A Well-Designed Business® | Interior Design Business Podcast

In today's world being a talented interior designer isn't enough to ensure that you have a profitable and successful interior design business. Design school doesn't always teach you the critical business skills to be sure your interior design business be everything you imagined it would be! A Well Designed Business is here to fill in the gaps and give you real live business skills from some of the top interior designers. Your host, LuAnn Nigara shares her 35 years of success in the interior design industry, and she finds the most successful guests to share their interior design business best practices.
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Now displaying: 2016
Jul 8, 2016
 Krista Coupar of Coupar Consulting returns to the show to talk about billing and hourly fee’s.
How To Effectively Bill Out Using an Hourly Fee Structure:
• Step 1: Understand your existing pipeline
• Step 2: Do an analysis of your current client base and your average monthly billing
• Step 3: Determine utilization rates for yourself and your team
• Step 4: Match up current project initiatives with the hours the team has available to work
• Step 5: Evaluate if you need to add to your team
You can read the full show notes and access all the resources at
Jul 6, 2016

Today on the show we have Michael Mitchell and Tyler Hill! They have their own design firm in Charleston, South Carolina. They also deal with fine arts, have a retail store and deal with gallery events. Putting on an event is one thing but putting on 10 to 12 events a year successfully is quite another thing. They put on an event at least once a month usually.  Michael and Tyler are going to share with us they came upon the idea of putting on events.

Show Notes:

  • What was the original plan?
  • What is the one thing that they will always have part of their business?
  • How was charity introduced to them?
  • What should you not go cheap on?
  • What are some ways to let people know when there will be an event?
  • Who are the fabulous staff and what do they do?
  • How did their collection come to life?
  • What are the follow up processes?


You can read the full show notes and access all the links and resources at

Jul 4, 2016

Today we have Farrha Hyman on the show! You may be thinking where have I heard that name before? Farrha is the designer that Kae Whitaker mentioned in her interview from a previous episode! She is going to share with us her story and what can happen to your design firm when you reach out and get help and expertise from someone who knows more than you do.

Show Notes:

  • When did she realize she needed help?
  • How did she hear about Kay?
  • Trust the process!
  • How different is it just being in business and running a business well?
  • Why is it important to share some personal information?
  • What two actions have to happen when bringing someone new into the business?
  • What personal struggles did she have with change?
  • How did she use her knowledge from previous hires?
  • Where does she plan to be further down the road with her firm?

You can read the full show notes and access all the resources at

Jun 29, 2016

On our show today we have Rachel Laxer! Rachel runs a pretty big firm that is based out of London and New York City. She is a member of the British Institute of Design, and ASID here in the states. She graduated from Washington State with a BA in Political Science and History and from NYU with an MBA in Finance and International Business! She has been featured in Ireland’s Home, Interiors and Living magazine, participated in the Holiday House in New York City, Westchester House in New York and Design on a Dime. Rachel came to interior design in a rather unusual way. She is going to tell that story on the show today!

Show Notes:

  • How did Rachel begin working with Kelly Hoppen?
  • How does she predict trends?
  • How does she use her degrees in interior design?
  • What is the key to mixing periods of time?
  • What are the challenges having an interior design business in two “homes”?
  • Use the people you know will do a good job!


Jun 27, 2016

Our guest, Cheryl Janis has been an interior designer for more than 19 years! She has a background in full service interior design for residential design, restaurant design, office design, the whole she bang. But in the last 2 to 6 years she has thought about a direction change for her business. Cheryl has decided to specialize in independent healthcare physicians that are visionaries and embrace the whole health philosophy. She is going to share with us why and how she has come to only specialize in this specific nitch.

Show Notes:

  • What kind of specific healthcare spaces does she design for?
  • How did an accident when she was 17 years old impact her life in such a big way?
  • How have her designs affected these businesses?
  • What is a generalist?
  • What was scary about making the leap to specialize?
  • What is evidence based design?
  • What are some things that can help with recovery in design?
  • Why does Cheryl have a newsletter?


You can read the full show notes at

Jun 22, 2016

Today on the show we have Meryl Santopietro! She is going to be sharing with us about her career and her decision to move her business to Manhattan. Meryl’s business was based in Rhode Island until she moved her business to Manhattan. She also has the pleasure of working with her two daughters every day.

