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Interior Designer

114 – April Force Pardoe: A Force Within the Interior Design Industry

April Force Pardoe

April Force Pardoe: A Force Within the Interior Design Industry

On this episode of The Lounge, Nick chats with April Force Pardoe of April Force Pardoe Interiors. She shares her experience of starting her own business, how she translates graphic design to interiors, and her support system within the industry.

Getting to know April Force Pardoe

April is calling into The Chaise Lounge from Elkridge, Maryland and is a long time listener of the podcast. April has been running her business for nine years. A few of her favorite things include House Beautiful magazine, a Mac over a PC, and a Cape Cod vacation. She also enjoys a gin and tonic and a good Netflix binge.

How did April get into design?

April received her Master of Arts in Publication Design with a focus in graphic arts and design. She has always been creative and good with color. April started working in event planning where she gained experience in logistics and coordinating using 3D structural layouts.

Eventually, the event planning schedule was too much with young children, and April decided to get into interior design and start her own business.

April has not had any formal education in interior design but is always looking for webinars and seminars. It took her about six months to launch her business. Her intuition, graphic design, and logistics experience have served her well, even down to the fine details.

How does April find clients?

April has only advertised once (in a mom’s club newsletter), and she got one client from it. She also took a design class on how to approach the design of a room. April asked a friend to be her guinea pig and her friend has been an advocate ever since.

April also has a touch base program internally where she schedules phone calls, mailings, and cards to stay top of mind with current and past customers. She also writes a newsletter and blog, manages her social media accounts, and creates video content.

What’s April’s business like today?

In the past, accounting has been April’s least favorite part of the business, but now she has a person to help with that. April mentions that having the right people to help is wonderful. She likes being able to take a vacation and unplug. April is still learning to delegate more and the art of doing it well. On the other hand, April geeks out on the data behind her business. On a quarterly basis, April reviews her business and time spent on certain tasks and strategies on how to become more profitable.

April attends High Point in the spring and networks with a group of designer friends every other month. This is a great and supportive group that shares resources, contractors, challenges, and more.

April has been consistently busy for the most part but has experienced a slow spring. She decided not to get down or worried, but rather reached out to past customers, visited them, and even sought out speaking engagements. April recommends to keep putting yourself out there no matter what.

Learn more at April’s website, Instagram, Facebook, or email.

  • 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

99 – Jarret Yoshida: A Philanthropic Interior Designer

Interior Design Jarret Yoshida

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Jarret Yoshida, a philanthropic interior designer. Jarret talks about breaking into the design industry, running his own business, and his passion for working with charities.

Get to know Jarret Yoshida 

Currently living in Brooklyn, NY, Jarret has also lived in Washington DC, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and was born and raised in Hawaii. He has loved living in each of these locations for different and unique reasons including the culture, climate, and community. Similarly, Jarret’s favorite vacation spot is Florence, Italy for the beauty of the architecture and design. He and his partner are currently renovating the parlor of their 120+ year old brownstone and are excited to continue the legacy of this historic home.

How did Jarret get into interior design? 

At just seven years old, visiting a family friend, Jarret first remembers being concerned with his surroundings, specifically considering whether cinder block or lava rock would be a better option. Jarret has no formal interior design education, but does possess a double undergrad in East Asian Studies and International Relations, both of which have helped in his design business.

After school Jarret started working in political fundraising. He soon started supplementing his day job with design studies in Paris as well as the Fashion Institute of Technology and Parsons. He let his donors know of his design interest and got his first job as a Design Assistant through one of these connections. Jarret mentioned that it can take some time to find someone to give you a shot, but recommended being persistent. Within two months of this role, Jarret was thrown into the role of Project Manager and eventually encouraged by a client to start his own firm.

What does Jarret’s business look like today? 

Today, Jarret employs three full time and seven part time associates. And with one associate now in school at FIT, he is seeking a design assistant with a positive attitude and ability to multi-task. Almost all of the firm’s work is residential in Hawaii and New York. With Jarret’s educational background, he is able to source from all over the world for unique items and great pricing. He touches every project.

Challenges in running an interior design business 

Jarret said that the hardest part about running the business is the actual operations: how to invoice, collect money, get paid in full, etc. Without a business background, he has lost more money than he wants to admit, but is learning from it. Jarret is willing to share any mistakes to help others learn. He wants to leave something for someone else to build on. Jarret said that no interior designer can be responsible for a client’s happiness, but they are responsible for delivering on a project.

