Podcast

138 – Miami Interior Designer: David Charette

Britto Charette miami interior design

Miami Interior Designer: David Charette

Today in The Lounge, Nick chats with David Charette, one half of the Miami based design firm Britto Charette, from the Porcelanosa flagship building in NYC. Learn about David’s early days as a designer, his journey to Miami, and the lessons he learned from opening a design firm shortly after an economic recession.

Getting to Know David

David, a Michigan native, loves: to travel, shoes and Tesla. Unfortunately, he doesn’t drive a Tesla (he drives a land rover) but he finds himself drawn to the environmentally conscious concept and brand behind Tesla. His favorite accessory is shoes, Jimmy Choo being his brand of choice as they have a lot of options for men and garner lots of compliments. David’s parents were school teachers who taught him the importance of education, tenacity and to never give up. They also instilled his love of travel. He has been traveling since the age of two. Some of his favorite places are Florence, Berlin, Paris, and Hong Kong. In the US, he is drawn to the excitement of Manhattan and its many skyscrapers.

One of David’s strengths has been drawing and sketching. Growing up, he found that he was always putting together spaces, shapes and volumes and building models with Legos. He also had strong drawing and hand sketching abilities, which he now uses as a tool to communicate with clients to articulate his ideas. David began studying Fine Arts and Sculpture at Aquinas University in Grand Rapids. However, after receiving feedback that most of his work was architectural in nature he transferred to the University of Detroit where he received a Bachelor of Architecture (professional architecture degree). He taught 3rd-year studio at the University before he departed to focus on his professional work.

Although David is passionate about core and shell architecture, he found himself drawn to interior design due to the project time frame and increased client connection. When constructing a new building from the ground up, the process could take between 3-4 years. There is immediacy to interior design, where a project could be complete in around 6 months. With interiors, David found much more client contact and interaction with the end users. There was also more of a personal connection since people typically experience a building from the inside.

Professional Life

David began working at Smith Group where he focused on higher education, corporate projects, and top secret spaces. After this, he moved around a bit interning in Cleveland and Chicago before landing at the San Francisco office of Perkins and Will. At Perkins and Will he worked on one of his largest projects, Princess Nora University, for 45,000 students in Beirut. It was a fast-track project, going from design to completion in 4 years. Working on this project allowed him to live and work in Beirut as a member of the design team and also travel to Miami and Chicago for various team meetings.

At a trip to Chicago for NeoCon, a trade show for commercial interior design, David met his future business partner, Jay Britto. After a series of casual conversations, David noticed that they had similar tastes and he found himself growing increasingly frustrated with his experience in large corporate environments. Fueled by a lack of recognition for his participation in an industrial design project on display at NeoCon, Jay and David decided to work together and create their own firm: Britto Charette. As designers, they are both equally creative. They work organically; sharing most of the work and naturally dividing project demands. David calls his move to Miami a calculated risk. It is a very architectural city with large room to grow and invest.

Creating and Maintaining the Business

 

David accredits three steps to creating his business: a strong business plan, staffing, and technology. Opening in 2010 when Miami was beginning to come back from the collapse of the condo market, David and Jay invested $100,000 to start their business. After this initial investment, the partners began thinking about the space, and clients. They were fortunate as Jay was already working for himself and had an existing client base focusing on residential projects. They now find themselves with a staff of 10 full-time employees (a few working remotely) focusing on hospitality and retail in addition to their residential projects.

As a boutique design firm Britto Charette keeps the business lean. Their staff includes a Principal designer, Senior Designer, Junior Designer, CAD drafter and office manager that are broken up into project groups. They offer a competitive benefits package (401k and medical, PTO, vision and dental) as well as paid employee training. They find that big teams are challenging and 10-12 seems to be a good number to manage while allowing the opportunity to review and support their team.

When it comes to managing staff, David is a strong believer in delegating. Delegating allows employees to be a part of the process and fosters a collaborative learning environment. He also believes in strengthening his employee’s active listening skills. The presence of cell phones has become increasingly distracting in professional environments so rather than looking at smartphones during meetings, all of their attendees take notes which are then compiled into a master document. This allows staff members to be actively present and perceptive of client feedback and mannerisms, which is especially important with working across different languages and cultures.

David has been through 4 recessions in his professional life and has seen others struggle through the downturn. He has recognized that “fortune favors the prepared” and is guided by this principle. Often times an opportunity or experience can come up and if one is not ready for it then they have to decline. Being prepared readies a person to partake in opportunities as they arise. Through his professional journey, he has recognized that one does not always have to spend money to impress others and has now learned to manage money wisely. He advises others to look at their monthly expenses and to have 4 months of liquidity in their account that isn’t touched. Look at money as strategy and never go into debt to do something. Every time a check is received from a client 10% of it should go into savings and get reinvested into the firm. Currently, Jay and David are reinvesting in their company by redesigning their website and increasing the number of photo shoots.

