On Wednesday, the D&D Building in New York was buzzing with design professionals—all there to gain inspiration and information from the annual Spring Market. The day was filled with back-to-back lectures and panel discussions, book signings, showroom open houses, new collection launches and product introductions.
The day kicked-off with a keynote presentation in the Astra Café, where editor-in-chief of Traditional Home, Ann Maine, sat down with three of the “New Trad” designers. Heather Garrett, Summer Thornton and Katie Lydon, builders of successful design businesses in the age of a struggling economy, to talk about the impacts on the industry today from online shopping to the importance of social media and whether to charge a flat rate or hourly fee.
From left: Thornton, Maine, Garrett and Lydon
The panelists began discussing how they started growing their businesses. Garrett’s advice was to make something out of nothing. She explained that many young designers claim that they have no work to show off when they are first starting out, and she advised “to do up your own house and fake it till you make it." Before she had her own clients, she poured her heart and soul into her own home and hired a great photographer to capture the space. Lydon added that she did the same thing and was able to make it look like it was even three or four projects, and it started her off with a fantastic portfolio.
The women then discussed the differences and ways they’ve toyed with charging either hourly versus a flat fee. Garrett explained that she charges by the square foot and takes a more holistic approach to the project, while Lydon and Thornton charge by the hour and take commission as well.
“A project always, always takes longer than you expect it will,” said Lydon. “That’s why charging hourly protects your time.”
Thornton explained that having a degree in small business helps her to communicate with clients. “Most clients are not creative people,” she said. “They are lawyers, doctors, and it helps to be able to communicate with them on their terms about billing and contracts.”
Garrett and Lydon agreed, but because they don’t have any background in business they have hired business managers who do that part of the job so they can keep focused on being creative.
“You have to find the perfect balance between creativity and business,” said Garrett. “Some days it feels like death by email! As the business grows, hire those jobs out so you can spend time on the important part of being creative.”
A few other key takeaways from the panel included:
- Be focused and offer one or two things that you are really good at, you can’t please everyone.
- Sometimes it’s hard to “brag” about yourself and your work. Hire a great publicist to do it for you, they will know you better than you know yourself and will sell you.
- Know what you want to be before you try to be someone or something that you’re not.
- Your portfolio is extremely important, make sure you spend the money on a professional photographer and web designer.
- If you’re not good at it, don’t do it. Garrett shared that she attempted to blog but didn’t like and wasn’t good at it. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
- Let clients get to know you. Don’t have just portfolio pictures on your website, but also personal snapshots of your travels and life and profiles of your staff.
- Keep your website up to date, fresh and constantly have new pictures and new materials going up on it.
- Have your client pull hundreds of images before a meeting; go through them and have them point out what they like and don’t like and why. Don’t leave that meeting until you are 100 percent sure what direction you’re going in.
- Give an option A and an option B. Don’t give too many choices or the client will get confused.
To end the discussion, Garrett shared something that she does in all of her client meetings. At the end of her presentation she asks, “’If you had more time, would you be able to do this project yourself?’ If they say yes, that’s a huge red flag,” she said. “They are paying you for your ideas, and they are paying you to do something that they wouldn’t be able to accomplish without you.”
Guests were able to mingle with the designers in the Donghia showroom after the talk and enjoy snacks and drinks—then it was on to the next event.
Michael S. Smith
At Avery Boardman, owner Darren DeMatteo presented the new lines of sleeper sofas while discussing the infinite possibilities they offer to clients. Michael S. Smith chatted with guests and signed copies of his recently published book, Building Beauty: The Alchemy of Design, in the Brunschwig & Fils showroom, while guests also toured the Paul H. Lee Carpets & Rugs and the Walters Wickers showrooms to take a look at the latest spring lines.
At the Classic Rug Collection showroom, guests got a “3D look” at custom carpeting. Owner Barbara Barran, who hand-sketches her designs and creates 80% of them as one-of-a-kind custom rugs, introduced CEO of White Oak Carpet Mills Aaron Pirner, who instructed guests to put on 3D glasses to get a look at product that truly has a 3D effect.
Next up was a panel discussion in the Baccarat showroom featuring Editor at Large contributor Sophie Donelson, all about “mood lighting.” The panelists included interior designers Geoffrey Bradfield, Thom Forsyth and Shawn Henderson.
Sophie Donelson and Geoffrey Bradfield
The panelists all agreed that a well-lit room makes people feel good and look good.
“Sometimes the best lighting is the kind that you don’t even notice,” said Henderson. “Usually when designing a room, there is one main fixture and other subtle lighting that you don’t even really see, but it makes you feel something.”
Bradfield agreed that concealed lighting is what he likes to work most with. “Lighting is something that is really in the 21st century,” he said. “With LED lighting and OLED lighting there are so many options and I really like to go with modern lighting.”
The panel discussed big dramatic lighting as well, and said that using that in the center of a room as the focus, is more of an art form. But it’s the other lights that really “set the mood.”
Director of International Relations for Pierre Frey, Pierre Frey hosted guests in his showroom along with designers Maureen Footer, Douglas Hutton and Juan Pablo Molyneux for a talk about the lasting impact of French influence on the design world.
