The Interior Design Industry Could Be Dying – Here’s Why

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

Today’s topic, the interior design industry could be dying was inspired by an email I received, just this morning.

Please note that anything you send me, may very well end up being used in a blog post. However, I will protect your anonymity fiercely. My aim is never to embarrass or insult, but to educate both myself and others who find what I have to say, worthwhile.

 

Mrs. Maisel empty apartment - Is the interior design industry dying? #interiordesign #livingroom

From The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. That apartment!!! Oh my!

 

It is funny, well not funny, haha, but serendipitous that I was going to write about a different topic today. But, something was nagging at me, that it wasn’t the right post. And, the second I read this email, I knew what I needed to write about.

 

You see, the subject of the email I received is how this reader believes that Houzz is going to be the downfall of the interior design industry.

 

And well… coincidentally, the one year anniversary of “Davida” taking on the giant is tomorrow, the 18th.

Please read what I received from an interior designer somewhere in the USA.

Laurel’s comments are like this.

 

Dear Laurel

I read your article on Houzz. This is very bad news and the interior design industry needs to act quickly. Unfortunately this business model is getting more and more common.

 

Houzz is the “1-800 Flowers” of our industry.

 

With an 800 number and a website, 1-800 Flowers has managed in the course of a decade, to bankrupt 90% of America’s florists, some of whom had been around for over a century.

 

Oh my! I did not know that! That’s awful! And I’m afraid that I’ve been a customer of theirs. :[

 

They started out the same way as Houzz– as a partner that could “help” the florists:

1-800 drop shipped flower arrangements to homes and funerals everywhere. Then, 1-800 contracted with local florists promising them customers BUT continued their own drop shipping service, thereby competing with the florists they were supposedly helping.

As a result, a florist is simply not able to survive unless they partner with 1-800 flowers. And, in so doing, they are obliged to sell flowers dirt cheap, pay 1-800 a commission, while dealing with customers virtually. Sound familiar?

Yes, ‘fraid so.

 

And, just in case 1-800 didn’t screw it to them right the first time, florists are now forced to honor 1-800 Flower’s satisfaction guarantee and go pick up and return worthless flowers that were not to the customer’s liking; a practice formerly unheard of in the Floral Industry.

 

That’s crazy. But since most flowers are gifts, I would imagine that doesn’t happen a lot. But, maybe that’s not right?

 

The problem? Florists were asleep and didn’t modernize their FTD tele-network into an online service.

1-800 Flowers and other smaller operations beat them to it and over time began growing their own flowers making a local florist in today’s market completely irrelevant.

 

The Interior Design Industry is Next.

I believe that if the industry doesn’t make a move soon, we’ll all be Houzz Corporate Employees by 2025.

A case in point: Did you happen to see the Neil Patrick Harris Houzz episode where he gallantly paid for a remodel of his brother’s den and back yard? It’s on youtube.

 

Yes, yes. Very nice of him to do that, but you know and I know, Laurel… that it’s all just marketing BS designed to turn people away from the interior design professionals and make new customers out of the unsuspecting public.

 

It’ll only take a few more Neil Patrick Harris remodels to air on national TV and we will be seen as an expensive, irrelevant middle man. It’s obvious even to the casual observer that the only reason designers were used on that show was because Harris had a movie shoot.

I have a little different take on some of that, but agree that it’s all staged. ALL of the home reno shows are staged.

 

Well, Laurel, they perfectly demonstrated how easy it is to go on the site, look at ***OUR*** designs and press BUY.

Yes.

 

Even the designer herself in the episode referred to Houzz as “the idea book.” And although they did make an earnest effort to show them as integral to the project, they also portrayed some of their ideas and input as “weird” accompanied of course by the appropriate, what’s this freak talking about kind of music.

killer bees And keep listening; the killer bees goes into the idea book spiel. Are you dying, Laurel?

 

No, I’m not dying, but I did have to make a mad dash for the bathroom.

 

All the while we are paying THEM to publish OUR professional ideas and furnishings which they then sell and keep all the profits?! Holy screwballs Batman!

 

Indeed, and it is largely the main point of last year’s post.

 

As interior design professionals, we should be worried. Very, very worried.

 

*Here’s the episode I mentioned.

 

FYI, I made that a nofollow link. wink, wink. For those of you who haven’t read the houzz post, you can read an explanation of the ramifications of a follow vs nofollow link here, if you’re interested.

 

I was so sick at what a total Houzz commercial it was, that i couldn’t watch the whole thing.

I hear ya, Tom. Since I am writing this, I DID have to watch the entire thing and some parts numerous times.

 

I’m afraid that our days as working interior designers, are numbered.

 

Best,

Tom

 

***********

 

Thank you Tom for your thoughts. You are not alone. Not at all.

Okay. This is what I am thinking about all of this.

First of all. While we realize that these shows are all fake and staged, I do think it’s lovely that actors like Neil Patrick, Ashton Kutcher and Kristen Bell have done these make-overs for family members.

And, it IS brilliant marketing on the part of Houzz.

Tearing… I mean tugging at people’s heart-strings if it comes off as sincere, which I think, on the surface this did, is a win for Houzz. It’s a win for NPH and it’s a win for the designers. I’m happy for them. Truly. And I hope that both get GOBS AND GOBS of new work from this exposure. (links to their sites are coming up)

 

However… in reality, I believe much of what Tom  is saying is valid, but I also believe that there’s a huge component missing, which we’ll be getting to.

 

One thing that bothers me, is that if it were me and I was living in a shithole (forgive me, “fixer-upper”) in the middle of the desert and my little bro that I never lived down to, was a big TV star worth some 40 million AND, who ostensibly paid to have things fixed up for me on national TV, I’d be humiliated. But, maybe he’s used to that. I don’t know. And, maybe he’s not humiliated.

Another issue is… What did they do with big brother while all of this was going on? Lock him up in a closet for four months so as not to ruin the “surprise?”

 

OF COURSE!  It is ALL fantasy, and we love to eat it up.

 

Hey, I too, LOVE fantasy!

I’m the girl who’s been living under a rock for six years who woke up after two friends mentioned this show and binge watched all 18 episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, this week

 

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel - Did she decorate that fabulous apartment on her own? See how easy it must be to do your own decorating instead of hiring someone from the interior design industry?

 

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel circa 1958. (I recommend this series, highly. But you do need to be on Amazon Prime.) Did she decorate that fabulous apartment on her own? See how easy it must be to do your own decorating? (eyes rolling) Yes, it’s easy when there’s a set decorator! And, a most brilliant one at that.

 

However, the designers in the Houzz show, painfully (to me), appear to be little more than props in this fairy tale.

 

There is no way that is their design, at least not the interior designer, Lisa Samuel. I took a look at her real work in her portfolio. (please click the link to see)

I’m going to go and take a potty break while you’re looking it over.

 

I’m back.

Well, what do you think? And, I am not talking about styles.

Here’s what I think.

She’s a damned good designer.

However, did she design this room?

Doubtful.

Some of the evidence and my observations are as follows:

 

wrinkly silk draperies Neil Patrick Harris - Houzz

 

Please observe the draperies that are about to open to reveal the new backyard.

1. They are silk. There’s no freakin’ way that a designer in *Albuquerque is going to do white silk with that HOT sun AND in a casual bachelor-pad den.

Let’s review what can happen to silk fabric when the hot sun hits it. One of my favorite posts because these are the soul-sucking lessons I learned the hard way. I am here to save you whenever I can.

 

MUSIC BREAK!

 

Oh, and do you remember this terribly cool song from the 80s by Prefab Sprout King of Rock ‘n Roll – hot dog, jumpin’ frog. *Albuquerque?

(Classic English 80s Band. You will like it. I promise)

 

2. Furthermore, it is obvious that Lisa had nothing to do with this mess. I took a good long look at her portfolio and she IS a qualified pro. But, I am almost 100% pos. this is not her work and here’s how I know.