Services

Britto Charette began using 3D printing methods for custom prototypes for their industrial design studio and the creation of custom furniture; however, they found that the final results were too small to be effective. They now do full-scale section mockups and they have been getting more involved with Virtual Reality on certain projects. The cost for the Virtual Reality technology is about $2500-$5000 and it gives clients the opportunity to walk through, zoom in or fly over a virtual room scene. The firm also utilizes 3D modeling for every project, with a typical project receiving 3-5 3D renderings, costing between $600-$800 depending on the size of the project and the number of revisions. Not only does 3D Rendering allow the client to visualize the space, the final images can be a great marketing tool and uploaded on social media sites to promote the business.

Marketing

Social Media can be a great tool to grow and promote the business but must be constantly uploaded and maintained. David advises to pick a platform that you like and support that one heavily. Also, always ask clients “How did you hear about us?” to gain insight and data for which marketing strategies are working. His firm uses HouzzPinterest, and Instagram as social platforms. Social Media has been such a successful platform for the firm that as of 2016, they have begun phasing out the use of paid printed advertisement. They found that sales increased after the removal of paid advertising. With paid advertisements, it was difficult to aggregate the data to define if a job came in the door as a result of the paid ad. They realized that people like to pin photos, enjoy liking posts and are frequently engaged in social media. With printed magazines, it is difficult to go back and remember where you saw something. Surprisingly enough, although they don’t have many followers they are constantly told by clients that they are looking at feed.

To Learn more about Britto Charette visit their website www.brittocharette.com

For more information on Industrial Design Products visit: www.bchomeusa.com

Sponsors

Porcelanosa – Check out Porcelanosa’s product Krion, a natural mineral based solid surface material ideal for kitchen and bathroom areas, retail or healthcare environments. It is an antimicrobial, nonporous and durable alternative to stone or ceramic.

Previously Owned by a Gay Man – Looking for something unique or sick of shopping second-hand stores? Visit www.previouslyownedbyagayman.com to find unique gently used items.

Next up Nick will be heading to Chicago for NeoCon and also visiting Julia Buckingham’s office in Chicago for the next long format interview.

  • Upcoming Events

PCBC – June 26 – 28

Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 2

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13

KBIS – Jan 9 – 11

Wrap Up

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

137 – Blaze Makoid Architecture


Photography by Joshua McHugh

Blaze Makoid Architecture

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Blaze Makoid of Blaze Makoid Architecture. Blaze shares with us the challenges of starting his own business, how he get’s the word out about his firm, and what’s on the horizon.

Getting to know Blaze

Blaze Makoid is joining Nick in The Lounge from Sag Harbor, NY in the Hamptons, where he looks forward to the beautiful weather and social seasons. Blaze also looks forward to vacations with his daughter. They travel out of the country on winter vacations for skiing trips. Blaze also enjoys a good cocktail – Manhattans, martinis, and tequila.

How Blaze got into architecture

Blaze showed interest in architecture as early as 4th grade. He always wanted to draw. Later on, Blaze attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). Classes were set up as trimesters and students were encouraged to take classes outside of their focus over the winter session (like furniture making, glass blowing, painting, and more), which he did. Blaze worked at GBQC Architect Firm in Philidelphia for a year in order to save up to travel to Europe.

After school, Blaze moved back to Boston, where he worked for Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects. Then he worked for two Alumnus of the firm and began in high-end luxury residential design. He very much enjoyed the vibe and intimacy of being in a small office. Blaze continued to excel in his career and found himself at a larger company as a director of design for Hillier and ECCB. He was building college academic and institutional buildings but hated what he was doing because he was doing very little design but instead doing lots of managing. Blaze was faced with the challenge to overcome his fear of the unknown by starting his own firm. He couldn’t reboot and get excited about managing long projects once again. Blaze recalls wearing many hats including being an architect, a consultant, an accountant, a salesperson, an HR person and more. He had no training and had to learn everything on the fly. Blaze also discusses the difficult task of not being shy and “talking money” with clients so you can be paid for the work you do.

Blaze’s firm downsized during the economic downturn, but they survived. Blaze mentions that the firm was reduced down to one. He didn’t even take a salary for a while and accepted payment plans from clients. This turn of events allowed Blaze to slowly hire people who were excited, ready to work, and talented. Blaze continued to only focus on modern architecture, which was hard at the time, but now the firm has an identity.

