Let’s tackle the stigma that exists against decorating! A lot of designers, my past self included, hesitate to call themselves decorators, and instead go by designer because they believe it sounds more prestigious.

In this episode, I’m diving into why using the term decorator doesn’t mean anything less than designer, and why I’ve decided to lean into my decorating services and how it’s boosting my business, and can be a boost for yours too!

Over the years, I’ve done my fair share of projects and found that decorating is the thing that truly lights me up. It is one of the reasons that I’ve decided to make it a key factor for projects I choose to take on going forward. Despite what many people believe, you can make a great deal of money in decorating, and in this episode, I share some quick ideas for those of you looking to expand more in that direction. 

I also share some surprising things I’ve learned about decorating in my journey so far, things to keep in mind, and the shifts I’m making this year regarding this element of my business.

Remember that you as a designer are telling a story and decorating is a huge, vital part of that narrative for you and your clients.

Read the Full Transcript ⬇️

[00:00:00] Hey, hey, hey, it’s Rebecca and you’re listening to Resilient by Design. Today I want to talk about decorating. Because a lot of you are hesitant to call yourselves a decorator. You want to be known as a designer, or an interior designer. And I get that, because that has always been me. Right? There’s just, there’s like a stigma if you’re just a decorator.

[00:00:19] Or, maybe even just Nope, that’s really the stigma, I think. I don’t know, that’s how I kind of thought about it. I thought, well, being an interior designer is so much more prestigious, we’re doing all the design, we’re doing the architectural, we’re doing da da da, and yeah, there’s so much more involved in doing interior design than there is decorating.

[00:00:36] But, in my experience, there is more money to be made in decorating. And so I wanted to take this, this moment, I guess, to record this shorty episode for you, and just to give you some quick ideas for those of you who are looking to maybe move more into the decorating as I have been. And I’m going to share with you what I’m currently doing because I don’t want you to stay away from it if it’s your passion.

[00:01:03] But I will start with this caveat in that You need to know what lights you up, because you will enjoy it more. Just because there’s money in something doesn’t mean you should do it. So just consider that. Unless, of course, you hire the people who can do it really well. For me, I’ve always been passionate about the soft materials and furnishings.

[00:01:22] It’s just always been my thing. Space planning, absolutely. And of course, I love all the elements of it. But quite frankly, I make the most money when I’m able to decorate. For me, I get the most excited at that stage of the game, in that, in that process of decorating, when I get to go to the fabric showrooms, and I’m at Cravet, and I’m pulling this fabric, I’m getting a wallpaper, I’m looking at sofa styles, and I want to do a custom table, and I’m looking at airy rugs and lighting, like, all of that to me, that’s the jewelry on the finished space.

[00:01:52] There’s nothing worse. For me personally, then doing a project that falls short of the decorating, meaning that we [00:02:00] work with the architect, we’re doing the space plans, we’re picking all the hard materials, but then we get stopped because they don’t have the money, or they’re just going to use their old furniture, or maybe they just have really bad taste.

[00:02:13] You know what I’m talking about. Those projects don’t light me up. And that’s something that I’ve struggled with because I’ll be honest, I wanted to be seen for the longest time of like the interior designer, one of the top interior designers in Toronto. And I feel like I’ve been there. And that’s my ego talking.

[00:02:32] Because really, truthfully, if I want to have a business that feels as good as it looks, I get to do more decorating. And it’s truly where I will dive into the process with my team. And I don’t like to outsource as much of that because it’s something that lights me up. And then on the flip side, which now over years of assessing and reviewing and crunching the numbers, I now know that that’s where the money is.

[00:02:57] So here’s the thing. If you love decorating and you want to move more into decorating and less into the interior design and the structure and all that, first of all, you still need That goes without saying, I think by now, if you’ve been listening to my podcast for a little while, if you’ve taken POP or pop, if you’re a popper, I like that.

[00:03:12] If you’re a popper, you know what the heck I’m talking about. You still need to process and you still want to deliver exceptional service. But when you decorate, you can make money because you are purchasing the products on behalf of your clients and you are reselling those products to your clients.

[00:03:30] Meaning, there is margin, there is markup, there is money. You keep your discounts. Obviously, if you’ve been listening to this podcast, I hope by now you’ve drunk the Kool Aid and you are not passing on your discounts, you are not sharing your discounts. I know a lot of designers still do that and that is fine.

[00:03:46] That is their prerogative, but my recommendation from having run a multi six figure, seven figure business is that the only times that I’ve passed the seven figures has [00:04:00] been when we had large decorating projects. The years where we had less decorating and more construction projects, we didn’t hit seven figures.

[00:04:09] And then when I start to look at which products specifically, okay, so first of all, don’t share your discounts, right? You need to mark things up. You’re not gouging your clients, but you’re going to make money on that because you’re going to be spending time managing all of that. But then the second thing is that in addition to all of the margins and the markups, you can start to look at the All of the products that you have supplied.

[00:04:32] And this is an exercise I’ve done. I do it annually where I look at every product or every vendor. I’ve done both ways. I like product, but sometimes vendor is helpful too. And you look at where did I make the most money? Because you might be surprised. And the first time I did this, I was surprised. And I realized that I was Oh my God, there’s like no money in tile because I wasn’t doing maybe enough volume, even though we do get a pretty good discount there.

[00:04:59] Like a lot of the tile places were getting 35%, which is great, but I wasn’t doing maybe nearly enough bathroom. How much tile do you really need for a bathroom? And then I was like, Oh, fabric, Oh, custom furniture. Oh, I ordered a lot of lighting. You can start to see what products you’re making the most money on and you can tailor your design surfaces to make sure that you always include.

