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: April, 2017
Apr 28, 2017

Are you intimidated at the thought of going to see a lawyer about your business? Or do you feel that they may look down on you and not take your business seriously? If so, you really need to listen in to today's show, with LuAnn's expert guest, Danielle Liss, who is a lawyer who has absolutely nothing invested in intimidating her clients.

Quite the opposite, actually- Danielle and her partner, Jamie Lieberman have a firm called HashtagLegal and they allow a potential client to purchase only what they really need, even if it's only a once off conversation. They don't want people to feel that legal work is inaccessible. They believe that a lawyer should be a partner, to help your business grow and to help you to make strategic decisions. Listen in now and find out what Danielle has to say, that could benefit you and your business.


Danielle was previously Chief Marketing Officer and General Council for Fitfluential, an Influencer's Network that concentrates on health and wellness initiatives. She has loads of experience in creating and negotiating contracts, interpreting FTC guidelines and creating website policies. She's also worked for a Fortune 500 Bank and spent some time in private practice. As well as this, she is an accomplished speaker, having spoken at dozens of conferences on legal issues, related to bloggers and social media pros. Listen in and find out what you really need to know, legally speaking.


Today, Danielle talks to LuAnn about:


  • How hard it is, at times, for people to figure out the kind of legal service that they really need.
  • Those lawyers have a tendency to not take people and their businesses as seriously as people would like them to.
  • The kinds of things that they like to help people through.
  • What she would suggest for people who are starting out in an Interior Design business and are looking for some advice.
  • The kinds of entities that you can create for your business- an LLC or a Corporation and what each one will involve.
  • The costs involved to file the paperwork for either an LLC or a Corporation.
  • Why you shouldn't skip on the legal stuff when building your brand.
  • The importance of figuring out and crafting a letter of agreement with your client.
  • What to outline in a letter of agreement with a client.
  • How to extricate yourself from a design agreement, legally.
  • The importance of being really clear about what you are being engaged for.
  • Creating clear communication boundaries.
  • Indemnity provisions and making sure that you are going to be held harmless in certain types of claims.
  • Making provision for the gray areas in a standard client contract.
  • Creating contracts for sub-contractors.
  • The importance of vetting the contractors that you work with.
  • Making sure that your clients are okay with being included in your portfolio, in a confidentiality provision.
  • Site terms, disclaimers, and legal and privacy policies on your website.
  • The importance of disclosing your retargeting pixels.
  • Liabilities on Facebook Live and Youtube.
  • Protecting yourself against 'nonsense lawsuits', which could end up costing you five figures!
  • The importance of disclosing and maintaining transparency about what you're doing on your website or blog.


Danielle's website:


Danielle's email:

Apr 26, 2017

Today’s show features, Corey Klassen and Judith Neary. While there’s a host of topics we could talk to them about, today we are focusing our conversation on the new CEU that they have created. There is so much value in their CEU. Judith is a certified bath and kitchen designer, and she moved to the manufacturing side and now works on implementing business processes. She offers a comprehensive designers perspective as a consultant and she's known for doing weird really well!

Corey is also a certified bath and kitchen designer, and a Certified Designer with experience in commercial and residential design. He opened his own firm in 2011 and has won many awards and been featured in many design magazines. He teaches and continues to expand his professional credentials. He is known for creating symmetry in awkward spaces.

Together, Judith and Corey co-lecture all across the US and teach designers about the business of design. This led to the creation of their new CEU.


In this episode Corey and Judith discuss:

  • How My Doma Studio plays a role in the new CEU course.
  • Learn what a “psychographic” is and why it matters to Corey.
  • Why Judith does weird so very well.
  • Find out how hard it is to make your kitchen match your aura!
  • The rules for designers are different since the recession.
  • Learn how Judith and Corey met and teamed up!
  • Corey and Judith are polar opposites - and it works!
  • The process of working through psychographics.
  • There’s an art in knowing when to refer someone out - learn it today.
  • Homeowners truly don’t understand what designers do.
  • Find out why a site visit isn’t being fully utilized and how Corey changed it!
  • The CEU can help designers regain valuable administrative charges.
  • Find out which course is best for you


Resources: - Register for the course

First course starts May 10

Course for seasoned designers starts May 18


Corey’s website: 

Judith Neary's website:


Not sure if the CEU course is right for you? Here’s a detailed description:

Beyond Design: Establishing Monetary Value for Creative Skills

Judith and I have co-authored a 2hr CEU that is IDCEC Approved and has been presented at the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (in current format) this year with sold-out attendance. We're already scheduled for 2018. Previous formats have been sold-out at KBIS 2015, 2016 and IDS Vancouver 2014.