  • The silk drapes are wrinkled and not only are they wrinkled, it is clear that they were folded. No interior designer worth her Clarence House fabric swatches would ever complete an installation with wrinkled draperies. Get a freakin’ steamer! But, you know and I know that the drapes were thrown up there, seconds before this heart-warming scene was shot.
  • Then, they are slung through a rod pocket. Lisa would never do that. She would use rings. ALWAYS. She would not have specified a pocket.

17 minutes into video - bottom hem messed up. Ready-made draperies

  • And, what in freak’s name is going on with that hem? This is at 17:00 minutes into the video. No way. NO WAY!!! Horror Show!
  • AND, finally, most telling, for me as a pro is the lack of fullness. At a minimum, one panel should be able to stretch all the way across the window if the drapes are to ever be closed. That means the minimum is a fullness of double the width of the window.

 

These, drapes are clearly not that full. Lisa knows better.

 

For a window this wide, I would’ve done five widths or 2.5 fullness. These are at max, three widths or 1.5 fullness. That is fine if the draperies are never to close. But, apparently, that is not the case.

 

Conclusion. Lisa did not do these window treatments. I am wagering that they are ready-made drapes which came from a big box-type store. And, forgive me, but Doogie can well-afford to spring for custom draperies for his handsome big bro. No?

To learn how pros do draperies click here.

Oh, I could keep going… Like I said, it appears that Lisa and Solange are there as mere, uhhh “window dressing.” (sorry) :] Is this gig going to help them get more work? Yes, but not because of the room. It’s because they are part of a feel-good story between Neil Patrick and his brother.

 

But… What about Tom’s conclusion that it’s the antics of Houzz that are going to be the downfall of the interior design industry.

 

Actually, I say, no. But, it’s a cautionary no.

 

No folks. If the interior design industry crashes and burns, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

 

After all, we’ve already survived the advent of the internet. Houzz is annoying, but they aren’t going to bring us down. No, it’s something far more sinister, I fear.

Remember March 13th, 2019?

Here’s a little refresher since that was four whole days ago.

That’s the day that Facebook, instagram et al. were put into a medically induced coma.

Below is a little meme I created on FB which didn’t appear until the following day after things were back up, fully.

 

Is Facebook dying? Me thinks yes.

hmmmm… 26 likes. Not bad. lol

 

So, what was going on with the social media giant?

 

Well, facebook is saying that it’s a “server malfunction” “due to an update.”

And, that might very well be true. Or, at least part of it, or maybe all of it.

God only knows, I understand just how horribly wrong things can go with a website. Most of the time, you guys are blissfully unaware, but every once in a while, some of you have been privy to things going horribly wrong. It’s very rare now because I’m paying some $650 a month to keep this baby afloat.

However, the geeks at FB have back up systems on top of their backup systems… In fact, I’ve had a couple of occasions when our entire internet went down because of a local server issue, BUT Facebook somehow can still get through!

 

We need to face facts. Facebook has been having a LOT of problems in the last year. Ongoing problems. They are quite serious issues and they do not appear to be going away.

 

This is my point, if you’re in the interior design industry and even if you’re not, but depend on facebook and/or instagram in any way to help you sustain your business…

 

The Handwriting is on the Wallpaper. You need to take action and the time is LAST YEAR! You need to protect your business and brand and if you’re depending on instagram and facebook, I feel quite strongly that you’re playing a game of Russian Roulette with your business.

 

These events, as I see it are like the warning signs one can get before the BIG HEART ATTACK f***ing kills you.

 

And no, I’m not being overly dramatic. I’m worried about some of you.

So, what’s the solution?

Not houzz, not facebook, not instagram.

Why are you walking away?

Thanks.

Fine, I’m used to it. (sarcastic haha.)

Oh, stop looking at me like I’ve suddenly done a drunken Mrs. Maisel at the Gaslight Lounge right after her dumb-freak-hubby left her. That was fun! Those of you who’ve seen the show know what I’m talking about.

 

The reason you’re not listening is because they’ve made it tooooooooo EASY for you. You’ve eaten from the forbidden apple AND drunk the social media kool-aid. And now, you’re so drunk on that poison, you can’t see your way out.

 

The solution for the interior design industry and all website owners is the same as it was last year. This needs to be hanging over your bed.

 

STRONG BRANDING through your won website, not houzz

 

But how?

You tell me that you can’t compete with these social media giants.

Yes, that’s what they want you to believe. But you CAN compete.

To that end, I worked very hard last year penning a guide to explain HOW to get your website up to speed, so that you CAN use it to get more business and not rely on FB, insta and houzz.

Because folks, you need to fully understand and accept. They might not be here one day. And then, what are you going to do? Please observe. Except for pinterest, there are no social media links on my site. Why? Because I want you guys to hang out here. And, I work very hard to make that happen. I explain why this is so crucial to your success in the guide.

I want you to come from facebook and instagram to HERE, never the other way around.

See? Most of you have bought the con. I did too, until I caught on.

 

Wait, Laurel? Aren’t you also marketing when you plug your guide?

 

You’re sure darned tootin’ I am! ;] But, there’s a difference. I’m not doing so at the expense of others, in the process. At least, I hope not! And besides, I’m exceedingly proud of all of the digital products I’ve created.

And, you can read on the blogging guide post some nice comments from people who’ve been working the system and gotten some amazing results.

Yes, it is not the low hanging fruit that houzz and other social media is. But, if you can put in the work, it is so worth it and it’s all yours. No one can take it away from you.

Oh, and if you want to get away from your drunk relatives, there’s a webinar I did with Claire Jefford last summer based on the guide.

It was password protected, but I just removed the password, so anyone can watch it now.

That’s a gift to you guys (If you can bear watching it, lol) But, there’s a TON of FREE information in there about how I optimize my website to attract the attention of Google. And, it gets quite technical. But, Claire is great about keeping my racing mind on track. And you get to see me in a tank top! oh gawd.

 

Oh, this is funny. It’s something that happened at KBIS. Houzz had a HUUUUUUGE booth there.

And, what did Wawa do? (me, is Wawa, in case that’s not clear.)

She walked straight through the entire thing and it was one of the biggest booths in the entire show.

 

Yes! After writing a raw expose on the antics of houzz, I dared walk straight through their HUGE booth at KBIS.

houzz booth KBIS - interior design industry show

Hoo Hah!

Well, nobody threw me out. Nobody stared at me and pointed fingers, either. Conversely, some of the perky interns offered to “help me learn more about their company.” Isn’t that a scream?

I gave my sweetest Laurel smile and said a very polite “no thank you” and kept moving… all the while snickering to myself.

Well, there, it is…

 

However, aside from getting your own website up to snuff, there’s a part II to this issue. And it’s the primary reason that I believe the interior design industry could very well be in trouble.

 

I got an email from a reader a few days ago; an email from a reader wanting to sue her interior design industry professional; err, her decorator.

to be continued…

 

WHAT??? You can’t leave us hanging, Laurel!

 

Yes, actually, I can. :] This post is already well over 3,000 words. ;] But, please be assured that we will address this important topic on Wednesday. It’s the real culprit; not these social media freaks. Just, please don’t let them take advantage of you.

You don’t need them as much as they want you to think that you do.

After all, they’re in it for the money.

Money is what drives everything in business.

Everything.

I will look forward to hearing your thoughts, but a couple of things, please– respectful comments, only. If you don’t like what I have to say or the way I express myself, that’s fine. If so, please stop reading. Thank you. Problem solved.

And two, please don’t try to guess what part II is about. I mean, in the comments. You can try to guess in your head, of course. Or, you can chatter amongst yourselves, just not here, please.

Thanks so much. I love you all. And, for all of you who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, please have a joyous one!