[00:05:23] Number three, once you do that assessment, and this is what I did, you can see, holy heck, I gave Kravit like 300, 000 last year. I’m going to talk to them. What can I, what can they do for me? Can I get a better discount? Maybe that’s a bad example. They’re a pretty big corporation, but smaller, smaller vendors, like a lighting vendor.

[00:05:42] I had big projects that ran through this lighting vendor. And I went to them and I said, listen, Can we get an extended discount because we’re bringing a lot of money. Not everyone’s going to say yes, but it gives you a bit of leverage. And so there’s an opportunity for you to make more money on the products. The problem with interior design, services, and just making [00:06:00] money on your fees And not reselling products.

[00:06:02] I know a lot of people are nervous to do that and you’re scared to do that, which is why you need the markup because it’s going to help you when things go awry and you need to replace something because ultimately that’s just the cost of doing business is that I feel that you would need to disproportionately charge for your time and your fees to make up for the lack of products you’re selling or margin you’re making.

[00:06:22] So for me, yes, I want to charge design fees. But at some point, depending on your client, there might be a limit to what they see the value in the fee, but they’re going to purchase a ton of product. Why do you think Studio McGee has moved more into McGee Co? Why do you think Restoration Hardware has designers there so that you can go and just buy all the furniture from them?

[00:06:45] The money is in. The furnishings. I just want to put in a caveat here because as an environmentalist at heart, this doesn’t mean that we need to consume and buy products unnecessarily. There are lots of opportunities to buy vintage. You can go to Round Top. I’m dying to go to Round Top and like source antiques.

[00:07:03] You can do consignment stores. There’s lots of great ways to repurpose furniture and you can still make money on all of that. But all that to say that you can make money doing something that you really love. If you’re listening to this right now and you’re like, I hate decorating. How annoying. This episode is not for you.

[00:07:16] So just move on. Move on to the next one. That’s fine. So I said I was going to talk about what I’m doing. I’ve made a decision. And if you’re on my newsletter, you’ll know this. If you’re not on my newsletter, you should probably get on my newsletter. I will make sure that we link how to sign up for my newsletter here in this episode.

[00:07:33] The newsletter I talked about the shifts that I’m making in my business. But one thing specifically that I’ve talked about is, well, I’m not taking on as many projects because I just don’t want to. I don’t want to scale my team anymore. I want to keep it small and boutique because I want the time to do this.

[00:07:48] I want to do more podcasting. I want to do speaking. I want to lean into the coaching and I really want to work with you guys more than with my design clients. I mean, I’ve been doing that for like a good 15 plus [00:08:00] years. I’m good. I’m satiated. I’m ready for the next adventure. But the projects I do take on, I want them to have a lot of decorating.

[00:08:09] And so, what I’ve recently done, and this is something that I highly recommend you do, is to look over your messaging. Look at your website. What is the messaging on your website? Do you talk about Decorating. Do you talk about the fabrics, the furnishings? When you do a photo shoot, and this is something actually I have always been very intentional about and it would drive my photographers crazy, is when you do a photo shoot, what are you capturing?

[00:08:33] Are you just trying to capture the space or pretty image for Instagram? Or are you intentionally, like I have been, focusing on imagery that includes your software? furnishings, the textiles, the pleat in the drapery, because once you start capturing, and even if it’s not professional photo shoot, you can do this with your iPhone, uh, and take really great pictures that you could use even on your, on your website, if they’re small little ones or on Instagram to showcase those decorative details, because you guys know if you’re into decorating, there are a lot of freaking details.

[00:09:05] There’s a lot that I never learned in school for interior design that I had to learn on the job and I am still learning. Like, please do not ask me to calculate wallpaper with the repeat and how much I need. Not interested in doing that. But these are, these are aspects that you can talk about. The texture, the fabrics, the trim detail, the custom area rug, and you want to weave that messaging into your website.

[00:09:28] Into your social media, into your newsletter, into your conversations, when you talk and have a discovery call into your conversations, when you’re networking, Oh, you know, we’re interior design firm, but we really excel. And this is what I’ve been doing lately is we really excel when it comes to the finishing touches, the decorating, you know, I’m very passionate about fabric and, and customizing furnishings.

[00:09:49] And that’s really what brings the home together for me. And that’s what makes it feel like your forever home and a space that feels as good as it looks. And that’s my new tagline. If you go to my new website, which just [00:10:00] launched recently, quietly launched, didn’t make a big deal about it, but it’s out there.

[00:10:04] So now everybody’s going to read about how we want to design and decorate a home that feels as good as it looks. And as the months go on, I’m continually assessing the messaging and the copywriting on that website. I’m looking at the photographs that are being featured on the homepage. Do those photographs show the decorating, show the furniture or are they of kitchens?

[00:10:25] Don’t get me wrong. I love doing kitchens. I’m really good at doing kitchens. They can generate a lot of money for someone else, unless you’re marking up your millwork considerably and you’re running it from through you. Okay, then you can make money on it. But those are the intentional, you need to be super intentional about what you’re putting out into the world.

[00:10:41] If you want to attract more decorating projects or projects that showcase what you can do until the end, you are telling a story. So there you have it. That’s a shorty. Hopefully a goodie. Maybe that’s the kick in the butt. You needed to just lean into the decorating side of your business. Maybe you already decorate and you’re like, obviously I already do this and I think it’s valuable and I’m making tons of money.

[00:11:01] Then fricking amazing. Hit me up on Instagram and let me know. Love to interview for you for the podcast. I would love to interview a few more decorators just to talk about that side of things. Speaking of decorating, is anyone going to KIPP’s Bay Show House in New York City in May? I’m like really tempted because I’ve always wanted to go and I love that it’s a decorator show house.

[00:11:20] I’m like all over this decorating guys. Anyways, I hope you guys enjoyed that episode. Let me know. That’s it. I’ll see you soon.