Show Notes:

  • How did she build her business?
  • Why did she move her business to Manhattan?
  • What should you do in an interview?
  • New contacts can equal new referrals
  • When did her daughters join in the business?
  • How did she come to develop products?
  • What are her products used for?
  • What roles do her daughters play in the business?
  • Have a great photographer!


Simply Spotless 

You can read the full show notes and access the resources at

Jun 18, 2016

Today on A Well Designed Business we have a treat! We have Andrew Joseph who is the principal of a design boutique public relations firm in New York city! This is a big time firm and he has clients from all over and his reach is worldwide. He is going to share with us his tips on how to hire, take advantage of and understand what a PR firm can and cannot do for you.

Here's a bit about Andrew: 

Prior to founding Andrew Joseph PR in 2012, Andrew worked for another shelter specific firm advancing his knowledge of public relations and forming a strong network of contacts in the design industry. Andrew’s PR expertise crossed lifestyle categories while working on beauty and fashion brands at RED PR from 2001 to 2005. Before his career in PR, Andrew acquired his journalism skills while employed at Vanity Fair and Allure magazines. That editorial experience facilitates Andrew Joseph PR to have a unique understanding about the media, creative branding strategies, and a deep, successful clientele.

Show Notes:

  • Where did he get his background in public relations?
  • How much information should you include in a pitch?
  • What is the value of a deadline?
  • How do you know which Public Relations firm to hire?
  • What are some things to include in your portfolio?
  • Make sure you have good photography!
  • Why is it important to look at the “landscape”?


Vanity Fair Magazine

Allure Magazine

Jun 15, 2016

Today on the show I’m excited to have Patrick Cain! He is a custom furniture designer based out of Los Angeles. He specializes in furniture made from wood, metal and concrete. The designs are gorgeous! He is going to share with us a little about the pieces and how he got his business started.

Show Notes:

  • What two objectives does Patrick try to put into his furniture?
  • What is the definition of recycle?
  • How does he use recycling in his furniture?
  • Where does he get the wood for his pieces?
  • When did he start his furniture designing?
  • What about “the numbers”?
  • How to get free market research
  • When you are learning about something just go with professionals!
  • How to decide what to put in inventory
  • “Don’t skimp on photography!”


@patrickcain -Instagram

Patrickcain- Facebook

Jun 13, 2016

Leslie Myrick is an interior stylist and has not only built her business from the ground up once but three times! She has been in Canada, California and now Texas! She has very specific ways how she has built her business in such a short amount of time that really stand out. She has a blog and YouTube videos and has really created a good body of work in a short amount of time. We are going to talk about how you can be doing business in the same place you have been for the last twenty years and approach it like you just moved there.

Show Notes:

  • How much preparation did it take to move to where she is now?
  • What is on the checklist when starting out?
  • What should you want to be remembered for? 
  • “Stand in your space”
  • Should you pay to have help doing different parts of the business?
  • What is the most important thing to do with a customer?
  • What 13 things has Leslie learned?
  • What kinds of systems does she use?
  • Put your expectations up front!

Resources: – Get your business coach here!

The Big Leap- Gay, PhD Hendricks

Jun 8, 2016
Susan is founder and principal of award-winning Sweet Peas Design, which she launched 13 years ago in the Chicago suburb of Libertyville as a one-woman firm. Today Sweet Peas Design is a full-service studio with a staff of six in downtown Libertyville and a branch office in Chicago. She and her team work with a broad-based clientele of entrepreneurs, corporate executives and professionals.
Susan is an experienced speaker, whether on interior design issues or the business of design. She is a popular speaker on design at libraries on the North Shore of Chicago. Susan has been featured on NBC/LXTV’s  “George to the Rescue” and  “Open House,” and she appeared on CLTV’s “Bring It Home” program. Her work has been published in numerous national and local magazines and newspapers, including Modern Luxury Interiors Chicago, Kitchen + Bath Makeovers, Trends Kitchens, Trends Bathrooms, Color Made Easy, Crain’s Chicago Business  and Chicago Sun-Times’ magazine, Splash.