So, what is this? The start of the course came out of personal and professional challenges that Judith and I have separately had with the ever-changing market of clients who shop online, watch media shows, read mommy-blogs and thing they can do it all for a shoe-string budget. 

Why this course? Interior design education is really great at teaching the basics of business and excels at creativity, but if the business is 80% and creativity is 20% we really have our shirts on backwards.

Why now? Personally, after I was apart of the DXV Design Panel in 2014, my business went from a home office to taking over my home, adding and employee, and now in a studio location with a Team. I when to show much incredible professional growth that I've nearly thrown in the towel a few times, but if I love what I do I had to find a way to do what I love.

I'm sure Judith will have more to contribute, and I'm sure I'll run down the road and leave her at the stop sign too, but we're really excited to talk about why running a scalable business is achievable with a solid plan (or without one...) I truly admire Judith and her skills, she has been such a great friend, co-conspirator, and advisor to me and I'm sure she has her shared values about me.

Here's a link to our upcoming course hosted by Mydoma Studio!

Apr 24, 2017

The guest on today's show is Amber Lewis, who was a Key Note Speaker at the recent Design Blogger's Conference. LuAnn didn't get to talk to her at the conference, so she's really happy to interview Amber on today's show, as there were parts of her story that LuAnne thought were really fun and interesting.  LuAnn finds Amber's body of work and what she's managed to accomplish at such a young age, to be incredible. Listen in now and get some great tips for gaining followers on social media.

Amber spent a couple of years working for Elizabeth Lamont (#17) at her store, Room With A View, in Santa Monica. This is where she first fell in love with pretty things and with design and started to feel a pull in that direction. Listen in and find out how Amber first discovered her niche in the world of design and how her business has evolved and grown, since then.


Today, Amber talks to LuAnn about: 

  • How she first started out, working for Elizabeth Lamont and where she went, from there.
  • How she initially didn't connect being an Interior Designer with making a living.
  • How much she gained from working for and being mentored by Kirsten Marie.
  • Why she only hires people who have completed school.
  • How she learned about design on the job, through making mistakes, rather than going to school.
  • That she runs her business as a team effort.
  • What it was like for her, speaking at the Design Blogger's Conference.
  • Why you shouldn't compare your own business with the appearance of someone else's success.
  • How she first started to develop a name for herself through her initial obsessive engagement with her community.
  • How she has learned and progressed through her business.
  • Creating a formula to her really successful method of engagement with social media.
  • Her e-commerce store- how it started through her blog which documented the decoration of her home.
  • Her Flash Sales on Instagram- a great way to gain followers.
  • Her struggle with sacrificing her family time for the huge amount of time and attention that she poured into developing her business.
  • Her milestones, analyzing why her followers were coming back.
  • The first time her house was properly published, in Glitter Guide and in HD TV Magazine how she used the pics to her advantage.
  • The silly names she uses for her clients' hashtags!
  • Her fabulous photographer, Tessa W, who she's used on all her projects.
  • The value of using really great photography.
  • Being featured in Architectural Digest last October, for her kitchen.
  • Working with agencies for blog sponsorship.
  • Brand ambassadorship and how it has developed.
  • That she does all her own writing for all her social media platforms.

Amber's website:

Amber's instagram:

Apr 21, 2017

In today's Power Talk Friday, I'll continue with the second half of the Design Bloggers Conference Summary series. I'm covering the top lessons that I've learned through podcasting about interior design. Last week, we went over the first three lessons #165.

