Saturday, August 22, 2009

NYT Article on Interior Design in the Recession

Armando Bellmas for The New York Times

While checking out the Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Facebook page, I found a link to this fascinating article in the home section of the New York Times. The subject: interior design during the recession, and how the industry is getting a 'renovation' given the tough times and the changing needs and expectations of consumers. Phoebe Howard (pictured above), a personal favorite as well as the darling of the design blogs, is prominently featured, as is the Mrs. Howard Personal Shopper blog. The Mrs. Howard blog is used as an example of how designers are doing new and different things to adapt to the changes in the profession and the economy.

Click here to read the article. I would love to hear your thoughts - for those of you who are designers or in a design related industry, how has the recession impacted your work? For those of you who are consumers, have you noticed a difference in the design industry over the past year? Email subscribers, click here to comment.

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  1. I keep hearing that some of the top designers in town are very slow. Designers who normally would not even return a call for a job less than 250k are now doing much smaller jobs. Designers who would only do entire houses are now doing single rooms. In my area, very few people are building or gutting an entire house, so there aren't many whole house jobs going on right now.

    Designers tend to charge by the hour in my area, and I have heard about designers who are reducing their hourly rate and the percentage over cost that they charge for furniture and fabrics.

    For those who can afford it, it is a good time to hire a designer. Everyone is so cautious right now, though.

  2. In our area, it seems that there are so many foreclosures, that not many are doing anything to upgrade their homes. The values have dropped so drastically, and even all the Home Centers where the DIY customer is usually doing a lot has dried up. No money being spent on anything. A great time if you can afford it to take advantage of all the sales. Hugs, Marty

  3. Yes, I just read this article. I love the idea of "instant space" and about a year ago added something like it on my own website to try to branch out...

    But sadly, I've had very few people show interest in my e-design option. I think it works so well for Betsy Burnham because she's so well-known. hahah maybe one day for me! ;)

  4. As a local designer in Atlanta, I have seen the changes in the design landscape. Our company was very fortunate to have 4 large new homes under construction at the beginning of the down turn and these homes are nearing competion now.

    We have continued to get new clients, however the scope of the jobs are definitely smaller. We are not in the planning stage (architectural plans) for any new whole house construction projects. We do continue to get renovation projects.

    A friend told me about this blog, which was my first blog experience. I immediately signed up for the posts and have loved reading your blog and actually look forward to seeing it pop up in my mail.

    I have thought about possibly starting a blog as a designer and showing some of our projects as references. Honestly we are a very small firm and so busy now that I cannot possibly find the time to actually try to write a blog even though I think I could get good exposure and possible jobs. It is definitely something I would like to try in the future. I realize that our industry is changing, but I also know the tremedous value that designers bring to the table and think that there will always be a market for smart designers.

  5. It was a great article. There's a thoughtful discussion in the comments on the post I did about it. Some very good points made.


  6. I've offered what I called on my website "e-consultations" for about 3 years now, not as in-depth, but a good amount of information for people to put a plan into action. This year I've had about the same amount of in-person consultations, but none of them have gone forward {with me, anyway}. I've tried offerng specials; two years ago I added "a la carte" which could be for any little thing. I sometimes think that people think they can't hire you just for window treatments, or just for furniture, etc.

    I also offer redesign, so this could be a budget saver for some, too.

  7. Very interesting. As a shopkeep, I am also looking at more innovative ways....It's an ongoing process. Thanks for sharing the article! -susan

  8. Saw the NYT article and wished for another about designers in the range of 300k-600k homes.

    As a landscape designer I'm in these homes seeing incredible interior design work. Magazine worthy.

    Landscape design? Starting in landscape design during Jimmy Carter, aka, Mr. 21% interest rate, was horrific. DIY in this economy is different too.

    Hmm? Client's lack of time: traffic, internet, cell phones, work; horticultural knowledge?

    Most of our maintenance clients remain. During Jimmy Carter mow-blow-go crews were the first fired.

    Design clients continue to call. Hmm? No confidence in what/how to plant, raise curb appeal/property value, reduce maintenance, lower heating/cooling costs, green/organic/sustainability focus, and enjoying outdoor space?

