156 – Las Vegas Market Live: Dann Foley


Las Vegas Market Live: Dann Foley

Today in The Lounge, Nick talks with Dann Foley LIVE from the Phillips Collection Showroom at Las Vegas Market. Dann talks about how interior design entered his life as a kid, about how he runs his business with a staff of three, and he gives YOU advice for a successful life and career.

Getting to Know Dann

Dann’s favorite fashion accessory is a blazer, he wears them all the time, even while living in the desert. His favorite vacation spot is Paris, which he calls his other home. To quote Audrey Hepburn, “Paris is always a good idea.” Dann has more than one room that he wouldn’t put on Instagram because he prefers his privacy… he doesn’t put any interior pictures of his home up on social media. When asked beer, wine, or cocktail, Dann chooses “none” because he doesn’t drink and he never has. Dann only drinks water: living in Palm Springs, where this summer the temperature reached 122 degrees, you simply can not leave the house without a bottle of water. Drinking water all the time is also really good for the skin.

Dann is gone for at least part of every month, traveling about 45% of the year. His favorite place to travel for business is Vegas Market because there is always something to do. When traveling, he can’t be without his shoes. Even though Dann has accomplished a lot in interior design, he believes that there are still more plateaus to climb and always more to do and learn.

How Dann Started in Interior Design

Dann has always had an interest in interior design. His mom loves to tell the story that when he was a kid, his parents were afraid to go out to dinner because he would always rearrange the furniture when they left the house. As a result, his parents made sure he went to design school and got his degree. Dann went to Drexel University in Philadelphia. The idea of design school there is:’ if you don’t have good taste, we can’t teach it to you.’ They show you everything you need to know in order to work as a professional in the industry. At Drexel, he went to school year-around and worked in the industry for a paid position. Dann was given an interview for this job through their placement office. He worked at the design firm while in school and when he graduated he was offered a job there, but turned it down to pursue his own business.

Dann has always looked really young. When he graduated from his university he met up with some clients, the builder and the general contractor, walked into the meeting and everyone’s jaws dropped. He looked too young to be the designer. His very first client was a friend of his parents whom he worked with while he was still in school to get extra credit for his degree. Dann’s first client outside of school was a developer, who built resorts. 

The Business Today

Dann’s firm is called Dann Inc., they are primarily an interior design firm, though today he would call Dann Inc. a lifestyle design business. Over the years, when you get involved in doing someone’s home, clients love having the full experience. Dann Inc. delivers a very personal touch, they weren’t just giving people rooms, they were giving them a whole new life. Dann has never just done a single room for a client because afterward, the client will want their entire home done, right down to their closet and the wardrobe. Dann Inc. will even plan the parties to show off the client’s new home, from designing the invitations to doing the catering menus and wardrobes. 

Dann launched his own product line, Dann Foley Lifestyle, about four years ago. It coincided with the NBC’s premiere of American Dream Builders, hosted by Nate Berkus. Dann’s first product launch was with Phillips Collection. He has a brand new collection being launched at High Point this October. His products are about people being able to take his pieces and layer them with your own pieces of art. These are collections you are supposed to play with and make your own.

Dann only has three full-time staff members and everyone else is on an ‘as needed basis.’ Dann does everything with his business partner Beau Stinnette. Beau works directly with the design clients and he allows Dann, to be Dann. About half of Dann’s job is public appearances. His line includes everything from accessories, to wall art, to mirrors, lighting, furniture, upholstery, rugs, outdoor furniture, and more! This year, Dann has made his first appearance on The Evine Channel. His third staff member is an assistant that they both share. Working with such an intimate staff things can get chaotic but, no matter what the situation is his team always stops working at 5:00, because there is no problem so big that can’t wait until the next day. He says this is very important because he’s worked seven days a week before, worrying about every last detail and things he had no control over, like delivery times. He figured out that there’s nothing more important in life than perspective.

As previously mentioned, Dann isn’t home most of the time, so he pays someone to clean his toilet but, when it comes down to it, and it has, he will clean his own client’s toilet to make a perfect reveal, making it his least favorite hat to wear at work. Dann’s favorite hats to wear at work are the presenting hat and the reveal hat. He still gets clients from knocking on doors, schmoozing, and kissing their butts. He says that no amount of advertising will ever make up for the one on one potentiality of getting a job. He can tell clients to go their website first, and then see if they still really want to work with him. Dann’s website shows a wide array of work from contemporary to modern to traditional or classic interiors.

He says that one of the best things you can do is align yourself with a really good realtor because they will always have a new client. If you want to do more and license yourself, the best thing you can do is attend markets. If you spend money in a showroom regularly, make sure they know who you are. Relationships and communication are key to succeeding in the business, Dann states. The easiest way to defuse any situation is to simply say, “I’m really sorry, I dropped the ball,” and give a sincere apology and move forward.

