There are many paths to success in the design industry—Cara Woodhouse is living proof. Over the course of two decades, the New York–based designer has tried a little bit of everything. A by-no-means-comprehensive list: working for traditional firms like Cullman & Kravis; overseeing a large firm; overseeing a small firm; dabbling in e-commerce; developing product lines; and exploring real estate. For a brief period, she was even a jewelry designer. For the record, she’s not finished pushing the boundaries.
“I could design anything, from the interior of a car to jewelry—I’m coming out with a hardware collection soon,” Woodhouse tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “Everyone is like: You’re either the high end or the masses. Why? Why can’t I do a high-end collection and make it accessible, or do a collection that’s for everybody? I don’t think I have to be pigeonholed.”
Elsewhere in the episode, Woodhouse describes how building an Instagram following changed her style, how she found the right size for her firm, and why whenever there’s a rule, she wants to break it.
Crucial insight: Woodhouse has worked for firms large and small, and at one point she and a partner oversaw a team of nearly 20. But after two decades of scaling up and down, she has found that six is the magic number. “From past experience, I did not want to manage so many employees, and I really want to be hands-on with all my projects and clients,” she says. “I have a staff of six, and I don’t go beyond that. … I usually only take on five solid projects a year and don’t [bite] more than I can chew.”
Key quote: “The biggest [mistake] is taking on a client [when] you know in your gut something is [wrong], and you just ignore it—because it’s an amazing project, or the money [is good] or it’s in a cool location. You can convince yourself of all these different things,” says Woodhouse. “If there is a voice inside you saying, ‘Do not take this,’ you must listen to that voice. Because every time I heard it and ignored it, it always played out that it was the wrong decision.”
The Thursday Show
Meanwhile, on the latest episode of The Thursday Show, host Dennis Scully and Business of Home executive editor Fred Nicolaus dissect the most recent news in the design industry, including Z Gallerie’s bankruptcy, Walmart’s AI design experiment, and a look at the latest housing numbers. Later, BOH editor in chief Kaitlin Petersen and retail columnist Warren Shoulberg recap High Point Market.