Charging what you are worth 

Jarret charges the standard rate for his peer group in New York. The market is changing based on information availability online. When there is a pressure to lower rates, the relationship usually never works out. Jarret uses a hybrid model including an hourly rate during the design phase and a fixed model for the rest of the project called Net + 30. Net + 30 means that the Interior Designer charges their net price on an item plus thirty percent of that cost as an administrative fee.

What Jarret loves about owning the business 

In running his own business, Jarret loves being in charge of his own path and steering his own ship. He enjoys learning about himself as a person and a business owner. As the firm rises and falls, so does his self worth and awareness of strengths and weaknesses. Jarret has been able to improve his work-life balance to be more available for his partner, and like Nick, enjoys an afternoon trip to the gym.

Getting the phone to ring 

Jarret works with Kendall at Kennedy Rowe PR, who helps him focus on marketing and networking. In addition, he shared his passion for and interest in non-profits. Jarret is involved with Womankind, The Dream Foundation, Brooklyn Animal Action, and

The American Cancer Society. Not only has this involvement been good for Jarret’s soul, but has also taught him leadership skills and has led to referrals from fellow board members.

To learn more about Jarret, please visit JarretYoshida.com.

Side note…

So after talking with Jarret, while looking over his website, I realized that he worked for one of my favorites!  Daniel Craig!  Yes, Jarret worked for 007 and lived to tell the tail.  While I try not to get too hung up with names and client lists, this one stood out, so I thought I would share.  Click on the image below, and it will take you to Jarret’s portfolio to see more images.

Interior design by Jarret Yoshida

Chaise Lounge Updates

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!

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!

97 – Alan Tanksley: New York Interior Desinger

Alan Tanksley: New York Interior Designer

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Alan Tanksley, a New York Interior Designer. Alan talks about his killer NYC view, building his business, and the value he sees in PR.

Get to know Alan Tanksley from NYC

Alan Tanksley is dialing in from his desk in New York City, which overlooks Madison Square Park. His favorite room in his house is his bedroom, where he begins and ends his day. Alan also enjoys a meal at his favorite restaurant, The Clock Tower Restaurant. When asked about beer, wine, or a cocktail, Alan responded with, ‘Yes!” as he is a fan of them all: the perfect Manhattan, New Zealand Cabernets, and IPAs. And if he wasn’t an interior designer, Alan thought he may be involved in historic preservation.

How did Alan get into interior design?

Alan grew up in a family with no connection to interior design. He thought he may be an architect, but was weeded out of the program at Arizona State. He then discovered interior architecture, which was perfectly suited for him. After bouncing from Arizona, to San Francisco, Alan eventually ended up in New York where Albert Hadley gave him a shot.

Having Hadley on his resume, led to a position with Mark Hampton. Alan recalled how Mark was a great educator, teaching about the context of design as well as scale and proportion. This combination of school and real life experience is key. Alan mentioned the importance of being nimble and coming up with solutions. These skills are invaluable. Anyone in the service business is a problem solver.

What does Alan’s business look like today?

Today, Alan Tanksley Inc is made up of six employees, which include senior designers, assistant designers, and a business manager. The office is located in New York City in a 19th-century building with a great view of The Flatiron Building. Photos of the office can be found on Alan’s website.

Alan and his team have projects both in NYC and abroad. He mentioned that word of mouth is the ideal business building method. Good clients refer like-minded people. Among other projects, Alan is currently working on high-end residences in the Woolworth building and furniture with Plexicraft.

In discussing his business, Alan mentioned one of the hardest things is keeping all of the balls in the air and switching from one conversation to the next. He is always working to find the balance between stuff that’s not fun and the actual design. Rather than using new apps and technology, Alan attributed much of his organization to the good old Rolodex.

Getting the word out

Alan mentioned that as a business owner, you need to do everything you can to bring in business, like asking for referrals and socializing in the world you want to work for. At this point in his career, Alan’s reputation opens doors. He has also invested in Andrew Joseph PR, and recommends other designers invest in a public relations partner as well. It’s about more than getting photos in magazines but also learning from others on panels and speaking engagements. These types of events help build momentum for the business.