Dann considers himself a problem solver and he loves doing it in his job every day. Dann doesn’t believe in telling everyone how successful his business is because you never know when it could all just be taken away. He considers himself lucky to have all the business that he has and he really loves what he does. Dann trusts social media more than any ad out there when it comes to PR for his business. He is at the point where most of the PR comes to his business on its own, but his company doesn’t forget to mention themselves every now and then. He says the one thing you should know about social media is that there are more and more people using Instagram every day than there are on all other platforms combined. If you think you only have time for one social media, use Instagram. On Dann’s Instagram, they post about design inspiration and living well. Some of his tips to living are as simple as sweeping your doorstep and making your bed.

Dann’s Advice

Dann has been designing for 30 years. Some advice for his younger self would be to trust your instinct! There’s formula to design, you plan it and then you execute it. At first, Dann found it hard to say no to the client, but then he thought to himself… the day the client is okay with Dann coming into their office and doing their job, the client can do Dann’s job. Dann says, no one will ever fire you for doing your job the wrong way.

Advice for young designers is to always carry your tablet with your portfolio on it, no matter where you go. Whether or not it’s just a school project, post it on Instagram because that way you will always be ready to go and have published material in your pocket. A good way to watch trends in interior design is to keep an eye on fashion because it is constantly changing. Fashion will then influence the home. Also, it’s a great way to keep an eye on colors and patterns that will find their way to home design in 12-18 months. Everybody loves color but sometimes it takes a designer to get the client comfortable with it. If the client doesn’t like a paint color, it much easier to change out than a $12,000 sofa, so just change it. As designers, we make the choices to get the complete picture to come together, and if you don’t get that piece of furniture a client wants, just move on, so just keep moving forward.


Benjamin Moore If you need to specify a paint color or two, be sure to use Benjamin Moore and be sure that your contractor is using the correct color materials that you have specified.

Design Manager They will help you get all of your paperwork and invoicing together. It’s super simple, efficient, and low cost.

Porcelanosa They have showrooms all over the world! They are known for their ceramic tile products but they also have stone and LVT product,s as well as kitchen and bath products, faucets, shower enclosures and more.

Benchmade Modern You can order a couch by the inch and it will come to you within two weeks!!!

  • Upcoming Events

ICFF Miami – Oct 3 – 4

IDS – Oct 13 – 16

High Point Market – Oct 14 – 18 For a list of events Nick will be participating click HERE.

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!

155 – Las Vegas Market LIVE: Barrie Livingstone

Las Vegas Market LIVE: Barrie Livingstone

On this episode of The Lounge, Nick joins us LIVE from Las Vegas Market at Zuo Modern’s Tiki Bar with designer Barrie Livingstone. Barrie designs high-end million dollar homes and he LOVES his job: he was born to do it. On the episode, Barrie tells us stories about some of his celebrity clients, as well as about past projects he worked on around the world.

Getting to Know Barrie

When Barrie is asked beer, wine or, cocktail it’s always a cocktail; usually a clear drink like vodka or tequila. Originally from Manchester, England Barrie moved to Miami as a teenager at 14 years old. His career started in Miami Beach however he now lives in Malibu, California. Barrie also previously lived in Malaysia and Dubai for two years. He has been to 51 countries and 37 states and he always counts where he goes. Barrie loves to go back to the same places and finds himself a lot in the Caribbean, South America, and Italy. Capri & Amalfi are his favorite cities in Italy. Barrie’s favorite fashion accessories are shoes and socks. The most recent movie he’s seen is Best Friends with Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn.

Barrie’s favorite celebrity he has worked for is Dwayne Johnson, who he met in first class on a plane over Thanksgiving in Fort Lauderdale. After that, Barrie ended up designing his home. Barrie says that one of the best places to network and meet clients is in first class on a plane and this is where he’s met several of his clients.

How Barrie got into Interior Design

If you go to Barrie’s website it says “Barrie Livingstone since 1968” because he really feels like design is something he was born to do. As a child, he was obsessed with how people lived in Old English Manor houses with smaller furniture, smaller door heights, and smaller everything. Barrie thought he wanted to be an actor but instead, he acts out his fantasies with his clients doing interior design. He attended the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and got a four-year degree while he was working full-time. Barrie started working in January 1987 and his first day of school was in April 1987. This year he’s celebrating his 30th anniversary of doing Interior Design. Barrie’s first job outside of school was for a gentlemen in Parkland, Florida who owned those 1-900 and 976 “naughty” numbers back in the 80s.

After 7 years in Fort Lauderdale with the South Beach Design Group, Barrie realized he wanted to do bigger things out west and left for California. His dream was always to do television and movie star homes. One of his friends from design school worked on Versace’s house and then started working on Cher’s house, a 16,000 square foot home. Barrie went to visit the home and little did he know 6 months later he would be working on Cher’s house too, his first client in LA. He spent 8 months working on the home with 85 other people but working with Cher was easy, as she was very particular and knew exactly what she wanted. Barrie tells us that when working with a celebrity you feel very empowered because you’re at the beck and call of this powerful person.

The Business Today

One of Barrie’s current projects is for a friend who just bought a 9 million dollar home. Barrie also just got back from Panama working on a big project. He can’t say much about because he signed a non-disclosure agreement, but his work will be a global television project coming soon.

