trade tales | Sep 11, 2020 |
7 designers on how COVID has impacted their businesses

As we approach the final quarter of 2020, the profound business shifts caused by the coronavirus are more apparent than ever, from day-to-day operations to fundamental values. We asked seven interior designers—Melissa Bodie, Kati Curtis, Javier Fernandez, Taj Hunter Waite, Christina Nielsen, Alisa Popelka and Danielle Rollins—how the virus affected their firms and how they’ve adjusted to the changing times.

Alisa Popelka
Alisa PopelkaCourtesy of Alisa Popelka

Keeping it real
“I’ve added a COVID clause to my contract and have had open dialogues with each client regarding how they are most comfortable moving forward with projects during the pandemic, whether that is to continue in-person, change to virtual services or put their projects on hold. By remaining transparent and keeping the lines of communication open regarding issues such as longer lead times, freight and shipping delays, and managing scope creep (as clients are spending more time in their homes and adding to their projects), it establishes that we are all on the same page. Each party understands we are working under abnormal circumstances, but still striving for excellent customer service, a great client experience, and a well-designed space clients will love to live in.” —Alisa Popelka, Alisa Cristine Interiors, Dallas

Javier Fernandez
Javier FernandezCourtesy of Javier Fernandez

Back in action
“In the early days of COVID, most of my projects were placed on hold. That time was quite scary, not knowing if the client would call back. Around the end of April, the phone calls and emails from existing clients, as well as new ones, started coming in fast and furious. After a great big sigh of relief, I went to work and have not stopped. The projects range from sprucing up a couple of rooms to full-on remodels, including participating in The Hampton Designer Showhouse to boot. What I have learned from this moment is that our homes are critical to our well-being. With more time at home, I sincerely believe that clients are investing in their homes because they have fallen back in love with them.” —Javier Fernandez, Transitional Designs, New York

Taj Hunter Waite
Taj Hunter WaiteCourtesy of Taj Hunter Waite

A different pace
“When the COVID shutdown occurred, there was so much uncertainty initially. As we’ve slowly started again, delivery of custom orders are all moving at a snail’s pace. For the most part, on full design service jobs, budgets haven’t been affected. [The most significant change] I have experienced is clients wanting to be a bigger part of the process. When I encounter that, I suggest our virtual service options. If you want to actively be a part of the process, I can source and advise you along the way. Considering the lines between work, home and family responsibilities are more blurred than ever before, I find being flexible in offering new methods of design delivery to be key.” —Taj Hunter Waite, All Things Taj, Miami

Kati Curtis
Kati CurtisCourtesy of Kati Curtis

creative license
“We’ve had to get creative with installs. Some buildings wouldn’t allow our contractors in, some would only allow a certain number in at a time, and some have only allowed work in one unit per day, so if someone else was working we’d have to wait. We’ve also had some clients on a tighter deadline, meaning we have to work quickly and be extra-efficient. Some materials have been delayed due to international shipping. It’s all about adapting and finding new solutions to still deliver exceptional results for our clients.” —Kati Curtis, Kati Curtis Design, New York

Christina Nielsen
Christina NielsenCourtesy of Christina Nielsen

Here comes the boom
“I am extremely grateful to say that COVID has impacted my business in a positive way, and I have never been busier. As the power of home is more prevalent than ever, my clients are looking to either upgrade their homes or move into new ones. While commercial projects have stalled, New York and the surrounding area is a buyer’s market, which has created a boom in residential design. It has, however, been a huge learning experience to transition from in-person meetings and appointments to purely virtual. I miss having the connection of clients and showrooms, but it is clear that the design industry remains incredibly resilient and continues to adapt.” —Christina Nielsen, Christina Nielsen Design, New York and London

Melissa Bodie
Melissa BodieCourtesy of Melissa Bodie

A closer look
“Fortunately, business has been solid and consistent, thanks to our introduction of e-design services. But reading the startling statistics about the virus’s effect on people of color holds up a microscope to the systemic, institutional racism in the U.S., and has propelled us to continue to strive for more diversity, inclusion and equity. We continue to examine our role within the design business, reassessing the brands with whom we work and from whom we source.” —Melissa Bodie, Melissa + Miller Interiors, New York and Philadelphia

Danielle Rollins
Danielle RollinsCourtesy of Danielle Rollins

Full speed ahead
“I think the home industry is in for a major boom. People [have] started really seeing their home as a place of shelter, rather than a transient dwelling they pass through. I am seeing a major shift in how people view their spaces—they’re making a major investment in the things they had put off or didn’t see value in investing in before. My clients are going full throttle on curtains, carpets and fully decorated spaces.” —Danielle Rollins, Danielle Rollins Interiors, Atlanta

Homepage photo: A project by Danielle Rollins from her forthcoming book, Home for All Seasons | Courtesy of Rizzoli

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