Also, do check out all of the great hot sales. Lots of beautiful new things to see this weekend!

xo,

 

5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • f. bennet - March 20, 2019 - 7:37 PM

    I started to follow your blog because of a comment of yours I read on a picture of one of your rooms I Pinned. It was in reference to the TV decorators endless need to remove every wall in any house that they redo.It was the first time I had heard any voice of reason on this practice from someone in the profession. I think that people who suck these shows down endlessly and take these “ideas” as gospel who will help the downslide after all watch show go to Houzz inhale,take home regurgitate that room in their house. See any one can be a decorator! I must admit though until I came across your blog I had started to form a rather unsavory opinion of decorators, thank you for restoring my faith in your profession and showing that some have real creativity and true ideas. I must confess, however,I still hate white walls.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 20, 2019 - 8:21 PM

      Hi F,

      You probably hate white walls because you’re associating them with furniture and other finishes that aren’t complementing them. Keep reading. Maybe in a year or so, you will suddenly see something you hadn’t noticed before. And, if not, that’s okay too.

      Thank you, too for the kind words. And yeah, a totally open floor plan, I generally am not a fan of. My philosophy, however, is that if others DO like it, to respect their choice and learn why they prefer it. Some, just go along with what they think they’re supposed to be doing. So, the idea is to think about our choices.ReplyCancel

  • Faith - March 20, 2019 - 2:16 PM

    Wow, how kind of you to look at our website. You’re right, I have been getting lazy about getting the SEO just right. I will get on it, and thanks for the kick in the pants. LOL

    Now is not the time of year that we spend money on things but we’ll add your SEO guide to the summer list!

    Happily we are on Weebly, so it’s totally customizable.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 20, 2019 - 4:40 PM

      This is a little tough love. If you’re anything like me, “I will get on it,” is code for it’s not going to happen. I wish I could give the guide away, but I can’t. If people aren’t finding your website, then it’s not doing you any good. It takes time to implement and then time for it to kick in. So, the longer you put it off, the longer it will take for your site to get traction. My site stagnated for 19 months. I mean, the needle didn’t budge. Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.ReplyCancel

  • Diana Bier - March 20, 2019 - 7:53 AM

    Well, Laurel, you clearly have had the time and the interest/motivation to learn a lot about SEO. Good for you, as a blogger it is in your best interest to do so. But for others (myself included) it may be something to outsource if you’d rather spend your time elsewhere.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 20, 2019 - 9:34 AM

      Hi Diana,

      These days if one has a blog, they are authoring, they MUST learn how to optimize their posts if they want it to be effective. Initial learning about SEO can certainly involve a pro. That’s mostly how I learned. But total outsourcing is old school with the html websites. Now, that website owners are doing their own updates, they need to learn how to effectively maximize the potential. Otherwise, they needn’t bother having a website.

      If they’re also outsourcing their blog, then they can also outsource their SEO, but they need to be sure that the person actually knows what they are doing.ReplyCancel

  • Bianca - March 19, 2019 - 10:35 PM

    Can’t wipe the smile off my face, after reading your reply. Thanks for that.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah McGee - March 19, 2019 - 6:03 PM

    Laurel! YOU didn’t have to do that, thank you so much for sharing. xo
    *when you get a chance be sure to check the ‘about me’ section.

    PS- sorry this was late, I forgot to click the confirm link for follow up comments! (I need a permanent one!)ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 19, 2019 - 6:53 PM

      Of course, I shared your website. This is BIG! And yes, I did check out the about me section and thank you so much for the links back! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Diana Bier - March 19, 2019 - 1:07 PM

    Just as some food for thought regarding SEO. My daughter is a digital marketer, with over 6 years experience in SEO. Like being a designer, SEO is a career, where you need education and experience. So rather than trying to DIY it, you might consider hiring someone with SEO experience and credentials to do it for you. Just as you’d counsel your clients to hire a professional to design your home.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 19, 2019 - 1:36 PM

      Hi Diana,

      Not to toot my own horn, however, after six intensive years and well over 600 blog posts, I am definitely an SEO expert.

      My current global Alexa ranking is 39,741 out of 1.5 billion websites. Number one is google, so the lower the number the better. In the US, the current rank is 7,741.

      In addition, my site in the last 28 days has received over 5 million impressions. That’s the number of times, my site has come into view during a google search.

      I rank in the top three for over 500 relevant key words and phrases. (according to google analytics)

      Unfortunately, some that think they are experts are not, but some are. What I recommend looking for is proof that what they know and are doing works and WHY is it working.

      But, if one is using self-hosted wordpress, they can learn how to use the Yoast SEO plug in. The idea is to learn how to optimize a blog post and other pages on the website, to rank highly. It’s not just a matter of hiring someone to do it for you, because there’s only so much that can be done by someone else unless one is prepared to pay hefty five-figure sums.

      For instance, someone has to write the optimized blog post and it needs to be a certain length. The post needs to have the proper paragraph structure, subheads and use of the keyword phrase and it’s synonyms. And, the post needs to link back to other relevant posts and also outside the website to other relevant articles and sources.

      The keyword phrase needs to appear in the title, permalink, opening paragraph and then numerous times throughout the post. You should never repeat a keyword phrase in another post and you need to create an anchor post on a particular topic and then link other relevant posts back to it.

      There need to be photos and they also should be optimized with an alt tag containing the keyword phrase.

      There’s a lot more to it than that. There are five chapters in my 150 page blogging guide devoted to SEO. It’s not difficult to learn, but anyone following the instructions in my guide will definitely improve their rankings.

      All of the technical terms I’ve used here, are thoroughly explained in easy-to-follow language.ReplyCancel

  • Michele - March 19, 2019 - 9:51 AM

    I don’t mean to fangirl, but I so admire your brains and spunk. You go girl!! I’m not in the business, but my daughter may one day be, and I’m rooting for you all. Down with Houzz and their “brand” of “service”. They’re the Walmart of the internet. (My apologies to Walmart shoppers, but Walmart has destroyed towns.)ReplyCancel

  • Karen - March 19, 2019 - 8:41 AM

    Wow. I 100% agree with the sentiments on having your own website rather than doing it within social media. Social media is OK for “helping” with advertising, but I would advice against this being your only strategy. Take some time and learn about SEO, and remember, it’s constantly changing.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 19, 2019 - 9:57 AM

      Hi Karen,

      Thank you for corroborating. SEO is key! That’s why one quarter of my blogging guide is devoted to it. Five chapters! BTW, your website is gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Renee Marr - March 19, 2019 - 8:11 AM

    Pretty AND smart 😉 Such good advice and clear insight. And this is why I keep reading your blog. I’m not a design professional or amateur – you just have a great blog, and I can happily say your tastes have rubbed off on me. Thank you for putting out such a great product!ReplyCancel

  • Joyce Medina - March 18, 2019 - 6:17 PM

    I think you are a GOD for us consumers! I’ve learned soooo much since I’ve brought you into my life. Please don’t go away.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 18, 2019 - 7:11 PM

      Oh my! That’s high praise indeed, Joyce. Of course, I’m not THE God! There’s only one. But, thank you so much. I appreciate your kind words immensely!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah McGee - March 18, 2019 - 4:38 PM

    I just had to comment and tell you that FINALLY I took your advice and got my site up and running. Just this week. Just in time for Mercury in Retrograde.

    But I truly did pursue it because you drilled it into me, so thank you! xoReplyCancel

  • Chris - March 18, 2019 - 4:28 PM

    Very good post Laurel.

    I also got your blogging guide last year, even though I run a 7-figure on-line store that I built from scratch in 2009. I can attest that all the info in your guide is very helpful, even to pros…because a website and google are ever changing and we always need to rinse and repeat and redo all the time. People not in the biz can‘t fathom the work involved.

    Ok, now to Houzz, Instagram and Facebook

    Here is the weird thing…I am getting burned out on beautiful images!

    I am feeling that no matter what we do in our life…in our real life, all the beautiful images only make me feel that I am still not doing enough, not good enough. My house is still not good like the pics, my puppy is not as cute as the ones with a million followers in Instagram. Actually he is, but still, some of the photo talent along with filters is just STUNNING and yet depressing at the same time. My vacations (what vacations?, haha) are not as spectacular as other peoples, and the endless email barrage and voices of millions of people, twitter and politics and everyone’s 2 cents, are starting to weigh me down. And now Instagram Stories and IGTV are demanding endless video content to stay in the loop and not die on the Vine.

