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Phyllis Harbinger

257 – Live From High Point: Passion Sucks. It’s All About the Money!

Today in The Lounge, live from Universal Furniture at High Point Market, Passion Sucks. It’s All About the Money! On the panel, Nick is joined by designers Garrison Hullinger, Jarret Yoshida, Angela Harris, Christie Barbour, and Phyllis Harbinger. Nick and his guests discuss the meaning behind Passion Sucks, touching on the best ways to become successful – beyond creating brilliant designs. After fantasizing about their lives if they weren’t designers, the group jumps into the importance of balancing both creative and business aspects when being an interior designer. It’s impossible to become successful without conquering all the difficulties in the design life.

148 – Randy Fiser: The Big Cheese at ASID

Randy Fiser: The Big Cheese at ASID

Today in The Lounge we have a SPECIAL guest, CEO of ASID aka The Big Cheese: Randy Fiser. He might not have an interior design background and he isn’t an interior designer but Randy is definitely one of the most influential people in the industry.

As always please reach out to us as Nick LOVES to hear from you guys, tell us what you’re doing, what you’d like to hear on the show and ask us questions if you need advice!

Secondly, don’t forget to check out Porcelanosa‘s Life Style Magazine either online or order it by mail because guess what, it’s FREE. They feature tons of great commercial/hospitality designers and images. Their 3D rendering service is also FREE so you utilize it guys! Remodel a kitchen or bathroom for your clients. Learn more about it here.

Getting to Know Randy

Randy was born in Southern California and lived there until he was 11 when he moved to Arizona and finished high school. Later, he went to Georgia for grad school and eventually moved to Washinton DC where he has been ever since. He received his masters in Counseling and Human Development as well as an MBA. Ever since he was little Randy knew he wanted to be in business and work with people to make an impact and leave the world a better place. So, he invested his time in consulting and large scale organizational transformation work. Later Randy’s managing and consulting work were mission driven and soon he transitioned to non-profit work on affordable housing development and education reform. He was a client of Brad Pitt’s to help rebuild New Orleans as well.

Randy’s favorite place to vacation is Bali. As long as there is an adventure and he can hike, bike, be active and go to the beach, he’s there. Good food is, of course, important too. Randy lives in a small 700 square foot apartment in DC, space isn’t important to him as he’s never home! BUT it is very well designed and FUNCTIONAL. Canadian designers built the apartments using Universal’s Design Principles so anyone could live in it, such as someone in a wheel chair or someone not in a wheelchair. This is why Randy believes design matters, it took him a year to notice and think about the wide-range functionality in his apartment because it was so well designed. Design can be both beautiful and functional to the point where you don’t notice or think about!

If you ask Randy, “beer, wine or a cocktail?”… it’s wine AND a cocktail.

A Day in the Life

Well, it’s never a typical day in the life of Randy but usually, he’s on the road. He meets with members of ASID, attends chapter events, and talks with manufacturers who want to bring their product in front of members. He meets with other associations that represent the surrounding areas of design and construction. He meets with government officials at the state and federal levels.He meets with clients who run companies, healthcare facilities, or who are homeowners. He talks about WHAT designers do and WHY design matters. Design impacts life. Randy informs us that we’re spending 93% of our time indoors now!! So human interaction with the spaces we spend the most time in defines us as human beings and affect our health. Randy does a lot of public speaking on these topics and loves it because it is what he is passionate about.

Randy thinks ASID needs to continue pushing this message and furthermore elevate it with case-studies. It’s one thing to tell people that design impacts lives but it’s another thing to prove it. One interesting thing Randy brings up is how we design spaces for people but we never take pictures of the spaces with people in them! Aesthetic is defining design but in reality, design is for functionality and for people, every space has a purpose. If you let beauty take over you dilute what design is all about! In every image of ASID’s new Head Quarters, they have people in it, the goal is to show design intent by putting people within the space who are using it. It’s like clothing, it’s better to photograph it on someone than off, as you get a better idea how the clothing works. Randy believes we need to focus less on luxury, lifestyle, brand, and aesthetics as that’s just consumerism and design is so much more.

The hardest part about Randy’s job is the misconception of what designers do, which both motivates and frustrates him. Clients don’t always understand what a designer is doing and often times the design community undersells themselves which is frustrating. This is why Randy travels around to talk about these subjects. People either benefit or hurt from a space which means they can benefit or hurt from designer’s work. The intent of a space can change an entire culture of an organization. Designers have the skills to achieve intent i.e build happiness, interactivity, acoustic comfort, or light into a space.

