gained from the market and the kind of marketing and events he participated in, including his involvement with the High Point Authority.

Bobby was raised in the country, surrounded by Amish communities. “When I was 15, I ran away from home, to get out of the little farm town I was in, to move to the ‘big city’ of Springfield, MO.”  It wasn’t long before Bobby found that the small town lifestyle wasn’t for him, which eventually led him to move to New York City in 2003. As a nearly native New Yorker, Bobby shares some advice with Nick as to what to see and do in the City.

“I was that kid where when my parents came home from work and I had rearranged their bedroom, the living room, everything. I’ve always had an interest in it, I remember being 4 or 5 years old and I wanted my room to have a theme!” Bobby talks about how interior design wasn’t even a concept where he grew up, so it wasn’t until he moved out of the small town he grew up in and landed a job in retail at Restoration Hardware that he really understood the possibilities that lay before him in the design world. Bobby talks about his first position with a furniture retailer that actually went bankrupt, but thankfully pushed Bobby to start his own business, by launching www.bobbyberkhome.com, which did really well. That said; he was able to open a showroom in his first store in SOHO New York, and several other big cities over time. “Due to the success of the stores, that also allowed us to start licensing the brand out, and getting it well known and that turned into some gigs on HGTV and NBC and stuff like that. I look back and am shocked that it’s been 10 years and 4 months now that I’ve started the company.”

Bobby and Nick go back and discuss further his first home retail position with Restoration Hardware and how that experience helped him grow his business. “I personally think that we’re in an age where people don’t necessarily like a store that has everything for everybody.” He talks about the change in popularity from large retailers to small curated showrooms. Tune in to hear Bobby’s long history in retail, from clothing, to body products, to furniture. Bobby says of his career growth “I knew I wanted more, I knew I wanted to learn more, I was a career climber, I wanted to make sure that I learned everything I could, because I knew at some point I wanted to work for myself.”

“I gave myself a ten year goal to build the brand, and those last ten years, I worked 7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day, I was gone from my spouse 80-90% of the time, and so I gave myself expiration on that.” Bobby talks about how the past year has included a restructuring in his business, including giving himself a break from the non-stop work to have a better life/work balance. Bobby discusses with Nick about his recent work in research and design for the millennial generation and the press he received for that, “This responsive home project allowed us to really catapult our design business, and because of that we started working with a lot of home builders, we’ve continued doing models out in Las Vegas.” Bobby talks about his work in teaching builders about what millennials want in their homes and communities.

To end the show, Bobby reflects back on the choices he’s made and how his career has truly transformed over the years, including the closing of all 4 of his retail stores to move in a different direction in his career. “I’m honest, I try to be as good of a person as I possibly can and that really is the key to business, at the end of the day I’m fine with getting screwed over a little bit, as long as I’m not the one screwing people over. It’s worked for me, and I’ve really tried to live by that philosophy.”

To learn more about Bobby’s design business, check out www.bobbyberk.design or www.bobbyberkhome.com to shop!

Updates from The Chaise Lounge:

The lounge Advisory Team is fully underway, so if you are interested in providing feedback to Nick about The Chaise Lounge as part of this voluntary group, head over to The Chaise Lounge website to find out more.

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!


26 – Kari Whitman: Hollywood’s Designer

Kari Whitman Interiors

Kari Whitman, Hollywood’s Interior Designer

Today in the lounge we have Hollywood’s most sought-after designer, who works with some of the most sought after celebrities, Kari Whitman. Clients including Jessica Alba, Kristen Bell,Virginia Madsen, Emilio Estevez, Don Henley, Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas have flocked to her firm Kari Whitman Interiors for her trademark eclectic style and knowledge of eco- and pet-friendly design. The elegant and inviting spaces she’s created have been featured inKari whitman and jessica alba In Style, Home and Décor, GENLUX and US Weekly, among others. Her most recent design for royalty was featured on the cover of the Spring 2012 issue of Luxury Home Quarterly.  A noted producer, Kari Whitman hosted and produced her own show Designer to the Stars on the WE Network, was a featured designer on The Dude Room on The Discovery Channel, and is currently developing several new shows about pet-friendly and green design. She has been a special correspondent for Extra and has appeared on E, The Today Show, Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Inside Edition and Hollywood Green. As an actress, Kari Whitman has appeared in over 60 TV shows and films and has worked with Sean Penn, Emilio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Don Johnson, Charlie Sheen, Judd Nelson and Martin Sheen.  So, not to brag, but (cough, cough), I think I’ve done a pretty good job and bringing the heat today.

kari whitman with ace

Kari Whitman, her love for Interior Design

Kari Whitman’s true passion is animals and she is also the founder of Ace of Hearts Dog Rescue . This non-profit organization is dedicated to rescuing dogs from Los Angeles County shelters the day they are scheduled for euthanasia and finding them loving homes—a mission that has saved the lives of over 2,000 dogs in the past ten years. In 2008, Kari Whitman merged her passions—dogs, design and the environment—with Greener Pup (www.greenerpup.com), her original line of eco-friendly dog beds. Designer covers are made from overstock or discontinued fabrics, preventing thousands of yards of material from being discarded.

In our time together, we covered a lot of ground. Kari Whitman shared with me how she transitioned into interior design after college, and after starting a successful modeling and acting career.  We talked about working with some of her celebrity clients like Emilio Estevez and Melanie Griffith.  We talked about a lot of fun topics like art, her love for Boulder, CO, working around the world, and finding the right staff.  However, what was truly fun to talk about was our shared love for dogs and her non-profit Ace of Hearts Dog Rescue.

Learn more about Kari Whitman

Kari Whitman is such a busy designer, and it was an honor to have so much time with her.  To learn more about Kari Whitman, go to her website at KariWhitmanInteriors.com.

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com