    How do we unplug?

    I‘m finding that all of this beauty, fake or not, makes me want to try LESS to be good at something, or worse, NOT EVEN to try at all! Maybe just a phase I‘m in and I‘ll come out of it again. And believe me, I am very grateful for what I have and what I have achieved. But I have to learn to unplug.

    But in the meantime, your advice to set up your own corner of the web, your own website and learn your own SEO is PARAMOUNT to survival. All the other stuff…Instragam (unless your goal is just to be an Infuencer on Insta) or Houzz is not something to spend a lot of time on. With all the algorithms on Insta and Facebook, no one is having a reach unless it is paid and sponsored with the money going directly to the nerds at facebook. And, there are young companies that have NO earnings because they are putting crazy amounts like $100,000 per month into boosting posts! And, horror of horrors…facebook/Insta can delete your account any time someone decides they don‘t like your content and one will have lost everything. So depending on your business model (!), beware of putting too much time into these portals.

    Don‘t mean to be Debbie Downer, but I’m sure I’m not the only one feeling this.
    I‘ve been following you, Laurel, for about 6 years and witnessed your meteoric rise. Well deserved as I know the work involved. Yours, along with Cote de Texas are about the only two I still read and throw in Maria Killam for practical color work. You guys are all professional and have “the eye” for the larger picture.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 18, 2019 - 7:02 PM

      Wow, Chris! Thank you for this terrific comment.

      Here’s my response.

      It’s imperative to shut out the NOISE. The noise that says that you SHOULD be doing Instagram Stories and IGTV and on and on… That is the CON. Fine, if you want to once in a while.

      BUT, if it’s not bringing TRAFFIC TO YOUR WEBSITE, IT’S A WASTE OF YOUR PRECIOUS TIME.

      Those spending $100,000 on FB ads? WTF? Geeeeezzz, even $1,000! But, this is why FB is valued at over 500 BILLION DOLLARS!

      Do you want to know how much I spend?

      Most of the time. ZERO. The only time I advertise is when I’m launching a new product or have a promotion and those are rare. And I spend maybe a hundred bucks at the most!

      I don’t need to advertise. That’s because after all of this time, I’m getting well over 10 MILLION views on pinterest every month and an average of about 180,000 people a month are coming over to my website.

      My blog and website are my advertising. And, yes, I do have some substantial expenses associated with it, at this point, but compared to some businesses, it’s a relative pittance.

      Designers need to think of the big picture. They need to diversify and everyone will be just fine.ReplyCancel

  • Jill Dupre - March 18, 2019 - 3:10 PM

    I assumed the drapes were temporary just to hide the outside for the big reveal of the yard and they were not actually part of the inside décor.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 18, 2019 - 6:49 PM

      Hi Jill,

      Well, that would be nice, however, based on the fact that there’s a matching set on the other windows with shutters, I think that these are intended as is.ReplyCancel

  • Linda Merrill - March 18, 2019 - 3:08 PM

    I believe Ashton Kutcher is a funder of Houzz. He’s a big VC guy these days.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 18, 2019 - 6:47 PM

      Hi Linda,

      So, I gather from a couple others after posting this.ReplyCancel

  • Leslie Carothers - March 18, 2019 - 2:16 PM

    Hi Laurel ~

    Thank you for writing this post, because, as you well know..what you are saying is mission critical for every designer.

    And, just today, The Verge wrote that Facebook is doing away with the News Feed, as we know it. (Look at Mari Smith’s profile to see the story).

    I sincerely appreciate you helping the interior designers in my Facebook Group, see, over these past 2 years, just how much is possible when you work as hard as you do…and for sharing so much good, detailed information about how to #DesignWealth into their businesses and drive the traffic necessary to make it happen.

    I am going to share this post in the Group, now, in hopes that everyone will not only read it, but read the comments.

    You have paved the way and are a gift to all of us who know you.

    LeslieReplyCancel

  • Denise Sobinski - March 18, 2019 - 8:56 AM

    Laurel,
    Great post!! I took my profile down from Houzz last year. I am sure I cut off my nose to spite my face but I don’t care. I live in a small town in CT. We support small business here..especially our all women owned flower business Feather and Bloom. They are a group of talented ladies who decided to form a collaborative. Good stuff. Anyhoo..I am also afraid of the trajectory of the design industry.

    Instagram is choc full of “designers” who are stay at home moms who are renovating their own homes and now consider themselves “experts”. They start a blog and wham they are suddenly putting up a shingle. The credentials that use to separate us from them aren’t important anymore. People are excited about what they see..and people who are consistent about posting and updating their social media are getting insta famous. It’s made me more aware of my social media as well as my website. Which sadly needs to be updated. I am Springing forward by making my business a priority. The competition has become fierce..I’m almost exhausted thinking about how much work it will be just to be relevant. Plus, actually get real work done!!!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 18, 2019 - 6:41 PM

      Hi Denise,

      I hear you on the extra work. When the internet first started taking hold, before I was blogging, I used to say that I was working twice as hard for half as much money.ReplyCancel

  • Susan Adler - March 18, 2019 - 2:30 AM

    In my book, you are an inspiring, knowledgeable, talented, smart cookie. Anyone who doesn’t listen and learn from you has nuts in their cookies. We need you not them! Thanks for all you do. SusanReplyCancel

  • Barbara Kemp - March 17, 2019 - 9:52 PM

    Whew! I was tired by the time I read the whole blog! Lots to absorb.

    Yes, yes, and do watch “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” The costumes are truly fabulous and I want every swing coat Mrs. Maisel owns. Talk about a time of true style and a lady looking like a lady. Even my husband loved the show. A winner indeed!ReplyCancel

  • Deborah - NC - March 17, 2019 - 9:21 PM

    Oh heavens! I didn’t mean to suggest that you rescue us with a forum! I was just grousing to a fellow Houzz, um..what’s the opposite of enthusiast? There are a lot of unhappy people on the forums there, both the Houzz and the GardenWeb side. They are forcing us to intermingle (initially we were separate) but didn’t anticipate that we’d be sharing stories and forming alliances. Your story still comes up, as recently as last week actually, and knowing that Houzz will make those posts disappear into the either, most people know to use code words that their filters won’t catch. Sounds really nefarious doesn’t it?!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 9:39 PM

      Hi Deb,

      No, I was just musing too. I actually get a handful of people visiting my site every day from those forums on houzz. 2,300 this last year.ReplyCancel

  • Beppie Mostert - March 17, 2019 - 8:48 PM

    I absolutely loved this blog – thank you for the insight and it has one asking questions.
    I was also at KBIS and also walked right through the Houzz stand – couldn’t believe the size of it. They’re all about suckering you in and getting hold of your content. About a year ago, I came across your postings when you posted something about Houzz – I signed up to your weekly blog as a result. That also had me thinking – I rebuilt my website and rebuilt my brand. My SEO person is on the same page as you – do not put all your eggs in one basket.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 9:12 PM

      Hi Beppie,

      I know. I know! And a hearty bravo to you for working on your own website. Here’s wishing you every success with your business!ReplyCancel

  • Mel Eckert - March 17, 2019 - 8:36 PM

    While Sunday morning is always my “TIme with laurel”, I was riveted by your post. I read it 3 times. You are a prescient, pragmatic and extremely intelligent woman. I’m glad your blog has become so successful. You DESERVE IT.
    Happy St. Patty’s Day.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 9:08 PM

      Hi Mel,

      You read it THREE TIMES? Oh wow! That’s amazing. You’re sure to ace the test on Wednesday. hahaReplyCancel

  • Susan - March 17, 2019 - 8:21 PM

    Laurel, You’re too much but just perfect!
    Don’t know how to Facebook, soo
    Love drunken Mrs. Maisel at the Gaslight Lounge
    AND her beautiful classic sixReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 9:05 PM

      Hi Susan,

      Can’t say that I’m perfect or even close. But, thank you just the same!ReplyCancel

  • sharon - March 17, 2019 - 6:39 PM

    I only have one comment about Doogie’s gift to his brother…..why in God’s name did he not do the entire home???? It surely was in desperate need and he is not short of funds to help!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 9:02 PM

      That’s a very good question Sharon. They probably felt that it would’ve diluted their ad campaign too much with a focus on the design instead of getting stuff one, at a time from houzz. Just throw it in your cart and done. So easy. ugh.

