trade tales | Mar 18, 2020 |
Remote control: How designers are running their firms from home

While many designers run their businesses out of their home, for a lot of people, working remotely during the COVID-19 outbreak is a new challenge. With the newest projections suggesting that social distancing and self-isolation may be the norm for the next few months, we asked five designers from across the country—Lauren Czarniecki, Jessica Davis, Corey Damen Jenkins, Jean Liu and Noz Nozawa—how they’re taking their firms remote and managing ongoing projects from the comfort (or confines?) of their own homes.

Corey Damen Jenkins
Corey Damen JenkinsCourtesy of Corey Damen Jenkins

Born Ready
“We have several active projects outside of our bases in Detroit and New York—client homes in development in other states and in Canada. For those projects, not much has changed: We’re still communicating with contractors and builders via FaceTime, Skype and Marco Polo, as we’ve done for years. In a way, we were working with social distancing long before this crisis arose. These platforms are great tools for communication, but they are also fairly effective for visuals too.

“With COVID-19 escalating to a new level, our staff is preparing to work remotely from home, effective this week. And since we have a number of older clients, we’re not doing any in-person meetings with them at this time. It’s crucial that we as professionals take the initiative to communicate with clients, showrooms and contractors just how much we respect the seriousness of this situation [through] our business protocols and our commitment to doing our part in fighting this thing.” —Corey Damen Jenkins, Corey Damen Jenkins & Associates, Detroit and New York

Jean Liu
Jean LiuCourtesy of Jean Liu

Connection speed

“As of last Thursday, we started working remotely. We are using Facetime and Skype to chat as a team and with our clients. It just so happens the closures coincided with our spring break here, so even though many clients canceled their vacations and ended up staying in town, we had already finished the majority of the design work involving face-to-face meetings with them for the next couple of weeks. As a result, our work has mainly involved coordinating orders with showrooms and workrooms.

“One thing we realized three days into this quarantine is that with the entire family at home and on one device or another, the internet speed is not as fast as what I’m used to in our studio. We hope to upgrade our household internet to fiber in the next week to accommodate the entire household’s need to stream. We hope with this increased bandwidth will come increased creativity and productivity.” —Jean Liu, Jean Liu Design, Dallas

Jessica Davis
Jessica DavisAaron Grant

In the clouds

“I am fairly used to working remotely. Everything we do is cloud-based: We use Google Docs, and a lot of concepting [is done on] Pinterest. When we order samples, they’re sent directly to our clients’ homes; we have always created digital concept and materials boards to go along with those physical samples. Emailing these concept boards and renderings can’t replace speaking to someone in person, so phone and video conferences and site visits via FaceTime are all crucial.” —Jessica Davis, Atelier Davis, Atlanta

Noz Nozawa
Noz NozawaAaron Kes

“I have actually been running my business from home since January, with my one employee only coming into the office every couple weeks for showroom visits and team meetings. In anticipation of San Francisco coming under the shelter-in-place ordinance (which it did earlier this week), I ordered tons of memos I might need through these times, and will rely on the postal service staying [open] to send these to clients as needed. A number of my projects are under construction right now, so it’s been a difficult decision to stay off those job sites as much as possible. Thankfully, my construction teams and I have been able to make it work so far through FaceTime and texting photos and videos.

“For any designers who have previously kept work strictly at the office and out of their home, I’d definitely recommend investing in a remote-work setup that’s as technologically practical as your office setup—or run back to the office and grab your monitor, mouse and ergonomic chair and keep them at home for as long as we’re in this COVID social distancing experience!” —Noz Nozawa, Noz Design, San Francisco

Lauren Czarniecki
Lauren CzarnieckiCourtesy of Lauren Czarniecki


“During this time of uncertainty, I wanted to create an environment where our staff and clients could feel comfortable and reassured that business is moving forward and their projects are being cared for efficiently. Our typical presentations are in-person meetings at the office to review all finishes, fabrics and selections—it’s usually a very tactile and interactive experience. In an attempt to keep that spirit alive, we are mailing sample packets for tile, fabrics, rugs, then putting together interactive digital design presentations with drawings and images of selections. We will use platforms like Zoom and FaceTime to review the presentation together—this way, clients still feel that I am here to answer any of their design questions or concerns.

“Similarly, our staff is using video chats to keep communication alive; we also use GQueues, a task manager platform by Google, to organize all of our project-related tasks. This allows us to have one central location for our work and is super convenient when it comes to writing notes about tasks, project updates and more.” —Lauren Czarniecki, Czar Interiors, Delray Beach, Florida

Homepage photo: Shutterstock

Want to stay informed? Sign up for our newsletter, which recaps the week’s stories, and get in-depth industry news and analysis each quarter by subscribing to our print magazine. Join BOH Insider for discounts, workshops and access to special events such as the Future of Home conference.