Interior Design Blog

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 “,” “,” 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.

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Wrap Up


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

121 – Cheryl Broadhead: Bob’s Your Uncle Design (BYU)

Cheryl Broadhead: Bob’s Your Uncle Design (BYU)

On this episode of The Lounge, Nick chats with Cheryl Broadhead of Bob’s Your Uncle Design. Cheryl shares her journey into design, her successful working relationship with her business partner, and selecting an unconventional name for the business.

Getting to know Cheryl Broadhead

Cheryl is calling into The Lounge from Vancouver on a cold, rainy day. She is a partner at Bob’s Your Uncle Design, a multi-family design firm. She prefers dogs, PCs, and wine. Cheryl learned from her parents not to be afraid to fail and imagines herself working in law if she wasn’t a designer.

How did Cheryl get into design?

Cheryl went to school for fine arts and was a nanny in Italy after school. As an au pair, she met an architecture student from Australia. Cheryl’s new friend encouraged her to get into design. Cheryl went back to school and the rest is history.

While Cheryl was still in school, she started working at a local multi-unit design firm. She was able to get her friend, Adda, hired there too. They worked on condo and townhouse developments by compiling sample boards and getting to know AutoCAD. They eventually moved on from this position and went their separate ways.

Years later, tired of winter in Toronto and wanting a change, Cheryl reached out to Adda about moving and starting their own business. Adda was interested and they started working together.

Adda and Cheryl didn’t want a namesake because then it’s often all about the principle, not the firm as a whole. They liked the team environment and wanted a name to reflect that. They started Googling names, but everything was taken. Adda’s husband originally suggested Bob’s Your Uncle (BYU Design) and it stuck. The name shows that they work hard but have fun too.

What does the business look like today?

Bob’s Your Uncle consists of 18 employees which include two principles (Cheryl and Adda), a studio design lead, a CAD team lead, 3 dedicated CAD operators, designers at all levels, a controller, an admin, and two dogs – Molly Brown and Polly. The team works on multi-unit residential (mostly) large condo projects.

BYU gets involved early in the process when permits are submitted. They work with architects and engineers as well as developers and marketing teams. Projects can last up to four years and BYU is involved from beginning to end. Cheryl likes working in the multi-unit industry because she enjoys planning homes for people. These individuals cannot afford large spaces, so Cheryl and team make these smaller spaces the best they can be. She wants people to be proud of their home.

BYU Design is a pretty young team and Cheryl likes leading young teams to bridge together generations. She is a self-proclaimed “Chatty Cathy” and doesn’t see age as a challenge.

Since 2010, BYU Design has added about four employees per year, steady and manageable growth. The mentality and structure of the firm have changed recently as lead positions were created.

Both Cheryl and Adda are great delegators, but also still do a lot of leg work as principles. They are working their way out of this. BYU Design has been successful as a partnership due to Cheryl and Adda’s commitment to working together. They both communicate clearly, compromise and balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

To learn more about Bob’s Your Uncle Design, please visit

  •  Wrap Up

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


120 – Sarah Blank: The World of Kitchen Design

Sarah Blank Interiors

Sarah Blank: The world of Kitchen Design

On this episode of The Lounge, Nick chats with Sarah Blank. Sarah shares her passion for being a kitchen and bath designer, how she started her own business, and what she loves about the industry.

Getting to know Sarah

Sarah is calling in from Stamford, CT, where she is working from home. Sarah enjoys Dwell for modern architecture and Period Home Magazine from a Classicist perspective – each at opposite ends of the spectrum. Sarah also enjoys a good handbag, red wine, and spending time at her Vermont vacation home.

How did Sarah get into design?

Sarah was working for her high school history teacher’s brother, Richard, for a summer. Richard was in charge of Bloomingdale’s windows. He told Sarah she needed to enroll at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She transferred and the rest is history!

