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S23 E21 – Nick at the International Association of Home Staging Professionals Conference Part 2

Today’s episode of the Chaise Lounge is the conclusion of Nick’s adventures in Nashville at the International Association of Home Staging Professionals Conference. In this batch of interviews, Nick talks to Melissa Marro of Rave Home Staging and Redesign, a home staging business that teaches other people how to get into staging themselves and Blair Hamaty, owner of Massachusetts-based staging firm Setting the Space.

S22 E9 – Going Big and Getting Bigger with Jimmy DeLaurentis

Welcome! Today in The Lounge, Nick sits down with Jimmy DeLaurentis of Jimmy DeLaurentis, a Philadelphia native with an Italian heritage. He has a big spot in his heart for his family, his dogs, and loves to go big or go home. Even when he goes big with his projects, he’s always looking to go bigger in the future. Jimmy not only envisions a sleek space for interior design but creates his own furniture for not only people but their four-legged companions as well.

115 – Jason Harris and The Design Network

Jason Harris and The Design Network

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Jason Harris of The Design Network. He shares his experience of starting a brand new TV network, working in the furniture industry, and his thoughts on the future of the design industry.

Getting to know Jason Harris

Jason Harris is calling from High Point, NC, the furniture capital of the world, Furnitureland South. Jason is married with 5 children. He was able to merge his passion for technology and business with his family’s company in the design industry.

While Jason jokingly mentions that he is not that talented in any one thing, he does state that his talent is discerning the skills and abilities in others. He is forward thinking and likes connecting the dots. Jason also enjoys reading the news, a vodka tonic with orange, and he can’t go anywhere without his phone.

How did Jason get into the furniture industry?

Jason’s dad started in Furnitureland South in 1968. He found a small office, leased the space, and when his business partner backed out at the last minute, he didn’t give up. Through connections and handshake deals, he received credit to get the business off of the ground. From humble beginnings, Jason’s dad grew the business to over $3 billion in sales for all time.

As the company transitioned to new leadership, Jason took on sales and marketing and his brother, Jeff, focused on operations. More recently, Jason has stepped back as he has ventured into establishing The Design Network.

Where did the idea for The Design Network come from?

Coming out of a bad economy, Jason had heard many in the design industry focus on issues with supply chain and sourcing. He realized that these businesses were leaving the audience out of the equation. In general, the brands were not making connections with the end consumers. Even on HGTV, at the time, there was more of a focus on real estate rather than being able to identify brands and products to serve needs.

That’s when he developed the concept for The Design Network. No one was curating or developing quality content in the design space and Jason wanted to fill this gap. Everyone thought he was crazy for starting a television network, but rather Jason was thinking about what was next for consumers and the future of TV, which is apps. Jason wants more than one way to push communication. He wants people to interact with it to make it easier to discover ideas, find a designer, plan and shop.

How did Jason start a TV network?

Similar to his father, Jason decided to bootstrap and grow incrementally by developing a website, then procuring content. He was able to look for designers with production capabilities and put the creation in their hands. Over time, Jason and his team have learned about when and where to make videos available, how to promote on social media, and even how to cater the content to different platforms, more specifically shorter, snackable videos centered around decorating and design.

Right now, Jason is receiving lots of pitches for new shows. While it is fun to have these conversations, the team has limited bandwidth. In the next iteration, The Design Network will allow designers to upload their own content and will allow viewers to buy products while watching. This strategy allows Jason to build credibility over time and bring in new talent. Jason’s overall vision is to build the world’s best community of interior designers.

If you are interested in joining The Design Network, signing up is free! You will need to fill out the application online and provide your resale certificate and W9. Your online presence is also considered. You will be able to gain exposure as a designer as well as earn commissions.

Learn more at TheDesignNetwork.com

  • 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!


80 – Atlanta Market Show 4

For the fourth and final installment of the Atlanta International Home Furnishings and Gifts Market series, your Host, Nick May, brings you another set of fantastic designers, retailers and manufacturers to help you learn how to grow your interior design business. We’d like to thank all of the attendees of the market who took the time to sit down with The Chaise Lounge to share their expertise!