      Oh, it won’t fit through the door? Can we make the opening larger?

      No.

      Will they take it back?

      Not outright. But, you can return it if you pay ALL OF THE SHIPPING IN BOTH DIRECTIONS AND A 25% RESTOCKING FEE.

      THAT, is reality guys.ReplyCancel

  • SPaine - March 17, 2019 - 6:15 PM

    From someone totally outside the design industry, who visits your site routinely for what I can learn from you in order to decorate my own home, I have never understood why ANY professional does not have a website for their business – even just a simple one-pager. I ALWAYS look up a business to see what they have to say about themselves, and if I can’t find a site, or you are only on Facebook, I do not use your services because I don’t trust that you are legit. Even restaurants that do this don’t get my business. IMO, if you can’t be bothered to have a website, you probably can’t be bothered to give me my moneys worth in whatever service I’m purchasing.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 8:55 PM

      Hi S,

      It’s true. In the last ten years I took clients, almost all of my jobs came from an internet search. I couldn’t rely on word-of-mouth because most of my client’s friends were not interested in using a designer.

      But some designers do have websites and they are such a poor reflection with old, fuzzy photos and weird colors. That’s not very helpful either.ReplyCancel

  • Sheri Bruneau - March 17, 2019 - 6:11 PM

    One of my favorite posts Laurel! You nailed it on so many points. Having your own brand and your own content on your website (working on that as we speak) is key! If Facebook, IG, etc. were to die tomorrow, it wouldn’t change my business one bit (other than give me a little bit more time in the day)!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 8:52 PM

      I’m so happy to hear that Sheri! And, there’s really nothing like getting business the old-fashioned way. Nothing like word-of-mouth and getting out in one’s community. I always got jobs that way, too.ReplyCancel

  • Jenny - March 17, 2019 - 4:03 PM

    Yes, I’m one of such people. I always want to work with a person. I think I’d love working with you, for example. In some ideal world:) I love to learn from talented people, I like to be amazed and inspired, and I like to have fun and to feel related. If it was about choosing some gadget that I don’t care about, like, at all-then I’m fine with computer. If it’s about something I care and am curious about..yes, should be a relationship.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 8:50 PM

      Thanks so much Jenny. I did have some wonderful clients over the years and we had fun. But,I don’t miss the headaches and boy, there were some doozies. The ones where you can feel the money hemorrhaging out of your bank account. It’s a terrible feeling.ReplyCancel

  • Susie - March 17, 2019 - 3:51 PM

    yes, we are living in an age where you can get anything with the click of a mouse. That still doesn’t mean people have good taste. Sometimes people need the help of people who DO have good taste to help them out. Ordering something without seeing it in real life can be disappointing. I like seeing it in real life. I do shop some stores that are large retail chains, but I shop a lot of smaller locally owned shops, antique stores and thrift stores. In the small local shops, the store owner has already curated the best stuff so all you have to do is stop in and buy. My new favorite shop is in Walworth, Wisconsin right across the street from the drive-in in case anyone is visiting the Walworth County area.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 8:48 PM

      Hi Susie,

      I had to look up Walworth and see that you are very close to Lake Geneva. I was there once or twice a long time ago. Very lovely!ReplyCancel

  • Elaine Peterson - March 17, 2019 - 3:31 PM

    Hey, Laurel. Lay person, here. I just opened this post to access the link to your sales site. I’ve been purchasing a number of things through One Kings Lane and try to go through your posts so you can get a little bit of credit. Reading again about Houzz and their treatment of your industry, I’m left wondering if you could somehow have more of a business partnership with One Kings Lane. Other than your bonus check, is there a way for you to know how much business you have generated for them? Or S&L, Pottery Barn? If you lead a new customer their way, are you rewarded? A customer may not have initially purchased through your site but won’t their promos pop up on Facebook or wherever once they’ve connected with them through you? I’d hate to see you taken advantage of by the big faceless entities. Keep doing what you do! I look forward to each weeks offerings.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 8:44 PM

      Hi Elaine,

      That’s so sweet of you to worry about that. But, the way it works is, if someone clicks on a link or an image with the link embedded and goes to the site and purchases something, I’ll get a commission. And, usually, there’s a cookie that holds the information that gives me credit for the sale. And, usually it’s for 30 days except for Amazon which is only 24 hours.

      That is unless, they click on someone else’s affiliate link in the meantime.

      And yes, I can see the vendors and even the links clicked that generated a sale. But, I cannot see what was purchased or who made the purchase. It’s a numbers thing. I’m generating a LOT of traffic, like 350,000 real live people every month! So, even if .0025% purchase something, that’s still a big number.

      OKL is my number one brand. I just checked and you guys have spent well over half a million dollars through my links in the last year.

      Yes, I know. You would think that they would be licking my boots and sending a limo over, complete with champagne and strawberries to whisk me into their corporate headquarters where I’m grandly ushered into a catered lunch meeting with the suits to discuss a serious collaboration.

      Please sit here, Ms. Bern. Would you like some water? Another glass of bubbly? Please do try the pickled herring. It’s divine.

      Dream on, Laurel! They wouldn’t even let me use their restroom in the SoHo store when I visited last November. My friend and I were really laughing our heads off. I mean, I can’t very well say, “Do you know who I am?” A little pretentious, no? haha Although, I have said it and always feel like a complete idiot afterward when they look at me blankly and say, “no, I have no idea who you are.”

      But, really, it’s fine. I’m doing pretty darned well in spite of being ignored. lol

      Most of these brands only care about instagram followers. But insta only sends a handful of folks over here every day. Pinterest, sends about 6,000+ on average. Which one am I going to focus on?

      hmmmmm… such a difficult decision… hmmmm… hahahahahaha

      However, bottom line. I’m immensely grateful to everyone for helping to make some of my dreams come true. That’s why I work so hard. You guys give so much to me and I give back. Three times a week. win-win!ReplyCancel

  • Deborah - NC - March 17, 2019 - 3:16 PM

    You never fail to get my attention. Sadly I’m not sure the young designers are paying attention to your words of caution and believe hitching their wagon to a larger entity is the way to go. Growing up in the time of omnipresent internet has them viewing through that lens but maybe it will be a lesson in evolution and only the strongest will survive. You, no doubt, will be their tribal leader 😉

    I have a Hate/Hate relationship with Houzz, always have. I’m one of many design/garden enthusiasts who used to play way back when on the Better Homes and Gardens bulletin boards. Remember bulletin boards? They preceded forums and were so basic that in order to post pictures of our rooms and ask for suggestions (from a 99% non-pro audience) we had to learn HTML. Many of us segued in time to ThatHomeSite which became GardenWeb which got swallowed up by Houzz where we are to this day for as long as there is some minuscule semblance of a firewall between us and them. They are chipping away at it day by day and if there was a place to jump ship and just continue talking amongst ourselves we’d leave en masse.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 8:14 PM

      Hi Deborah,

      Wow! This is so interesting. I do not remember any kind of forums before the Gardenweb. I truly wish I could have a forum here, but it would need to be moderated is the problem and that would be impossible for me. And, then I’d probably have to charge a nominal fee to be a member of it because I’d have to hire moderators.