After graduating, Sarah obtained a position working in kitchen design and has never left the industry. In 1994, she met Richard Sammons, a classical architect. Through him, she became involved with the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art. Sarah said that Classicism isn’t a style, but rather a language that you design by, rules and principles that are all about proportion.

Sarah loves what she does and believes in collaboration. Within her first year, Bunny Williams asked to do a job with her. Sarah loved working with her. Bunny is so good at what she does and is so down to earth. Bunny included Sarah in meetings with clients to see how she worked.

Sarah works mostly on kitchens, butler’s pantries, and master baths. Some homes have numerous kitchens with different sets of criteria. Kitchens need to be accessible not only for homeowners but also chefs and caterers. Kitchen designers have to blend all needs to be universal and usable.

What does the business look like today?

Today, Sarah’s company is small, which she likes. Kristin and Andrew are her designers, and Chip is her right-hand assistant. Her husband’s company does local construction and contracting and she works with a small group of architects and vendors she loves – mill shops, steel fabricators, etc. She mentions that you need to have vendors and people to make your designs happen.

Sarah’s husband also handles the business side and Andrea helps with social media.

How did Sarah start her own firm?

Sarah says she just knew she was ready to go on her own. She was with her previous company for 17 years and even gave them a years notice. Her first job on her own came from a referral. Sarah recalled how in the beginning, the team could focus on one project at a time, but now they are constantly juggling jobs to keep things in motion.

Sarah started her business in the basement, but then built an addition on her home. Soon, she built a studio, which was a learning experience with the classical language. The space was so beautiful and well designed that a plastic surgeon made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. She ended up selling the studio and now works out of a studio in Greenwich, CT.

Sarah says that execution is exciting for her and takes the most time. She can almost see into the future with her experience and being able to plan. Sarah recommends that you make sure you have contracts in order, understand the law, and do your job well. She has learned this from experience as well, from being involved in a lawsuit. Sarah loves what she does because of what she has been through.

Why kitchen and bath design?

Sarah loves classical architectural and says that you don’t need to be an architect to practice Classicism. If she could do it all over, Sarah wouldn’t change a thing. She uses her talent and ability to put together a home as a whole. What she does cannot be purchased online. Sarah tells us that homeowners want kitchen and bath designers that are detail oriented.

Sarah designs from the ceiling down. She doesn’t just put boxes on a wall, but rather integrates the kitchen into the architecture. It all has to flow. She focuses on the fundamentals of the room and brings a design point of view through her own experience. On the other hand, Sarah finds it tough when clients want things that won’t work or they don’t do what you recommend. She has had to walk away from customers knowing that it is the best decision for both parties in the long term.

Learn more on Sarah’s website feel free to reach out to her directly. She would love to help you in the industry and educate you on how to find success with kitchen and bath design

  • Wrap Up

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

118 – Industry: Going Paperless in the Cloud

Industry: Going paperless in the Cloud

On this episode of The Lounge, Nick chats with fellow industry professional, Phyllis Harbinger, on going paperless in the cloud. Phyllis talks about her favorite tools and apps and the pluses and minuses of going paperless. In addition, Nick shares his Design Bloggers Conference talk on podcasting including lessons learned and his favorite episodes.

Checking in with Phyllis Harbinger

While Phyllis has made progress in the last year, she is not completely paperless yet. She mentioned that the more you embrace it, the better it gets. Not only can less paper make things easier, it can also help secure your business processes and information. Search functions are great for digital files and copies. You no longer have to worry about paper files lost in fires or floods and redundancies and relays combat issues with a computer crashing.

Even more specifically, paperless billing doesn’t require a ton of physical storage space. Having to store customer files and documents for seven to ten years can take up valuable real estate in your office or home, but keeping everything digitally can alleviate this physical clutter.