From left: Pierre Frey, Jaun Pablo Moloyneux, Maureen Footer and Douglas Hutton
Moloyneux explained that he spent his entire life selecting the best of the best in the industry and many of them were French, because of the pure quality. He described French style as “power with taste." The panelists agreed that depth and level of sophistication are the underlying threads to French style, which lives on today in design.
Thom Filicia popped in to the Kravet showroom for a book signing of American Beauty, and “Trim Queen” Jana Platina Phipps spoke about contemporary design and the application of trimmings in the Pindler & Pindler showroom.
Designers Robert Passal, Ghislaine Vinas and Christopher Coleman, along with three students from the New York School of Interior Design, stopped by the Lorin Marsh showroom to talk about the importance of accessorizing.
According to the designers, accessories draw elements of the room together, unify a room and gives it depth. Passal shared that he likes mixing old and new accessories, bright colors to make a room pop, and that his all time favorite accessory is flowers.
It was standing room only at the Schumacher showroom, where Million Dollar Decorators Mary McDonald and Marytn Lawrence Bullard shared their inspiration behind their fabric and wallcovering collections respectively with Jason Chen from Departures magazine.
From left: Mary McDonald, Jason Chen and Martyn Lawrence Bullard
The pair laughed and shared “dirty little secrets” about each other all while sharing what inspires them. For Bullard, it’s all about travel. “Different countries and cultures inspire me,” he said. “Being able to touch and feel something is more inspiring than anything else."
McDonald explained that she wanted to do a line that pulled all of her design elements together, and she filled gaps in the market with her collection. Things that she had been looking for and couldn’t find, she created.
When asked about color choices for the collection, McDonald said she really tried to go for a range. “I chose pastels, brights and neutrals,” she said. “ It’s important to get a good neutral for everyone.”
Bullard said, “Black is the new black,” of his bold black and white wallcovering. “Everything seems to be black and white.”
Of working with Schumacher, the pair said they couldn’t be happier. “I wanted to align myself with the most prestigious companies,” said Bullard. “Schumacher has an amazing history and brand and is good quality.
McDonald also revealed that she will be working on a new show, Property Envy, while Bullard will be debuting a men’s fashion line later this year.
Dakota Jackson speaking with Julie Iovine from the Wall Street Journal
Meanwhile, Dakota Jackson invited guests into his showroom and led a panel discussion about the evolution of design and where the market seems to be going.
Christopher Peacock hosted an intimate talk to show off the brand-new showroom and show designers how to incorporate Bose entertainment systems into their interiors while keeping the look they want.
Creative director for Knoll Luxe, Dorothy Cosonas presented the latest collection of upholstery, drapery and wallcoverings while Maya Romanoff invited guests in for an open house and a raffle to win prizes.
Christopher Coleman describing his table to Patrick Hamilton and attendees
In the JAB showroom, designers Alla Akimova, Christopher Coleman, Bella Mancini, Tara Seawright and Michael Tavano all created spring inspired tablescapes incorporating JAB textiles and Lenox tabletop dinnerware. Designer and blogger Patrick Hamilton took guests around the tables and shared tips and advice on doing tabletop. All of the designers agreed that layering is the perfect way to take old china and make it new. “Throw a color underneath it, make it fun with napkins and tablecloths and it will really spice it up,” they said.
Crestron invited guests to the showroom for a free CEU with cocktails entitled “Technology 101.” In the hour-long presentation, Richard Kurtzer shared with designers the ins and outs of technology and how to make it work in a design scheme. “It’s all about finding a balance between interiors and technology,” he said. “Make the lighting and the technology look aesthetically pleasing.”
Barnaba Fornasetti was at the Lee Jofa showroom to celebrate the launch of Fornasetti II, which compromises 15 designs, and gave attendees an inside look at the collection.
Meanwhile, Brett Bedlock introduced her wallpaper collection for Holland & Sherry and Lutron showroom celebrated the launch of the coulisse collection. Famed illustrator Jeremiah Goodman spoke about his iconic renderings of interiors in the Stark Carpet showroom.
In the Donghia showroom, attendees listened in on creative director Chuck Chewning’s presentation about the legacy of Angelo Donghia. While flipping through a slideshow of pictures of Donghia’s iconic work, Chewning explained his design style, aesthetic and how it’s relevant today—and why Donghia as a company strives to keep with that same style.
Two quotes from Donghia that resonated with the audience were, “Less is more,” and “Eclectic without hectic,” which is how he described his work himself years ago.
The day ended with two big parties—Drinks at Donghia and the Holiday House Hamptons party at the Warp & Weft showroom. At Donghia, guests mingled with Chewning and learn more about Angelo Donghia while viewing the new Ports of Call collection.
At Warp & Weft designers and industry professionals let loose with founder of Holiday House, Iris Dankner; editor-in-chief of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) Kendell Cronstrom; and a few of the designers who will be participating in the house this summer. A large number of attendees kicked back, relaxed, sipped cocktails and ended Spring Market with a bang.