When Barrie was in High Point being interviewed for the “Ask a Designer” show with The Design Network, one of the questions he was asked was, ‘What is the craziest thing a client has asked for?’ This didn’t happen to him but to his assistant. Barrie was designing a penthouse for a client who happened to be gay and wanted a giant four post bed. There was some kind of material that needed to be dropped off at the house and Barrie told his assistant, fresh out of school, 22 years old, to do it. As she was walking in the client asked her to come up the bedroom and told her to tell Barrie that the bed needed to be screwed into the ceiling and the floor. Why? Well, because he needed to be able to tie people to it and restrain them so the posts needed to be bolted down. The assistant came running back to Barrie crying,” he’s a monster, he’s monster, he ties people to his bed!” All that can be said is his assistant was indoctrinated quite quickly.

What’s made Barrie so successful is complete devotion to what he does. He loves having design in his life and having nice things around him, whether it’s fabric, friends or people. When he first came back from Dubai, after a two-year hiatus from the U.S, he had no clients and didn’t know what to with himself. One day he went down to the Pacific Design Center to look at fabrics and had moments with all of this gorgeous fabric. He spent 3 hours there and it was his therapy. Barrie loves meeting people and calls himself a person addict.

Barries does real estate as well, flipping and staging homes. He only started doing this five years ago but it was the next natural process for him after being a designer and salesperson. Starting out in design, Barrie loves that he can tell his clients how much a flip its going to cost. One of his most recent listings is a 7 million dollar home that he did with his partner Andrew McDonald in Malibu. They went to the mine.com and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars buying furnishings and lighting and used Zuo Modern as well. He says it’s wonderful to create interior spaces and then sell them.

Barrie also has a book called, Interior Design Tips Every Realtor Should Know But Doesn’t. The book includes 68 tips on what to do with your home, based on Barrie’s expertise. One tip includes: cleanliness is next to godliness. If you take care of your property, treat it with dignity and respect, then it will treat you with dignity and respect all the way back. An example is with doorknobs, which are easy to change all the way throughout owning a home. Also, Lighting is expensive and you see cobwebs on it which is not a good look. Clean it. Simple as that. One of Barrie’s mottos, since he began designing, is a room should be beautiful without furniture. When you walk into space and fall in love, it should be with the floors, molding, and light fixtures. Furniture should be the accessory.

One hat Barrie doesn’t like to wear is the bookkeeping hat so he hires somebody to keep track of his figures. He knows what his weaknesses are and he knows he needs someone to watch them for him. His favorite hat to wear is the television and entertainment hat because he really does love entertaining people. Barrie’s dad would say that you always put yourself in the nicest home in the smallest area and that way you’re always surrounded by amazing people.

On top of doing residential, Barrie does Hospitality design as well. At the InterContinental hotel in Dubai, he got to design seven restaurants and four different room types. He worked 90 hours a week for three months to complete it. A future design project Barrie would like to do is a holistic spa that is a very [green]-friendly design.

Learn more at www.barrielivingstone.com and don’t forget to say hi to Barry while you are there.


Porcelanosa carries everything from amazing porcelain tile to high-end cabinetry, furniture bathroom fixtures, faucets, toilets, and shower enclosures.

Benjamin Moore We apply hundreds of gallons of Benjamin Moore Paint to walls and cabinets every month. It’s our trustest product, why shouldn’t it be yours too?

Design Manager Use Design Manager to manage and organize your interior design business online all from one place, one platform.

Universal Furniture is our newest sponsor! Check them out!

  • Upcoming Events

ICFF Miami – Oct 3 – 4

IDS – Oct 13 – 16 *Put the code: CHAISELOUNGE to get a $100 discount through the end of September. For a chance to get a free ticket post an Instagram selfie in front of a showroom and have fun with it, tag it with #freedesignsummit.

High Point Market – Oct 14 – 18 *Sunday, Oct 15 Nick will be hosting a panel at High Point Market called Hospitality Insiders Share All: What it Takes to be a Designer in the Hospitality Sector

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!


154 – Cheryl Durst: From School Teacher to CEO of IIDA

Cheryl Durst: From School Teacher to CEO of IIDA

Today in The Lounge, we have a special guest. She’s not a designer… but she is one of the biggest movers and shakers in the interior design world. Welcome Cheryl Durst: savior and CEO of IIDA. Find out how Cheryl went from school teacher to CEO and how she saved The International Interior Design Association (IIDA).

Changing the Furniture Manufacturing World One Hinge at a Time

Benchmade Modern is trying to disrupt the furniture manufacturing world by providing quality furniture at a reasonable price. Not only quality furniture but CUSTOM products at regular prices as well! Whether a customer comes to the interior designer to use the designer discount code or goes straight to Benchmade modern themselves, their services are available!