NEOCON Announcements

Aside from building up their glutes at Neocon, ASID’s goal is to connect with the design community. They use these communities to announce their up and coming events and messages. First off, they have an amazing example of workplace design at their new HQ. It is the first LEED and WELL platinum office in the world and they are doing pre/post-occupancy research and case studies on how the design improves productivity, engagement, and attention in staff. The second announcement is the merger of ASID’s magazine Icon (comes out 6 times a year) combined with IDC ‘s D Magazine. The name is still to be determined so SEND IN YOUR IDEAS. ASID will be holding a brand new Leadership Experience conference in San Diego for emerging professionals consisting of 300+ people representing ASID chapters and 300+ people doing leadership skills (leading one’s self, team or practice). Leadership isn’t a skill we’re trained for in design school so here is the opportunity to learn how to be one. Lastly, Platform is their other brand new retreat for principals, partners, and owners in Victoria, BC. They will have keynote speakers outside of the design industry with conversations in between discussing how to change practices or run businesses accordingly.

  • Upcoming Events

Casual Market Sept 12 – 15

ICFF Miami– Oct 3 – 4

IDS – Oct 13 – 16

High Point Market Oct 14 – 18

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13

KBIS – Jan 9 – 11

  • Wrap Up

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website at TheChaiseLoungePodcast.com. Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on 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!

135 – Industry: Can We Talk Green Design?

Industry: Can we talk Green Design?

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Phyllis Harbinger, interior design industry expert. Nick and Phyllis get into green design, what that means, and how to incorporate these design principles in residential projects.

Specifying Sustainable Products in Residential Design

Phyllis Harbinger joins Nick in The Lounge while wrapping up a busy school year at FIT. She kickstarts the conversation by informing us that clients aren’t asking for green design, and honestly, aren’t necessarily open to it either. Phyllis lets us know though that the more natural and sustainable a product is, the better off the environment and even the client is.

Phyllis and her class were recently able to visit Material Connexion, which she referred to as ‘a candy store for designers.’ Phyllis recalls a specific wallcovering that was a grass-like cloth which absorbed odors and even cleaned the air.

Green design and green products temd to find their way into commercial projects more often than residential, so it is important that designers start educating clients. It may take more time to discover these products and put together green spaces but it’s not always at a higher cost. Green Design may be a challenge, but it’s rewarding. Resources for repurposing items include local antique stores and online sources such as 1stDibs, Previously Owned by a Gay Man, etc.

How to Know if Product is Green

Many times it can be as simple as a label on textiles stating it as a recycled good, but if not, you may need to research the content and where it was made. Often, importing from across the globe can “undo” the good of a “green” product by increasing its carbon footprint.

Phyllis notes vinyl wallcoverings and certain carpets as not environmentally friendly, while cork is a better option, or even opting to refinish wood floors rather than replacing them. She also recalls a project where it was more “green” to install a new floor on top of an old one, rather than tearing it out.

Nick also encounters environmental issues in his business. In the past, low and zero VOC products were significantly more expensive. This cost was a hurdle that prevented his customers from making the switch.

When this difference decreased, Nick and his company decided to make the change across the board – not only for environmental reasons but also for the health of his crew.

Phyllis and Nick also talk about repainting cabinets versus installing new ones, specify ultra suede green, and talk about the versatility of carpet tiles.

Send Phyllis an email to get in touch and learn more!

  • Upcoming Events

NeoCon – June 12 – 14

PCBC – June 26 – 28

Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 2

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13

KBIS – Jan 9 – 11

  • Wrap Up

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

125 – Industry and Previously Owned by a Gay Man

Phyllis on Branding and Michele Hofherr on Previously Owned by a Gay Man

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with industry partner Phyllis Harbinger about branding and email messaging and Michele Hofherr about her business around curating unique items and the story behind the name: Previously Owned by a Gay Man.

Checking in with Phyllis on Branding

Phyllis recommends consistent messaging across all platforms, even down to your email signature. An email signature is the block at the bottom of your emails that often includes contact information, social icon links, and your company logo. Phyllis also mentioned that including your photo can help people feel like they already know you.

