My name is Renate Ruby. I have been involved in the interior design industry in one way or another for about 30 years in Portland OR and Seattle WA. Over the last 3 years I've opened a couple of small multi-line showrooms in Seattle in order to expand the options available to designers here.
I'm a third generation entrepreneur. The option to just get a job and work for someone else actually never really occurred to me, so I've been hustling since I was 26...much longer ago than I'd like to admit.
Things have changed.....
in our industry so much over the last few years I think both we and our clients are a little bit confused about how we interior designers work bring value and earn our living.
When I first started working in the industry in 1988 interior designers held the keys to the castle. We were the distribution of high end home furnishings to the public. Designer Showrooms were off limits to anyone without an interior designer, so if you wanted the good stuff you needed a designer! We controlled access to goods. With the combination of the rise of the internet and the economic downturn of 2008 vendors had both the means and the motivation to try to reach those end users without us. We have been scrambling ever since to figure out what to do when our clients have access to everything we do. If we don't control access to the goods, then what are we doing?
Why do I care? I think we all care. I've been struggling to define my own value proposition for myself and my clients for many years and I kept running up against clients who would shop me, not complete the project, or do other things to strip the value out of the work I was trying to provide. I've not been selling the right thing, and because of that, nobody is getting the kind of value they deserve.
Now that I own and run a showroom, I see the struggle other designers experience trying to install their designs. I found a fascinating article written by Sean Low for the Business of Home website and it blew my mind and changed how I think about design and selling to designers. Once I really grasped what Sean was proposing I completely changed the conversation I have with my clients, and the designers who shop with me.
I've been thinking about this a great deal, and over the next few blog posts I'll try to make a case for another way of looking at the true value of designers and I'll suggest some profitable strategies for moving forward in the digital age.