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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 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!






89 – Atlanta’s very own Big Daddy and Mayor of Interior Design

Kerry Howard atlanta interior designAtlanta’s very own Big Daddy and Mayor of Interior Design

Today in The Lounge, I get to talk to two of Atlanta’s favorite men of interior design.  Kerry Howard of KMH Interiors and Tyler Lynch of so many things. Let’s just jump into the conversations…

Tyler Lynch

Now I did get to meet Tyler on my trip to Atlantafile-jul-17-6-50-37-am for the Design Bloggers Conference, but met him at ADAC with interviewing Eric Haydle.  Tyler Lynch works as a territory manager for Codarus at America’s Mart in Atlanta. Early on he discovered that visual merchandising was one of his passions so it has been a great fit.

He considered becoming an Interior Designer a number of times, but ultimately he’s decided that he really loves product. And the roots go way back. His parents owned an antique store growing up and he would jump at the change to merchandise the front window even as a child. As he grew older, he even rented his own booth from them and began selling items that he found on his own. And his bedroom was a living showcase of all the unique items he found along the way.

So it was only natural that a few years ago, along with Kerry Howard (who appears next on the show), he launched Thrift with Tyler, a luxury bus tour throughout Georgia to Tyler’s favorite, top-secret spots for antiques. Tours happen every May and October with just 55 seats on each tour. Profits benefit local charities, most recently the State Historic Preservation fund. The tour has been a major hit. Head over to Facebook to get a seat on the next adventure.Antique bus tour with Tyler in Atlanta

Kerry Howard


Up next on the lounge is Kerry Howard, owner of KMH Interiors. kmh-piedmont-park-resWay back before a series of fortunate events jump-started his career in Interior Design, Kerry was working in a hydraulics factory, and he was installing wallpaper on the side. His Aunt owned a furniture store and had always let Kerry help out so when he expressed an interest in Faux Finish painting, she paid for him to start taking classes.

Then one day, Kerry was waiting in an auto garage and happened to meet an Interior Design professor from a college nearby in South Carolina. She invited him to come check out the school and so began Kerry’s love affair with Interior Design.

The beginning of something great

He absorbed everything he could while in school, taking advantage of every opportunity possible. He attended multiple conferences and even started the ASID chapter for the school.

After school, Kerry moved to North Carolina to work for Broyhill Furniture. He designed a number of showrooms for them across the country until one day a headhunter recruited him to completely change the image of a furniture company in Dublin, GA. Though it wasn’t his dream job, it allowed him to pay off his student debt and gave him the opportunity to build a team and make a big dent on a company.

His heart was always in Atlanta, though. So one day, he put in his two-weeks-notice, sold his house, and moved to Atlanta to start his own company.

A series of fortunate eventskerry-as-big-dady

While he was building the company, a friend recommended that he audition for Top Design on Bravo. He went for it and got cast in Season 2 and that forever changed his career.  Self named as “Big Daddy,” Kerry won the hearts of many. 

After that, everything seemed to fall into place. Next, HGTV asked him to compete on Design Wars (which he won, by the way!) After that, professional photographs of his personal residence landed him in Atlanta Home Magazine. And since then, he’s been published 28 more times!  

He’s been in business now for 12 years and has four employees. Like many designers we’ve talked to, he had more employees at point in time, but felt like he was spending all his time managing instead of designing, so he eventually scaled back.

He admits that his first employee probably should have been someone to take care of billing. He has someone now who has completely changed the way he does business.

ASID + Dentists…

Last year, Kerry was the president of the Georgia ASID chapter. “It was like hosting the Oscars,” he says. He felt so honored to get to serve his term and freshen up the organization a bit and get more students involved. It was like having a whole other full-time job, but he has no regrets. He learned a number of things that he has taken back into his own business.

Speaking of transferable skills, Nick and Kerry talk about how they both actually consulted their dentists (yes, dentists!) for business advice. You never know where you’re going to find great tips, so keep your eyes open to other industries other than your own.

What’s next?

Kerry has a dream— the kind that gets his heart racing when he thinks about it. Back home near Greenville, South Carolina lies a deserted cotton mill town, “The Mill Hill.” And the vacant plant and over 40 homes are just calling to him, waiting to be transformed into a thriving community once more.


Wrap Up

If you are interested in posting a job you have in your design firm (you need an intern, a JR designer, a SR designer, etc) please visit our new Job Board for interior designers.  If you are looking for an internship in interior design, an interior design job, or anything related, see our open jobs.

If you would like to hear more episodes, please visit us on iTunes or on our website  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!


How DO I do Facebook Live…for an Interior Design Business?

How DO I do Facebook Live…for an Interior Design Business? 