Dale Carithers

Nick met Dale at this year’s market, she is actually a student studying Interior Designer right now, and an intern with the Atlanta Market this year. Interior Design is an encore career for Dale, “I’ve always loved Interior Design but I’ve always been scared of my talent. I knew I was good, but I was scared of it. My husband and I had a foreclosure business, and when the economy started getting better I had to find something to do, so I started pedaling around with software on my own, and when I finally saw what I could do on paper, it just amazed me the creativity that was there.” Nick and Dale discuss why she felt it was necessary to get an education in design. Dale describes all of the activities she participates in to network, volunteer and make connections, “I’m trying to get to the point where when you see me, I don’t have to introduce myself.” Tune in to hear Dale’s advice to students or those who are just starting out.

Cody Ables: Codarus

Nick asks, what is Codarus? “We are a sales management organization, so we manage a group of brands across the country. we have Sales Reps, Territory Managers that are on the road selling the brands that we represent to retailers and interior designers.” Nick and Cody discuss the broad range of items that they carry,” says Cody. Nick asks Cody how their company interacts with their customers on a day to day basis. “Our brands are pretty well known, and that’s a good thing for us, because we get a lot of people that are calling us, wanting to see us.” Cody speaks about the benefits of attending markets like this one in Atlanta. Be sure to check out a new line that Codarus will be debuting at the High Point Market next year, as well as a new showroom in Dallas and Las Vegas. To learn more about Codarus visit their website at www.codarus.com.

Steve McKenzie: McKenzie Interior Design

Another of the selected designers of the Vignette Gallery, Steve of McKenzie Interior Design joins Nick to talk about his work in the gallery. “The Mart looked for businesses in the Southeast that did both design and retail, and we happen to be one of those. I was thrilled to be asked to do the Vignette!” Steve describes his appreciation of being made to select all of the materials and furniture for his Vignette from the Mart, as it opened his eyes to new brands that he otherwise may not have discovered. Listen in to hear how Steve actually took one of his textile designs and turned it into a wallpaper that he used in his space, which is an idea that’s been on his back burner for a while. Nick and Steve talk about how Steve spends his time at the market, tune in to hear more and to see some of Steve’s work firsthand visit www.mckenzieinteriordesign.com.

Steve Lowsky: Castelle

“Castelle is a 40-year old family business, we make luxury outdoor furnishings, we are a custom made shop, we are highly designer oriented.” This is the very first year that Castelle has been featured at the Atlanta Market, “We’re in AmericasMart because it’s the right venue for our product line and we have historically shown in many markets around the country but this is a new market for us.” Castelle works with a variety of sales channels, but the Castelle brand is made exclusively for the design trade, due to the fact that it is highly customizable with a fast turnaround. Castelle carries more than 25 collections, with 20 different frame finishes and between 80-90 fabric choices. Steve talks about their new modern lines that are represented in over 10 of their current collections. Listen in to hear what else Castelle has coming up!

Patricia McLean: Patricia McLean Interiors

Patricia starts of talking about how excited she is with the new antiques floor at this year’s Mart, “I include antiques all the time in my design!” Patricia and Nick talk about what amazing items she’s found at the Market this year. Patricia has been in business since 1985, of her background she states, “I grew up in a family that designed and built houses and had beautiful furnishings all the time, I grew up in part in High Point, North Carolina, which is a good background for design.” Patricia talks about her education in design, and the business aspects she learned there as well. Of her firm today, “I’m very blessed, as my business grew, people came to me for my look, using antiques and beautiful textiles.” Patricia describes her work in show houses, and how she grew professionally through that process and her growing business and team with Nick. Patricia has recently started an organization that connects alumni’s and students at her alma matter. Her advice for students, “The basis is hard work, and you have to have your dreams and you have to have your drive, and you have to set goals for yourself. And then also listen to your mentors, it’s very important to give back for me.” To learn more about Patricia and her work visit her website at www.mcleaninteriors.com.

Christopher Thorpe: Eleanor Rigby Leather

“We are a boutique leather upholstery company based in San Diego, and we have a custom 35,000 square foot factory. We founded the company with the idea that we would like to try to address the niche of the better end retail market and interior designers, the whole idea behind the company was to try to do some different things with leather, do some artisanal work, other than just the standard run of the mill leather looks,” Christopher says of the company. A very customizable product, Nick and Christopher talk about the importance of custom pieces in designer’s work and how he works with the designer when they ask for a very specific shape and size and texture of the piece.  Connect with Christopher over at eleanorrigbyleather.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 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!

