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S23 E18 – Networking and Design Tradition with Keia McSwain

On the first Chaise Lounge of October, Keia McSwain joins Nick in the studio. McSwain is the president of the Black Interior Designers Network and principal of Kimberly + Cameron Interiors

Both of these roles are responsibilities she took up after her boss and mentor Kimberly Ward died of cancer in August 2017. Today, McSwain designs and manages projects all over the country with Kimberly + Cameron and works to build an expanding network of black members of the design community to pool and share resources.

The Black Interior Designers Network currently holds one conference per year but may expand to more as the network grows. Be on the look out for events and news at the organization’s news page and on its Instagram @blackinteriordesignersnetwork.

For Keia McSwain’s designs, follow the firm’s Instagram @kimberlycameroninteriors.

"The man that knows everything knows that he knows nothing"

Keia McSwain on Socratic ingnorance Tweet

Chaise Lounge Updates

We’ll be covering Fall High Point Market 2019! Stay in the loop on our Instagram and Facebook pages and keep an eye our for our upcoming market events!

Our new podcast Coast to Coast Design is live! Give it a listen to learn about just how many ways there are to run a design business.



Upcoming Markets

High Point Market – Oct. 19-23 2019

BDNY – Nov. 10-11, 2019

Wrap Up

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app! We’d love it if you post a review, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. Also, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. With that said, keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business. See ya!

96 – Industry: Interior Design PR and joining getting involved in an Association

Interior Design PR and joining getting involved in an Association

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Andrew Joseph from Andrew Joseph PR, and Phyllis Harbinger jumps in with some tips on getting involved with American Society of Interior Designers (ASID).

Getting to know Andrew Joseph from New York (3:55)

Located in New York, Andrew Joseph starts his days around 4am. This ensures he is able to properly service his clients around the world. Andrew also admitted that starting his day so early allows him to indulge in mid-day naps.Few people know that Andrew came from humble beginnings in a small farm community in Oklahoma. If he wasn’t working in public relations, he would likely be a farmer like his sister’s family.

How did Andrew get into public relations? (9:00)

Andrew moved to New York 17 years ago and landed his first job as a  research assistant at Vanity Fair, before moving on to other publications. In these positions, he noticed a great deal of turnover and realized this profession was not right for him. However, while in these jobs, Andrew was able to interact with the public relations departments and fell in love.

Andrew moved on from fashion and found a firm that exclusively represented architects, interior designers, and luxury home furnishings. He mentioned that fashion is ephemeral and moves fast, where interior designif focused on the home that sustains and supports your soul.

What does Andrew’s business look like today? (12:31)

Currently, Andrew Joseph PR employs four individuals full time and additional interns from all walks of life. The team services 15 clients and is on a growth curve. Andrew and his team fulfill about 50% of their clients’ pipelines with traditional public and media relations opportunities including print publications, speaking gigs, etc. However, based on compiling the average number of print opportunities, the team was able to see the limited inventory available, which led to a greater understanding of what they can offer. Andrew Joseph PR is not only a creative resource for magazines, but also provides more non-traditional opportunities for its clients, including social media, blogs, and podcasts.

Andrew really looks to make sure potential clients are the right fit and has even turned clients down. He stated that his company delivers on agreed upon goals and objectives, not just bringing in new business. A few words of wisdom from Andrew include – This is a visual industry. You need a good website, images, branding, and to document your work over time.

If you would like to connect with Andrew:

Associations with Phyllis Harbinger (40:19)

Phyllis has been a member of ASID since 1990, when she joined as a student. She mentioned that serving in associations like ASID, IIDA, NKBA, etc. provide leadership opportunities  and allow you to hone your skills in dealing with all kinds of personalities.

Phyllis was asked to run for president, turned it down, and then later realized that she was interested in the opportunity. She was able to serve as president and now is a chair on the chapter support team at national level where she supports and councils eight presidents. Phyllis has enjoyed unexpected opportunities since being involved in ASID, including: panel discussions, speaking gigs, and even a book deal.

