Designer Series: Mark Sunderland

May 1, 2013

Featured designer: Mark Sunderland
Atlanta, GA |

MSI Designer Series

Atlanta is a sizable and supportive design market.  ADAC (Atlanta Decorative Arts Center) was the last design center to be accessible to the public via designers and every seminar I have ever done there has been wildly successful.  At my first ADAC seminar, Mark Sunderland sat in an aisle seat, nodding vigorously at comments that he agreed with and raising his hand and sharing his opinion at comments he found lacking.  He was equally quick to share his best practices and his trials and errors that taught him how to run not one, but three profitable businesses.  His formidable design business and his art and antiques businesses support each other.  His Anglophile aesthetic and countenance, and his generous and sharp sense of humor comprise the hard-working gentleman I know him to be.  Enjoy him and follow him on Facebook– he’s sure to have something for you and your next project!


1.  What are the biggest changes you have seen to the industry and to your business in the last 5 years?

Our Industry, among others, changed dramatically on September 15, 2008.  I was on a whole-house installation that day, and remember watching the decline of our Economy on my client’s plasma TVs all over the house.  Since that day, “disposable-income” has new meaning.  It is more of a challenge to convince clients, both former and new, to agree to spend their money on quality furnishings for their homes.

The Design World has changed dramatically, what with television shows, the Internet, and Big Box catalogues that arrive in the mail each week; the public is deluged with alternatives to using interior designers.  It is our job to STAY IN CONTACT with previous clients and, using the plethora of Social Network sites, market ourselves to new clients.

I sometimes say, “I work twice as hard for half as much money,” which is not far from the truth.  We as Interior Designers MUST change with the Times.


2.  What have you done in your business to respond to those changes – and how is that working for you?

I’ve done MANY things in the last few years to respond to these changes.  Since March 2011, I sell antiques,….daily in 5 spaces at at Historic Roswell Antique Market, and monthly at 3-4 spaces at The Scott Antique Market, one of the best MONTHLY antique shows in the country.

So I wear 2 hats: an Interior Designer hat and an Antique Dealer hat.  It’s taken time, but I’ve acquired  over $200,000 worth of antiques in 2 years, and my antique business is certainly supplementing my Interior Design business.  Almost every month at Scott’s, I meet a potential new client who might-just need my help with new upholstered furniture, draperies, or kitchen and bathroom renovations.  So THAT’s “A Good Thing!”

I have Jody Seivert to thank for teaching me about Marketing through Social Media.  I met her in the Spring of 2010 at ADAC, and, by the time she returned that Fall, I had not only a great website (which I developed in 2005),  but started a BLOG and increased my Facebook and Pinterest presence exponentially.  It takes time, and certainly hour upon hour of careful posts, but I’ve been able to reach an even larger audience through social-networking.

Recently, in December, I had a $7000 sale of antiques I had posted on Facebook (from a Designer Showhouse in Atlanta that  I’ve participated the last 2 years) to a man in Los Angeles that I had never met.  The Power of Social Networking!


3.  What do you predict for the future of the interior design industry – and how can designers prepare for that?

Interior Designers will always have a place in the Home-Furnishings Industry.  It is our job to convince our clients, past, present, and future, that our biggest asset is SAVING THE CLIENTS’ MONEY.  This can be done by asking many questions, establishing a budget, and asking what I often ask, “Have you ever made a MISTAKE?  It is MY job to PREVENT making mistakes going forward.”  I pride myself on my listening-skills, and, unlike some designers, I ALWAYS offer to visit my client’s home for my initial consultation at no-charge.  That “getting to know you” and listening to my clients’ wants and needs is the most important part of the Process, in my opinion.

We must all be aware of what’s “out there,” quality-level and pricing of what clients already have,…..and, as these Interior Design projects can become expensive at times,….how much the Client is willing to pay….for product AND my Professional Advice!

I’m optimistic (I always thank my 6th grade teacher for assigning me a book report: Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking).  A positive mental attitude sure helps, as does hard work.  And recognizing that What I Do, I do with PASSION!

To All Interior Designers: Keep Calm and Carry On!

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