An accomplished millennial has taken the reins of one of the oldest organizations in the home furnishings industry, the Decorative Furnishings Association. Chad Stark, senior vice president of STARK, was elected by a board of industry leaders (Cary Kravet, Andrea Rubelli, Jobst Blachy, Karen Marx and Julia Noran Johnston) to be the DFA's new president, replacing Dan Cahoon, who served for two years.
Stark, who has an MBA from University of Michigan, considers himself a digital native. He believes a social media presence will help push the organization forward and help accomplish his major initiatives, which include campaigns and events focused on consumer outreach and best practices. Outgoing president Dan Cahoon reflects, “DFA members are ready to engage the consumer in an ongoing dialogue to promote the industry. Chad’s skill set and energy make him a natural to promote design through digital channels. These initial steps will put the industry on a path towards giving consumers a better way to engage professional designers and products. Chad’s passion is in spreading the word in a new engaging format.”
Cary Kravet, president of Kravet Inc., has been on the board since 1990 and has also served as president. The role, he says, is “always leading whatever the agenda is for the organization. Whatever the organization’s existing issues are, that helps formulate who will become appointed or elected as the president. And the president will help form the issues going forward. The main issue today is connecting consumers to value-added intermediaries, being, most notably, the interior designer, but it could be anyone providing design or product enhancement assistance in the chain of distribution.”
He continues, “On the simplest level, it's letting consumers know about all the great things we [produce] and then finding designers to help them find it, merchandise it, make it look beautiful in their home environment... So many of our products need a good explanation as to how they fit an environment and why they are of great value compared to what is commonly available at retail.”
Stark sat down with EAL to discuss what's in store for the DFA:
What are your goals as president? What do you plan to do differently, and what will continue as is?
My goal as DFA president is simple: to continue the mission of growing and sustaining the professional interior design industry. However, our strategy to accomplish this will change a bit as we evolve into a widely inclusive voice of the industry: the marketplace, the media and the design community, all uniting to speak to consumers about how their lives can be enhanced by design. We will shift our primary focus from industry education to consumer outreach. We will continue to educate trade vendors on best practices, but we also will be leading an industry-wide effort to galvanize the perception of professional design in the eyes of consumers who can afford these services but choose not to because of various misconceptions about the industry.
Additionally, we will have an increased focus on trade organization partnerships. There are so many passionate groups who all have the same goal. I want to make sure the DFA’s approach is unique, so that we can better coordinate our resources with others to cover more ground.
As a millennial, how is your perception of the industry unique? How will digital strategies be a part of your plan?
I was fortunate to have grown up in a professionally designed home, so I've always understood how beautiful and functional design can positively impact one’s life. However, many of my peers were not as lucky. I find myself in many conversations trying to convince these peers who can now afford design services that they should hire a designer, but I’m met with skepticism and doubt because millennials perceive interior design as unattainable, too expensive, and as a mysterious and laborious process.
Most services in today’s world are very straightforward—they are transparent about pricing and easy to understand. Professional interior designers all have different pricing models, and the industry was built on exclusivity. This approach and diversity is now hurting the outsider’s industry perception, because millennials think secrecy is not trustworthy. The negative perception is perpetuated by a lack of clear and consistent communication about the value of design through the content channels millennials consume daily, which is why digital strategies will be a major focus of the DFA’s efforts moving forward.
What are the greatest assets of the DFA?
The DFA members are our strongest assets. We represent a knowledge and experience base that is as high or higher than any other trade organization in the industry. Additionally, because all of the members are principals of their respective firms, we benefit from the expertise of the industry’s leading decision makers.
Do you plan additional programs or outreach? Whom will you target?
Our main focuses will be launching an industry-wide effort that unites all members of the trade—designers and vendors—with a unified message to increase the number of interior design projects by inspiring, informing and engaging consumers. The DFA will be backing an online resource center and advertising campaign—similar to the dairy industry’s “Got milk?” campaign—for the interior design community to promote the use of interior designers. We will be targeting consumers who have the means to afford these services but don’t engage them for any number of reasons. This initiative will have a digital-first approach, and we will be exploring different fund-raising platforms, like Kickstarter, to crowdsource support. To stay in the loop with our efforts, please enter your e-mail address here.