Today on the show we have Susan Brunstrum! She has a big firm in Chicago and a signature line called LivableLuxe with a tagline that says “the little black dress of interior design.” She is a business woman, she is a woman who knows what she wants, knows how to do business and knows how to present herself. Her firm has won several designer awards but today we are going to focus on the financial part of business.

Show Notes:

  • The two project fee basis systems 
  • The six phases of projects
  • How do you utilize the project fee?
  • If you don’t charge for your initial consultation you should!
  • Three things to assess on a client when you first meet them
  • What are the red flags when assessing a client?
  • The difference between advertising and public relations
  • Be patient!


Resources: - Sweet Peas Design

Jun 6, 2016

Today on A Well Designed Business we have Jerri Eskow! She is a full-service interior designer and has been in business for more than 20 years! After becoming friends on Instagram I went to her website and did a little research. Sometimes when I have guests on the show I already know what their special skills, talents or lessons are. But with Jerri Eskow I was just so impressed with her as a whole. She is going to talk about her techniques she has used to be a successful interior designer for over 20 years.

Show Notes:

  • Where does integrity fit into business?
  • How to “create an atmosphere”
  • Have the details!
  • Why you should give your opinion 
  • 3 systems to use to stay organized


Chief Architect
Apple Apps: Numbers and Notes 

Irongateinteriors- Instagram

Irongateinteriors- Facebook

Jun 1, 2016



On today’s show, we have Mary Fisher who is a passionate designer of many trades. She is a textile designer, the author of 6 books, a jewelry designer, artist and photographer! Mary had some terrible news in 1992 that she had been diagnosed with HIV. Since then her passion to help others has skyrocketed. Her collection “100 Good Deeds” is a perfect of example that she does just that: Helps others.

Show Notes:

  • How did Mary get involved with Kravet Inc.
  • What is “100 Good Deeds” jewelry and what does it stand for
  • What resources does she use for “100 Good Deeds”?
  • Who makes the art for “100 Good Deeds”?
  • Don’t let other people define your designs 
  • What kind of people are good to have in business?
  • What advice did Mary’s mentor give her?


Kravet Inc. –

Mary Fisher CARE Fund:
You Tube 1992 Republican Convention Speech: to see and purchase 100 Good Deeds Bracelets designed by Mary Fisher
May 30, 2016

Arlene Angard is a New York City Interior Designer. She manages a full service interior architecture and design firm that specializes in luxury residential and new age commercial. She has been an Art Curator and table top connoisseur most of her life. She has curated global art exhibits, participated in art culture panels and collected fine art from around the world. She recently launched a colorful collection of area rugs inspired by her extensive travels abroad.  

She tries to learn as much as she can about her clients' lifestyle and her design decisions are made within this context. Her work has been featured in prestigious magazines such as  Elle Decor, The New York Times, Traditional Home Magazine, New York Spaces Magazine, Luxe Interior + Design Magazine, Ocean Drive Magazine, EL UNIVERSAL, 1stdibs Introspective Magazine, NYC Cottage & Gardens and numerous other design and art publications.   