What the business looks like today

Blaze Makoid Architecture focuses on residential architecture, with most of their work in the Hamptons. The business has grown steadily and Blaze has a goal of one project outside of the Hamptons per year. Blaze also has an office in Tahoe. This remote employee was ready for a change. Since Blaze trusts him completely, he was able to offer this opportunity.

Getting the word out

Blaze recently hired a PR firm in order to get maximum exposure for promoting three different projects he was working on. He also runs advertisements in various print publications during the summer based on competition. Blaze has formed strong relationships with real estate agents, attorneys, builders, and surveyors. He’s started networking at social events and parties, invests time combing through newspapers every week and pouring over real estate ads, and even writes letters to brokers.

What’s next?

Blaze and his company moved into a new space six weeks ago, where they are focusing on bringing in new work. The firm continues to expand by growing by a third over the last five months.

Learn more about Blaze Makoid Architecture on their website and Instagram.

  • Upcoming Events

PCBC – June 26 – 28

Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 2

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13

KBIS – Jan 9 – 11

  • Wrap Up

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

136 – Anthony Michael: Chicago Designer of High-end Homes and Yacht Design

Anthony Michael: Chicago Designer of High-end Homes and Yacht Design

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Anthony Michael of Anthony Michael Interior Design. Anthony is passionate about design and shares his 30+ history in the industry, how he manages clients and his enthusiasm for yacht projects.

Getting to know Anthony

 Anthony Michael is calling in from Lincoln Park, but didn’t grow up far from there. He loves Romantic Comedies, especially Under the Tuscan Sun. Anthony loves bracelets, shoes, and sunglasses – and owns an abundance of all three! Though Anthony can’t even think about not being a designer, he imagines that he would be a teacher, writer, chef, or even an archaeologist.

How Anthony got into design

Growing up, Anthony’s mom always had a project going. The house was in chaos, but he was always intrigued with the process and transformation. As a young kid, he found himself reading Architectural Digest and House Beautiful, not comics like his friends.

Anthony went on to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in architecture and ultimately a Master’s abroad, in Paris. His mindset totally switched from survival to expanding his knowledge. After school, Anthony worked for someone else but found it difficult to not follow his own thoughts and opinions. He understood the value of working your way up in a business, as his parents always owned restaurants, but found it tough in this instance. Anthony opened his own firm with a $5000 loan. His first client, Mrs. Banks, is one of his best supporters, and the rest is history.

What the business looks like today

Anthony mentions the ebbs and flows of the business. He currently employs about 8 individuals who work on 20+ projects at a time within the US and Puerto Rico. The projects include repeat customers, high-end residential, and restoring yachts.

Anthony believes in giving clients what they want but knows to keep in mind that he was hired for a reason- his expertise. He lives vicariously through his clients. Anthony and his team do not work in phases, but rather on whole homes. His firm does not stage homes to sell, but when a home designed by him is on the market, it is often furnished and sold quickly.

Managing a client

Anthony and his team have honed in a process for interacting with clients that includes: a first meeting to get an idea of each other’s personalities, budget, and expectations; then a presentation of image boards, textiles, and floor plans; next a follow up with all details, elevations, etc; followed by a budget meeting. Around week eight, project work begins. Anthony kicks the client out for about a week until the project is installed and revealed. He then meets with the client the next day to review and walk through tutorials. Anthony and his team take care of this client all year, even decorating for the holidays! The approach is very proactive and tends to eliminate issues that could pop up.

Designing yachts

Growing up, Anthony’s parents had a boat that they restored over 15 years ago, Anthony found a boat in bad condition and ended up restoring it himself over the next nine months. People noticed the boat and Anthony. He was able to make a nice profit and continue the process every year. Each year, the project grows and Anthony continues to learn more and more about the materials and design for yachts. His next boat is launching on June 15.

                         

Getting the word out

Anthony relies on word of mouth and repeat customers. He saw a need for keeping up with marketing and decided to employ an in-house team for social media, editorial content, and influencer relationship management. He cited the old adage, “Spend money to make money.”

Anthony and his business continue to evolve, and he hires people who are smarter than him! Learn more at Anthony Michael Interior Design.

  • Upcoming Events

NeoCon – June 12 – 14

PCBC – June 26 – 28

Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 2

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13

KBIS – Jan 9 – 11

  • Wrap Up

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

135 – Industry: Can We Talk Green Design?

Industry: Can we talk Green Design?