Learn more about Benchmade Modern and their Trade Program at www.benchmademodern.com

Getting to Know Cheryl

Cheryl joins us from Chicago but she’s usually on the road traveling about 35-40 weeks a year. Cheryl grew up in Toledo, Ohio, and went to school at Boston University for Journalism and Economics with a minor in Art History. After Cheryl graduated she moved to Washington, DC where she became a substitute teacher. One of the parents of her students liked the way she managed her class, as well as her level of enthusiasm, and asked if she ever thought about a career in sales. Bada bing bada boom, he hired her at Westinghouse Furniture Systems where she wrote product literature and worked as the showroom manager. Cheryl became very involved in the commercial side of design. Afterward, she was whisked away to work in marketing at the Washington Design Center. Interior design legislation was coming to the forefront in DC and Maryland so Cheryl was in charge of putting together curriculum and continuing education courses to satisfy those jurisdictions and requirements for designers. Later she was transferred to Chicago with her husband who worked for the Merchandise Mart as a trade show specialist. By now they had their first child, so Cheryl decided she could take a part-time job with two-year-old IIDA. She was hired to be the Director of Education and little did she know, 3 years later Cheryl would be CEO.

This is Cheryl’s 20th year with IIDA and her 17th as CEO. Her quick transition to CEO was brought about because of financial issues with the organization. The Board of Directors came to Cheryl and asked if  she wanted to step into “fix it.” They needed a complete financial turnaround, IIDA was essentially bankrupt and was going to cease to exist. So Cheryl worked to make big changes like instituting an annual audit – nothing sexy at all- but all necessary to build sound infrastructure for an organization. Cheryl had always intended to go back to school for her MBA but ended up having on the job training for a real-life MBA AND she did ALL OF THIS while she was months PREGNANT.

IIDA’s Mission

IIDA is a professional membership organization that has created an international network to connect members worldwide and most importantly, advance the profession of interior design. IIDA connects and creates a community to educate designers about the incredibly complex profession. Cheryl says that interior design is growing evolutionary leaps and bounds, as humans demand so much from the spaces we inhabit: from hospital rooms to homes, to hotel rooms. The people who create those spaces should be and be seen as utmost professionals. When it comes to creating a physical space there are so many choices: Do you use an architect, a contractor, a decorator, or an interior designer?

IIDA promotes the profession of interior design by talking about its value. Interior Designers have the challenge of explaining their value to clients. Cheryl relays that we live in a world that loves design, without being able to articulate the value that design brings. We know that people feel better in a well-designed place and children learn more effectively in a well-designed classroom so IIDA works very hard to create materials to explain WHY. This includes continuing education programs, publications, and the book series: What Clients Want. A client might go into their project wanting a beautiful efficient home, but will come out on the other end with a better understanding of themselves, their culture, their business or value proposition. That is the goal. “Design is a strategy, not just an end to a means” Cheryl shares. “Many people do not have the vocabulary for design beyond its aesthetic.”

What’s New?

IIDA just debuted their new space in Chicago at Neocon in June. The goal of the space was to encourage collaboration amongst their staff, give them mobility within the workplace, make it beautiful, and offer flexible choice to their employees. They had to keep in mind that they are a huge representative of contemporary commercial interior design, so IIDA wanted to exhibit the best practices in the world of workplace design.They have an Idea Studio, which is a revenue-generating space (which is important as a nonprofit organization). It is open to be rented out by groups and organizations for assembly, gatherings, training, focus groups, social events, design awards programs, panel discussions and so much more. Anyone who needs a meeting space can rent it out, as well as their conference rooms.

Why Join IIDA?

IIDA allows immediate access to a worldwide community of design professionals and networking. No matter how you attach (via the publications, the website, or joining in your city) there are a multitude of opportunities to connect with other designers and learn more about where the profession of interior design is headed. They run about a dozen international design competitions including regional and specialty competitions (such as healthcare and hospitality). Healthcare is currently one of the most intriguing and complex arenas in the world of design. Good design directly correlates to how people heal. The time people spend in hospitals has grown shorter due to design considerations such as exposure to daylight. On the flipside of the coin, a hospital is also a workplace. Efficiency in design can look like conducting motion studies on the time it takes a nurse to move from a nursing station to an ICU bed. Interior Design is a multidisciplinary practice, it requires collaboration with the professionals that inhabit the space designers are designing.

Cheryl relays that research is an inherent part of design. Design is about what happens on the receiving end and can’t just rely on anecdotal evidence. It has to rely on metrics, and qualitative and quantitative data, as there is a level of accountability to increase performance in a space. Cheryl tells us that people tend to think design is just about beauty (and beauty is a very important part of design) but it is also about effectiveness and efficiency. There is an entire intellectual side that slowly the public is becoming aware of. Every single entity and organization is a consumer of design, so forging those relationships and having those higher level conversations about the goals of design is integral to IIDA. They have conducted research to study happiness and satisfaction in the workplace. Is indoor air quality, access to natural daylight, mobility and choice just as important as a 401K and vacation days? The answer is yes.

Cheryl’s Advice to Students and Industry Newbies:

“Study people, study human beings, they are the art and science of design. While you may be proficient at sketching, Revit, and CAD, the tool that enables design at the end of the day is human beings. Be observational, be curious, ask great questions, but also observe people in place and in space. You need to be a student of human beings to be a successful designer.:

Learn more at www.iida.org 

Chaise Lounge Updates

Make your travel plans for Highpoint now!!! Each day at 2:30 Nick will be doing an interview with a different designer in a different showroom. He will also be having breakfast at 8:30 at the Universal Showroom on Saturday the 14th. His talk Passion Sucks It’s All about the Money will be at 11 am at Universal Furniture. To RSVP click here!