So, as you know, I have been hot to trot on Facebook Live lately.  But, it surprises me to find some interior designers are still not active with social media.  You can hardly go to a conference or seminar without having a few sessions covering it.  Just a few weeks ago, I was asked to be on a panel to address ASID and NKBA members on how I use social media for both my painting business, Walls by Design, and my podcast, The Chaise Lounge.  So I know there is a huge interest in using it effectively, but there is also a general fear about how to start.  Often, I run into people that just need to start out with the basics, so I thought I would address some of these questions.

Now I am no social media expert, but I have been using several platforms for several years, and Facebook is one of my sweet spots.  I use Facebook heavily in the marketing of my painting business.  Due to the rise in popularity of video marketing, and all the new video social media platforms (Snapchat beingfacebook-live-rachel-moriarty the largest and most popular), Facebook launched Facebook Live.  Facebook Live is now connected to all Facebook accounts.

What is Facebook Live?

Facebook Live is a way for you to give a live video feed to the people that follow you, and it is super easy to do.  While you are taking a video of yourself, people that click on the feed, can message you, and those messages stay under the video (with time stamps) and will appear (in real time) as people watch your video later…because after you finish the video, Facebook Live streams are saved as a post.  Super fun! The video can be as short or as long as you like.  I recommend you mix it up, but I also encourage you to make sure what you put on your Facebook Live streams is good content.  Just like in any social media post that you are using to market your interior design business, create good, helpful, and useful content, and you will bring people back time and time again.

I have to give my friend Rachel Moriarty (of Rachel Moriarty Interiors) props for really doing a great job with Facebook Live!  She did a 30-day challenge and posted once a day for 30 days, and was able to land 4 projects from her efforts. This is a screen shot of one of her recent live streams.

How do I do this?

A designer asked me this question yesterday, which prompted me to do this post.  I will not embarrass her, but as soon as I gave her this screen shot, she was very thankful and got it.  AND I can totally relate!  I remember back in April, when my friend Jennifer Wagner Schmidt of JWS Interiors, and Box of Chic had to show me how to do Instagram.  I was interviewing her for the podcast in Dallas, and we held an impromptu tutorial session for Nick.  She was great, and as soon as she showed me the basics, I got it, and you haven’t been able to stop me since (Find me at @thechaiselounge on Instagram).

So let’s get started: First, you have to open your Facebook page.  Then you will see this little icon (circled here in red).


If you do not see this screen, you may see this.  Then, you want to click the “Publish” icon.


It will take you to this screen. And then you want to click this icon.


Where you will need to select “Live Video”.

After you push this, you will be taken to a screen where you can enter some text to describe your session.


I always think of this as a headline.  You need a GREAT headline to pique people’s curiosity.  If you know anything about good copy in a story (think like an old school newspaper), the headline’s one goal is to get you to read the first sentence of the story.  In Facebook Live, the headline needs to be good enough to get people to click on it and hear the first 5 seconds. So, the first FIVE seconds are critical.  You have to grab their attention.  I struggle with this too.  We hem and haw, and say stupid things, but you have to grab them! “Today I am going to tell you how to make a MILLION dollars!”  Then explain.

So once you come up with a GREAT headline, you can tag people.  Do you want to get the attention of someone in particular?  Do you plan on promoting someone else?  Or do you have a hashtag to use?  You can put these things at the end of your copy.  But, I suggest not using more than three (combined).

TIP:  You can always add more in a comment below the video when it is live.

When you hit the “Go Live” button, it will count you down with 3 seconds.  Really nice if you are using a tripod or a selfie-stick.

Time to GO LIVE!

Now that you are live, what are you going to say?  I would suggest that you plan this out a bit.  I keep a running pad of paper for ideas on my desk.  When I finish one, I usually have an idea where I want to go next, so I make a note.  Especially right now while I am doing the #IDFBLIVE Facebook Live Challenge that I started with my friend LuAnn Nigara over at A Well Designed Business podcast. More on that later.

What do I say on Facebook Live?

I would suggest that you keep it to one of three things:

  1. Tell people about you. What is your story?  Who are you?  Why do you love design? Don’t try to sell here and say “you should use me because…”  Just tell them a short story.  People love stories, they are more engaging.
  2. Give them a tip. People want to know about interior design.  Unlike lots of other businesses and industries, lots of people want to know how to do the things you do.  Just give them one little nugget at a time.  But don’t let it get too technical.
  3. What is coming up? Are you heading to a fun new project or an event?  Maybe you are heading to High Point Market?  Talk about it.  Are you going to an ASID awards banquet?

Tips for Creating Shareable Content

Here is your bonus for today.  I almost wanted to create another blog on this, and maybe I will later, but here are a few tips on how to create shareable content on Facebook Live:

  • Keep it fun.
  • Keep it brief.
  • Tell a story.
  • Teach ONE thing…not 5!
  • Leave them wanting more.

