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Designing Women: Loving Where You Live with Courtney Gaylor

October 3, 2012

Courtney Gaylor

Interview by Jennifer Markas; Photography by Amy Lee

Damsels in Design is very excited to introduce Courtney Gaylor as the first interior designer to be highlighted in the Designing Women column. After years of working between New York City and Miami at high-end residential interior design firms, Courtney did as any aspiring entrepreneur would do and opened up her own studio three years ago. She has since completed a loft in Gramercy, an entire townhouse on the Upper Ease Side, and a getaway apartment in South Beach, Miami. We especially like the townhouse with its hints of Art Deco glamour and retro pops of color. Damsels in Design had the opportunity to interview Courtney while she reviewed some color samples for her current project.

DID: What is the most important aspect of your job as an interior designer? What didn’t they teach you in school that you wish you knew prior to entering the field?
CG: The most important aspects of being an interior designer are successful problem solving and consistent follow up. Every day something goes wrong, either a piece of furniture gets backordered for the 3rd time, a fabric comes in wrong, or something breaks during delivery. Learning to handle these situations in a professional manner is important. As an interior designer, you are counting on so many other people to get their jobs done efficiently and you have to be on top of everyone because things are always slipping through the cracks. I spend most of my day on the phone solving issues the client will never even know about and the other part of the day following up to make sure things are getting done properly. Most people think interior design is all fun and creativity, but about 90% of it is paper work, stress, and multitasking!

DID: Can you tell us what were you doing before launching your own firm? How did you start your own firm? What was your “aha!” moment?
CG:
When I was little, my mother always took me to museums and tried to culture me in the arts- although sometimes hesitant and uninterested, I guess it stuck. I was an Art History major at The University of Wisconsin where I fell in love with architecture and interiors. After college I received my Interior Design degree from Parsons. I launched Courtney Gaylor Design after 8 years working as an Interior Designer for high end residential firms in New York City and Miami. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunities and work experiences I did, and owe everything I know to the designers I worked for. Working for myself has always been my ultimate goal, for both creative freedom and the ability to manage my own day to day schedule. Through the years I was always being asked by friends or family to help decorate their homes. I was working full time and took on these small projects on the side. It was pretty exhausting spending my lunch breaks running to accept furniture deliveries and spending late nights after work putting together floor plans and furniture boards, but it was worth it to me to be doing my own thing. After working like this for a while and really pushing myself, I was fortunate to have a few big projects come my way. This was when I decided it was time to take the leap and open my own company. I set up an office in my apartment and dove right into it. It was the best move I ever made!

DID Where does your motivation from? What drives your passion? How do you measure success?
CG:
My motivation comes from everything around me. I have a very close support team of family and friends that have helped me get to where I am today and always inspire me. This may seem crazy to say, but scrolling through my social media apps and hearing about how others are being successful only pushes me further to want to be the best that I can be. My love of creativity, making others happy, and my appreciation for details continue to drive my passion. Even though I can control my own hours and schedule and have the option to throw a mid-day spin class into my routine when I feel like it, I work harder now than I ever did working for a firm. I’m at my computer until 2 in the morning and spend my Saturday’s furniture shopping for a client. I am always thinking about my projects- sometimes even in my sleep. The greatest thing is that it never feels like I am working. I absolutely love what I do, and even more so when I can do it on my own time. I measure success by how good I feel at the end of my day. Making a client happy and getting things accomplished in a positive way make me feel successful as a designer and as a person.

Courtney Gaylor Interior Designer

DID: What inspires your aesthetic? Do you have a single expression that you aim for when designing for your clients or do your clients’ personalities inform most of your work?
CG:
I am constantly inspired by my surroundings, such as seeing a unique piece of art, flipping through my favorite fashion and design magazines, a pretty piece of stationary, or beautiful scenes I come across on my travels. I love mixing textures and patterns to create dimension in design and creating a mood. I appreciate all design styles, from traditional to modern, and I love that every project is different depending on my clients taste. Although I tend to lean towards transitional and eclectic design, mixing old and new, I always aim to create a classic and comfortable space. Most of my clients are very savvy and they have a strong sense of what they like. If they’re hiring a designer, it’s because design is important to them. I like to start out the process by having them pull concept images out of a magazine or share their Houzz or Pinterest accounts with me. I let them dictate the mood and then I filter their ideas and help make them more cohesive and functional. Trust is a really important thing in this business. My clients need to trust me, and once they let me in it becomes a whole new relationship. There is nothing like the feeling of loving where you live and that is what I try to create in each of my projects. Getting to be a part of that process is amazing for me.

DID: If you could travel back in time and offer yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?
CG:
To take a business and accounting class! I am extremely creative, but learning the business side of things was a challenge for me. I still am learning how to approach situations and feel it is important for every business owner to understand the fundamentals of running your own company.
DID: You read our minds Courtney! We are launching an 8 week Business Plan Workshop next beginning next Thursday. The workshop is aimed to teach creative entrepreneurs the basics of researching and planning their own company. We are offering step-by-step instruction on how to create a compelling road map to use for one’s business journey and the opportunity to connect with expert professionals in accounting, marketing, and investing. There’s still time to sign up!

DID: Name three skills that helped get you where you are today.
CG:
Believing in myself, playing fair, and working hard has gotten me to where I am today. Finding the confidence to start my own business and feeling I was able to control everything myself was not an easy task. My father always instilled in me that being your own boss is the best way, and it is the only way I ever saw for myself. I knew this was the perfect time to take a risk and now I am exactly where I wanted to be at this point in my life. I have so much energy and passion to learn, grow, travel, design and do more- I feel this is just the start of what’s to come.

DID: If there is one thing you could change about the industry you’re in what would it be? How do you boost your confidence at/for work?
CG:
I try to stay positive and not to get discouraged. If I have a not so great meeting or a bad day, I try to keep my head up and do whatever I can to make it better. Whether I have had a stressful week or a great one, I always try to reward myself one way or another to keep my confidence high. Running your own business is a roller coaster of emotions and can be nerve-wracking- you’re always a little worried about where you’re next client is going to come from and how to keep your work load consistent. So far I have been very lucky and I am trying to just relax and have fun with my job. I’ve learned to try to keep a positive outlook and focus on today, this week, this month, and worry about the rest later.

DID: How important is networking in your line of work? How has it helped you build your business? Are there certain associations/groups that aspiring interior designers should align with?
CG:
Networking is SO SO important, not only in the interior design industry, but in any line of work. All of my clients come by word of mouth, so it is extremely important for me to try and keep my clients happy and hope they will pass my name on. It is clear that social media engines like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging enables people to get themselves out there. I believe using social media tools for business not only helps you keep up-to-date on trends and what’s going on around you, but definitely allows people you may only know socially to become prospective business clients. I sometimes click through my LinkedIn connections and friends Facebook pages to find out what they actually do for a living! I am also a member of the New York Chapter of ASID which allows me to keep abreast of the latest design news and trends and network with other design professionals. I always try to support charities and attend social functions that allow me to meet new people and also give something back to those in need at the same time.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 3, 2012 5:45 pm

    Top shelf interview for a top shelf designer. Congratulation!!

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