Interior Design Podcast

141 – ICFF Show 1

ICFF show 1: Ethnicraft Founder and ICFF

On this episode of The Lounge, Nick joins us from ICFF New York! He speaks with Heather Wood, the marketing manager for ICFF, and Ethnicraft CEO and founder Benoit Loos. Nick welcomes back Benjamin Moore as our sponsor. He has almost exclusively used their paints for his painting businesses since the 90s. Also joining the team as one of our sponsors is Benchmade Modern! Edgar Blazona joins us to tell about his efficient, online, custom furniture company…that’s affordable too!

Marketing ICFF with Heather Wood

This year ICFF NYC is over 155 square feet filled with international exhibitors (750+) from Spain, the Philippines, Scandinavia, to Austrailia and Belgium. It is their 29th year in New York and 2nd year in Miami. ICFF Miami runs from October 3rd to October 4th at the Miami Beach Convention Center, and is currently 200 exhibitors and growing.

There are many challenges that Heather faces running an international furniture and design show. International shipping and setting up exhibition spaces are among the most difficult, most problems and questions have to do with logistics. There is a LOT to take care of in making sure everything runs smoothly for each exhibitor, such as managing press and media, shipping policies, language barriers, and networking. A large role Heather also plays is managing the attendee database, ensuring that all the high profile designers, architectures, manufacturers, and buyers attend. Being in marketing can be a catch-all position but Heather’s primary focus is to deliver rich content to the attendees. ICFF is a huge investment so she needs to make sure everything runs smoothly for both the exhibitors and the attendees, and that they all get everything they need/want out of the event.

New York has approximately 40-55,000 interior designers residing in the city, making it the largest concentration of designers in the world, so the main attendee market for the show is New York designers. Heather’s main marketing focus is print, digital, advertising, and social media (which is #1). This day in age (in the millennial era), Instagram is a very popular marketing source -everyone uses it- so it’s a great way for ICFF to receive gratification and respect. They can do sneak peaks and Instagram takeovers like they’ve done with Dorothy Mack and Jefferey Johnson. Check out their mix of contemporary meets classic at their handle @icff_nyc.

Learn more at and

Getting to know Edgar Blazona and Benchmade Modern

Edgar joins us from his Mission District showroom in San Fransisco. He got started in the furniture business right out of high school, growing his own company. Edgar didn’t have enough money to buy furniture so he decided he would make it himself. A woman at a local gallery like a piece he made and wanted to sell it for him so he dropped it off on Friday… and voilá! It was sold by Monday. Edgar realized that it would be a long road ahead of him making furniture at a small scale so he stopped to work for The Pottery Barn. Here he learned about manufacturing on a much larger scale which helped kickstart his brand and his career.

Edgar then started his company True Modern which grew to its current size today and is sold through brick and mortar and online retailers. Then 3 years ago, he decided he was tired of hearing stories about how it took 15 weeks for customers to get furniture and by the time it arrived, they didn’t even like it. Thus, Benchmade Modern was born! Made to order, custom furniture in every shape and size that arrives in 7-10 days with 75 styles, including limited run fabrics at a great value. They make everything from 35 inches to 10 feet and you can use a sliding scale on their website to pick your size and see the price. And it’s all made right in California. Their aesthetic is no more modern than a boutique like Design Within Reach but they also want a mass appeal similar Crate and Barrel. So they meet somewhere in the middle.

Benchmade modern makes buying furniture easy. Edgar calls them the Warby Parker of online furniture except that delivering a sofa is a much bigger challenge and process. So, his goal is to take away the hangups of ordering furniture online, by sending out swatches, photos, and samples. You can even receive a printed out life size, full-scale version of your sofa to layout on the floor and sit on, in order to ensure it fits the room and amount of people you want on it. This experience shows you that they offer a good quality product and reflects the experience the customer will have with they actually decide to buy.

Edgar also claims they have the #1 best sofa bed ever made EVER so check it out on their website here.

Benchmade Modern offers a 20% off code to the trade and a discount to customers who order in large quantities. They support the interior design community by creating a product that can be designed and modified with ease of buying online AND it’s 30-50% cheaper than having custom made furniture built for you. At the bottom of the page, there is a Trade Program button. Fill out your info and then you will get the discount code and swatches to use to take to your clients!