Phyllis recommends doing your homework when it comes to choosing digital and cloud based solutions. She is fond of Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive – each for differing reasons. These three tools are great for collaboration and file sharing. Phyllis is a fan of digital notetaking too. Digital notes make it easier for everyone to be on the same page, for instance, if someone is sick or out of the office. There is also no need to carry physical copies of client files around.

Receipts and invoices are another opportunity to go paperless. Phyllis likes ScannerPro no only for scanning in signed documents, but also for scanning and categorizing her own business receipts too. She also mentioned that some credit card companies use a receipt match, so you don’t have to worry about it on your end.

Next, let’s talk about how you are backing up your computer. You may need more than an external hard drive. Providers like Carbonite and Mozy Pro backup your data every night.

A couple of Phyllis’s other favorite apps include Art Set and Audionote. Art Set lets you draw on your device and turn it into a PDF. In Audionote, you can take pictures, videos, recordings, and notes all in one app.

Phyllis recommends to take baby steps if this causes anxiety for you. Categorize by client, project, year or whatever makes sense for your business.

If you would like to get in touch with Phyllis for paperless advice, public speaking, or just to say hi, shoot her an email at

Nick’s talk at the Design Bloggers Conference

 Years ago, Nick and a friend started a small business podcast. They would read stories in business magazines and then were able to get those people on the podcast. Throughout this process, he learned about podcasting and business.

In his painting company, Nick works a lot with designers and found that they often struggled with the business aspect. He saw the opportunity to marry his experience in podcasting and small business with his current design network to create The Chaise Lounge podcast.

The Chaise Lounge is about the business of interior design. The ideal listener is a younger designer that wants to learn. Notable guests on the show include: Thom Filicia, Taylor Spellman, Andrew Joseph, Jason Harris, and Tyler Lynch.

More specifically, Nick reflected on some lessons he learned from a few more guests:

Nick has also learned that it’s all about relationships, which is why the Design Bloggers Conference is so important. Nick said if he can do it, anyone can!

Nick would love to speak for your group! Please reach out via email or social media.

  • Wrap Up

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

116 – Barclay Butera: Interior Design Icon

Barclay Butera

Barclay Butera:  Interior Design Icon

On this episode of The Lounge, Nick chats with Barclay Butera. He shares his experience of growing up in the family business, what it was like to branch out on his own, and how important it is to surround yourself with good people.

Getting to know Barclay Butera

Barclay joins Nick in the lounge from California. Barclay attributes much of his success to surrounding himself with good people. He likes to vacation in Paris and swap out pillows in his home for each season of the year. He also loves a good issue of Elle Decor or House Beautiful and a Ketel One martini with three olives.

How did Barclay get into design?

Barclay grew up in a family design business in California. From a young age, he worked in the resource library and was trained by his mom and her staff. From there, Barclay studied political science and economics in college and even went on to complete a year of law school. Ultimately, he ended up back at his mom’s company.

Though there were mixed emotions when Barclay decided to start his own business, his education prepared him for the business side and his mom prepared him for many aspects of design. Barclay needed to develop his own way of thinking about design.

What does Barclay’s business look like today?

Barclay currently employs 50 individuals, 22 of which are interior designers. The team is working on around 100 projects at a time, and many are ground-up construction. He is able to stay organized and keep his life balanced by surrounding himself with a great team who understand the business and have common goals to work towards.

When hiring, Barclay looks for a fresh perspective to help him stay current in design and licensing as well as self-starters who love the business. On a daily basis, Barclay could be running errands, be in client meetings, be spending time in the showroom, or be dropping his pup off at doggie daycare.

The showroom aspect of his business is closely related to the design business. He is able to bring in more foot traffic through the showroom and convert many of those patrons into design clients. He uses the showroom as a tool to show people what they do. Barclay says that the hardest part is being open six days a week and staffing those hours, but in the end, the benefits outweigh the costs.

The showroom has helped Barclay with licensing deals too. The successes in the showroom have helped him prove himself when approaching manufacturers. About fifteen years ago, Kravet approached Barclay with a licensing deal on fabrics, and today, even more products are in the mix, like carpet.