      But, it’s certainly food for thought.ReplyCancel

  • Heather Bates - March 17, 2019 - 2:39 PM

    HI Kelle,
    You are indeed one of the lucky ones to still have your house standing – even though the landscaping is gone. I’m happy to hear that you’ve decided to look elsewhere than Houzz. I will tell you to vet everyone you think you will use, as many will see $$$ for anyone impacted by the heinous floods and tornadoes that ravage people’s lives and homes. And I will chastiste any of my fellow interior designers who say that in real life. Here is a link to the Interior Design Society locate a designer. I know there is a chapter in Georgia, so you put in your zip code and see who comes up, could be within or just outside an hour from where you live: https://interiordesignsociety.org/ziplookup.phpReplyCancel

  • Cheryl - March 17, 2019 - 2:24 PM

    Gee, I thought the writer was going to say the reason interior decorators may disappear in the future is because a majority of younger women seem to think they are decorators because they “decorate” their entire house with whatever trend is going at the moment. Of course, this requires that you buy cheap furniture comprised of particle board because the trend will change in a few years. Yet my mother-in-law’s home was decorated with the help of a decorator probably 12 years ago and it still looks beautiful and classy.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 7:42 PM

      Hi Cheryl,

      Certainly, that is part of it, too. More to come in the next post.ReplyCancel

  • RMCD - March 17, 2019 - 2:24 PM

    Deb, I LOVE New Glarus! I’ve never been in the industry, but a LONG long time ago I used to write about beer. I won’t hijack Laurel’s blog, but suffice it to say that I’ve always been a fan of your shrewd branding and distribution models, even as it has made me sad not to have easier access to your beer. We just moved to northern suburban Chicago, so now it will be easier for me to get my hands on it!ReplyCancel

  • Faith - March 17, 2019 - 2:23 PM

    Great article Laurel, and perfect timing for our small local built-in furniture business.

    I just put us on Instagram and my husband is soooo excited because he’s connecting locally. But my thinking is that we still need to advertise the old-fashioned way because I don’t trust Instagram to always be there (or to convert to sales). I shall show him this article.

    And, I deleted our Houzz profile after your expose`! Thank you! What they’re doing bothers the heck out of me. We have 14-ft-long built-in shelves in our portfolio (about $500 a foot) and I could just imagine them “suggesting” some IKEA-style knockoff at $50 a foot. Shudder to think.

    Pinterest is starting to do it, too. (Le` sigh.)

    Oh well, we’re lucky, we know the area we work in (Asheville NC) and can just send targeted mail. Which I am told is converting better than ever before, presumably because people are spending their ad budgets online and consumers get excited to hold something real in their hands.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 7:40 PM

      Faith,

      All that sounds terrific, and direct mail can work. However, it’s expensive. I took a look at your website and there are some easy fixes you can do to crush your competition. And it’s all outlined in my 150 page blogging/website guide.

      It’s 199 bucks and I promise you, it will be the best $199, you’ve ever spent. I’ll tell you one thing right here. You must, must, must have your business address in the footer of every page. But, particularly the home page. Without that, you will never have a page one google map listing.

      And, you need to learn some better blogging techniques so that you can up your chances of getting picked up by google for LOCAL SEARCHES. People still do search google for artisans such as yourself. But, when I put in “custom cabinets Asheville, NC” you didn’t come up and for a bunch of common search. you did come up for built-in cabinets, but not built in cabinets. You need to write blog posts with all of those crucial SEO search terms your customers are googling.

      Great, if instagram is a good source of business. But, you have a website. It won’t cost you anything to learn a few things. I can’t tell if this is a content management system, like WordPress, for example. That will be helpful so that you can make the changes yourself, that is unless you know CSS and html. haha.ReplyCancel

  • Elle - March 17, 2019 - 2:11 PM

    Great insight as usual Laurel!! I did not know the backstory on 1-800…omg!!! 😳 Can’t wait for part 2 and I have seen the first 5 episodes of The Marvelous Mrs Maise, it is so good.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 7:20 PM

      Hi Elle,

      Part II has already come out. There are 18 episodes in all. Can you believe that I binge watched all 18 in only four days? Crazy!ReplyCancel

  • RMCD - March 17, 2019 - 2:03 PM

    Like someone who posted above, we recently sold our small city condo and bought a big fixer-upper house (3300 sq ft) where we need EVERYTHING. Having been stuck in our condo for a decade longer than planned — thanks to the recession — I wasn’t buying or designing ANYTHING for a space I spent ten years hoping to leave “this year.”

    So I am new to the game of trying to approach a whole house or even a whole room with any sense of plan or design. I’m trying to walk a fine line between getting us up to functionality and taking my time to live in the space, figure out what we want, and waiting until I can afford good stuff (furnaces, windows, roofs and such tend to deplete even a robust budget!).

    I found your website because, being an obsessive researcher on, well, EVERYTHING, I’ve been giving myself crash courses on various aspects of design as needed. And you are my go-to for, well, EVERYTHING. (Though I hope you might be thinking of doing a post on tricky lighting situations, and that said post might include the tricky situation of having a big room with a cathedral ceiling that isn’t and can’t be wired for light….the half of the room at the top end gets very dark and shadowy! And swagging chandeliers or pendants doesn’t work because the chains are too damn long from so far up). So far I have been doing my best to educate myself and muddle through — I think with good results, but so far I don’t have a single room that is finished, so we’ll see.

    But there will come a time when I’ll need to seek out some professional help, even if it’s only for an hourly consultation and a few key pieces (because I can’t afford a full-blown design). When that time comes, I know that there is no substitute for the real deal, and I don’t think I’m alone. I do worry that e-commodification is ruining, well, EVERYTHING. But I also believe truly that it also leads to fatigue, and when that fatigue happens, the name of the game is curation — and that’s why good designers will always thrive.

    Whether we’re buying furniture, paint colors, books, shoes, or anything else, our options are so endless online that it can be paralyzing. We scroll and scroll and scroll, and it all blurs. Everything starts to look good, or everything starts to look bad. It all starts to look the same, or if it doesn’t there are too many equally appealing but widely varying options that you keep changing your mind back and forth.

    The human brain isn’t meant to process thousands of options to make one choice. That’s why we need experts who can distill these options into a well curated selection. If we trust the curator, we are less likely to feel like there’s still Something Better Out There if we just click on One More Webpage. Yes, 1-800-Flowers may be a cautionary tale. But we can also look at what happened to the bookstores: big boxes gutted the small independent booksellers; but then Amazon gutted the big boxes: Borders went out of business, and Barnes and Noble devotes more store space to tchotchkes and toys and foodstuffs than it does to books. And lo and behold, the small, independent booksellers are having a Renaissance — because Amazon is a terrifying place for someone who doesn’t know what they want.

    When I don’t know what I want to read and I browse Amazon, I almost always end up ordering books that I don’t love. When I go into a good independent bookstore and browse through well-curated stock that has already weeded out the crap, I end up with treasures that I never would have found otherwise. It’s the same with Houzz and their ilk, versus designers.

    That said, I DO think that e-crap is going to thin the herd, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Branding is all well and good, and very necessary (I work in branding in an entirely different arena). But there are a lot of strongly branded design sites out there right now, and there’s a reason that yours is one of only two that I follow. Branding has to be based on substance, and the Last Designers Standing will be the ones who can demonstrate why we should trust their curation, as well as their consultative skills, their efficiency, their financial acumen in getting the most bang for the client’s buck, etc. Branding can’t fake any of that. So I believe that in the long run if a designer is worth their salt, e-design and the inevitable fatigue backlash might actually help by clearing out the wannabes. Just my two (very long) two cents.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 7:18 PM

      Hi RMCD,

      Decorating is difficult! And, just as you have come up with a challenge with your lighting, I often did when working for clients and then I would have to research or consult with someone who knew more than me about the subject. So, you’re going about it the right way.

      And dang! That reminds me. I forgot to mention the most disturbing part of that designer charade. When, she whipped out the first blue chair, NP, says, “I’ll take it.” And, just like that, they started adding furnishings to the cart like they were at the supermarket shopping for dinner.

