With the global impact of COVID-19, the interior design community is facing a new normal. We spoke with four interior designers about how they’ve learned to take care of business digitally—and what the future of design might look like.
Interior Design from Afar
In the wake of COVID-19, the world is facing a new reality, and the design industry is no exception. “Now that we are working from home and not seeing our clients in person, I have held many virtual meetings via Zoom,” says designer Kristin Kong, founder and principal of K Kong Designs. “The first thing we did when we saw that the impact the virus was going to have was to email and call all of our clients. We just wanted to let them know that we were thinking about them, wishing them well, and if they did need our services, we would be here for them.”
For designers Tami Ramsay and Krista Nye Nicholas—the duo behind design firm Cloth & Kind—the art of interior design from afar is second nature, as the partners and principal interior designers are based in two different cities: Athens, Georgia, and Ann Arbor, Michigan. “From the beginning we were early adopters of virtual technology to run our business and meet with clients.”
For prospective clients, Cloth & Kind offers a complimentary, 30-minute virtual design consultation, which they found helpful even before COVID-19. “It’s a win-win in that it allows us to connect with people and determine if it’s mutually a good fit, but it has also proven to be an effective way to bring on new design clients.” Since the global pandemic, Ramsay and Nye Nichols have also added a one-hour virtual design appointment to their client-facing digital offerings.
E-Design: Behind the Process
When it comes to working with clients remotely, designers agree that clear communication is paramount. “We’ve been offering online interior design since 2016,” says Sandra Funk, CEO and Principal Designer of House of Funk. “It’s important to outline the ways that you will communicate, such as email, Wecora, and Zoom. It’s also necessary to set expectations for the process, deliverables, number of allowed edits, and timelines.”
For Sam Cram of Sam Cram Design, e-design services have allowed her to serve out-of-state clients for the past three years, and currently comprise 80 percent of her business. “The best way to start off is to have a great consultation,” Cram advises. “Nailing down their look and what they want before you go into concepts is key, and will save you from multiple revisions down the road.”
After gathering inspiration photos from the client, as well as photos, video, and measurements of the space, she designs both her initial design concepts and final, 2-D renderings using Adobe Photoshop, leaning on AutoCAD for spatial planning. “Visuals are everything, especially when you’re virtual,” says Cram, who is launching a Photoshop class later this year. “Renderings need to make sense to the client, and concepts need to be clear and straight to the point.”
At Jaipur Living, we designed our website specifically to make designers’ online shopping and project planning easier than ever, with features such as real-time inventory availability, advanced filtering (think color, style, material, construction), and Project Lists, which help organize products based on project. We’ve also implemented a custom size calculator on every product page, which produces immediate pricing and timing for any custom designs.
“Visuals are everything, especially when you’re virtual.” —Sam Cram
As the interior design landscape shifts, “now is the time to get all your systems and processes in place,” says Funk, who is also shifting focus to digital marketing efforts. Designer Kristin Kong of K Kong Designs says she is “taking this time to strategize about my business and possible new partnerships.” This includes participating in virtual design industry presentations, re-examining her firm’s marketing, website, and business practices.
Fortunately, the tight-knit interior design community remains supportive. “We recently launched our online business program for interior designers, the Interior Design Standard,” Funk says. “It’s been a great way to stay connected to other designers and help our whole industry rise with better systems and structure.”
Cloth & Kind’s boutique, to-the-trade showroom has also rolled out online services for designers, including a virtual business chat with Ramsay and Nye Nichols, a 30-minute sourcing appointment, and a one-hour full line presentation. “We anticipate that we will continue to do this long after COVID-19 is resolved because it is an efficient way to get information and inspiration to our trade members,” notes the duo.
For designers looking to increase their business online by adding shoppable e-commerce to their websites, Jaipur Living is offering free guidance, as well as access to everything you need to get started. Simply contact us, and we’ll get you set up for success.
“Now is the time to get all your systems and processes in place.” —Sandra Funk
The New Landscape of Design
The silver lining, perhaps, is that the design community is connected now more than ever. “I hope we keep this wonderful sense of community going,” says Kong. “My 2020 phrase, which I taped on my wall in January, was ‘Make Space for What Matters.’ This pandemic has certainly shined a bright light on what those things are for me, as I am sure they have for everyone else out there.”
Indeed, now is the time to focus on what matters most—in your interior design business, and beyond. “It’s already proving to be true that the hardest and darkest of times can often lead to unexpected light,” says Ramsay. “Don’t be afraid to strip down to what really matters to you—in business and in life. Make hard choices, let go of what’s not essential, and fight relentlessly for what’s worth keeping.”
“Don’t be afraid to strip down to what really matters to you—in business and in life. Make hard choices, let go of what’s not essential, and fight relentlessly for what’s worth keeping.” —Cloth & Kind