Learn more at their website

Benoit Loos and Ethnicraft at ICFF

Ethnicraft is a company out of Belgium and joins us from their 2nd time at ICFF NYC. Their goal at the event is to connect with and see the reactions of the designers and architects (to their products). Even though they are based in Belgium they manufacture three different wood species in Indonesia (Teak), Europe (Oak), and the U.S (Black Walnut). Ethnicraft might buy wood in the States, ship it to Vietnam or Serbia to be manufactured and then ship it back to the states to be sold. A huge operation!

Benoit started the company 20 years ago with his copartner Philippe Delaisse. They were an accountant and an IT tech who’d been traveling and collecting various ethnic decorations from Bali as well as old Japanese cupboards. At the same time in Italy, they saw the clean contemporary style happening and had the idea to combine it with the authentic materials and wood they had bought. Two years later they began designing and making products. Today, they do their own distribution and recently set up a warehouse in High Point (and showed at the Spring Market for the first time). It hasn’t been difficult to sell to the U.S as Americans who visit Paris fell in love with them there.

Ethnicraft is in the middle of doing 50 shows all over the world in places like Paris, Stockholm, Mulan, Singapore, the Netherlands, the UK, Spain, High Point, and NY. At these shows, they evaluate competitors and customer responses. Benoit says that they see sales go up immediately from these events but they also help down the road and in the long run too. Customers have told him that they found out about Ethnicraft from a show they did two years prior. Benoit tells us how important it is to reach the right customer and make a mark on them.

Their natural, contemporary, high-quality wood is priced at a great value with 2-meter pieces (roughly 6.5 feet) priced at $3,000. Ethnicraft targets hospitality and only does customization for large products. Their residential sales are directed to retailers and not sold online. You can locate a store on their website using the Store Locator page. In new york find them at ABC showroom.

  • Upcoming Events

Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 2

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13

KBIS – Jan 9 – 11

ICFF Miami– Oct 3 – 4

  • 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 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!

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  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!

132 – Betsy Helmuth: Affordable Interior Designer

Betsy Helmuth: Affordable Interior Designer

On this episode of The Louge, fellow podcaster and interior designer, Betsy Helmuth joins us to talk about Affordable Interior Design and how to design your own home on a budget, at your leisure. Her podcast, Big Design, Small Budget runs every Tuesday and is available on iTunes where she spills inside tips on design and how to do it yourself.

Getting to Know Betsy

Betsy waits all week for her Saturday night tradition of going to Outback Steakhouse with her family and ordering a martini. She recently became a suburban mom, moving her life to from NY City, where her business began, to Westchester. Her business has expanded from Manhatten to the suburbs and now, across the globe online.

Inside Affordable Interior Design

Besty’s company only consists of 5 designers and 2 handymen yet they get 8-15 new clients every week, and design 500-700 spaces a year! They’ve worked with everyone from hoarders to billionaires.

What makes Affordable Interior Design, affordable, is offering flat rate plans that tell clients exactly what to do and buy, so they can execute it on their own time and at their own rate. The whole process only takes 6 hours! 2 hours are spent meeting in person or online, 2-3 hours are reserved for the designers to ‘shop’ online and build a mood board, and the last hour is to meet back up on the phone to look at and tweak items. All that is left is for the client to execute the vision! Now they can budget accordingly. 90% of Betsy’s business consists of this plan that clients implement on their own, but they do offer packages where the designers do everything as well, it’s just more expensive as you have to pay for their time.


Betsy never spent a lot of time on advertising, if any at all, as her name advertised for itself. If anyone googles “affordable interior design,” her website pops up. Which, is exactly what the user is looking for. Then her reviews, referrals, history, and designers’ degrees and high-end experience leads people to stick around and use the service.

Recently though, for the last 3 months and for the first time in 10 years she has started marketing and hired people to help. As the company grows and more designers are added to the team, she wants to make sure clientele is still growing also.

Betsy has an impressive repertoire of PR but has never paid for any of it. Each exposure has its own story and some were as simple as a Google search. Find her on the Today Show, the Wall Street Journal, LifeTime, NBC, CNN, USA Today HGTV, the DIY Network and more here. Betsy shares with us that TV exposure doesn’t really translate to clientele at the time, but instead, after the fact it gives credibility and interest. A lot of marketing is about good photography and Nick tells us his secret hack on how to get high-quality pictures for cheap.

