From designing office spaces in crazy locations for Disneyland to venturing out on her own, Beth Whitlinger offers useful advise for designers at the beginning of their careers. She tells us more about her company, Beth Whitlinger Interior Design, Inc., in this interview for byDesign.
What is your favorite part about being a designer?
My favorite part of being a designer is that each day does not look the same. Each project offers a new set of challenges to solve and opportunities to express creativity.
Who or what would you cite as your most important influence?
Mid-Century modern architecture has been my biggest influence. I attribute that to growing up in that era, working for architects who subscribed to those principles, and appreciating the simplicity of the design style.
Can you tell us about your personal brand?
My personal brand is seated in the 10 Tenets of Peaceful Design™
1. Does it eliminate stress for the client?
2. Does the process take the client’s lifestyle into consideration?
3. Does the environment create a sense of calm for the homeowner?
4. Is the environment classic and timeless?
5. Does the environment create a “resort-like” atmosphere?
6. Are the elements of design true to the overall design style?
7. Are the elements welcoming and easy to use?
8. Is the environment true to the architecture of the structure?
9. Is the environment unique and special?
10. Is the client surrounded by things they love?
What is your favorite color palette to work with?
I love all colors but the most challenging as well as most fulfilling is a quiet, neutral palette. Making that work to create elegance and sophistication rather than something that is just boring and plain is very exciting.
If you could travel back, what advice would you give yourself as you start this career?
Don’t expect glamour. Photograph everything. Partner with professionals in related fields (architects, builders, realtors). Develop excellent paper flow and project management skills.
Please give us an overview of the more personal side of your business, how did it come to be, any interesting stories about the origin you can share?
I worked for 12 years for a myriad of residential designers, commercial firms, and architects. My last job before venturing out on my own was in the design department of an office furniture dealership. My main client was Disneyland. Creating office space in closets, under rides, hallways, in the craziest of locations, was an interesting challenge, until it wasn’t.
Leadership changed and every movement and behavior was monitored, down to the type of earrings I wore when working at “The Park”. I decided to venture out on my own. Initially I focused on commercial space planning and specification marketing to local office furniture dealerships. It was a safe transition. There was never a lack of work. I worked from home. I dictated my own hours. It was great while my kids were in their tweens. The pre-9/11 recession hit and I decided to break back into the residential market. I launched my transition by tackling a Showcase House and haven’t looked back. Every so often my residential clients ask me to work on their businesses, which only proves to me that I made the right decision to focus on the residential side, which I enjoy so much. more.
Do you have anything you can share about how you and/or your firm have been affected by COVID-19, and any tips for other designers on how to navigate and cope?
Our projects indeed slowed down for about a month. We still had so much in the pipeline that my hours didn’t change. I thankfully had more time to be much more thorough on things like construction details and specifications. Our last day in the office was March 13th and we’ve been remote since then. I’ve been proactive about staying in touch with clients, doing weekly check-ins, and staying on top of outstanding items. This week several clients called saying they were ready to put their projects back on track. It seems people can only stay sequestered for so long before they start to get ant-sy. All the time spent stuck in their homes only makes them want the environments to be the best they can be even more. My best tip is to stay in touch. Be concerned about your clients, current and former and send frequent e mails. Don’t ask about business; ask about THEM.
What do you like most about DesignerInc?
DesignerInc is great for sourcing all sorts of vendors with whom I wouldn’t ordinarily be acquainted.
What does the future of interior design look like?
I think design will continue to be shaped by the media. The days of basing your business profitability on the sales of product will go away. Designers will be forced to charge only for their services, regardless of what a client might or might not order. It is much better to show a client a piece of furniture without them worrying that you’re showing them a more expensive piece because you’ll make more money on it. Remote design will continue to grow and prove to be a great time saver for both the client and designer. More robust design product sourcing platforms will encourage this mode for the profession, making the process more seamless and streamlined.
Follow her on Instagram: @bethwhitlingerinteriordesign