    Interesting comparing eras; changes in people's time, lifestyle & what they deem important.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    "People come to build sooner than to garden finely as if gardening were the greater art." Alexander Pope, 1682

  9. Our designer friend Gordon was over on Thursday. He's never been busier. He must have gotten 10 calls in an hour and a half. I think it's because he has very long term relationships with a number a real estate agents, stores and clients. If you have a good relationship with a designer, you give him lots of word of mouth. Also, he'll do anything, on any scale, inside or out. So this week: Setting up a condo for a guy just divorced - wife got the furniture. A Dunwoody expansion for folks moving to Atlanta for a promotion. A trip to Nashville to set up a house for folks moving to on a promotion. He staged a house for sale in Peachtree Hills before they invited agents to price it. After pricing (and Gordon's staging) they decided not to sell.

  10. * I really enjoyed this~~~ it's informative & interesting for even the layman (woman?) like me...

    Many thanks~ it's always nice to delve a little deeper into this fascinating & fun world of design!

    Linda in AZ *

  11. Fascinating comments. I had not seen any bloggers post about it, sorry for missing Pigtown's post but I am off to check it out.

    Designers: here is an idea - many of the design bloggers love to feature the work of high quality/innovative interior designers on their blog. Many designers still don't understand what blogs are; I have emailed several designers for permission to post their work, and have had no response. I can tell you from first hand experience that writing a blog and coming up with new ideas can be quite time consuming; and, there are so many blogs out there now, it is hard to get a following. But, it is possible - and a blog is a great way for current and potential clients to learn more about you and your work.

  12. I thought it was a great article as the design industry is changing rapidly and may never be back to where it was. I think designers need to diversify and either expand their talents in many areas or specialize in a niche area to be successful.

    I wrote a book on this subject which came out in June-- check out re-de-sign: New Directions for Your Interior Design Career - http://redesignthebook.com

    The other trend I am seeing is the consumer realizes the industry is down and they are taking full advantage and want everything for significantly less. I started design back in the day when charging full retail was the norm --sadly those days with some clients are over!

    Thanks for doing a blog on this article and enjoy hearing what other designers are saying.

  13. I was in a showroom recently that sells Niermann Weeks. One of the clients of a designer was insisting on getting an extra discount because she was ordering a large number lighting items. No additional discount was given - the showroom was saying that it had to pay for its rent and employees. But, it is interesting to note. People don't want to do things in this economic and psychological climate unless they feel that they are getting a 'deal' - this applies to so many different areas and industries, including real estate.

  14. Interesting article. I think the world as a whole is changing rapidly. I have been doing consults for over 30yrs. I chose to do in house,hourly consults because I saw a need for someone to go into a clients home and give ideas and show them quick and easy ways to make their home their own personal style.There is a whole client base out there that has some money but maybe not a lot of money so this works in all levels. I have a client base that calls me back whenever they are in a project or just want a seasonal change. I am not getting rich or famous but I am helping the homeowner love their home. I think that is what design is all about for me. Helping people. there is a saying I just read and it says,"When you love money , you will use people,but when you love people you will use money. I liked that.Sometimes we need to look beyond the money issue and just get creative and help people at all levels not just the high end client.

  15. Mainly for our custom built interiors business we've found customers are much more discerning about what they want done, perhaps doing but with a bigger bang. Before the recession it was no holds barred.

  16. In the past, all my projects were very high end, and like one of your previous commenters, I always charged full retail. I've never liked charging hourly, as I myself don't really like to be charged hourly, plus I liked to work on projects at all hours and not feel compelled to "put them on the clock". Doing that made the project seem so clinical, in a way. But I am doing that more now because material costs have continued to increase while incomes have fallen, so hourly charging seems to be the only way these days.

    I have always viewed each project more as a piece of artwork designed around the personality of my client...very individual, very eclectic. These days, it seems people have become quite influenced by the DIY shows on television and they seem to want what everyone else has. That's been a bit disappointing.

    Funnily enough, when I started my blog a year ago, I actually intended to write more about interior design than I now do. I found there were so many wonderful design blogs that I enjoyed reading...your own and Velvet and Linen come to mind. My blog became a place of escape for me, a place to indulge in the writing that I had always done on the sly. Now, I'm thinking about changing careers. Life is always so interesting and most definitely has plans all its own.

  17. I'm doing it all...I have expanded my services to include renderings for other designers, "designer on call", where I come to your home and look at a floor plan or move pictures and furniture around.