Send us your questions about interior design, marketing, the show or any past show. Introduce yourself through the Question? tab, Facebook or Instagram.

  • Upcoming Events

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!

153 – Amber Golob: Accountant Turned Interior Designer

Amber Golob: Accountant Turned Interior Designer

Today in The Lounge, Nick talks with Amber Golob, accountant turned interior designer, as well as Neil MacKenzie of Universal Furniture. Amber Golob has a marketing tactic that brings in TOO much business so you’ll want to hear about it. Nick tells us what you can expect from the Universal Furniture Showroom at the Fall High Point Market.

What is Universal to the Trade?

Neil is the Marketing Manager of Universal Furniture. He joins us from High Point, North Carolina, the epicenter of Interior Design. The Universal showroom is located downtown High Point and their corporate offices are right down the road (off Highway 68) which connect to their warehouse as well.

Universal consists of three brands, Universal Furniture, Smartstuff, and Universal to the Trade. Universal to the Trade is a new program that launched 2 and a half years ago with exclusive products available only to designers in the industry. There is no order minimum, for all orders, and the prices include freight! With Universal to the Trade’s online system, you can check past order history, easily navigate the website, build a library AND it’s mobile-friendly. Order what you see, and that is what you get. You will receive up to date notifications of where your order is. The turnaround time for a product to be shipped is on average 14 days. Call the design line to order samples now! Universal to the Trade’s focus is on giving designers an easy one-stop shop, so they would love YOUR feedback.

Universal Furniture has one of the biggest showrooms at High Point, over 18,000 square feet. During Market, they will be doing breakfast, lunch, and cocktails so come by, charge your phone, kick back and relax! The showroom is also filled with natural light, fun music, and food so it will be a great place to hang out. You can see the schedule of events at their learning center during High Point Market here. This INCLUDES Nick’s talk, “PASSION SUCKS. It’s All About the Money.” So don’t forget to stop by!

If you want to find Nick at Market, he most likely will be hanging out in his Universal Furniture “office” so go visit!! Nick also wants to have breakfast with YOU so join him in the Universal Furniture Showroom on Saturday 10/14to say hi!

You can find out more about Universal to the Tade by going to their website or following them Instagram and Twitter.

Getting to Know Amber

Amber Golob lives in Chicago and her studio is in Evanston, Illinois. Her favorite movie she’s seen in the last year is Wonder Woman and her favorite childhood memory is when she would clean the house and rearrange the furniture every Saturday with her mother. Amber is originally from Osage, Iowa. She grew up on a large acreage in the woods playing outside – an idyllic childhood. Her favorite fashion accessory is earrings because they can complete any outfit. She and her family don’t vacation in the same spot twice, they are explorers and like to go somewhere new each time. When she is asked beer, wine, or cocktail, Amber prefers a cocktail with gin.

How Amber Went from Accounting to Design

Amber’s interest in interior design started as a little girl when she rearranged the furniture with her mom (to this day she still purges and rearranges when she is stressed). She went to school for Business and later became a practicing accountant, but realized it wasn’t her passion. To be in finance, Amber says, you need to be interested in how money works, and not what it does; and she wasn’t. So she set out to marry her passion with having a business and went back to school to get a Fine Arts degree at Harrington College of Design in Chicago.

A lot of people want to go back school for Interior Design but know that it can be a difficult challenge as you grow older. Amber was married and pregnant with her first child when she went back to get her Fine Arts degree. Her husband was very supportive to her career switch and understood she needed to follow her passion. They were lucky enough to have the financial stability for her to do so, although paying for a second degree can be stressful.

Design school took a little less than two years because Amber’s business degree overlapped with some of the classes, meaning she had already taken them. Surprisingly though, design school was more difficult than getting her accounting degree. It was easy for Amber to cram for an exam in accounting, but taking a design studio is not good for procrastinators. It was very difficult and time-consuming work that is stressful, not ALL fun. At the time, Amber was in her early 30s and wasn’t embarrassed to always raise her hand and ask tons questions. She wanted to get the most value out of her money. When being older and going back to school, your life experience lends to so much more success in school, making it very rewarding.

After school Amber was fairly aggressive about finding a job and contacting hiring managers, as she had recruiting experience. Her dream job had always been working at The Merchandise Mart in the Luxe Home showroom on the first floor. SO she contacted the company and solicited the hiring manager for a job directly, which worked very well. She joined Woodharbor Home as an intern (who are still the major cabinet line she uses in her kitchens today). At Woodharbor Home, Amber went from intern to employee, to independent contractor, and finally a dealer.

Amber always recommends paying a visit to where you’d like to work and asking them for a job directly. Find out who the decision maker is and put your information in front of them. With smaller design firms this should be easier as you can call, find out who that person is, go grab coffee with them and ask them to be your mentor. It takes some guts and it is important to be polite and polished in the interview. Amber’s two interns now understand what it is that designers do because they have exposure to the business. There’s no better way to know what you’re getting into then experiencing it first hand.