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

Specifying Sustainable Products in Residential Design

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

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

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

How to Know if Product is Green

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Upcoming Events

NeoCon – June 12 – 14

PCBC – June 26 – 28

Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 2

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13

KBIS – Jan 9 – 11

  • Wrap Up

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

134 – Sarah Wilson: Career Reset into Interior Design

Sarah Wilson: Career reset into Interior Design

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Sarah Wilson of Chansaerae Interior Design. Sarah shares how she restarted her career in a new industry, working for herself, and also shares her goals for 2017.

Getting to know Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson joins Nick in The Lounge from Palm Springs, California, where she owns and operates Chansaerae Interior Design. Sarah loves to vacation in St. Croix, where she grew up. Her favorite room is her bedroom, but she would love even more to have a walk-in closet. Sarah admittedly is not a pet person; she would rather have the freedom to go wherever she wants, whenever she wants.

How Sarah got into design

Interior design is Sarah’s third career. She started in school for graphic arts and worked in that field for three years. Sarah had her son, then went back to school for her Bachelor’s degree. Wanting to earn more money, Sarah earned her Masters in Information Technology.

She eventually realized that she missed the design aspect of her profession. Sarah had always designed her own spaces and didn’t want to work for someone else so she made the switch. Starting next month, she will have been a business owner for two years. She loves the reaction she gets from clients when the space she designs is done.

Getting the word out

In terms of marketing, Sarah participates in both digital and traditional methods, including Instagram, local newsletters, and Facebook ads. Sarah has also had luck developing mutually beneficial relationships with contractors and joining networking groups.

Making the switch

Sarah mentioned that she embraces change. It doesn’t scare her. When she wasn’t happy with her previous job, she knew it was time for a change. It may have seemed like a quick decision, but it was on her mind for at least ten years. Sarah started with seeking out design education, then followed through with internships, and ultimately opening her own firm.

It was never her goal to work for someone else, so she used her internships to learn what she needed to open the doors to Chansaerae Interior Design. Sarah identifies with how personal design is. She wanted to do things her own, way with her own point of view.

Current projects include a kitchen remodel, bathroom remodels, a fireplace refresh, furnishing a whole home, and even home staging. In 2017, Sarah hopes to expand even more into home flipping. She knows what sells homes and wants to employ her expertise.

Learn more at Chansaerae Interior Design.

  • Upcoming Events

NeoCon – June 12 – 14

PCBC – June 26 – 28

Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 2

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13

KBIS – Jan 9 – 11

  • Wrap Up

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

133 – Sanja Radovanovic: Home Staging from Rome

Sanja Radovanovic: Home Staging from Rome

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Sanja Radovanovic on home staging, her ambassadorship with IAHSP in Europe, and what’s next for her in the world of home staging.

Getting to know Sanja Radovanovic

Sanja Radovanovic, born in Serbia, currently lives in Rome, after residing in at least eight other countries. She met Nick at the International Association of Home Staging Professionals (IAHSP). Sanja speaks five languages and loves men’s watches, sunglasses, and high heels. She also enjoys Nutella and wine.

How Sanja got into design

Sanja states that interior design has always been a part of her. As a child, her mother’s job kept the family moving, which meant constant renovations and redesigns. Now, she is married to a diplomat, which keeps her family moving as well.

She has been involved with IAHSP over the last year and is on the board of directors. IAHSP is the longest running industry association and is dedicated to advancing the education for stagers and realtors. The organization provides ongoing education throughout the US and is expanding into Europe.

For Sanja, the switch from interior design to home staging came naturally. She was always attending open houses, though she mentions it’s a tough market educating clients on what staging is. She prepares a home to bring in top dollar in the least amount of time.

Sanja initially established her business in Chicago but has moved, again and again, restarting from scratch, feeling like she has to work twice as hard. She relies on social networks, industry associations including IAHSP, and professional relationships to build her business wherever she is.

What her business looks like

Sanja has never worked for someone else. She has always run her own firm. Interior design clients ask for home staging when selling, and then ask for help designing their new home after they’ve moved. Much of her business has been brought in through word of mouth.

Sanja mentions that interior design requires designing for someone else, which means you need to listen and understand what they need and want, whereas staging is for a home must appeal to a wide number of individuals, so it can sell, not the current owner.

What’s next

Sanja is investing a lot of time and effort with IAHSP expanding across the globe. In Rome, there is less design work currently due to economy, but IAHSP founder, Barb Schwarz, says, “The world is full of money, you have to find it.”

Learn more at Staged Homes and The Art of Staging.

  • Upcoming Events

NeoCon – June 12 – 14

PCBC – June 26 – 28

Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 2

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13

KBIS – Jan 9 – 11

  • Wrap Up

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

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