Preparing for the next downturn

Many designers struggled through the last economic downturn, and we could experience the same thing again in the future on a smaller or larger scale. Alan is generating a cushion now to help prevent any tough times in the future. He is whittling down business debt and making sure his credit is in order to have money for a rainy day. He also recommends partnering with a bank to understand your options.

Learn more

To learn more about Alan and his team, please visit Alantanksley.com. He isalso active on Facebook and Instagram. Alan was able to contribute to a recently released book, Interior Design Master Class.

  • Wrap Up

Please click here if you would like to see Benjamin Moore’s upcoming events that Nick mentioned in the beginning of the episode.

And see Nick in real life at the International Association of Home Staging Professionals’ Expo coming up in February and the Design Bloggers Conference in March!

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!

93 – Host of the new show Your, Mine, or Ours, Taylor Spellman

Taylor Spellman New York Interior Designer

Host of the new show Your, Mine, or Ours, Taylor Spellman

Today in the lounge I have an amazing interior designer and home stager, Taylor Spellman from New York, that has just launched a television show on Bravo called Yours, Mine, or Ours.

Get to know Taylor Spellman from New York (4:06)Taylor Spellman

Taylor is currently in SoHo. She loves a heavy-bodied red wine, her bedroom because sleep is scarce, and her family’s annual tradition of vacationing to Rhode Island.

How did Taylor get into interior design? (10:10)

Taylor has not had any formal training or education within the interior design field, but rather attended Fordham University for dance. She then moved to New York to continue dancing, but soon realized a disconnect between the lifestyles of the people around her – great jobs, nice restaurants, a tasteful wardrobe, but they go home to a nightmare apartment and drink wine out of plastic cups!

She turned this observation into a business that took off. She catered her interior design business to single men to start, but in time women and families showed interest. Taylor fondly remembers her first client, Sal, from nine years ago, who showed proof of concept for what some thought was a far-fetched idea.

What does Taylor’s business look like today? (14:30)

While the bachelor focus was a great launch-pad and competitive advantage, the business has been rebranded as Taylor Spellman New York. Taylor’s seven person firm focuses on high-end residential design as well as staging too.

Taylor saw staging as an opportunity due to lack of competition in the market, with just one other prominent company. Like interior design, the is a self-trained stager. She had the opportunity to stage one of Ryan Serhant’s listings,which had been on the market for years. After Taylor’s staging, there was a bidding war and now she works with Ryan regularly.

Being on TV (19:15)

Taylor’s show Yours, Mine, or Ours launched this week. It’s a 10 episode series that’s both funny and kind. In each episode Taylor and Reza Farahan (from Shahs of Sunset) meet with a couple who each have their own homes. Taylor resolves the design issues in their current homes, while Reza shows the couple two new homes. In the end, the couple must choose between these four options.


The Taylor Touch (25:16)

As Taylor’s company grows, she has had to be lessTaylor Spellman Interior hands on, which she mentioned is good, but challenging. She is learning to delegate and oversee. Taylor is still involved with initial meetings and consultations, but then hands projects off to her team for execution. She is able to keep things moving forward, and then provide some finishing touches – The Taylor Touch.

Taylor also mentioned that she is present on all home staging projects. Her goal is to maximize the price per square foot, not just provide a beige couch and a taupe rug. She wants to make everyone feel at home instantly.

How did Taylor learn to do this if she didn’t go to school? (32:00)

Taylor Spellman has always loved interior design. She decided to do what she thought was right for her and make it work. To some degree, it is innate and instinctual. In the beginning she received feedback about not having a portfolio, education, or ASID behind her name, but didn’t let that stop her.

As of Monday, Taylor got what she wanted. Her company is up and running. She is helping others turn their home into the sacred space they need. And her TV show is launching. She is sleeping better than ever, until the next challenge arises!

Business and beyond (37:02)

It has taken Taylor ten years to get to this point. She now feels comfortable taking interviews. She has her point of view on design. In order to get her business to this point, Taylor has had to put processes in place and make the company scalable. She is moving into the lifestyle market with flower arrangements and table scapes and hopes to be the next modern day Martha Stewart!

If you would like to connect with Taylor Spellman, please visit taylorspellman.com and check out Yours, Mine, or Ours Monday nights on Bravo at 10/9C

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!


91 – From Unemployment to HGTV…Corey Damen Jenkins Interior Design Star

Click on the image for more info!