The Business Today

Amber and her two interns, (who basically work as designers) handle the design and execution of projects as well as client management. Amber also has a freelance bookkeeper and marketing person. Her studio showcases her kitchen designs which she co-ops with another designer. When Woodharbor Home decided to close their Merchandise Mart showroom after 10 years, the company approached their designers and offered all of the products to them to open their own showrooms. After getting asked multiple times from her now partner, she took everything from the merchandise mart and moved it up to Evanston to open a showroom together. It was the opportunity of a lifetime that landed in her lap. Amber and her partner decided to work in a co-op relationship because they each already had their own client base established.

Amber’s first large project on her own was fairly frightening. It was a large penthouse with $250,000 worth of cabinetry. It was intense but really rewarding as the project almost completely paid for her Evanston showroom. Being a mom and business owner got better over time. Her stress level was very high, and still is, but she has learned how to handle it and not bring anything home with her. Amber says that mistakes will be made but all that matters at the end of the day is that the project is complete and the client is happy with the result. Time management is a big challenge when being a mother and business owner, as you have to work hard but also know when to stop working and make time for the kids. Amber likes to have a routine and stability in her and her kids lives so she stops working from 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm to pick them from school, help with their homework and spend time with them each day.

Keeping up with finances is pretty easy for Amber because the majority of her budget is in bath, kitchen, and cabinetry. She uses a smaller budget for furniture, finishes, and drapery. Although her accounting background helps immensely, she does rely on her bookkeeper to keep track of all her design hours. At any given time she has 10-15 projects going on and about 8 or 9 of them are kitchen projects. The time it takes to finish a kitchen can vary due to the client. This is because some clients know exactly what they want their kitchen to look like and others might not have a clue. Amber is not always involved in the installation of cabinets unless she is supplying the cabinets, in which case, she will also do the cabinet installation drawings. She always stops in but, her contractors are the ones in charge of the timeline and getting the installation process complete. Amber does work try to work with the same contractor but has gotten to know a few different ones in the business. She also helps her clients pick the contractor that is right for them, and sometimes even feels like a dating service, because each client has a different preference!

Amber’s Marketing Strategy

Opening the showroom in Evanston helped attract Amber’s overhead. She did a few print ads and events but that didn’t rally enough revenue to sustain the showroom. Then she met Kyle, her marketing person. Kyle originally approached Amber through Houzz, doing marketing work for a contractor. Amber was so impressed with the way Kyle sold the contractor to her, that she hired him for herself! Kyle’s marketing strategy is very targeted. He knows about the client, targets their location and studies them prior to reaching out. Amber does make the phone calls though as that’s how she gets a feel for the people she’s potentially going to work with. It has been incredibly successful. So much so that Amber has put a pause on her found marketing expert’s magic. She’s happy with the amount of business she has and is now focused on branding. As of now, Kyle and Amber look at local opportunities for press that go hand in hand with their online strategies. The goal is to marry those two things to brand themselves as, “Living Your Luxury,” which will vary from client to client.

What’s New in the Business

Amber will be opening up a second showroom location in Roscoe Village, Illinois. It will be more soft goods and cabinetry BUT It will be ONLY Amber’s — she will not be in it with her partner. This location will be better for staffing too and since Evanston can be hard to get to sometimes, the new location will be great for her clients.

You can follow Amber at @AmberGolobint on her TwitterInstagram, or Facebook.


Porcelanosa not only offers free 3D renderings and porcelain tile, but they also do vanities, kitchen, furniture, soap dishes, towel bars, towel warmers and so MUCH MORE. ALL WE WANT YOU TO DO THIS WEEK is go have a cup of coffee with someone from the Porcelanosa showroom!!!! Talk, hang out, get to know them and then tell us about it!

  • 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!

152 – Industry: Interns! Interns! Interns!

Industry: Interns! Interns! Interns!

Benjamin Moore Paints continue to be the best on the market. It’s the only paint Nick May uses and believe us, he has used and tested them ALL. Benjamin Moore is the BEST there is for the dollar investment. As a designer, make sure your painting contractor uses the right product, not something cheaper because it might not hold up. Unfortunately, if something does go wrong with the paint in a client’s home, it’s usually YOU on the line, not the painter. So make sure the contractor is using the EXACT product you are specifying so that they don’t go with something inferior. Also, if you don’t have a Benjamin Moore architect and design color kit, reach out to Nick on the Question? tab and he will make sure one is shipped to you at NO cost!

Today on The Lounge, Phyllis Harbinger joins Nick from her outdoor office on her very own chaise lounge. Design Manager has started a social media campaign to support designers making purchases and Phyllis has hopped on board! When customers buy online, they are not getting the same type of service designers provide to their clients. Additionally, if you buy from a big box store at a cheaper price, it’s not just cheaper because they buy in bulk but also because they use different parts that aren’t the same quality. Phyllis has since blasted her social media channels to support the campaign and gave a shout out to her trusted vendors. The relationship that designers have with their vendors is taking care of the designer and their clients as well as championing their design process and endeavors. That doesn’t happen to a client who goes online and buys something. Phyllis is advocating for designers to step up and educate their clients! Interior design is not a commodity, but a value-added service. Go take a look at Design Manager’s campaign on social media with the hashtag #designmyths. Phyllis is also hosting a webinar with Design Manager on September 7th so go sign up here and join in!