The other shows include Claire Staszak and Kelsey Grose this past Monday and Wednesday and this coming Monday will be Amber Lewis. All 3 interviews had some terrific advice for design blogging as well as running your firm and building an audience on Instagram. Three truly smart ladies! Today, we'll cover the rest.  Join me now with The Things I Learned From A Well Designed Business Part 2!


  • Be Do Have – Have Do Be

#141 Jim Riviello says that we need to change our way of thinking about things in order to be successful. Jim, a business coach and the owner of Leadership X University, explains that we need to Be-Do-Have, not Have-Do-Be. In today's show, I will clarify this powerful explanation.

  • Leap Of Faith

#21 Stacy Garcia took a leap of faith and decided to invest in vintage wallpaper and fabric as a starting point for creating a new textile line for the hospitality industry.

  • No Pipeline

#55 Rachel Moriaty heard about Facebook Live and the rest is history.

  • 24 hours to decide

#128 Grace McNamara was an Advertising Director, thirty-one years old and with no idea of how to run a magazine, was given 24 hours in which to decide if she would buy two magazines. Despite huge fears, she jumped into it and became an entrepreneur and a magazine publisher.

  • Sarah Daniele came up with an idea and turned it into a software program.
  • #79 Anna Brockway-Chairish saw a need in the marketplace and built a huge company, filling a gap in services.
  • #85 Heather and Mark used tech to offer truly professional Interior Design at a level of excellence, affordable for the masses. Nous Decor was born- however, in running Nous Decor, she has another business- how to scale Nous Decor.

Interior Design Is A Business First

  • #112 and #144 Kimberly Seldon- Business of Design. Flat fees, Scope Creep, Trade Days, Fifteen steps to running a profitable project...and the list goes on.

#2 and #Sandra Funk House Of Funk

#36 Susan Brunstrum

#24 #45 #60 #81 #150 Krista Coupar

  • How to bill out using hourly fees.
  • Managing work-life balance from a financial perspective.
  • Build your story and your brand.
  • Things to look at when planning your new work year.

#71 Dr. Ellen Fischer- Ellen cautions us about the main reasons that Interior Designers have trouble being profitable:

  • Undervaluing your time.
  • Not charging for the hours you work.
  • Not recognizing how to keep your pipeline filled.
  • Not placing enough emphasis on marketing.

Ellen's advice to new graduates:

  • Stay connected to the passion that brought you to the field throughout your career, not just in the beginning.
  • Be prepared for hard work. The business of interior design is tough and while outsiders may not recognize it, it is truly as hard as any other career.

Ellen's advice when hiring interns and junior designers for your firm:

  • Set tangible goals and objectives for the tenure.
  • Teach, train, monitor and evaluate performance.
  • “Fuzzy objectives = Fuzzy experience.”

#6 Erika Ward- Erika attributes her success to her expertise and knowledge in Business Management. She advises:

  • Educate yourself about Business Management.
  • Do everything you can to broaden and enhance your business acumen.

This will ensure a proper foundation for a profitable business, allowing you to explore your talent, create fantastic spaces for your clients and explode your Interior Design business.



Jim Riviello:

Apr 19, 2017

Today’s guest is Kelsey Grose. I sat beside her at the Design Blogger’s Conference and after she won an award, I knew immediately that I had to get her on the show. I’ve been doing a whole series lately with all of the people I met at the Design Blogger’s Conference, so you are going to learn so much from all my guests in this series. 


I was even more blown away when I learned that Kelsey has only been in business a year! That blew me away and I knew I had to work with her. So in addition to having the privilege of interviewing her today, I’m pleased


Kelsey Grose is the owner of Farmer’s Daughter Interior. Kelsey is based in Canada and has quickly found a following all over the US as well. She uses a 6 step design process that combines several different design styles. She has a passion for small business and entrepreneurship and she’s here today to share her wisdom with us. 


Listen in as Kelsey and LuAnn discuss:


  • Find out Kelsey’s impression of the Design Blogger’s Conference and see if she had the same experience as LuAnn.
  • In some ways, Kelsey got more than she expected from the conference - find out what exceeded her expectations.
  • Relationships, relationships, relationships - the unexpected benefit of the conference.
  • How a house tour is bringing several bloggers together and allowing them to leverage each other’s audiences through cross promotion.
  • How guest posting on another blog can help promote your own website and business.
  • Ways a new designer just getting their business off the ground can use existing resources online and properly credit the creator, and still build out their own content.
  • How Kelsey is able to look like a seasoned designer with a beautiful blog, but in reality has only been in business a year.
  • The resources that have been useful to Kelsey in getting her business started, plus she’s kind of obsessed with design!
  • The exact steps Kelsey took to get started blogging and building her design business.
  • How Kelsey got a really big kitchen design job as a new designer.
  • A free consultation or a paid consultation? Find out which Kelsey uses.
  • Ways to convert a paid consultation into a paid project.
  • Treat your business like the world is watching you, even if they aren’t yet.


Apr 17, 2017

Today's interview is the first of three, which are as a follow up to the recent Design Bloggers Conference, which was held in LA, this last March. LuAnn really loves the process of how these designers create blogs to serve as a marketing arm for their business and a lead generator for their design firm. Listen in today to get some really great, actionable tips that you can duplicate.


Today's guest is Claire Staszak, who won the award at the Conference for the best blog writing of 2017. She is a Chicago-based interior designer who is known for her holistic design process of combining refined aesthetics with wellness principals, as she draws on her years of experience as a Yoga and Meditation Instructor, to gently guide her clients through the process of unearthing and then refining their own, unique style, resulting in a sanctuary which is timeless, rather than trendy.


Claire studied Interior Design at the School of Art Institute in Chicago and she holds a Certificate of Kitchen and Bathroom Design from Harper College. She's a certified Yoga Instructor, with more than five hundred hours of training and she also has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in journalism from the University of Dayton. Claire did apprenticeships at two high-end firms- Nate Berkus and Associates and Kate Marker Interiors. Her own work has been featured in Design Sponge, Rue Magazine, and Domino. In 2016, she had the honor of being nominated for HD TV's Fresh Faces of Design Competition. With her latest project of renovating her own home, a 1932 Tudor Style brick bungalow in Chicago, Claire is using her own, eclectic style. You can follow this renovation on her blog. Listen in to today's show to find out more about Claire, and how she uses her blog as an effective tool for marketing her business.


Today, Claire talks to LuAnn about:


  • How she got to do her internships with Nate Burkus and Associates and Kate Marker Interiors.
  • The advantages of getting as much work experience as possible.
  • The benefits of working for a large and well-run business, in order to gain necessary experience, to run a successful business of your own, later on.
  • Where she found the inspiration for her blog.
  • How she incorporates Yoga and Meditation into her design work.
  • How she's starting to be recognized by her clients, who know that she really gets them and knows what they want.
  • That consistency is really important with blogging.
  • Creating blog content that readers want to come back for.
  • Her Renovation Series- how it helps her to draw people to her website.
  • How collaboration has really worked for her as a marketing vehicle.
  • That she really doesn't try to sell things from her blog, yet it still makes money for her in other ways.
  • That you should go to conferences to renew your energy, expand your horizons with blogging and keep you moving forward.
  • The great networking opportunities that she found at the conference.
  • How the conference has helped her to partner up with other Interior Designers, to enhance their blogs and hers.
  • Her Spring Into Home collaboration with other design bloggers.
  • You don't need to spend a lot of money on your blog, however, you do need to spend something, to make it look really good.
  • Using the correct etiquette and ethics to credit the source of the photographs that you use on your blog, from the internet.
  • An idea to help people to network better with the people that they connect with at conferences.

Claire's website:


Apr 14, 2017

In today’s Power Talk Friday episode, I’m kicking off the Design Bloggers Conference Summary series. I was inspired by the conference that was held in Los Angeles in March, and I wanted to share it with you. I had to condense my presentation down to only 13 minutes for the conference, but I can take the time here to expand! I’m covering my top lessons learned through podcasting about interior design. We’ll go over the first three lessons today and cover the rest next week. Join me now!