Corey Damen Jenkins: HGTV- Interior Design Star

Today in The Lounge, Nick chats with Corey Damen Jenkins, head of Corey Damen Jenkins & Associates. Corey chats with Nick about the various chapters in his career: unemployment, his instant fame on HGTV and running his successful design business.

Getting to know Corey

Born and raised in Michigan, Corey enjoys vacating at the Hamptons, envisioning memories of his hometown with its rural architecture, beautiful weather and a cocktail in hand by the water. Born with a design DNA, he was raised in a household with design trends and renovation. Corey still remembers his childhood memory of undoing screws and bolts of chairs at the dinner table, which piqued his design interest. At 19, he pursued an education in Interior Design and moved to New York City, while interning at a construction company in Brooklyn that refurbished historic buildings.

A rocky road

Upon graduation, Corey accepted a purchasing position in the automotive industry in Michigan for job security, per his father’s advice. Even though his interest was in design, he had a steady job and a great lifestyle for over 10 years. Unfortunately, during the recession of 2006-2007, he faced his first layoff.

Corey took advantage of the opportunity and chose the path back to design. Even though he was overqualified for the jobs, Corey humbly worked on menial tasks at Robert Allen and Becon Hill at the Michigan design center, where he was laid off a second time. Alas, he was back where he started at the unemployment line.

After the emotional rollercoaster rides, he took charge of his destiny by opening his design business in 2009 in an unstable economy — a time where other design businesses were shutting down their doors. In a very stressful time period, Corey continued to collect unemployment checks while building his own clientele. He landed his big break and first client through a referral from the design center. Shortly after the completion of his first project, launching his professional website and photographing his project, he was cast on HGTV. He competed and won in the design star competition Showhouse Showdown.

Corey gets his big break

After winning HGTV, Corey was lucky enough to be selective with his design projects and business. He was able to utilize his true talent, by mirroring his and the client’s vision together to create versatile, one of a kind projects. He credits his success to HGTV, publications on House Beautiful, Wall Street Journal, Traditional homes and referrals for his fast growing clientele.

Today he has a small team of 8 employees: a visualization specialist, accountant, social media director, several design specialists, and a media/publication team. This year at High Point Market Corey launched a spring furniture collection in collaboration with Leathercraft.  In the near future, he is working towards expanding his business by opening a satellite office in New York City.

His advice to other designers: be humble, be nice, don’t micromanage and keep your head close to the ground so that you won’t have too far to fall. Here’s hoping to see more on Corey’s success on Veranda, Elle Décor or the next HGTV show.

Learn more about Corey Damen Jenkins at

Find Corey on Instagram/Facebook/Pinterest; coreydamenjenkins and Twitter @coreyDjenkins

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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!

Building an Interior Design Firm Bigger than ONE

Building an Interior Design Firm Bigger than ONE

Talking to so many interior designers allows me to see a wide variety of models on how to build an interior design firm — and when I say firm, I mean team.

If you are a solopreneur, I don’t say this to talk down to you, but simply to clarify what it is that I am talking about: I always think of a “firm” as being a group of people — and if you are a solopreneur, you are simply an interior designer. Instead of giving tips on selling a one-man-band, I’ll be discussing the countless ways that a team of competent and creative folks can leverage growth and break the old mold you’ve established.

Marc-Michaels Interior Design

None of my interviews have illustrated the importance of building a team more than my interview from this week with Marc Thee of Marc-Michaels Interior Design. Marc talked about how he builds his team, how he lets them fail and learn, and how he gives them the freedom to make mistakes. Marc knows a thing or two about building a team, as he has a team of over 30 and has had as many as 70. He loves to work in a team environment, sharing ideas and collaborating. Building a team also allows you to have experts in certain areas of your business. From day one, Marc has had a partner that handles most of the financial aspects of the business, freeing Marc up to focus on customers and design. It has been my experience that in order to grow, you have to be able to focus — so bringing on a fantastic team member is the best way to get started.

My Experience

Over the last 17 years I’ve been trying to grow my painting business, Walls by Design. I was looking over my financials for the last few years, and I noticed a huge shift. From 2013 to 2015, my business sat at about $630k in sales.  I had hit a ceiling. While I had moved myself out of production (painting and day to day, on-site work), I was still the key person for sales and project management. While I was a good salesperson, I was not a great project manager. I was disorganized and easily distracted.