Interns! Interns! Interns!

Phyllis started using interns back in 2004 when she was in the early stages of her career and could not fill a full-time position. She had two interns who worked two days a week as 3rd-year students. They went to job sites and did everything, mirrored her AND helped her. Hiring interns is an amazing experience for a small business to grow their team. Furthermore, if the internship goes well, it’s a great idea to keep he/she on the team so they can start them full-time when they graduate. Even if they’re not the right fit for your company, the experience helps them to get other jobs outside of it and enriches your practice too. Phyllis’ interns usually stay with her for 3 years and after the first year, they come on board full-time. In terms of compensation, the first year starts out with paid expenses and the second year transitions to a paid internship. If your school has an internship course like FIT, you can get school- credit for it as well.

Not all schools have internship programs but Phyllis believes that every student should seek out an internship no matter what. They give you perspective and incredible work experience. So if you are a student and don’t already have one, seek out the opportunity because so much value is added to your entire educational experience. Work for experience, not for free.

What should students look for in an internship?

Look at firms whose company culture and vibe you like. Look at the kind of work they do, the size of their office, and their values. Think about what YOUR unique brilliances are. As an intern, you will likely be asked to do more than what you are best at, but it’s important to highlight what you ARE best at in your resume. Think about all of the experience and education you will get out of the opportunity: designing, sketching, attending meetings, fabric shopping, working on installations, seeing through deliveries, creating proposals and invoices, seeing projects reach fruition, THE WHOLE NINE-YARDS. Even if you aren’t doing all of these things on your own, you are learning HOW to do them. Phyllis even bought one of her interns the professional version of Auto-CAD instead of the student version so she would have access to the entire platform. If you are hiring an intern, invest in this person! It is a win win.

Looking for an intern?

Find someone who aligns with the work culture, work ethic, and environment that you have created. Maybe even spend the few dollars it costs to give a Strengthsfinders test or Kolbe test to make sure they are the right fit for your organization.

Do your homework and plan! Figure out how you are going to work with this person and what you are going to have them do. There will be some training involved, so don’t forget to be a coach and a mentor: show them the ropes. Once you get to know this person you can find out what they are good at and assign tasks related to their strengths. That is how you (and they) will be successful. Be patient and help them learn.

Phyllis advises to give yourself about a year as new business owner before you hire an intern. First, create your company and its brand, figure out who you are and how to be your own boss, before being someone else. Mature enough in your business ethic so you can mentor and share the experience to make it meaningful for an intern. Feel free to let people work with you virtually if they prefer but don’t forget to engage with them physically as well. The comradery and collective, collaborative, thinking that happens when you are physically with someone is just as important. Understand who your intern really is, how they speak, how they write, their timeliness. Write up an internship employee manual to write up good, clear, expectations.

If you are looking to find an intern or are looking for an internship ask your local interior design schools, go on craigslist, the ASID job board, Net Impact, Intern Jobs, and/or Editor at Large. Employers might want to think about making a video! So people get a feeling for you who are, what you do what, where you work, and your company culture.

You can contact Phyllis at info@harbingerdesignconsulting.com and also follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


The Designer’s Lounge has gone live! Presented by The Chaise Lounge, The Designer’s Lounge is an up and coming community of students, designers, and industry newbies made just for YOU! If you are a student anywhere in the world we would love to connect you with other designers, give you resources, and post jobs for you as well! All you have to do is visit The Designer’s Lounge on Facebook.

The Chaise Lounge is building our internship program as well! We are looking to hire students from all over the country so they can work the hours fit best into THEIR schedule. Inquire through the Question? tab, apply through our online job board or directly to admin@thechaiseloungepodcast.com.

Porcelanosa has 24 locations throughout the U.S AND 3 new showrooms opening in Walnut Creek, SF; San Diego; and Miami. They have a fantastic amount of breadth in their products and the quality is off the charts, from cabinets to furniture and plumbing! Not only this, but Porcelanosa also manufactures the products for installation as well.

High Point Market is around the corner, we hope you all have your plane tickets and hotel rooms! Don’t forget to visit interiordesignsummit.com if you want to attend IDS enter code CHAISELOUNGE to get $100 off your ticket.

  • 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!

151 – Ann Lowengart: Interiors Started on a Dare

Ann Lowengart: Interiors Started on a Dare

Today in The Lounge Nick joins Ann Lowengart of Ann Lowengart Design to talk about how her interior design business started on a dare. Ann and Nick discuss the importance of having a great staff on your side and how it helps propels your business.

