15 REFLECTIONS TO CELEBRATE 15 YEARS: #1-5
#1: THE START
This month marks the 15th anniversary of Affordable Interior Design. And I’ve been looking back over the years. In a series of posts this month, I am going to be sharing stories of the company’s journey.
Actually, the start of my design career and the start of these posts come from a similar inspiration. As a designer, I love to follow my friends and other designers on social. One of those is Elemental Interiors. Back in 2003, I was a design intern at Thom Filicia, Inc. Megan Downing was a head designer there. Watching her, Rodney Lawrence, and, of course, Thom taught me more than any school about client relations, day-to-day operations, and design.
Megan started a design firm, Elemental Interiors, and recently they had a string of gratitude posts. Reading their reflections was so inspiring that I decided to follow their lead. Throughout this month, I will be reflecting on the 15 years of AID. The trials, the triumphs, and the gratitude! Here, I share reflections 1-5. Check back in two weeks for reflections 6-10.
I hope you enjoy the journey.
#2: THE GERM OF AN IDEA
When Affordable Interior Design started, it was just me in my studio apartment in the West Village with a dream. I was bartending nights and assisting on an HGTV show with one of my TV idols, Genevieve Gorder from “Trading Spaces.”
During the shoot, she said to me, “You’re really good at this.”
I didn’t have any schooling–just a previous internship, that TV shoot, and the drive to do something I was passionate about. So her words meant a LOT–and they rang in my ears as my friends started coming to me for design advice for their apartments.
Their requests helped me realize that everyone needs interior design–not just people on TV, not just the wealthy. And that realization grew into a business that’s still blossoming 15 years later.
Me, on TV.
#3: NEW YORK CITY
New York City made my dream possible. Back in 2005, I put it out to the universe that I was an interior designer. Word-of-mouth earned me client after client. In a city as inspiring and large as NYC, there are clients around every corner if you can just reach them.
I thought this new business of mine might just be a hobby, a fun side hustle. But in just a few years, I was racing from an Ikea trip to a catering gig. I was carrying my toolkit to my bartending shift.
New York is expensive, demanding, and a tough proving ground. But it is also full of amazing people, inspiring architecture, and endless possibilities. Our company has designed penthouses on Park Avenue, nail salons in Midtown, McDonald’s in Brooklyn, and literally thousands of more spaces. (We have 400+ clients per year!)
Sinatra says, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
I can’t imagine having made it anywhere else.
New York in all it’s beauty.
I got into design to change people’s lives via my passion for art. I was surprised when it became a business that could pay my NYC rent. I was even more surprised when the workload became overwhelming. I needed to hire.
I was 9 months pregnant. I couldn’t put my clients on hold while I took maternity leave. I needed backup. Kelsey Surock was my first hire, and she was an amazing designer for AID for 6+ years.
Taking that first leap and finding such a talented and supportive team member would be the start of something. AID was no longer my solo venture. It was the start of a firm.
This is Kelsey!
I’d just had my baby and had a heap of hospital bills. The business was paying my rent but couldn’t handle 5-figures worth of bills. Right after I had my son, I needed to birth a new venture.
Because I had never gone to design school, over the years I had been distilling the tips I had learned working under other designers and from watching TV shows. I had turned those tips into a rulebook that I followed when creating my designs.
Using that rulebook, I had designed hundreds of spaces. I decided to share what I knew. I rented a classroom space on the Lower East Side, launched a Groupon, started teaching night classes in interior design. And they took off: 40 students became 1,500 students, one night became 2 years.
And we offer those same classes online today–and some of those same students are clients of ours to this day. Necessity is the mother of opportunity!
Hospital pic after giving birth to my son.