On the season finale of the Chaise Lounge, Nick sits down with Belinda O’Kelly and David Kasprak the two architect-designers who founded O’Kelly + Kasprak in 2010 together after the firm hospitality firm they had both worked at dissolved. Nine years later, they run a company that can design from the ground up, manage projects as they go and even offer services as specific as acoustic engineering.
On this Independence Day weekend episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick visits with Erinn Valencich, a consummate entrepreneur who runs a full-service design firm, designs and sells furniture and is even behind an app that helps designers run their businesses. Valencich takes Nick through her journey growing up on a farm where her grandfather made custom cabinets to testing out of high school to dive into work to her vast career as it exists today.
Today in The Lounge, Nick talks to Carol Kurth of Carol Kurth Architecture + Interiors. Kurth is not your typical architect, marrying her passion for architecture with interior design, and maintaining a role in every single project that her firm works on.
Welcome back to the Chaise Lounge. Today, Lauren Svenstrup of Studio Sven is in the Lounge. Svenstrup tells Nick all about her circuitous route from studying woodworking in Michigan’s upper peninsula to interior design in the first place and through interior design to running her own company.
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.
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.
- 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!