Getting to Know Ann

A career can really feed your soul. For Ann, it does just that. She loves client interactions, design, business, and operations. She says that understanding that a love for her career can be more than just a paycheck, is the biggest lesson she learned from her parents growing up. Her favorite vacation she took was when she brought her daughter, an equestrian, to ride in Ireland. When Ann is asked, “Beer, wine or cocktail?” she prefers an iced tea and a run.

Before she started her career in interior design, Ann was in corporate sales and attended UC Berkeley. She received the classic sales job after college and worked for Procter and Gamble. She says it was a really great experience for her because she rose up the ranks from stocking shelves to managing a small group of people. It was a great way to learn the basics of business and how to sell effectively, manage a team, listen carefully to her customers, behave in the most ethical and honest way and win at what you are doing.

I Dare You!

After five years, Ann took a severance package from P&G, which she and her used husband to buy a building. Ann remodeled the units in the building and then sold them. It was in the first unit that she discovered her love for wood floors and molding. She also found that she had an eye for spatial relationships and detail. Ann’s friend noticed that she LOVED what she did with the remodel and dared her to put “Remodel Consultant” on her business card. Ann did and the next day at her open house she handed them out and received her first call. She booked her second project from a neighbor who also picked up one of her business cards and now, almost twenty years later, she has finished her fourth project for that family.

The Business Today

Ann has a team that consists of nine to fifteen people. At any given moment they might also have nine to twelve luxury residential projects going on at a time. Decorating a home from the ground up can take one to two years to complete, but allows Ann to get to know her clients really well. She prides herself on customer service. Projects at Ann’s company can vary greatly in price. A lot of customers are under the impression that remodels work like they do on HGTV. Some kind of magic wand is waved around and poof! The project is done. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works in real life. Ann had the opportunity to be interviewed by HGTV and one of the first things he did was apologize for the expectations HGTV sets… rarely anything can be finished super quickly for a reasonable price.

For this reason, Ann’s company gives a lengthy questionnaire process to be sure a client fits within her company. They have walked away from clients if they can’t meet their budget and timeframe scenarios because they’d rather not do a disservice to the client or the company. If they do accept a brand new client, they first listen carefully to the client’s design expectations and look at any Pinterest boards, design boards, or tear sheets they may have in order to stick as closely to what the client wants as possible. After the customer is taken on a shopping trip to see which levels of quality exist within their budget. A specific budget is developed to include everything from furniture, draperies, area rugs, accessories, art, and any extra costs associated with projects so the client knows where their money is going. They do not move forward unless the client is on the same page as them.

Ann and Coupar PR

Coupar PR is very strategic as well as ethical and honest. Krista’s staff is also excellent in getting Ann’s name out there such as in magazines. When Ann first joined Houzz in 2010, most of the images uploaded were from people in the industry showcasing their best work. It was before Houzz exploded that Ann was at the top their list for San Francisco designers. As a result, she received about 25 calls a month from qualified clients.

Today, most of her clients tend to come from referrals from architects or real estate agents she’s worked with in the past. Additionally, she’s also has a lot repeat clients. It’s important to be transparent with the client and upfront about the potential failures that may happen. There are 50 points of potential failure between when a client says they want something and the time that is delivered to their home. She says it her job to mitigate that risk for the clients. When things do go wrong Ann likes to have the courage to talk to the client and put systems in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The Road to Success

To have a successful interior design business Ann thinks both the creative and business side of interior design should be equally as strong to thrive. Celerie Kemble is a great example of this and Ann is trying to be more like her. Tory Burch is another designer who Ann looks up to and is always finding inspiration from.

Ann is also not afraid of losing someone on her staff if they have a passion for something else. Ann and Nick both agree that their staff is most successful when they are great at what they do and want to see them excel at what they are great at. Ann likes to give people the best working environment she can and help and encourage them if they do decide to leave. When you can understand all the nuances around the design business, that is what helps to propel you through the difficult times. There are so many people that can develop a beautiful room but, it’s having the understanding of how to avoid difficult situations and how to get through them, that can make you or break you in the end.  

You can reach Ann on her website and on Houzz. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook.


Benjamin Moore You might not know that Benjamin Moore has Architect and Design Reps that cover the country. You can order color sheets for yourself or your customers. Certifications are also available on Benjamin Moore’s website such as NPI Paint Standards and LEED. You can also download Safety data sheets and technical data sheets for projects. Even if you aren’t currently working on a project is it always good to talk and get to know your local rep before you need them and connect to who is in your area.

Design Manager Follow them on Instagram and check out their social media blitz by typing in #designmyths. Follow and participate in the conversation about common industry misconceptions.

Porcelanosa not only has great tile and cabinetry but they will also help you get connected with different people in the hospitality world. Go down to their local showroom and get yourself familiar with the products and people working there.

  • Upcoming Events

High Point Market Oct 14-18
*Sunday Oct 15 Nick will be hosting a panel at High Point Market called Hospitality Insiders Share All: What it Takes to be a Designer in the Hospitality Sector

IDS – Oct 13-16

Put the code: CHAISELOUNGE to get a $100 discount through the end of September. For a chance to get a free ticket post an instagram selfie in front of a showroom and have fun with it, tag it with #freedesignsummit.

BDNY – 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!