What is the best advice that you were ever given?
A good friend once told me, "You can design your life exactly how you want it to be." She explained that there is no rule book. If you like to cook, become a chef. If you love dogs, work at the ASPCA. For me, the one thing I always loved to do was interior design. I thought to myself, what if I could turn this passion and hobby into a career?
What are the traits that you think are essential for success in interior design?
My skills as a business owner were learned through my formal schooling; however, a lot of my skills as a designer were learned by practice in the field. The foundation of having a business degree has been very valuable to running my own interior design business, Avenue Design Group. I learned about marketing, finance, entrepreneurship and operations management. However, professionalism is something that cannot be taught at school. It comes from within. It shines through the genuine desire to make your client happy while creating a beautiful space.
How do you find inspiration?
I see design all around me. Especially when I'm watching TV shows and look at the set design - the style is often on point for the time period. I often can name the brand of each and every piece of furniture. This annoys my husband as I shout it out during a show! Also, when I walk into beautiful retail stores such as the Ralph Lauren store on Madison Avenue, for example, the design typically exudes style, right down to the scent in the air. I see these stores take a lot of design risks, both with the clothing and interior design, and they always pull it off flawlessly.
How do you keep up with new trends, materials, practices, software?
Going to the D&D Building and 200 Lexington Avenue, as well as other trade buildings is very helpful. That way when I need to bring a client there for an impromptu meeting, I know exactly where to find the best green ultra leather, for example. No guessing in front of the client! I try to go to as many trade shows as possible to meet new vendors. A designer is only as good as his or her vendors.
How has being an ASID member helped you?
Being an ASID member is a huge badge of honor for an interior designer. Not only does it link me to a huge network of talented trades people and other designers which I can collaborate with, but also there are constantly so many great trade events to attend. Moreover, just having ASID on my business card gives me confidence that when I give my card to a client or trades person, there is a enormous team behind me backing up my credibility.
Should an Interior Designer ever say NO to a job?
When I was first starting out as an independent interior designer, it was very hard for me to say no to a job. I actually took on jobs for small amounts of compensation just to get my foot in the door. However, as you become a little bit more senior, it is vital that you interview the client while the client is interviewing you. It needs to be a good mutual fit. I have a list of questions I run through with them such as: What is your decision-making style? How easy is it to contact you and if so by what means of communication? Do you like to work in person together or virtually? What is your desired budget? Have you ever worked with a designer before and if so what did you like and dislike about the experience? Why are you not working with that person anymore? Etc. At the end of the interview, I take some time on my own to collect my thoughts about the project and if doesn't seem like a good fit, I am always happy to refer them to a colleague who may be better suited for the work.
What would you be, if you weren't a designer?
I'm head over heels in love with my puppy Australian Shepard, Bill. If you don't believe me just check out my work Instagram @avenue.design.group. I would probably work with dogs in some capacity. Training or working at a pet shelter. Their compassion and love for others is unmatched by humans. And who can resist those puppy eyes?
For more information on Allison and her work head over to her website below: