Kelly DuByne, of Distinctive Interior Design, talks about her career shift from consulting to interior design. Her experience is influenced by her father and brother, both architects. Learn more about her work in this interview for byDesign!

What is your favorite part about being a designer?

Seeing clients’ homes transformed and making clients happy by making sure they love their space.

Who or what would you cite as your most important influence?

My father and brother who are both architects. I grew up highly influenced by learning from them, seeing homes and buildings, and hearing about their interesting perspectives.

Can you tell us about your personal brand?

We are a full service design firm specializing in bathroom, kitchen, whole home and partial home remodels. Color is the basis of everything we do.

What is your favorite color palette to work with?

This has changed over the years, I have loved saturated hues, but lately have been tending more towards lighter shades and neutrals. I also love earth colors such as greens, blues, browns and grays.

If you could travel back, what advice would you give yourself as you start this career?

Get outside your comfort zone. My business is evidence to this. Over the years, my career has evolved from a solo consultant, to working with well vetted artisans and contractors.

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 grew up with an architect father, and my brother, who is four years older than me was very interested in architecture from a young age. Our family outings included going to Portland, Oregon to look at buildings and structures while my father and brother would critique them. Little did I know, this would have a great influence on me later on. I initially didn’t study design in college, and it never occurred to me to do so. Upon graduating from college, I took a corporate job and quit after six months. I decided on a whim instead to start a business. I had a retail background and decided to start my own line of products, beginning with wine bags (used for gifting bottles of wine). I designed, manufactured, and called on wine stores to sell my product. I felt confident that if I could get an appointment over the phone and get my foot in the door, I could sell my wine bags. And, I did! Stores began requesting more items, so I expanded to include, tea cozies, tablecloths, table runners, napkins, garden smocks, etc.

Eventually, I was getting requests for home items, such as curtains, so ultimately decided that it was time to either have my products manufactured, or switch gears to interior design. I decided to switch, went to design school and transitioned by business. This September, I will be celebrating 26 years in the business.

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?

Multiple remodeling projects have come to a halt midstream here in Washington State since late March. In response to COVID-19, I have been grateful to attend multiple design webinars such as the one DesignerInc had hosted. I’m working on refining my process, furthering my education and transitioning to e-design and virtual design. There is a huge drop in my income, but some small projects have been added, and once we’re able to see clients again in person, my list of to-dos is quite long; other than continuing our remodeling projects, we’re scheduling counter and cabinet installs, etc.

What do you like most about DesignerInc?

While I’m still learning about DesingerInc, I appreciate the comprehensive database of to-the-trade only manufactures, allowing designers to source for clients, and to make a profit. I appreciate and value reliable sources that can be a go-to for materials, as well as learning from peers and participating in webinars.

What is the most challenging aspect of taking on a remodeling project?

Most of our clients are referrals, and they often come to me knowing we are full service, start to finish. They appreciate that we have vetted contractors and I value those relationships – it makes me a better designer. The most difficult thing is learning the best way to work with different clients. We ask a lot of questions up front, but can’t always determine their work style. We’ve had a project where the client second-guessed everything, causing angst and loss of time. From that experience, we learned to refine our policies and set our boundaries.

What would you recommend to someone who is just starting out their design business?

I would recommend for them to leave their comfort zone, as that is where they would grow and learn the most. When I started my manufacturing line, I didn’t like calling store owners, but I made myself call ten a day. It was hard, but it got me into stores, and got my products out there (this was over 25 years ago, before the internet).

Another recommendation is to surround themselves with reliable people, whether that be vendors, store owners and/or contractors. I enjoy and highly value the relationships I’ve forged with them.

Follow her on Instagram: @DistinctiveInteriorDesigns