In the beginning, Phyllis volunteered on committees. She found a support system within ASID and developed meaningful relationships. And recommends the same path – Join committees to see how it works and then think about leadership. Get information on available committees and how they support board members. It’s OK to move around until you find one you like. Your profession will continue to advance if you support it through an organization. Overall, Phyllis said that ASID has made her a better business person and a better leader.

On a separate note, Phyllis was invited to participate in George To The Rescue, an NBC show that provides home renovations for deserving families all via donations and pro bono work. Phyllis is extremely passionate and excited about this opportunity. The episode will air in February.

If you would like to connect with Phyllis:

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!

The Power of Networking for Interior designers

Here I am still at ADAC in Atlanta checking out all the fantastic showrooms. I’ve been participating in the Design Bloggers Conference and one of the things that we talked about was networking: the power of networking. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I’ve been able to network with at the conference and at ADAC.

Just being able to strike up a conversation, figure out what people do, and think about how I can help- asking myself “how can I come alongside you to help you build your business,” is key. I am constantly amazed at what doors open up when I do some networking and market myself. One of the things that I would suggest for you as a designer, is no matter where you are, get out of your comfort zone. Go meet new people, do some networking, and you never know what it could lead to. When you are at the design center, figure out who the folks that you need to meet are and how you might be able to help them grow their business. Networking is not all about being on LinkedIn and having followers and likes. The more that you do, the more you will connect with people and be able to help them with their business, the more successful you are going to be with your business as they can help you too! So get out there and do some networking. See you soon!


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.

45 – Michael Wolk: A Hands On Designer

Wolk Background

There isn’t a project that leaves Michael Wolk Design Associates without Michael Wolk  personally approving it. He has always been a hands on designer that turns discussions into creations. Stemming from an early love of art, the Brooklyn born Michael Wolk attended  Pratt Institute where he graduated with an Industrial Design degree with honors. In college he started designing and building custom furniture as well as designing interiors for lofts. His design and furniture journey brought him to Florida where in 1984, after working for other companies and personally traveling the world; he chose to call Florida home. Focusing mainly on residential and hospitality design – the company has continued to grow.

The growth of Michael Wolk Design Associates has a lot to do with the style in which the company markets itself.  With everyone on social media, Michael feels you need to be more in tune with your marketing in order to increase market share. The studio used to rely on paid print ads but now they find publicity a better venue for building the brand, both in print and online. And of course a large portion of Michael’s business is ‘word of mouth’ (roughly 80% is referral/client relationship based). Michael believes that marketing and networking is farming not hunting, you plant the seeds and help it grow before you are able to see the returns.

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

36 – Barrie Livingstone: Designer, Realtor… Networker

Barrie Livingstone

Big week with some big announcements for the show.  Joining us this week is my good buddy Barrie from Malibu, CA.   Barrie is a successful designer and Realtor.  Today we talk about how that has worked to his benefit, how any designer can build their business through networking, and has new book Interior Design Tips Every Realtor Should Know, but Doesn’t.  With over 28 years of experience in the Residential and Hospitality Design Industries, Barrie’s offices out of Malibu, CA, Miami, FL, and LA, CA.

Please connect with Barrie through Facebook or on his website at BarrieLivingstone.com

e-mythLots of business learning in today’s interview with Robin.  Robin talked about the importance of systems.  He learned about this early on in her interior design business journey when a friend recommended that he read Michael Gerber’s book called E-Myth.  If you are new into your interior design business, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.  It will be the best investment of time you can make.  BUT, if you want a free copy, all you need to do is give me a review on iTunes!  That’s right, I believe so strongly that this book will help you, that I am giving away 20 copies of The E-Myth to the next 20 people who write me a review in iTunes.  Just take a screen shot of your review, and email it to me at me@nickmay.co with your mailing address.  I will send you one book with free shipping.

