When the pandemic resulted in lockdowns earlier this year, everything from design weeks to college graduations moved online. We asked six designers—Jake Arnold, Gail Davis, Chad Graci, Harry Heissmann, Peter Sandel and Courtney Yanni—to get real about how they’ve adjusted to virtual events and engaging with the design community in a digital-first world.
“In the early days of the shutdown, I found virtual programming an entertaining distraction from the weird world of COVID. Now, it’s become so overwhelming to receive the number of invitations for virtual events and presentations that I’ve all but shut them out. I appreciate the significance of the virtual platforms for vendors and the business community, but it also feels fleeting.
“What I’ve found most valuable to my business and servicing new and existing clients has been the focused, one-on-one support we’ve received from our trade partners. I’m grateful to have an established network of professionals to call on who have graciously spent their time and resources responding and sending multiple sets of the same samples to clients’ first and second homes, and also to my studio. That tangible level of service is invaluable to our project portfolio and adds genuine meaning to the future of the interior design industry.” —Peter Sandel, Peter Sandel Design, New York
“It has been nice to attend more industry events now, because there is finally enough time with commuting out of the picture. It’s been interesting to see the creative content that the market is putting out there in these ever-changing times. That said, nothing beats having those unscripted, spontaneous one-on-one conversations at in-person events.” —Courtney Yanni, Moss Design, Southport, Connecticut
“Honestly, I am still adjusting to all this virtual programming. It still feels a little alien to me [after] years of in-person events, though I have attended many virtual events and Instagram Live chats and I have also participated in and moderated a few conversations. I enjoy the ‘right now’ feeling of meeting with people virtually but in the comfort of my own home. I have found myself more relaxed these past few months, and I love seeing how people live, as their background provides a glimpse into their personal lives in a way we have never seen. It all feels a bit more intimate, which is ironic, considering it’s all virtual. I want to also applaud all the brand directors and editors nationwide for finding new and unique ways to engage with the design community. Overall, I feel strongly that everyone has risen to this new challenge and begun to tell compelling and engaging stories.” —Gail Davis, Gail Davis Designs, South Orange, New Jersey
Behind the curtain
“I think, as a whole, the virtual programming we have been seeing is fun and much more casual than our industry previously presented. Zoom is the great equalizer! I’m loving the ‘at home’ designer tours. It is such a treat to peek inside other designers’ homes. I’m a bit of a voyeur, so I try to catch as many as I can.” —Chad Graci, Graci Interiors, New Orleans
“I like some of the virtual programming, but live content often happens when I can’t watch it. I think it goes without saying I do prefer an actual event. Fabrics, for example, need to be touched and inspected for weight, which can’t happen virtually. I realize it has become necessary to do things virtually, but so far I have not mastered relishing a virtual cocktail party. I would say I’m attending the same amount of events I did before all became virtual, which is to say, a select few.” —Harry Heissmann, Harry Heissmann Inc., New York
Access for all
“I am enthusiastically supportive of developing as much Instagram Live programming as possible. Instagram has been an incredibly critical platform for me in building my business, and, more importantly, digital programming effectively demystifies what can be an inaccessible or intimidating industry to some, making it more personal and relatable.” —Jake Arnold, Studio Jake Arnold, Los Angeles
Homepage photo: A Chicago living room by Peter Sandel | Photo by Ryan McDonald