Phyllis also cited that 72% of consumers want to hear from you via email rather than any other method of communication. So, how much is too much in your signature? If you are telling an entire story, including product information, or have irrelevant quotes, you may want to consider simplifying the content.

Beyond your email signature, there are other branding components to consider, like your actual email address and logo design. As far as the email address goes, using “@gmail.com,” “@yahoo.com,” etc is a mistake, rather, use your company name. This not only supports your brand but makes you look more professional. A well-designed logo can make all of the difference as well. Phyllis and Nick recommend services like Hatchwise and 99Designs.

These are both cost effective ways to have a third party skilled designer create a logo for you.

Phyllis recommends finding creative and useful ways to use your logo too. She added her logo to a tote bag to give clients to keep their samples in. The pair also discusses handmade and personalized gifts for clients, and always keeping colors, logos, and fonts consistent. In closing, take a look at the brands you know, love, and trust. What can you learn from them?

Send Phyllis an email to get in touch and learn more!

Getting to know Michele Hofherr and Previously Owned by a Gay Man

Michele Hofherr is a straight woman married to a straight man. She loves black handbags, Montecito, CA, and red wine. She isn’t a private person, so nothing is off limits; she even admits to loving guilty pleasure, binge-worthy TV.

  • What’s with the name?

Previously Owned by a Gay Man is a peer to peer marketplace that curates furniture through individuals. Michele and her team curate unique items and individually list them on their website. These items don’t have to be owned by a gay man. It’s about the essence of a gay man, not the literal interpretation.

The name came from the true origin of the idea as it articulates what inspired them. Michele’s gay friends would move constantly and would always have extra items. These items were given away for free far too often to people who didn’t fully appreciate them. While Ebay and Craigslist fill a niche, those avenues can be overwhelming.

  • What the business looks like today

The business has been up and running for three years. Michele runs the front end. She’s the creative idea person. Her business partner, Lindsay runs the back end, with a focus on technology. Lindsay has never been into design personally.

There are now at least 1000 items listed on the site. The goal is to remain very curated and not too large. Michele wants to prevent the overwhelming feeling that other marketplace sites possess. She wants to have a revolving door of great stuff.

As mentioned prior, Previously Owned by a Gay Man is a peer to peer marketplace. Individuals list their own items and warehouse them, while Previously Owned by a Gay Man facilitates shipping, which is paid for by the buyer. Geoffrey De Sousa, Chief Curator, is a design aficionado with an objective point of view. Everything submitted goes through him.

Learn more at Previously Owned by a Gay Man’s website.

Industry: The Chaise Lounge Podcast

Upcoming Events

 High Point Spring Market – April 22 – 26

HD Expo – May 3 – 5

ICFF – May 21 – 24

NeoCon – June 12 – 14

Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 1

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13


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!

118 – Industry: Going Paperless in the Cloud

Industry: Going paperless in the Cloud

On this episode of The Lounge, Nick chats with fellow industry professional, Phyllis Harbinger, on going paperless in the cloud. Phyllis talks about her favorite tools and apps and the pluses and minuses of going paperless. In addition, Nick shares his Design Bloggers Conference talk on podcasting including lessons learned and his favorite episodes.

Checking in with Phyllis Harbinger

While Phyllis has made progress in the last year, she is not completely paperless yet. She mentioned that the more you embrace it, the better it gets. Not only can less paper make things easier, it can also help secure your business processes and information. Search functions are great for digital files and copies. You no longer have to worry about paper files lost in fires or floods and redundancies and relays combat issues with a computer crashing.

Even more specifically, paperless billing doesn’t require a ton of physical storage space. Having to store customer files and documents for seven to ten years can take up valuable real estate in your office or home, but keeping everything digitally can alleviate this physical clutter.

Phyllis recommends doing your homework when it comes to choosing digital and cloud based solutions. She is fond of Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive – each for differing reasons. These three tools are great for collaboration and file sharing. Phyllis is a fan of digital notetaking too. Digital notes make it easier for everyone to be on the same page, for instance, if someone is sick or out of the office. There is also no need to carry physical copies of client files around.

Receipts and invoices are another opportunity to go paperless. Phyllis likes ScannerPro no only for scanning in signed documents, but also for scanning and categorizing her own business receipts too. She also mentioned that some credit card companies use a receipt match, so you don’t have to worry about it on your end.

