Featured Designer (April 2014) Suzette Donleavy

When I met Suzette a few years ago in NYC, it was when she attended one of my presentations at the D+D Building during Design Week.  I am always moved by designers who choose to take advantage of an opportunity to gain more insight and information that would help them to grow their business, and Suzette was one of those designers.  She asked great questions and gave me an overview to her current situation and what she would like to do moving forward. We continued to keep in touch and in late 2013 Suzette and I began to work together to create new systems and structures for opportunities for her business, Well Designed Interiors.  It was been a pleasure to work with her – she’s enthusiastic, fun, innovative, highly coachable, a great brainstormer, a go-getter, and an elegant designer and entrepreneur who thinks like a builder.  I am happy to share her with you…..enjoy.


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

The economy coupled with the internet has shaped and ever changed the minds of the client over the past five years. Even the healthiest projects carefully consider the value of service and purchases.

While the technology has offered our clients growing access to shopping/pricing, “designing on a dime”, projects completed in a “week”, it also has offered the opportunity for tools to enhance business operations with efficiency and creative, digital technology.

With traditional furniture showrooms becoming scarce, the rising popularity of retailers like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware, designers are challenged to educate the client of how to integrate these products while incorporating customized, detailed selections from to-the-trade product lines so to offer a unique product not produced for the masses. It is these details only designers can offer that cannot be “shopped”. Manufacturers are also offering designers competitive pricing structure to compete.

Relationships with architects, builders and other trade professionals are more important than ever to reach the target audience. Reinforcing the importance of ”design team” by an architect or builder to a trusted designer is a “win-win” to all but most importantly to the client.

Social Media follows as a strong second to the trade relationships as Houzz, Pinterest, Facebook, etc., have become a partner in the world of design.

A fresh approach to traditional design has also become a aesthetic force to reckoned with as well. As a designer steeped in traditional elements, I have recognized the modern influences that appeal especially to the younger generation of clients. Occasionally I seek the opinion of my savvy, young adult sons as a test audience!

Finally, I see the evolution of a sophisticated client who appreciates a knowledgeable professional who can offer a balance of these areas.


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

It is an evolving process to respond to the changes. I continue to evaluate my service, client and professional relationships, product offerings, operations and use of technology to provide my clients and their projects a well-rounded, efficient yet personal firm while maintaining profitability. While the internet has offered instant gratification, the “hands on”, detailed approach of a designer is still valued by the client whether it is in a beautiful combination of fabrics in for a room, exquisite detail on a window treatment or the custom designed cabinetry that offers all the modern conveniences integrated with technology. This is where I continue to focus on separating myself from the impersonal world of the internet.

Jody offers the industry the unique opportunity to be objective when measuring the success of the intangible areas. I have engaged her to challenge me on how I am doing, use her as a check-point as she is able to offer insight from the industry at large with her business model and evaluate the goals for the future of my firm.


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

As an industry, it is becoming more apparent to client and manufacturer alike, designers are the driving force behind as furniture showrooms disappear and the permanent presence of the internet. We must clearly define the value of our role to the prospective client to ensure success and continue to reinforce our significance. To do so we must continue to offer the best information, knowledge and options.

Continuing education on our part is key. Clients want the conveniences offered by technology. As design professionals, we are looked to for the understanding of how ever-changing technology has impacted the design of a home. Networking and partnering with carefully selected trade professionals who can deliver the design makes for a successful project.

While I haven’t attended Market over the past few years, Jody echoed my recent observation from afar. There has been a shift from focusing on furniture showrooms to the designers. I plan to get back to the routine of attending Market to round out my ability to be proactive and offer the unique product introductions to my client.

It is an exciting, challenging time to be a designer if we selectively embrace what is available to make our brand distinct. 



Well Designed Interiors

732.758.9090 | 732.758.0660
119 East River Road
Rumson, NJ 07760 

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