Barclay acknowledges that the awards that he has received are wonderful, but even more valuable are the invitations to speak to students, trade audiences, or business owners and entrepreneurs. He wants to give back and appreciates that he is recognized as a successful entrepreneur.

How does Barclay spend his time?

Barclay has invested money in advertising but also invests his time into getting involved in the community. He is able to spend about a third of his time on business and marketing, a third on licensing, and a third designing, which he loves. Barclay looks at each project from the aspect of the person who will experience it.

In regards to licensing, Barclay mentions that these deals can be hard to come by. He recommends being patient and developing your brand and audience in the meantime so that you are prepared and have something to offer when the time does come.

With the availability of information and products on the Internet, Barclay has seen his margins affected. And while it is difficult to combat how websites, social networks, etc. have impacted the industry in terms of margin, Barclay has decided to stress his superior level of service. The need for good service is imperative.

To learn more about Barclay Butera, visit his website.

  • Wrap Up

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

115 – Jason Harris and The Design Network

Jason Harris and The Design Network

On this episode of The Chaise Lounge, Nick chats with Jason Harris of The Design Network. He shares his experience of starting a brand new TV network, working in the furniture industry, and his thoughts on the future of the design industry.

Getting to know Jason Harris

Jason Harris is calling from High Point, NC, the furniture capital of the world, Furnitureland South. Jason is married with 5 children. He was able to merge his passion for technology and business with his family’s company in the design industry.

While Jason jokingly mentions that he is not that talented in any one thing, he does state that his talent is discerning the skills and abilities in others. He is forward thinking and likes connecting the dots. Jason also enjoys reading the news, a vodka tonic with orange, and he can’t go anywhere without his phone.

How did Jason get into the furniture industry?

Jason’s dad started in Furnitureland South in 1968. He found a small office, leased the space, and when his business partner backed out at the last minute, he didn’t give up. Through connections and handshake deals, he received credit to get the business off of the ground. From humble beginnings, Jason’s dad grew the business to over $3 billion in sales for all time.

As the company transitioned to new leadership, Jason took on sales and marketing and his brother, Jeff, focused on operations. More recently, Jason has stepped back as he has ventured into establishing The Design Network.

Where did the idea for The Design Network come from?

Coming out of a bad economy, Jason had heard many in the design industry focus on issues with supply chain and sourcing. He realized that these businesses were leaving the audience out of the equation. In general, the brands were not making connections with the end consumers. Even on HGTV, at the time, there was more of a focus on real estate rather than being able to identify brands and products to serve needs.

That’s when he developed the concept for The Design Network. No one was curating or developing quality content in the design space and Jason wanted to fill this gap. Everyone thought he was crazy for starting a television network, but rather Jason was thinking about what was next for consumers and the future of TV, which is apps. Jason wants more than one way to push communication. He wants people to interact with it to make it easier to discover ideas, find a designer, plan and shop.

How did Jason start a TV network?

Similar to his father, Jason decided to bootstrap and grow incrementally by developing a website, then procuring content. He was able to look for designers with production capabilities and put the creation in their hands. Over time, Jason and his team have learned about when and where to make videos available, how to promote on social media, and even how to cater the content to different platforms, more specifically shorter, snackable videos centered around decorating and design.

Right now, Jason is receiving lots of pitches for new shows. While it is fun to have these conversations, the team has limited bandwidth. In the next iteration, The Design Network will allow designers to upload their own content and will allow viewers to buy products while watching. This strategy allows Jason to build credibility over time and bring in new talent. Jason’s overall vision is to build the world’s best community of interior designers.

If you are interested in joining The Design Network, signing up is free! You will need to fill out the application online and provide your resale certificate and W9. Your online presence is also considered. You will be able to gain exposure as a designer as well as earn commissions.

Learn more at

  • Wrap Up

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