Influence and authority are gained through NICHING

  • This subject comes up repeatedly with guests on the show
  • Here are a few episodes in which niching was discussed:
    • Episode 15 and 159 with Nancy Ganzekaufer —“Niche is rich!”
    • Episode 41 with Cheryl Janis—Niching can help create a space that increases revenue
    • Episode 106 with Taylor Spellman—She niched down her design business to target bachelors in Manhattan
    • Episodes 82 and 117 with Deborah Rosenberg—She extended her belief system to her design business
    • Episode 77 with Katie Deedy—She taught us about setting yourself apart, creating focus and clarity, and being able to raise your rates when you become a recognized expert
  • Your “About You” page is CRITICAL
    • Episodes 22, 48, and 96 with Fred Berns—Much insight into the “About You” page
    • Episode 125 with Nicole Heymer—“I’m the interior designer that . . . “
  • Establish your company’s MISSION and CORE VALUES
    • Episodes 26 and 66 with Kae Whitaker—Core values can push your business forward
    • Episode 78 with my husband, Vince—“Everything you do must support your company’s mission.”
    • Episode 73 with Kim Kuhteubl—Check out her book, Branding + Interior Design


Apr 12, 2017

If you think your life is busy, get ready to meet Susan Winterstein, of Savvy Interiors, in San Diego, California. As well as running an Interior Design Firm, she also has Inside Savvy, a Retail Store and Savvy Giving By Design, a non-profit organization. Susan also has a husband and five daughters. Listen in today, to an awesome conversation with a remarkable woman.


On today's show, the focus is on her non-profit, Savvy Giving By Design. LuAnn is truly overwhelmed with what Susan is doing. She points out that even though there are other designers who are involved with different ways of helping out and giving back, Susan has turned her business into a full on Non- profit Organisation of her own, with an extremely organized platform. Listen in to find out more.


Today, Susan talks to LuAnn about:


  • What drew her to turn her business into a Non-profit Organisation and how she started out with it.
  • Why she keeps her Facebook Group small and intimate and runs it the way that she does.
  • How she went about finding another child for her project, after the first one and the whole process that followed that.
  • How she got started as an official Non-profit Organisation.
  • Her goal of tapping into bigger and better vendor relationships.
  • How hard it is to get corporate attention onto her projects.
  • Putting out the Funder Needs - why this is critical when you're in your social media community and the success that Susan has had with it.
  • Although they rely on donations, there are certain things which have to be paid for- like painters.
  • If the child that Susan is creating a space for has siblings, she does their rooms as well.
  • What goes into the decision of who the next child will be to receive her tremendous gift.
  • That she's willing to assist other designers to do as she does with Savvy Giving By Design, even if they're located in other states.
  • The grounding effect that working with people who would not normally use the services of a designer, has on designers.
  • How she would love to see designers helping designers to do something to pay it forward.


The main website for Susan's Non-profit:

Susan's website:

Susan's Facebook:

Susan on social media: Youtube

Instagram: @Savvy Giving By Design

Apr 10, 2017

My guest for today’s exciting show is Highlyann Krasnow, one of the founders of The Developers Group, now MNS, located in Brooklyn, NY. Not only did she oversee the design of her company’s buildings and sales offices, but then she opened The Design High, the exclusive interior design arm at MNS. Highlyann is involved in commercial interiors and residential projects, but the focus of our conversation today is on the commercial side of her business. Join us!

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • The path from real estate development to The Design High
  • Benefits to “casting a wider net”
  • Interior design concepts for commercial spaces
  • Challenges in designing for the target demographic
  • How to hone your commercial design skills
  • The key: relationships with manufacturers
  • Tips for the designer seeking a career in commercial design
  • How to “let go” of some of your design elements
  • Why you need to be a design chameleon
  • The payoff for a designer
  • The mood board test HIghlyann uses for hiring designers
  • The commitment to eco-friendly designs: Why is it so important?
  • Understanding the “durability” of your design: it’s NOT just for today!
  • Highlyann’s recent and current projects and their specific challenges
  • Carrying the design thread through the project as a whole

Resources: (Highlyann’s website)

Email Highlyann:

Apr 7, 2017

The guest on today's show is Natalie Norcross, the dynamic founder and CEO of A Design Partnership, which is a Premier National Marketing and PR Agency. Natalie herself has appeared in Boutique design, Esquire, Hospitality Design, Access Hollywood, E Entertainment, Television, and Extra. Listen in today and learn about some great strategies and marketing tips from Natalie.