    About a year ago, I added "spec space", my design in a box service. I'm painting canvases, and I may even go back to school next year.

    One thing is sure, I think the foam will rise to the top during times like these...another reason a business degree is as important as an interior design degree.

    Oh, and as for the HGTV designers, nothing to be embarassed about there! I used to work for one, and she is busier than ever. Designers read design magazines, and clients watch HGTV.

    Great Post and link...thanks!

  18. Interesting article. I also checked out the Former Furniture (http://formerfurniture.com/shop.php)site they mentioned and wondered if there was anything in the Atlanta area like that?

  19. When I started my blog I really did it just as an on-line journal for myself and hopefully for a few others. I had no idea what it would turn into. It has actually become a great way to show our work as well as allowing me to become part of a very supportive community during challenging times.
    Although it is time consuming I would definitely recommend blogging to other designers.

    Opening the store last year also turned out to be a blessing. It became another way for us to gain more exposure for our look and the work we do. It has also allowed Steve to start venturing out of architecture a little bit and designing furniture and even painting a bit.

    I have enjoyed reading everyones' comments. Thank you for doing a post on this subject.


  20. Thanks for leading me to this article. Adapting is essential in any field, you simply can't stop growing.

  21. Oh my, I like your amazing, nice & gorgeous blog!

    Regards from Agneta in Sweden o;)

  22. Not a designer, just a homeowner in the NYC burbs during a large construction project - 2 car garage & 3 terraces has run $230K already and just started the 1,400 sq. ft. rear addition. The roads used to be so congested in our small town since there used to be so many projects going on - now I could drive down the middle and not hit anything and we live in a town that has/had plenty of money - Jim Kramer from CNBC's Mad Money is a neighbor of ours. However, most have lost money via the stock market, R.E. market and even some were Maddoff clients plus I now hear people lamenting over the increased NY, NYC, NJ and Federal taxes as well as their reduced incomes - most get a percentage of the profits which are down as well as the reduced or lack of bonuses along with the increase in costs. All in all, most with means seem to feel squeezed and those that aren't apparently don't find it the proper time to spend when so many have to tighten their belts. I have no concrete evidence for the following but I sense there is also a movement afoot with regard to living more simply, i.e., less is more - Just look at the recent WS Home catalogue - lots of reclaimed wood furniture without any finishings and everything is very plain - straight lined etc. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for a design industry where details make all the difference. Best of luck to all those working in the design world - you make my world go around!

  23. With a brother-in-law in construction in S. Florida, I'm more in touch with the construction industry than with the design industry, and I can definitely say there's a change. Fortunately for my BIL, he's busier than ever, but he has also been willing to travel to the TX Gulf Coast for work, take on smaller projects, etc.

    I've been toying with the idea of hiring a designer to help me out with a few aspects of the new house (like, say, what to do with some of my windows)....I don't have any references from folks I know here. Any ideas on how to find the best designer (for me and my budget) in my area?

  24. I love your ideas of instant space. It really inspiring for all of us.


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  25. I think it's great for top designers to be more receptive to providing services to those of us who can never hope to have the "big job budgets". We, however recognize quality and good design and need help with bringint it into our homes as much as those clients who can afford more. Thanks for the article.

  26. I realized i had not commented on this post. I would say that anyone that says they 'don't have time to blog' is simply not that inspired to do so. If you see it is work you'll never keep it up! And there's nothing wrong with that--blogging is like writing a book, you can't say to someone, you should write a book if it's not in them to do it.

    It has to be a passion or it will just occur like a big chore. The last post I wrote that was mentioned in the WP took me 7 hours (on a Sunday) that I didn't even notice. If that just seems like an incredible amount of time to someone that is considering blogging then I wouldn't try to do it to develop a following but just a way to show your work and have a site that is 'alive' attached to your website that people can get a feel for who you are as a designer.

    I have had a pretty good year but the last couple months have been slow for me. I'm hoping that changes in Sept.

  27. I am working on a home in Watercolor, Florida and the economy has not impacted this job at all. I am also an artist and in the art industry, artist are really, really struggling. I know many galleries that are shutting the doors and many that are slicing the price of really fine art. So the economy is definitely hurting that industry. Looks like the web is the way to go for that industry.



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