Every time I get a chance to speak to Joan, I feel exuberant! She is so much fun! Full of energy, hope and passion for interior design. Joan is another Top 20 African American Interior Designer who has also been recognized as one of Architectural Digest Top 100 Designers. Joan was hard to find when I first started this list back in 2011 because she like many undiscovered design stars lives in Middle America. I could have really used Houzz back then. I started vetting designers in 2010, Houzz was only one year old, so I had to depend on showrooms, word of mouth and chance encounters.
Back to Joan, I meet her at an HGTV audition where she was a ball of energy, laughing and talking to the contestants, making everyone feel at home. Joan has been in the industry for many years, but was looking for ways to expand her brand into new markets. We talked for hours about interior design, her passion for traveling, and why she's dedicating the next phase of her career to moving the design conversation into small towns across America.
Lesson #1 - Define success in your own terms.
JG: For me a successful design career means that my work is being regularly photographed and published in leading design magazines. It is working on projects that require travel, preferably international. Defining design success for me also means opening my design academy which would solidify my dream of helping other young designers learn this art and attain their goals. Finally success as a designer means having so many projects that only the most creatively inspiring and lucrative projects are accepted.
Lesson#2- Persist . Always see a project through to the end.
JG: There was this very large show house, about 9000 sq ft. As always with Show house projects, everything was way behind schedule. I find that builders never meet their deadlines, making it impossible for me as the designer to meet mine. About three weeks before opening the color selected for the conservatory walls, as well as the dining room ceiling began to look really, really wrong to me the dining room chandelier was damaged and there was absolutely no time to reorder leaving me no choice but to reselect. From lighting , drapery installation, furniture deliveries, everything that could go wrong did. Go wrong. But in spite of all the calamities the house was completed on schedule and was a huge success,. Everyone loved every thing about the house. Some people revisited 3 or 4 times. I would just stand there looking around, sometimes in disbelief at how fabulous the finished project had turned out. The thing that made it so special was that it all came together well and looked exactly as I envisioned. So rewarding!
Lesson#3- Expand your knowledge base. In interior design that means knowing what's out there.
JG: I could spend all day looking. I am always looking, looking, looking, in stores, on line, one to help give them a more professional finished project. All of this is good for my business.
I also ask my clients a series of questions. I ask lots of personal choice questions because I want to know what they really love. Their color, their style of furniture, their favorite flowers or maybe they don't like flowers at all ... the process has taught me how to be a good listener.
Then I incorporate those insights into the design project.
Knowledge is power.
Lesson #4 - Practice makes perfect.
JG: My work is forever evolving, I do what I love, I have good taste, I have style, I love color, and luxury. I bring all of this together when I work on a project. I am told that I have a very recognizable creative footprint in design project. My aim is to produce a vibrant custom design that gives clients my signature aesthetic while surrounded in the warmth of all their favorite things. I deliver each client an impeccable professional finished project which is great for my business. My work and your work will get better over time. What will seem like a signature style will actually be your commitment or not to excellence.
Lesson #5 - Don't Believe the Hype
JG: The Internet makes everything look wonderful and possible. Truth is, having a successful interior design career takes discipline. Anyone can start a business. Ordering the business cards and building the website, coupled with your excitement to be "doing what you love" can be somewhat intoxicating. Don't mistake it. This is a business! There will be ups and downs. The economy will tank and recover. Build your business slowly, be honest and transparent.
Joan is not only our African American Top 20 feature today, but also my special guest on tonight's Blog Talk radio show. Please call in at 6pm EST and speak with her LIVE. 347-327-9451