Natalie started her career as an Interior Designer, after which she built, then in 2008, sold, a highly successful firm, specializing in both Residential and Hospitality. Fellow designers in Architectural Firms then began asking for her help with generating leads, media placements, and marketing tools. That was how A Design Partnership started out. The agency, with Natalie, her two partners and a staff of nine high-powered designers and marketing experts has really grown over the last nine years. Listen to today's show to find out more about how this energetic group, who are passionate about helping design-minded companies to exceed their goals, transform their brands and evolve their businesses, work to create success.


Today, Natalie talks to LuAnn about:


  • The businesses that were started by her mother and her grandmother, who were both entrepreneurs and both a great inspiration to Natalie.
  • How she and other parents can lead their children and inspire them to develop positive work ethics, through their own example.
  • Her successful design firm, which she sold in 2008 and what she learned from it.
  • How having really good systems in place works, to catapult your business to wild success.
  • The process of creating an exit strategy for your business.
  • The power of having a team which is focused on the same mission.
  • Some advice for people who are working on their brands.
  • The DISC Profile tool, to help you get more clear as to who you really are, as a human being, to help you build focus, a mission, and a vision.
  • The 5 Why's and how this can help you to get to the core of your beliefs.
  • The difference between Inbound and Outbound Marketing.
  • Great ways to drive traffic to your website.
  • How, in the last six months, her company has grown five of their client's Instagram followers to over 15 000.
  • Great ways to help your business to grow, using social media.
  • The value in having blog posts on your website.
  • Using the Ladder Up Strategy, for PR.
  • Great tips for pitching for publications.
  • Natalie's finite system for keeping her entire company on that train.

Natalie's website:

Apr 5, 2017

You may remember on episode 110 when Mark McDonough was on the show and he talked about his blog, Tastefully Inspired. Today we are going to be talking with Karina Jones who is a contributor plus an interior designer on Mark’s Tastefully Inspired blog. Karina holds degrees in communication in arts and education.

She is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She has her own full serviced firm that she founded in Charlotte, North Carolina: Karina Jones Designs and also has her own blog that she uses to educate people on the different aspects of design. Design is visual and Karina is going to talk with us on how she and Mark use the Tastefully Inspired blog to bring the visual to a blog.

Show Notes:

  • Learn how you can use an education degree to help you and your client have a better relationship
  • Find out the three things that should always be included in a blog
  • Learn the secret to Mark and Karina’s key to success on the blog they have together, Tastefully Inspired
  • Learn what the key component to the final product of a blog is
  • Understand the importance of balance of family is important and how this works out for Karina and Mark
  • Hear why having a schedule for a blog is not always best
  • Discover how to enhance your learning from this episode


Apr 3, 2017

I have the original Rockstar interior designer on the show today, Kelli Ellis! I know we all know Kelli as an interior designer because she has been published in national magazines. It’s likely that you have seen her on TLCs show Clean Sweep as the featured designer, HGTVs Take Over My Makeover and many more. In addition to being an accomplished interior designer, featured in many publications and on TV, she is a certified life coach and a design psychology coach. 

She received her certification in interior design for the Interior Design Institute in California and she also holds a BA in Marketing from California State University of Fullerton, a law school education from Western State University and a Liberal Arts education for the University of London. On top of all of this, she is on the board of directors for Miracles for Kids lending her name and time to this passion project which is aiding the children in Orange County in need. 

Show Notes:

  • What is the certified design psychology program that Kelli started?
  • What are the three “F’s”?
  • Why is knowing the psychology of color important?
  • How long is the design psychology course?
  • What is included in the course?
  • What is a Mevo camera?
  • What does she mean “get rid of the extras”?
  • How does Kelli find time to be an artist too?
  • What are some ways to avoid killing the relationship between the designer and client?



Do I Look Skinny in this House?