78 – Atlanta Market Show 2

AmericasMart show 2

On today’s episode, we have the second installment of our series from the AmericasMart Home Furnishings and Gift Market in Atlanta, Georgia. Nick May will be interviewing a handful of designers and retailers that are featured at the Market. (Note: the episode intro includes an interview with Josue Franco; this interview will actually be a part of the third installment of this series.)

Julia Buckingham: Buckingham Interiors & Design

Nick and Julia open the interview talking about Julia’s role on a Julia Buckinghampanel for marketing and licensing. “I’ve been doing licensing for two years, and it was my very first foray into licensing with a fantastic mega company called Global Views, a world leader in home accessories, they are everywhere!” Julia’s background in design started in Chicago, where she started as an interior designer. “I was originally in fashion and worked for Neiman Marcus on Michigan Avenue, I’ve studied Fashion Merchandising at the University of Arizona before moving back to Chicago. My mother was always an antique-er, and now I’ve turned into that mom as well, and that gathering of antiques has turned into my business.” After retailing these pieces from her collection of antiques, Julia’s career turned toward interior design. Be sure to keep following the Chaise Lounge because we will definitely be having Julia back in the lounge for a more in-depth interview in the future, in the meantime learn more about her firm by visiting www.buckinghamid.com.

John Ishmael & Susan Victor: Nandina Home & Design

Nandina Home at AmericasMartJohn and Susan of Nandina Home & Design is another team of designers that were chosen to create a vignette in the vignette gallery at the Market. “It’s exciting because it’s actually the first time that John and I have gotten to work together on a design project! We were asked to create a vignette about six months ago, our thought process was ‘we both are designers and we do design constantly,’ and one of the things we are asked to do is this room in people’s homes that is the multi-functional room, and it needs to look fantastic, so that’s what we based our vignette around. The pair speaks about their opposing design aesthetics, and how they merged them together to create a cohesive look. Nick asked where they started with the design, and if it was difficult to select items only from the market. “We see so much and we are creators so our creative juices get flowing and we think ‘oh my gosh,’ and we were way outside the box initially and then we brought it down to what we could actually get done!” says Susan. Nick talks with the team about their unique set-up, John and Susan are actually brother and sister, they started with a retail storefront that turned into a full-fledged design business. John says, “Our work in the store is an extension of us, so what we try to create is an environment that will display a feeling.” Susan shares with Nick all of the things she has to do at market, the events and also the shopping, tune in to hear tips from the team on how to approach such a large event with so much merchandise. To learn more about Nandina Home & Design, visit their website at www.nandinahome.com and follow them on Instagram @nandinahome.

Julianne Taylor: Taylor Burke Home

“My background is in interior design, I went to the University of Georgia, I’m formally trained as an interior designer, I also have a background in business, and when I decided to get married my JULIANNE-TAYLOR of Taylor Burke Homehusband and I moved overseas, and I did a lot of work for ex-pats like me!” Julianne shares her background with Nick, and how her business grew by word of mouth during her time spent living in many different countries. She discusses how she had to create custom pieces that reflected western aesthetic where those types of pieces weren’t readily available. This led Julianne to really appreciate the process of creating furniture and eventually led her to Taylor Burke Home. The design studio and customer service is based out of North Carolina, and the majority of her products are manufactured in the southeast United States. Julianne advises on the importance of being a part of markets, whether it’s High Point, AmericasMart or Vegas. “We’re excited to be back here, we want to get back in front of our customers again and show them what’s new and meet them and talk to them about what they are seeing in the marketplace. We can then take that feedback and create things based on what the customers have said.” To learn more about Julianne and her work visit www.taylorburkehome.com and all social media channels!

Michel Boyd: Branding & Licensing

Michel Boyd speaking at AmericasMart on Branding Michel was on a panel at AmericasMart on branding and licensing. Michel speaks with Nick about his product lines and the licensing deals he’s made in the past. Of his background Michel says, “I was a fashion junkie and that brought me to New York,” after a visit to a design center he was immediately intrigued by the interiors world. While originally interested in Architecture, Michel decided to follow a path in fashion, but ultimately decided on interior design, which he describes as the perfect merger between those two worlds, with the hard lines and the soft lines. After his education, Michel went straight into working for himself, which he describes now as arrogant and uninformed, however, he talks about how the mistakes he’s made has made him a stronger designer now. Of the biggest things he had to learn, Michel talks about balancing a budget and professional practice, specifically how to deliver bad news to clients. “The most important thing has become, the right team.” Find Michel on Instagram or visit his website at www.michelsmithboyd.com to learn 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 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!