Our sponsor Design Manager is your best answer for all your back-office needs.  It will help you with your accounting, paperwork, and logistics.  There are a lot of things to track in your business, don’t leave it up to Word docs and spreadsheets.   If you give DM a try, please let them know you heard about them in The Lounge.

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


FIVE Top Marketing Mistakes Done by Interior Designers

Considering you’re here, you most probably have always loved interior design. If I ask ten designers why they are successful, nine of them will tell me it is because they have a passion for what they do. I need to be honest with you, most of them are NOT successful because they are passionate. Although it is important to be passionate about whatever you do, and it might help, it is not the reason for the success of an interior design business. I am passionate about soccer, and love to play. I could play every day of the week, but my enthusiasm for it is NOT going to turn me into a professional.

Laura Birns Design

On my podcast, The Chaise Lounge, I interview none other than successful interior designers. I have a set of criteria to determine at least a minimal level of success, but within that, there are varying degrees of success. ALthough success is not determined by the amount of money one makes, but for the masses, success should mean that you have a thriving business. The average interior designer in the United States earns less than $40,000, including those that work part-time, as well as full time. I have heard of designers in New York that can charge over $250/hr. and some in the Denver market charging $50 to $75 per hour. Fees vary significantly across the country. I do not ask my designers on the show what they charge, or what kind of income they receive, but a designer that works in several states, has a staff assisting them, and has been in business for several years, is typically well past the start-up stage, and has some great insights to share.

Being a painting contractor, I’ve worked with many designers over the years.  Unfortunately, not all have thriving businesses. As a business owner myself, I have wanted to give lots of tips and suggestions, but am sad to say that many of them see me as nothing more than a painting contractor that couldn’t possibly know much about real business. There are business practices and principles that we could talk about, but today, I want to only discuss marketing mistakes.

FIVE Top Marketing Mistakes

I am sure that many reading this may get offended at some of the items that I will list here, but please know that these are things that I see consistently in the interior design business world, and they DO NOT help you attract more clients and customers.  I want to help you raise your game, and get to the next level, whatever that means for you.

  1. Bad card exampleUn-professional Business Card. This is the first and easiest thing for me to spot because as I meet designers, they hand me a card. I have seen cards with perforation, free cards from Vista Print (and trust me, we can tell), and all sorts of horrible looking cards. This is the first impression you are making on your client. Make it a good one.  It does not need to be expensive, but have a real graphic designer, design you a card, and then have it professionally printed.
  2. Bad Website. I am still amazed that some designers do not have a website. IT IS 2015 PEOPLE!  GET A WEBSITE! It needs to be clean, simple, and have great pictures that represent your best work. If you have not read my blog about creating a great website, click here to read it.
  3. Wrong kind of Email. You should not be using @gmail, @yahoo, @me, @hotmail, or any of the free email services for your professional email address. This is a tell-tail sign that you are not serious, and that you are probably not a full-time interior designer.
  4. Not using Houzz.com. If you haven’t heard, Houzz.com is only the most extensive website for homeowners to get inspiration for home projects and the best way to get new clients. I am not saying you need to sign up for their paid programs, but do everything you can with the free services on the site. Create your profile, upload project portfolios, and get reviebad networkingws. I am a paint contractor with 14 high reviews on Houzz.
  5. Networking in the Wrong places. If you are going to the local chamber of commerce, a LeTip meeting, or some numbers-driven leads group, you aren’t networking with the right crowd. If you want to work in the big homes, you have to go where they go. Get involved with a charity, work with organizations filled with high-level CEO and top executives, or join a prestigious club. If you involve yourself and immerse yourself in the right circles, you will work in those circles. Don’t be fake and phony. Be authentic, helpful, and try to solve problems. The word will get out, and you will be busy with the right clients before you know it.

As an interior designer trying to run your business, you have lots to do, but marketing is one of the most critical aspects. If you aren’t getting your name out, the phone could stop ringing. Word of mouth is essential, but to grow a sizable business, you have to think about the marketing pieces and take it as seriously as you do your designs.


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.