      No professional designer would EVER do anything like that, without a plan. And it never all comes together in one go around. Well, okay. One time it did. I’ll never forget. The client only lived a mile from me and I went over with my floor plan and bag of fabrics/samples.

      I showed her the plan and she said, “looks terrific.” And then I said, I have a lot of things to show you, but let me show you my favorite first. (she was a physician and with 3 little kids, so I knew that she was busy.). I proudly showed her all of the furnishings, a couple of sofas facing each other and another little seating area with a tea table and two occasional chairs, coffee table, lamps, end tables. A seagrass rug. And, she said.

      “Wow! Looks great. Let’s do it!”

      But, that was the only time in 22 years. AND, I went in there with a PLAN!!!

      Again, they are hugely misleading the general public into thinking that this is how a pro selects furnishings for a client. NEVER!!!ReplyCancel

  • Judy - March 17, 2019 - 1:38 PM

    Ashton Kutcher is the Executive Producer of the show!!!

    He’s a bright man seeing a new take on an old system.

    I went back to the credits 3x. I couldn’t believe my eyes.ReplyCancel

  • Pamela A Adler - March 17, 2019 - 12:51 PM

    I believe the company with four choices of style has (lol) a name that rhymes with “gorilla” decor….drop the G. Not sure if it is ok to call them out by name.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 3:43 PM

      Oh, I don’t care. lol There are a number of them and they all look the same to me.ReplyCancel

  • Jean from Georgia - March 17, 2019 - 12:35 PM

    I only had time to read the first few sentences to know what is happening to interior decorators. The same is happening to Realtors due to the big giant Zillow, who advertises our listing, often with errors, they are now purchasing homes and taking over Realtor.com. Just as Amazon is moving into markets. So, we are covered online A to Z. I cannot imagine someone wanting to purchase a home online without a hands on Realtor to guide and protect both parties, both buyer and seller.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 3:42 PM

      Hi J from G,

      I’m with you 100% on that one! Zillow is a freaking joke!ReplyCancel

  • Veronica Vilora Solomon - March 17, 2019 - 12:24 PM

    Oh Gosh! These “draperies” are making me cringe. Yeah, after looking at Lisa’s website, I am pretty sure she had nothing to do with that choice. I agree with much of what you said here Laurel. I cannot for the life of me understand how some designers don’t even have a website, and trust me, I visit a lot of designers social media profiles when they ask to join my group. I do think we can use social media to our advantage while it lasts. I made a good amount in revenues last year as a result of SM, but I would never put all my eggs in that basket because I know we have no control over what happens. All in all, I think we can definitely give the big boys a run for their money. Thanks for the post LaurelReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 3:41 PM

      I haven’t been calling them out, but Veronica is one of about a half dozen of those lovely, lovely colleagues I mentioned earlier. But… Everyone should go and visit Veronica’s website because it is GIGA-GORGEOUS!

      And, her blog is excellent too.

      Thanks so much Veronica. I agree wholeheartedly not to put all eggs in any one basket.ReplyCancel

  • Tsippi - March 17, 2019 - 12:09 PM

    Hi Laurel.

    I happen to study the future of work in the information and robotics age, so I found your post quite interesting. While I have not done much thinking about the future of the interior design trade, the good news is that the professions that will in demand in the future are those that rely on creativity and emotional intelligence. Someone commented on law earlier; that career is a good example. If a lawyer is planning to stay afloat writing wills all day, she’s going to face increasing competition from AI.

    However, no computer ever emailed a family right after a loved one died to tell them not to stress about the estate, or spent hours trying to convince a mom that it was time to turn control of the finances over to the kids. Similarly, if designers are counting on their retail mark ups to stay afloat, they will be in competition with the enormous amount of information online. On the other hand, if they transition to selling their experience, creativity, and friendship in transparent consultancy-type agreements, I suspect the future is bright.ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca Dubray - March 17, 2019 - 12:03 PM

    Yes and yes and yes!

    I think the pendulum will swing back to local/independent retailers and professionals. At least it has for me.

    I tried Modsy. Epic fail. I tried Framebridge. Terrible results. 1-800 flowers? Like an 80s hairdo.

    It’s going to be a fight for the little guy to stay afloat – but keep fighting the good fight! Using social media as part of your marketing strategy and not your only strategy is key.ReplyCancel

  • Cathy P - March 17, 2019 - 12:02 PM

    Great post, Laurel! What are your thoughts on the Net Neutrality laws that currently protect our individual websites? Perhaps this would be a good topic to address in a future post…ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 3:30 PM

      I don’t know enough about that to form any opinion about that. Everything I read seems to go over my head because it sounds contradictory to me. And then, it seems to focus on the huge corporations, not smaller websites like mine, relatively speaking.ReplyCancel

  • JEMMA DORF - March 17, 2019 - 11:52 AM

    Remember Travel Agents? My travel agency hung on for a while but eventually we gave in. We didn’t charge for our services but were paid by the airlines so the cost to consumer was the same. Not true with decorators but the end result will be the same.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 3:16 PM

      Hi Jemma,

      Oh, I’m sorry about your business. However, the cost to consumer with an interior designer should not be more, apples for apples. As a matter of fact, with me it was LESS. I repeat, I saved my clients a LOT of money. AND hassle! And, they were happy with the results and got a design they never could’ve come up with on their own but one that reflected their tastes, needs and desires. Some of the more long-term ones learned as we went along and by the third or fourth go around, they had gotten so good, they probably could’ve put up their own shingle!

      Then you say that the end result is the same? The same as what? I don’t want to make any assumptions in that regard.

      Part II on Wed. is going to hit some of this as there are a lot of misconceptions about what we do, how we charge and how expensive we are.ReplyCancel

  • Shannon Ggem - March 17, 2019 - 11:49 AM

    LAUREL! You are very inspiring and generous and I’m grateful for your insights.
    –Shannon Ggem, Ggem Design Co, Los AngelesReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 3:08 PM

      Thank you so much Shannon! No, I’m not going to say it! lol You’re a treasure!ReplyCancel

  • Donna Blass - March 17, 2019 - 11:47 AM

    Hi Laurel:

    Thanks for another great post. It seems so many industries are going through a painful and ultimately self-defeating retrenchment…you would think nothing could replace the creative hands-on touch of an interior designer, but someone figured out an angle. In my line of work (freelance marketing writing) so-called “content mills” (paying obscenely low rates) are making it tougher and tougher to make a living wage.

    But, to continue on a brighter note: Like you, I’m a huge fan of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Hot tip: Right now, The Paley Center for Media is running their “Paleyfest” in LA – and you can easily (inexpensively!) download and stream a panel discussion by the whole Mrs. Maisel cast RIGHT NOW, or for the next 30 days. I saw a similar Paley Center presentation in NY last spring, and it was terrific…yesterday, they did a live encore in LA. Not sure you take links, but I’ll take a shot: https://paleytv.paleycenter.org
    It’s only $1.99 to watch – or $7.99 to stream a range of panel discussions happening all this week. Watching the Mrs. Maisel cast is my own Sunday afternoon activity:)

    Take care…DonnaReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 3:07 PM

      Hi Donna,

      One link is fine unless it’s something spammy. I do have to go in and make it so that it opens in a new tab because I don’t want people to leave the site. lol

      But, thank you so much for this info!ReplyCancel

  • Susie - March 17, 2019 - 11:46 AM

    The phenomenon is called “disruptive innovation” and the World Wide Web makes it so easy for companies like Houzz and 1800 Flowers to disrupt an existing market (and kill the businesses in that market) by serving a global market instead of just a local one. I’d argue that the e-design business of many interior designers is very similar. Someone in Canada may be taking the business of a designer in Mississippi because her website is so awesome and she makes it easy to do business with her, versus finding someone in town. Canadian designer may be cheaper, as well because of the simplified processes she uses (a one size fits most approach). While designer around the corner actually visits your home and sketches out your floor plan and sees what the lighting is like in person, which is just going to cost more (I believe it’s worth it, though). I don’t think that good design is a commodity like flowers. Local designers will just have to be better about marketing their services and making people aware of the difference they can make. Or start their own edesign service. I think it can also be argued that more consumers are in the interior design market now due to Houzz and Pinterest and edesign.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 3:04 PM