Last year I decided to make a shift: I knew I needed to get out of this part of the business. So I put a plan together to move one of my painters, Casey — who had started with me from the bottom as a prep painter and had moved up into my top lead painter positions — into a sales and project management role. I gave him the north part of Denver and I kept the south end, where the business started. Within one week, I knew it was a great decision because my office got a call about Casey and how fantastic he was. Two months later, I moved Aaron, another long-time painter, into the south part of town, and I became the sales manager. While we have had a few bumps in the road, Aaron too has turned out to be amazing.

Now, we are on schedule to do between $1.2M and $1.3M — which is double my glass ceiling for the previous 3 years. The lesson learned? I was getting in the way of growth. Sure, I was working hard, but I was not doing what I do best and I could not juggle all the balls that needed juggling to go to the next level.

Now I spend about 80% of my time marketing and managing the overall growth of the business. I still have a role in hiring and training, but we only need to hire one person per month to keep up with our growth, and the time it takes is less than 10 hours per month.

Building the Team

Time and time again, I speak to successful interior designers about how they hired their first employee, how they built their interior design firm, and what it Rolexmeans for them as the lead designer. However, far too often I speak with designers that are afraid of hiring staff or designers, for fear that the employees will turn around and steal their clients and their business. Do you want to know the secret?  The secret is: You need to build an organization that is bigger than the individuals. A Rolex is just a combination of metal and crystal. But put the pieces together, and it is a Rolex, worth way more that the individual components! When you do that, you will have people begging to come work for you. You won’t keep them all, and some will even go off and start their own interior design business, but that is OKAY! If you invest into them, build them up, manage them well, you will earn their respect, and they will help you build your organization first.

Your First Hire

Everything has to start somewhere. So if you are working by yourself, and you are overloaded with work, you need help.  Your first hire should be someone to help you with administrative tasks. This is a position you can pay $12 to $15 per hour, but it can start as a part-time position. Lots of people think they want to start with an intern or a junior designer, but I think that is a big mistake. You need help doing the things you are not great at, and that is going to be organizing your office. Believe me, I know, I have worked with lots of interior designers, and this is where most of them do a terrible job. This allows you to keep design control and continue doing what you love. You should stick with this one person until you and they are almost maxed out. Don’t max out, because that will cause too much stress, but stay lean and keep in mind the slow seasons of the year. In the residential market, that will usually hit mid-summer (unless you are just swamped with projects) and just after the holidays.

Your Second Hireintern

Your second hire needs to be someone that can help you build your pipeline, and someone to help you with marketing. This too can start as a part-time position, but this IS someone (I think) that can be an intern. The interns are going to know more about social media than you and me combined, so let’s leverage that knowledge. You will need someone that can help with customer communication, social media and website content, PR opportunities, and any other marketing programs you want to initiate. I cannot stress how important this person is to building a business.

Your Third Hire

Now it is time to go find that intern designer or junior designer. Now that you have the right people on the team to handle the volume, you’ll need someone that can help you in the field to  carry out your vision and work with clients.  What do you look for? That’s a hard question. It will depend on you and the direction to take your firm, but here are some things to consider:

  • Will they do more design work or more project management?
  • Do you want them to work directly with customers or with you?
  • Will they work directly with you daily or be more autonomous?
  • What exactly do you want them to do?
  • How much time can you devote to training them on a weekly basis?
  • What do you want them to grow into for your organization?

Many times small business owners, no matter what the type of company, only hire to get a warm body. You want to hire someone that will represent you and help build your brand. This takes planning and training. Starbucks doesn’t just hire someone and say “Go ring up a customer” or “Go make lattes”. They have a complete hiring system and training program.

Make your own system and program. This can start basic: as fast as you can, write down a plan and a process for hiring and training. Leave nothing to chance.

  • How will they dress?
  • How will they interact with the clients?
  • What hours will they work?
  • What is your process for working with a client (what do you do when)?
  • How will they know if they are being successful?
  • How long is the trial period?

After you have gotten to three on the team, everything changes. Now you are a manager of people. You will need to plan time for team building, meetings, and communication. In my next blog, I’ll talk about hiring and the process I use to hire my team. It will be different than what you will do, but the principles are worth sharing.


If you want to connect with Nick May and The Chaise Lounge, please do so on our website at TheChaiseLounge.com where we talk the business of interior design.