  • Arlene came from Venezuela to New York in 1997 to pursue her Orthodontics program.
  • She enjoyed New York and pursued another specialization, TMD (temporomandibular) after completing her Orthodontics.
  • As creativity has always been in her blood, she enrolled at the New York School of Interior Design and decided to become an interior designer.
  • As an interior designer, she noticed that her clients didn’t have the right art pieces for their homes and she was always looking for the correct art pieces to match her clients’ furniture pieces and décor.
  • Arlene decided to open her own art gallery. She owns and manages an art gallery at Madison Avenue.
  • She set up the art gallery to help both her clients and the artists community in the city. She gives the artists a space to feature their artworks.
  • She sets up art gallery events depending on the season, one for the winter, one for spring, one for summer, and one for fall.
  • She focuses on contemporary art pieces but she loves learning anything about art. Emerging artists attract clients because they offer a different budget. Arlene has pieces for different budget levels.
  • To source art, she goes to art events to look for new artists worldwide. She is also approached by artists and art dealers who know her as a contemporary art dealer.
  • Arlene discovered that since NY spaces are small, she had to custom-make the furniture pieces to fit the client’s space. Still they are all high-end pieces made of exotic woods and with high gloss lacquer.
  • Her exotic wood furniture includes tables, dining tables, meeting tables, and coffee tables, wing back chairs, ottomans, classic chairs.
  • The main idea of Arlene’s line of furniture is to have the best quality to help the interior designers and clients to complement the pieces they already have.
  • Most of Arlene’s clients go to her Gallery to discuss their projects. Then if projects are feasible, Arlene visits their home.
  • Distant clients communicate with her first by sending measurements of their space.
  • Arlene is a member of the prestigious family.
  • Arlene is also designing custom area rugs.
  • Learn what materials she is using for rugs.
  • She compares a project to delivering a baby.
  • Know that if a client is decisive, work would take 6 months, if the client is indecisive, it would take 9 months, sending samples back and forth.
  • Arlene serves high-end national and international clients.
  • Her advice to new designers: Write down the list of goals to be accomplished daily and week. You have to pursue your dreams with passion. It’s a lot of work to be an interior designer and if you want to succeed, don’t count the hours, the sky is the limit….Do it with passion and every time that you find a product that doesn’t work for you, go far beyond, try to design a new one for your client. If you cannot design, go to a manufacturing company and ask if they can do a custom piece for you.
  • She also recommends that a future designer must have a strategy, persistence, patience, dedication, and must be highly organized. A business plan is also a must.
  • I’m a humble connoisseur but I have an expert eye. I want to be active as an art dealer and as an interior designer as well. – Arlene Angard.
  • When you love what you’re doing, when you have the passion to do it, then the time you spent doing it doesn’t matter at all. – Arlene Angard

  Arlene’s Art Gallery: 15 East 71st Street & Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021


Arlene’s website:

May 25, 2016

Robin Baron, interior designer and lifestyle expert creates homes that are uniquely fabulous , yet captures  her clients’ individual personalities . She brings a striking sense of style to everything she does.  

  • Her motto “Confidence begins at home” helps her guide her style and design in creating a sense of  happiness, fulfillment,  and peace in her clients.
  • She prides herself on her ability to capture her clients’ individual personalities in their homes. 
  • She is currently the President of  American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) for  New York  Metro Chapter; 


  • Robin is affiliated with many industry organizations, including:  Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC), The  International Furnishings and Design Association (IFDA), Interior Design Society (IDS), Women in the Home Industries Today (WithIt), International Interior Design Association (IIDA), Women President's Organization (WPO) , The Beacon Group, Founding Member Board of the Devereux Glenholme School, Benefit Committee of the Promise Project


  • Over the years, her clientele has grown to include many celebrities and top personalities.
  • She feels that the best design work comes from the collaboration between her creative vision and the lifestyle and vision of her clients. 
  • She has been on TV and in the media, including HGTV
  • She has also been featured in many print and online magazines including, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, New York Cottages & Gardens,  Redbook magazine, among many others. 
  • She has spoken at events such as D&D Building, New York Design Center, NY School of Interior Design, Fashion Institute of Technology, Zoffany, Benjamin Moore, and many others. 
  • In her blog:  “Simplifying Fabulous”, she shares her design and lifestyle tips and more.
  • She has a multi-platform social media presence. 
  • She gives back by actively contributing to several charitable organizations. 
  • She is also the founder of an independent living program for high-functioning young adults on the autistic spectrum
  • She finds inspiration around her and always says:   “You never know where you’re going to find inspiration so always have an open eye and an open mind.”  
  • “Our goal is to create beautiful homes that empower our clients and reflect their lifestyles.” – Robin Baron
  • Her services include:  Space planning, floor plans, CAD drawings, Furniture, décor, finish selections, Custom furniture design, Window treatment design, Interior architectural design, Project management, Pre-construction consulting,  bath & kitchen design,  comprehensive interior design services, and selection  of construction-related materials and surfaces including: mouldings, doors, flooring, hardware, plumbing selections, etc.

You can read the full show notes at

May 23, 2016

Steven Cooper is the CEO of Cooper Pacific Kitchens, the experts in the field of kitchen design, kitchen remodeling, interior design, engineering, and installation.  Through innovation and premium design, Steven’s team always aims to bring each client’s  unique vision  and sense of expression to life.