Next, let’s talk about how you are backing up your computer. You may need more than an external hard drive. Providers like Carbonite and Mozy Pro backup your data every night.

A couple of Phyllis’s other favorite apps include Art Set and Audionote. Art Set lets you draw on your device and turn it into a PDF. In Audionote, you can take pictures, videos, recordings, and notes all in one app.

Phyllis recommends to take baby steps if this causes anxiety for you. Categorize by client, project, year or whatever makes sense for your business.

If you would like to get in touch with Phyllis for paperless advice, public speaking, or just to say hi, shoot her an email at info@harbingerdesignconsulting.com.

Nick’s talk at the Design Bloggers Conference

 Years ago, Nick and a friend started a small business podcast. They would read stories in business magazines and then were able to get those people on the podcast. Throughout this process, he learned about podcasting and business.

In his painting company, Nick works a lot with designers and found that they often struggled with the business aspect. He saw the opportunity to marry his experience in podcasting and small business with his current design network to create The Chaise Lounge podcast.

The Chaise Lounge is about the business of interior design. The ideal listener is a younger designer that wants to learn. Notable guests on the show include: Thom Filicia, Taylor Spellman, Andrew Joseph, Jason Harris, and Tyler Lynch.

More specifically, Nick reflected on some lessons he learned from a few more guests:

Nick has also learned that it’s all about relationships, which is why the Design Bloggers Conference is so important. Nick said if he can do it, anyone can!

Nick would love to speak for your group! Please reach out via email or social media.

  • 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!

111 – Industry: Life Hacks and Personal Branding

Industry: Productivity Hacks & Personal Branding

On this episode of The Lounge, Nick chats with industry experts Phyllis Harbinger and Farah Merhi. Phyllis shares her tested and approved productivity hacks and Farah jumps in on building your personal brand.

Productivity hacks with Phyllis Harbinger

Phyllis’s year is off to a great start and some this can be attributed to changes she has made personally to help her be more productive. Here are Phyllis’s productivity hacks:

  1. Work out in the morning: Working out in the morning gives you a jump start on the day to be more productive and have more willpower. Often, it is hard to motivate yourself to exercise after a day of work. It may hard to get this practice put in place, but you may find more success by making small adjustments and changes over time, which can include going to bed earlier. Phyllis and Nick also stay in hotels with gyms, so there is no excuse to miss a workout, even when traveling.
  2. First thing, scan your email, but don’t get sucked in: It’s easy to spend hours or even days putting out fires in your inbox and not get any “real work” done. Phyllis recommends scanning your inbox in the morning as well as using rules and filters to help prioritize your actions for the rest of the day. It can also be helpful to turn off email notifications on your desktop or phone and make time to intentionally check. me can help reduce your influx of mail. It can also help to schedule emails to go out at specific times.
  3. Don’t skip breakfast: Phyllis recommends fueling yourself for success, which can mean not skipping breakfast and eating smaller, more frequent meals. In time, you can feel so much better by eating the right things that eating something that just tastes good doesn’t seem worth it.
  4. Prioritize your To-Do’s: It is easy to procrastinate and put things off, but Phyllis says to do the hardest item on your list first. For example, if you dread estimates and put them off for days, you may be losing business. By turning those estimates around within a day, you can capitalize on your customers’ readiness to purchase your services.
  5. Standing meetings: Standing during your meetings with your colleagues or clients can save time and increase productivity. It can also allow for quicker decisions.

Phyllis has incorporated these practices into her day to day. She also spoke about creating a morning ritual and meditation.

To learn more about Phyllis, email her or visit Facebook.

Personal Branding with Farah Merhi

Farah Merhi is a designer, stylist, social media influencer, and founder of Inspire Me Home Decor. More recently, Farah has started curating questions from Instagram to answer on her Youtube channel. What has started as an outlet for her passion for interior design has turned into a brand.

Personal branding is the way you represent yourself to the world. Farah recommends staying true to yourself, your design aesthetic, and your fans. Also, make sure that brand collaborations make sense. Your credibility is crucial and can affect how people perceive you and relationships with other brands.

It matters how you present yourself online for networking purposes and getting new clients. You have to start somewhere and every post is important. Farah recommends having a goal where anyone who sees your posts or photos to know that it is from you and to be recognizable.

To learn more: about Farah, visit Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and Inspire Me Home Decor.

  • 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!