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Successful Designer

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

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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!

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 atTheChaiseLoungePodcast.com.  Lastly, find The Chaise Lounge on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter or post a review on iTunes, you may even hear your review read live on our next podcast. With that said keep dreaming big, and keep designing a great design business.  See ya!


80 – Atlanta Market Show 4

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

Dale Carithers

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

Cody Ables: Codarus

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

Steve McKenzie: McKenzie Interior Design

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

Steve Lowsky: Castelle

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

Patricia McLean: Patricia McLean Interiors

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

Christopher Thorpe: Eleanor Rigby Leather

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

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

37 – Ghislaine Viñas – New York Interior Designer

ghislaine viñas interior design


 New York Interior Designer Ghislane Viñas

This week in THE LOUNGE, I speak with Ghislane Viñas, an interior designer based in New York City.  She has done projects all around the world but talks about an interesting project she is currently working on down in Florida, where she is working on the interior design for a yacht.  Starting her career selling office furniture, Ghislane explained that it was here that she learned to sell and work with customers.  After several years, she realized she just wanted more freedom, like many of us, and decided to break out and start her design firm. She now employs about 5 designers, but is able to work on her passion for the big picture.  Now that she has created systems for her business, things run on a fairly predictable schedule.  To learn or about Ghislane and her team, visit her website at GVinteriors.com

Ghislane talked about the importance of systems.  She learned about this early on in her interior design business journey.  If you have listened to the show for a while, you know that this is an idea that is spoken of a lot by our successful designers.  The best small business resource for learning about systems is a book by Michael Gerber 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 

24 – Garrison Hullinger: Successful Portland Interior Designer

Garrison Hullinger Interior Design

Bio: Garrison Hullinger is an interior designer with a passion for creating interior environments that are as warm and beautiful as they are comfortable and functional. He brings a deep understanding of color, form and construction to all of the firm’s work, and insists that each client’s style be faithfully yet surprisingly interpreted in every aspect of their project. Widely quoted in the industry, perhaps his greatest asset is the ability to instantly see the potential in any space and to artfully facilitate every detail from start to finish.
Garrison and team

This week we head to Portland to talk with Garrison Hullinger.  After a traumatic accident that left Garrison with a brain injury, he was inspired to make a major life change, and he found himself in the interior design world after moving away from San Francisco.  He has built an impressive design firm with about 17 staff that works from coast to coast.  Not bad for a firm that is only about five years old and started with him and two part-timers.

We talked about all the fun business topics we normally do, but some things Garrison shared:

  • How did you start taking on commercial work?
  • How do you hire staff?
  • How did you get your first project?
  • How do you charge for your services?
  • What do you want to be remembered for?

Garrison and his team know what they are good at, and they stick to their core.  Now that they are larger and have more staff, they are able to spread the workload and value to the client between junior designers, design assistants, and the lead designers.  Along with this, they try to use their buying power to bring more value to their clients.

For more information on Garrison, please go to his website at GarrisonHullinger.com.

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