They provide homeowners with functional kitchen spaces that are stunning expressions of their individual tastes.

 Cooper Pacific Kitchens was founded in 1986 by Neil and Shirley Cooper, Steven’s parents.

  • They have just celebrated their 30th year in business.
  • Steven’s parents have retired and the business is now managed by Steven and her 2 daughters. One of them is already working full time and the other daughter is still in school and is working part time.
  • His daughters are training on the managing of logistics, scheduling, and installation.
  • They have a team of highly qualified kitchen designers.
  • They are based in Los Angeles, California
  • They have projects all over the country and outside USA too.
  • Cooper Pacific Kitchens is also a resource center for the kitchen design business and experts.
  • It may take a thousand details in creating and designing a beautiful kitchen.
  • A Team of designers and engineers help put the kitchen together.
  • They always keep up to date with the latest developments in appliances, construction materials, new processes and trends.
  • It’s a fast-changing world. The team has to know which appliance to recommend for each particular client and for which particular location in the kitchen or home – the ovens, dishwasher, cabinets, all other appliances such as refs. He often recommends the combination convection and steam oven rather than microwave oven. The steam oven is taking the place of microwave.
  • Each project is a collaborative work of experts
  • Every team member is given due recognition and importance.
  • Synergy among the team is valued.
  • Steven’s projects are worth six figures each and every one is very careful not to make any mistake.
  • Steven is on the line for all the minutiae of the work – the small, precise details of the project in order to avoid mistakes



May 18, 2016

Graduation is coming up! So I thought we would do a week of podcasts giving advice and tips to the new graduates coming into the design business. One of my employees: Kim is our special guest today. She has been out of school for 9 years now and has been working at “Window Works” for 8 years. She is going to share some of her personal experiences from school to job.

Kim shares with us:

  • Dealing with one project a semester taught time management and how to deal with deadlines
  • One presentation a year in college
  • Don’t underestimate the projects
  • Look to create teamwork
  • Internships are important ~ start internships as soon as possible to build up resume and get as much experience as you can
  • First intern experience was a “what not to do” experience
  • Organization and having a system in place is important
  • Going from intern to job ~attention to detail very important
  • Expect high expectations~ be prepared to deal with everyday issues
  • Figure out how to deal with what has been given to you
  • Bring good work ethic
  • Pay your dues then you will be able to do the bigger, important jobs
  • Be in the industry even if it’s not a design assistant
  • See how other businesses are run
  • Get the tools to run a business before you start your own firm

May 16, 2016

This is Shannon Leddy’s second time on the show! We are so happy to have her back! She is going to share some tips on how students can be more effective before and after graduation.

Shannon shares with us:

  • Keep up with your portfolios- think about how you need to set it up
  • Have some flare with your outfit going to an interview
  • Research the firm you are going for an interview for
  • Go on as many interviews as you can 
  • Ask for feedback even if you didn’t get the job
  • The follow up- know what you want to get paid
  • Ask about benefits and overtime
  • Stay at a job for at least 6 months- give it a chance
  • Make and keep relationships on good terms
  • Keep up with education
  • Look to see what you have to do to be a certified interior designer

Shannon's Website

May 11, 2016

Andrew Suvalsky has been in the interior design business for 11 and a half years! He worked for icon designer Benjamin Noriega Ortiz for a time and then established his own business: Andrew Suvalsky Designs. Andrew has a very interesting story about how he got started in his business and some great tips for running your own business that he learned along the way.

Andrew shares with us:

  • 10-year business mark was a turning point
  • Bought two apartments and renovated them
  • Worked from home for a time
  • Sometimes you just need a nudge
  • Listen to the “voice”!
  • You have to take risks!
  • In the new place the first three months were slow
  • It took a year or so for everything to come true
  • A business coach is a good idea
  • Have knowledge on the different jobs in your business
  • Be flexible

Links Mentioned:

May 9, 2016

Marlaina Teich has been in business for ten plus years with her business Marlaina Teich Designs. She did not start out in interior design. She started out in fashion and then had a family and while she was home taking care of family she decided to go back to school for interior design. It turns out going to school and starting her own business in interior design was a great choice. Marlaina has some great advice on how to avoid the blurry lines between an interior designer and client(s).

