Designer Series: Corey Damen Jenkins

November 1, 2012

Featured designer: Corey Damen Jenkins
Bloomfield Hills, MI |

I first met Corey in 2010 at the Michigan Design Center where I was speaking on “Pricing Design.” Corey sat in the first row, beautifully dressed and with a bright smile, his portfolio in one hand and a pad and pen for note taking in the other. He came prepared to get as much as he could from an ‘expert from afar’ as he developed his then fledgling design business. His questions were thoughtful and on target for someone early in his design career and appropriate for where the industry was at that time. He was his as ever gracious and charming self, poised to be noticed nationally. Since then he has become an HGTV celebrity designer, grown his business and studio to incorporate more designers and support people at a time when other designers are cutting back, and the future is blazing for him. We have developed a lovely friendship and I am proud and delighted that he chose to participate in the Designer Series, further evidence of his generous nature and his commitment and contribution to the industry.

1. What are the biggest changes you have seen to the industry and to your business in the last 5 years?
Answer: One thing is the huge proliferation of clients making efforts to “shop” products by using the internet or competing showrooms against the interior designers. Also, fabric houses seem to be discontinuing lines far more frequently and keeping even less material in stock.

2. What have you done in your business to respond to those changes – and how is that working for you?
Answer: We’ve placed a clause requiring initialing at the time of contract signing that specifies that any product we source is subject to a steep (and threatening) 25% referral fee should the client decide to source said products independently of the firm. It has been very effective when they realize that any savings they hope to get are in effect eaten up by our referral fee. Our contract also says that we are responsible for 100% of the selection and procurement process.

In terms of dealing with constant production drops at the fabric mills, I’ve found that I have selected 1 or even 2 additional “back-ups” for many of my design packages just in case a favorite option is dropped from production. It’s been a little more work, but at least doing so prevents scrambling later. Another key has been to put friendly “pressure” on the client to commit to purchases quickly as timing is of the essence. I tell them that if they “LOVE” what they see on my presentation boards, they need to bust a move quickly because someone else in the country is likely “loving it too” and may buy it out from under us. This seems to put the “fear of the design gods” into them and a fire under their fannies for action.

3. What do you predict for the future of the interior design industry – and how can designers prepare for that?
Answer: I predict that consumers will become even more savvy with the internet, getting tax exemption IDs, and other tools to under-cut designers’ commissions. Designers need to protect themselves with their contracts. They also need to embrace technology and wield it as a tool in protecting their creative vision. Finally, designers may need to move away from certain items i.e. decorative lighting options where SKUs and costs are common knowledge on the internet, and seek out pieces that cannot be shopped, i.e. antiques. This will protect their sales as well as give their project a more unique look.

6 thoughts on “Designer Series: Corey Damen Jenkins

      • Thanks so much for responding….great comments! And please keep reading, as every designer who is participating will bring a different point of view that is equally valuable – and can be used as a topic for your team meetings. Now, go sell something!

  1. Just had a Morning Discussion in my showroom and the designers had some of these same points to help one another. They also suggested to educate the client of the values they bring to the project, how they will save them monies in the long run, how they act as the project manager (saving time and frustration for the client) and also that the designers must surf the Internet themselves to find out what they are against, clients’ “finds” most likely will not be what they need/want (the designer should be creating/driving the project) and the designer can advise them of the quality/value of what the client is looking at. A good contract is important. There are times to “fire” the customer that shops, they are not clients.

  2. I’ve been a fb friend of Corey’s and find his comments very interesting. Everyone thinks this business is such fun and so easy. They don’t realize how hard it is to make a living at it. Shopping product is always a problem and I feel it will continue to get worse. Corey has some valuable advice!

    • Thanks, Carla. One of the advantages that Corey had in starting his business in the last couple of years is that he had to set up business practices based on how end users are buying NOW….and he wisely did that. Thanks for reading and please keep coming back!

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