I will come back to this at a later date and expand on this.  I have some great examples.

Facebook Live 30-day Challenge.

Because of the success of one our friends, Rachel Moriarty (I interviewed her recently on our episode 87), AND a conversation that I had with fellow podcaster LuAnn Nigara, we are encouraging our listeners (LuAnn and me), to take the 30-day Challenge, and do a Facebook Live stream once a day for 30 days.  When you do, we ask you to use the hashtag #idFBlive.  It stands for Interior Design Facebook Live.  Please also tag @The Chaise Lounge so I can share it and follow you.  I just know that after doing it for 30 days, you will not only be hooked, but you will get some business out of it.  If you want to get some inspiration, do a search for #idfbLIVE in Facebook, and you will be able to see all the interior designers that have taken us up on this challenge.  No matter when you start…just start!

Now go, and start streaming on Facebook Live…and HAVE FUN!!


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

82 – Robin Baron: New York Interior Designer, TV personality, and ASID chapter President

Robin Baron Design

Robin Baron: New York Interior Designer, TV personality, and ASID chapter President

Live from New York City, your Nick May and Robin Baron in NYCHost Nick May interviews Robin Baron, and HGTV network star designer, on today’s episode of The Chaise Lounge.

A New York City girl, ‘born, bred and raised,” Robin states when asked how she became interested in Interior Design, “You know, it just is a part of my being, I’ve known since I’m a very young girl, maybe 9 years old, I started writing compositions for my grade school about wanting to be an interior designer and my equal passion was fashion design. I’ve always known it and actually started my career in fashion and then transitioned into Interior Design.”

Robin actually studied fashion and interior design simultaneously in school, starting her education on the east coast before transferring to UCLA to complete her degree, but leaned into a fashion design career after graduation. Robin describes to Nick her very first collection in fashion, and how she started her own business at just 19 and 20 years old.

“I moved back to New York, and the truth is, the fashion industry is a very tough industry, it’s a tougher business. I really started doing interior design because clients started to approach me to do their homes and their apartments. I was doing some antique dealing on the side as a hobby, and it sort of blossomed. What I loved about it was; I do have a bigger impact on people’s lives by working on their homes.” Robin describes as her transition from fashion to interior design.robin baron commercial

Robin Baron Design is a nice sized, full service firm comprising of 6-7 full time staff members mostly focusing on residential, with a small amount of hospitality and commercial design. Tune in to hear Robin tell Nick about the areas of the country she’s worked and the first growth of her interior design business. “Over the years, I’ve definitely grown, I have been bigger in the past in terms of staff, but I felt I had to make a decision ‘how big do I want to get?’ I really wanted to have my fingers on the pulse of every job.”

Nick asks Robin when she first felt the need to take on help, and how she identifies people that will be a good fit for the company, “I think you have to first define ‘what are your goals?’ because unless you know what you’re a goals are, you don’t know how to set a blueprint or a plan to get there. That also applies to who you hire and when you hire them. I wanted positive people around me, someone who’s jaded or negative does not jive with my own sensibilities, so understanding who you are and how you work is very important.”

Robin is the current ASID President of New York Metro which significantly impacts her schedule among other things in her business, “it’s a lot of extra work but it’s very rewarding.” Robin talks about her goals she had when she started in this position with Nick. Robin has been featured many times on television, “The more high profile you are, the more things come to you. I think this goes back to talking about ‘what are your goals?’ My goal was to do TV and to be a spokesperson and to be a little more public and so I’ve taken steps and done things to help prod that along a bit.” Be sure to listen to the show to hear Robin list a few of those specific steps that she’s taken to get to where she is today, especially with the TV roles. Robin talks about how her TV appearances have brought her new clients and how being herself in that role helps attract clients.

Robin attributes her success to “my positive attitude, giving 1,000%, which I know we all do, I give without expecting the same thing back and I think being authentic, being true to who you are and what your beliefs, and belief structure is and you know, working like a dog!” She also talks about how everyone defines success differently.

When it comes to time management Robin states, “It’s definitely a challenge on a day to day basis, and I do try to take it one day at a time. I try to give as full attention as I can to what’s in front of me. Often it’s the shiniest thing that gets my attention, and having a great staff certainly helps. They help me organize my time; sometimes they have to force themselves to be the shiniest thing!”

Nick and Robin discuss social media and marketing and specifically the power of video as a media for marketing. “We all have our marketing tools at our finger tips with social media, so it’s critical that we know our goals and we take what we do and make them work for us.” Nick talks about how to use social media creatively, and how you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money to get yourself out there.

As far as what is next for Robin, “I’m working with an agent; I’m working on some licensing deals that are coming out soon, more TV and spokesperson gigs, among other new things that will be announced soon!” To learn more about Robin and see some of her amazing work visit or follow her @_robinbaron on Instagram.

If you are interested in joining me up in Vail, CO next week, please register for the Vail Social Media Summit for Aug 2-3. If you are interested in posting a job you have in your design firm (you need an intern, a JR designer, a SR designer, etc) please visit our new Job Board for interior designers.  If you are looking for an internship in interior design, an interior design job, or anything related, see our open jobs.

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


81 – Betsy Burnham: California Interior Designer on a Mission

Burnham design


Betsy Burnham:  California Interior Design on a Mission

On Today’s show of The Chaise Lounge, Nick interviews Betsy Burnham, with a former career in Fashion that turned into a lucrative career in Interior Design. Be sure to check out the end of our show notes for how you can connect with The Chaise Lounge, Enjoy!

We start off today’s show by getting to know Betsy;Betsy Burnham headshot what’s her favorite fashion accessory and where is her favorite place to vacation? Tune in to hear Betsy’s answers, especially her description of her recent trip to India. Oh her background Betsy says, “It (Interior Design) was my second career in a sense, a lot of people find their second career kind of later in life, I found mine kind of early in my working life. I studied Fine Art in college and I went on to work in the fashion industry, I lived in New York City, and I was working at the time for the design part of the Gap, so I was in product development in New York doing Men’s design, travelling all over the world, right out of college. It was such a remarkable opportunity to travel and to learn so much about the process of fashion in the mass market.” After moving to Los Angeles in the late 80’s, Betsy had a hard time finding the same kind of opportunities in fashion that she was privileged to have in New York and found herself disenchanted with that career. After having two kids, Betsy decided to go back to school, and attended UCLA to study Interior Design. “Interior Design was something that I could do on my own time, it was creative, it was relative to fashion in that I was already sort of skilled with color and fabric and I understood my own personal taste and style and I was confident in that.” Betsy talked about the struggle she had with a formal interior design education, and how she found herself drawn toward residential rather than commercial design. After a job with a large hotel design firm, Betsy focused her talents on smaller projects and personal client interactions. “Practical experience in interior design is so important, I can’t stress that enough,” Betsy says of her first job after school and what it taught her.

winning small house burnham design“The day that I got the phone call from someone I didn’t know in any way, was the day I knew I was really in business,” Betsy describes the moment she knew that a career in interior design was where she wanted to be. Burnham design today is “a residential design firm, right now we are three people, I have two women working for me and are junior designers, one is on the architectural side and the other is on the fabric and furniture side, and we also have a part time office manager and a part time bookkeeper.” Betsy talks about the ebbs and flow of the business of interior design, and how difficult it can be to foresee the jobs that are or are not going to come.

When Betsy is looking to hire someone new for her firm, she looks for “some interpersonal skills, I look for confidence in an aesthetic, I don’t want any wallflowers that don’t have an opinion. I challenge people who work for me to say ‘I hate it Betsy, let’s do something else,’ I want a studio of people who are contributing.” Nick and Betsy talk about how she finds new employees, and the vetting process for a team member.

Nick describes how he actually connected with Betsy, which came wayfair trade programabout when Nick was scrolling through Facebook and saw a Wayfair ad that was featuring Betsy for their to the trade program. Betsy became connected with Wayfair while working on a show house, and as one of the sponsors of the show house, Wayfair and Betsy continued a professional relationship that later led to the advertisement that she was featured in.

Nick brings up the topic of marketing with Betsy, “Honestly, and I can honestly tell you, it has all been word of mouth, and I have been fortunate enough over the years to get a fair amount of press and press generates more press.” Betsy talks about the show house that brought attention, and how just saying yes to things and networking more can bring in clients. Nick asks Betsy about her social media presence, and how she likes to have total control of that part of her business. “I have a long-time friend who is a database builder and coder, and he made Burnham Design our very own software, I’ve been doing this longer than most of these software companies existed, and this is something that we’ve built over the years since 2002.”

Instant SpaceBetsy talks about another business venture she’s launched, called ‘Instant Space,’ “It’s design for a flat fee, one room at a time, and we do everything online. So you can come from all over the country, with a room that you want designed, give us a lot of information about yourself, fill out a questionnaire, do some drawing, just basic drawing and measuring and tell us your likes and dislikes, and then in 6 weeks we send you a complete room design.” Tune in to hear how Betsy came up with the idea for Instant Space and the great feedback she’s received on the concept and function of it.

To connect with Betsy, follow her on Instagram @burnhamdesign or visit her websites at or

If you are interested in joining me up in Vail, CO next week, please register for the Vail Social Media Summit for Aug 2-3.

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