Marlaina shares with us:

  • Success of client = relationship with client
  • The top signs that your client is crossing the line
  • How to draw the line
  • Interior designer therapy
  • How to deal with the “elephant” in the room
  • Don’t get taken advantage of
  • Know your worth!
  • Learn to delegate
  • How to keep up with time with clients
  • Limit alcohol

Links Mentioned:

May 4, 2016

Kae Whitaker and her husband/business partner have a unique business called Kae Whitaker Solutions. Kae is a personal branding and business development coach who specializes in creative business. She will teach you specific strategies to build your business to success. Remember “just because you are a master at design does not mean you are a master at business.”

Kae shares with us:

  • What about brands?
  • Know the background
  • Personality draws customers
  • You need to have core values to make decisions
  • Initial coaching sessions: how they work
  • How she works together with her husband
  • Sometimes you need to have people to delegate to
  • Tips for struggling businesses

Links Mentioned: 

May 2, 2016

On the show today, we have Peter Fasano who sells hand-silk screen, hand painted fabrics and wall coverings. Peter’s story is special because he discovered his business by accident. He had gotten out of the Army and started painting, and that’s where he discovered the potential for a successful business. Peter has done just that: made a super successful and environmentally friendly business, I might add!

Peter shares with us:

  • Art gallery vs. fabric painting
  • Location, location, location
  • Fabric painter vs. fabric designer
  • He works with his wife and has been for forever
  • 1/3 of his studio is commissioned by other designers
  • His most rewarding experience
  • A new collection!
  • His work is showcased in 15 states in the United States and in other countries!

Links Mentioned:

Apr 27, 2016

I am so excited about our guest today on the show. Krista Coupar has a unique business that includes business coaching, PR, marketing, staffing, design support and management. Wow! She can work virtually or in person. If you can FedEx, you can work. You have got to listen to this episode! It will blow your mind!

Krista shares with us:

  • Showcasing designers work online
  • Started business coaching in 2007
  • The who, what, when, where, why and how much you should spend on billable
  • How to get the least amount of pushback
  • Plan out your day
  • Facing the “NO”
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Online designing for designers
  • Have a place to hold court

Links Mentioned:

Apr 25, 2016

Rio Hamilton is a marketing and business development strategist who is based in Manhattan for interior design industry. He has had the privilege to work at NIEDERMAIER and be an apprentice to Judy Niedermaier as director of sales and marketing. He also has a wonderful blog. If you have not read it, you should!

Rio shares with us: 

  • Designed his own furniture
  • Niedermaier was family owned until doors closed
  • Share your knowledge
  • The Holiday House
  • How does his business work?
  • Mon Oncle
  • How did the blog come about?
  • Unexpected things make things fun
  • Bigger camera = serious

Links Mentioned:


Apr 20, 2016

Fred Berns is a Denver based coach for interior designers. He teaches interior designers how to be successful at copywriting and Bios. His motto is “Your most important sale is a personal sale.” You wouldn’t believe how many ways you can use your bio. Fred has some very in depth information and tips on how to beef up that bio, so that it really sells you.

Fred shares with us: 

  • Best way to promote yourself- most important sale is a personal sale
  • What goes into a good bio?
  • Is there an order the information should be placed?
  • Don’t sell yourself short
  • Your bio is worth more than just the “about me” section of your website

Links Mentioned:

Apr 18, 2016

Our guest today is our first guest who specializes in hospitality! Stacy Garcia has three different businesses in three different markets! Talk about talent! Stacy has a degree from Syracuse University in Surface Pattern Design. She started her first business in 1999 called Lebatex Inc. and she named it after her great grandmother. So sweet! Stacy is going to share some great advice on the differences between trends and fads and how to use it to your advantage.

Stacy shares with us:

  • Worked at Ralph Lauren
  • Educate yourself!
  • What is the difference between a trend and a fad?
  • Influencers
  • “Trend is your friend”
  • How to forecast
  • Her new brands!

Links Mentioned:

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