Thanks for coming back to the Chaise Lounge where, today, Nick talks to Courtney McLeod, the New York-based principal of Right Meets Left Design, who chose design as a second career after moving on from corporate finance. She graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a business degree and was successful in that field, but she wasn’t in love with her work. Courtney drifted more and more toward the art and design side of life until she couldn’t help but make her move. She quit her job without setting anything up or planning and pursued her new craft.
Sandra Funk: New Jersey Girl of Interior Design
Today in The Lounge, Nick talks shop with Sandra Funk of House of Funk, interior design’s Jersey girl. Though originally from Michigan, Sandra now calls New Jersey home. House of Funk has offices in both New Jersey and the beloved New York City. Sandra took an unusual path to her interior design career; from planning to be a third-generation tire heiress, to a website/business finance consultant and then finally to an award-winning interior design principal. Find out how she did it all, in this episode of The Chaise Lounge.
Breaking the Ice
Sandra is a lover of neckwear. From scarves to necklaces, this is her accessory of choice. She supports Chavez for Charity, a maker of jewelry that gives a percentage of proceeds back to charitable causes, a business model that Sandra has also woven into House of Funk. Her perfect night out is a beautiful night stroll through New York City, stopping in for red wine and apps, and seeing where the evening takes her. She is a wife and mother of two beautiful daughters and takes great advantage of the Au Pair program! Growing up in Michigan, Sandra was always surrounded by a strong DIY spirit in her family and community. This is where the initial interior design seeds were planted.
Getting Into the Business
After assuming that she and her sister would take over the family business of tire retreading, it came as a shock when her father sold the business. Sandra had even started college as a finance major in order to do just that. Upon graduation, forced to discover a new path, Sandra took on her first job as a business consultant, which allowed her to travel while she figured out her next steps. At that time, website usability consulting started to take off. As Sandra headed in that direction, she began taking interior design courses at Parsons School of Design to facilitate her website design work. She fell in love with interiors through her studies. Suddenly, the dot-com crash happened and Sandra was laid off. She, however, could not have been more pleased! It was full steam ahead of her interior design career.
Sandra’s first design gig was at Ethan Allen as a sales consultant and decorator. She received terrific training and was chosen to design TV host, Joy Behar’s, home office which would subsequently be featured on the television talk show The View. Upon leaving Ethan Allen, Sandra joined the team at Christopher Norman, where she really got to know the “Who’s Who” of the New York Interior Design community and learn about the intricacies of high-end design.
The Nuts and Bolts of House of Funk
House of Funk is a 6-woman team. Sandra is the creative overseer and editor with two lead designers. She has a head of PR, Head of Finance and a Coordinator that wears many hats. While Sandra tools around in CAD to facilitate the design idea process, she leaves final specs to her rockstar lead designers. She also enjoys using Wecora to pin ideas for design charrettes and also loves sourcing personally once the design direction has been established. Sandra likes to walk the city to source and contact her go-to vendors for the perfect item for clients. When it comes to vendors, style and quality are imperative, but customer service is THE most important factor. Vendors must stand behind their products after they’ve been delivered and really believe in their business. Sandra makes sure to build relationships with vendors that have high integrity as this will always translate to their projects.
Sandra advises that when adding to your team, always allow people’s strengths to shine. It is more beneficial to do what you are good at. Try not to seek out that one person that you think needs to do everything. Internships are another great way to get to know someone and find out if they are a fit for your team; much like an extended interview.
Systems and delegation are also key to success and reduced stress; take it from a former business process consultant! Sandra likes to use Asana to keep track of her projects and recommends Kimberly Seldon for great Interior Design business processes.
Work, Work, Work, Work, Work
Sandra was fortunate to have two longer term projects during the economic downturn, though Nick thinks Sandra’s way beyond luck. She is always working and dives into the nitty and gritty of the residential side of the business.
When it comes to marketing and PR, Sandra had her first foray into that side of the business when she had tried to launch a line of sustainable wares. She hired a public relations team to help promote this line. Though the line was unable to launch, she learned that launching a specific brand was crucial. She went back to the drawing board and spent time really developing the brand for the business. When it came time to launch, she hired a PR firm to really get it off the ground and let the world know about House of Funk. She likes the idea of using a PR firm for really specific short-term goals and using her own avenues, such as blog posts, to keep her projects accessible and current. Sandra’s work has been featured in various publications from Apartment Therapy to Elle Décor and Luxe Interiors+Design.
Learn more about House of Funk at www.houseoffunk.com.
Chaise Lounge Updates
Nick got the chance to attend a networking event for RESA (Real Estate Staging Association) at the Denver Design Center. It was a blast from the past, as Nick started recording his show at the Decorative Materials showroom, way back when! He got to catch up with Sarah Lewis, affectionately known as Slew; his former co-host on a few early episodes of the podcast.
He also interviewed Shell Brodnack, founder of RESA, recently in Las Vegas. Click here to learn more.
Porcelanosa Check out the Air Slate Collection, lightweight sheets of slate for cladding and overlay applications. A thin veneer that is actually flexible! Can be used in wet areas as well. Easy installation.
Benjamin Moore Two great new paint products to check out. Natura is a natural product with no VOCs; it is even asthma and allergy approved! Waterborne Ceiling Paint has an ultra-flat finish designed to hide common ceiling imperfections. It will give a beautiful and near flawless finish.
Design Manager is a great organizational tool for designers encompassing project management, activity management, accounting, inventory management and collaboration. It takes the place of your CRM as well. This software does everything!
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 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!