Inside The Podcast: Big Design, Small Budget

Betsy’s had her podcast now for a year and a half now. She believes that knowing how to design is a right, not a gift. You shouldn’t have to hire someone. The principals of design can easily be learned by anyone, you don’t need a magic eye. Betsy is passionate about giving away her design secrets and imparting everything she knows on others. You have to live in your home, so you should be comfortable doing so. Betsy also tells us how she got started in the podcast world and how it has helped reach and boost her online platform which includes design classes, design packages, and her book.

Of everything, Betsy loves that the items she chooses can really make a difference in people lives. She tells us that she truly believes furniture can change people’s lives.

Contact her at and learn more on her website


131 – High Point Spring Market 2017 Show #4

High Point Spring Market 2017 Show #4

126 – BD West: Boutique Hotel Design Conference

BD West: Boutique Hotel Design Conference

Today in the Lounge is a BIG show. Nick traveled to LA for all things hospitality and design, the BD West conference. He had the chance to interview Christian Schnyder, a very accomplished hospitality designer based in LA, Deborah Herman, founder and president of Fabric Innovations, who was showcasing at the conference, and the conference head honcho, Michelle Finn.

Checking in with Michelle Finn

Michelle Finn works for the Hospitality Media Group, which owns BD West. The company hosts two trade fairs every year – BDNY and BD West – in addition to three forum events that connect buyers and sellers with unique interests like skiing, wine, and craft beer. Hospitality Media Group also puts together the largest hospitality matchmaking event.

Learn more about Hospitality Media Group and their events, please visit the Boutique Design website.

Getting to know Deborah Herman

Deborah Herman is the president and founder of Fabric Innovations. She loves to travel to new destinations. Deborah’s favorite room in her home is the library, where she has a memory of every book that she’s read.

In the past, draperies and bedding in Las Vegas hotels would last for 10+ years, but these days, Deborah tell us that properties are switching over to all white bedding. She has contracts with them and works on only hospitality projects. Deborah also provides quilted blankets to Delta Airlines.

Deborah builds her business through personal connections, sales calls, and working hard. She was recently recognized as an enterprising woman of the year and gives speeches on the do’s and don’ts of business.

To learn more about Fabric Innovations, please visit

Christian Schnyder of Belaco Design

Christian Schnyder owns Belaco Design, which he shares with us, is named from a made up language. The firm works on 75% hospitality projects, including hotels and restaurants. Christian Schnyder is from Switzerland. His favorite room in his house is the living room, as it represents who he is.

  • How Christian got into design

Christian is a trained architect, but when he came to the U.S, he needed a job to sponsor his Visa immediately. Christian ended up taking a job in interior design and never looked back. As a project manager, he oversaw renovations and new construction in restaurants. This position helped Christian understand the business side of design, but at some point, he became disinterested in managing and wanted to get back to design. He took a job with K&A Design for eight years and became a principal designer before starting his own firm.

  • What the business looks like today

Belaco Design employs a design director, three designers in FF&E, and designer in architecture. Christian says that the industry is a family and competitors are your friends. As a business owner, Christian enjoys wearing different hats. He tells us that there is no time you completely have off. He can never not think about the business, as he loves it and always wants to do more.

Christian and his team do some residential work, but mostly hospitality. Residential allows for more materials and detail that you can’t do in hospitality. Also, Christian mentioned the anxiety surrounding spending people’s money in residential and that decision making in hospitality is much different. In addition, residential design is more rewarding than hospitality as you get to see people’s reactions and contribution to someone’s life.

Christian has not had to put a lot into marketing and PR yet. The team is fortunate that their hotels are opening up and they have good marketing people to help. He does tell us that

Belaco Design sends out email updates and that he likes to keep in touch with contacts. Every year around the holidays, Belaco Design collaborates with a maker to create custom pieces to send out to clients and potential clients. Word of mouth and repeat clients is how they sustain their business. All of Christian’s projects are currently in the US but are all over the board. The team completed twenty projects in 2016 alone.

Learn more about Christian and his business at, Instagram, and Facebook.

  • Upcoming Events

 HD Expo – May 3 – 5

ICFF – May 21 – 24

NeoCon – June 12 – 14

Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 1

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13

  • 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!


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.

Industry: The Chaise Lounge Podcast

Upcoming Events

 High Point Spring Market – April 22 – 26

HD Expo – May 3 – 5

ICFF – May 21 – 24

NeoCon – June 12 – 14

Las Vegas Market – July 30 – Aug 1

BDNY 2017 – Nov 12 – 13


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!