      Hi Susie,

      Lots of terrific points you make here. I do believe it’s true that the upside to the internet sites as well as HGTV, is that people have a greater awareness and interest in their homes than ever. And yes, local designers do need to do better at marketing themselves. And, if I have one piece of advice it’s you need really fabulous photos. Look at other designers. See what works and what doesn’t. Do what works. And give yourself on set-in-stone deadline. Otherwise, it won’t happen. I know. I’m no different.ReplyCancel

  • florida1 - March 17, 2019 - 11:08 AM

    Laurel I mostly like your articles/design advice. I do NOT include You in the following. So Please tell your ‘free-speech-folks-to ALLOW THIS… Pls. allow me Another VIEW of topic today? Folks Forget; 50% USA households=50K & Under Income.! Florists for Decades=Charged High Prices-Most couldn’t afford. So have Designers..AND many/most of pics you show=Ghastly! Florals w/plaids/green blue red purple yellow pink all in the SAME room! Some of the rooms are just SCARY! Folks w/Common Sense would NEVER allow this bunk in their homes. So if ‘rich/elite/coastal folks’ do=its OK? NO. So…moral of story. Stop being So FULL of yourselves Floral Design Fashion or any Other Industry that BY Passes Average everyday Americans to Wake UP…..ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 2:56 PM

      Hi Florida,

      Not sure I’m following all of that, but thank you just the same, for your input.ReplyCancel

  • Carole Thibodeau Marcotte - March 17, 2019 - 10:35 AM

    A to the Amen, Laurel. I agree wholeheartedly about owning your own website and sinking your efforts into that. I work hard to maintain my website but need to put more effort into Pinterest. I own a store in addition to my design business so my store manager posts on IG and FB as a courtesy to our engaged customers. In the past, I sunk money into an IG strategist and learning everything about social media that I could. All the efforts to do that took away from other areas of the business that need focus like blogging, weekly newsletter, etc. It is so difficult with info coming at all angles to know where to focus. About a year ago, I just said enough is enough, especially given the Houzz issues. I refocused in making “Google” happy and it is working. Thank you, as always, for your honesty and sharing your wisdom, Laurel!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 2:28 PM

      Hi Carole,

      YES! Making Google happy! This is key. Google wants to see traffic coming to your website. Traffic does not come from instagram. Not relative to what you can get from pinterest. It’s a no-brainer. However, some use insta as a blog substitute and that CAN work! It depends what you’re using it for. For instance the little super-star, very young ballerina Maria Khoreva is using instagram, but she wants to be an international prima ballerina and get brand collabs and so for her, it is perfect.

      It’s really a parallel universe and her feed is visually exquisite and hugely inspiring. If one’s feed in neither of those, then you might as well just take the entire thing down. And/or certainly not spend much time on it.

      What I’ve done here, is possible. Obviously. I’m doing it. I wasn’t happening yet five years ago, but I was on my way.

      IT TAKES TIME.

      But, something a therapist told me and it always rings true.

      “The time is going to pass, anyway.”

      So, instead of continuing to change elusive butterflies, set one’s sights on one attainable goal.

      Mine was creating the best damned interior design blog out there. Full of beauty and HELPFUL info.

      And my personal spin on things, which apparently, makes people laugh. And, I’m not saying that mine IS the best blog out there. There’s some stiff competition and some who have teams of people working on it. But, the intention is there and that’s all that counts. And then, consistency.

      Everyone needs to find their own personal hook.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - March 17, 2019 - 10:30 AM

    Great post Laurel and you are SO right! I actually fired my web guy. The same one who did a great job on Claire’s site. Yesterday? I was verifying my website with Google Search Console I was getting the Google authentication code – none of this had been done! Oh then my shop? Has been open since the site went live a few months ago, and here I was yesterday downloading the Stripe Plugin for woocommerce, and learned the two words with an underscore in order to CREATE the cart and checkout page!!! So I’m taking this on myself now with GoDaddy in the background. You can pat me on the back now.
    After reading this and the blackout of FB and the other apps it owns, I get it! Will be removing the SM links like you said got to get my Pinterest engagement up. Their insights showed no visitors. Oh yeah. The web guys put in the Pinterest code to “claim your website” I asked them if they ever finished the step. Apparently I should have gotten an email from Pinterest? Never did. After I fired them? Went to claim my website saw the code. Just clicked on the next button and 💥 my site was claimed.
    And yes, I told them I had thought they knew what they were doing based on the other site, but had my doubts since I had to keep telling them how to do their job. Le Sigh. Thank you for this post as a reminder for me to swing back into your book. And thanks to that 👼 on my shoulder who long ago told me to learn as much as I could about WordPress.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 2:18 PM

      Hi Heather,

      I am definitely patting you on the back! You go girl! And I fully get it. Fully, fully!ReplyCancel

  • Anne Harvey - March 17, 2019 - 10:29 AM

    Hi Laurel. I remember very well the scandalous Houzz exposé. I actually signed your petition, followed the conversations on the design groups I’m part of on LinkedIn, and stopped updating my Houzz profile with new projects. I have made a point of sharing all I learned with local design groups I belong to. Shocking to learn how many local designers took advantage of the free Houzz websites.

    I find the behavior of Houzz and the original Ivy founders disappointing, to put it politely, but understandable considering that money does indeed motivate most things. Ivy did not have a large client base and they made millions by selling out to Houzz. Brilliant move on the part of Houzz, who declared that designers are not business people. And I guess all that money will pay for the therapy the sellers may need to assuage any guilt they may feel over the deal.

    I have a light social media presence and managed to avoid the hard-sell Houzz placed on the industry. They were aggressive presenters at NKBA meetings, and I was present to witness this in two of the North Carolina chapters. I was harassed for years to upgrade to pro status under the guise of helping me improve my Houzz profile, which according to them was great anyway.

    Luckily the Raleigh area still appreciates working with real flesh-and-blood designers as opposed to Houzz. Many of my clients had never even heard of them. I always ask my prospects if they watch HGTV and educate them, if they do.

    Thanks for sharing your resources with us. I plan to read the posts you linked to and make sure my website is working for me. Have a great week and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

    Warm regards,
    Anne Harvey
    Fresh Kitchen & Bath DesignReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 2:15 PM

      Hi Anne,

      Thank you for this wonderful and insightful comment! It’s true. Not everyone has heard of houzz and it’s very clever of you to inquire if your prospective clients are aware of HGTV as well.

      As for guilty feelings from the Ivy girls? Well, one of them purchased Laurel’s Rolodex a few months ago. uh huh. I seem to recall having to go and fetch my eyeballs after I seeing that. lolReplyCancel

  • Pam - March 17, 2019 - 10:18 AM

    the internet has killed off a lot of industries – like the music industry. Too late producers realized that napster was stealing music. So I agree that there is a huge come-to-Jesus moment ahead for your industry.
    One thing I think you all should do is advertise how much money a decorator can SAVE the customer in the long run. Lots of designers use retail outlets to complete a room. Not everything is custom. Start advertising the price advantage more!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 2:04 PM

      Hi Pam,

      That is also the basis for Laurel’s Rolodex. While anyone can get it and no professional confidences are divulged. I do point out the some 180 designer friendly sources where designers can get a handsome discount and very often as much as rock bottom wholesale. It varies, widely, but the point is– YES! It is possible for a designer to be competitive and SAVE clients money. Stores have huge overheads. A designer working out of her home does not.

      However, stay tuned for part II. It’s an eye-opener, for sure.ReplyCancel

  • Ramona - March 17, 2019 - 10:14 AM

    Well, I am worried you are not well as this post has been up for 8 hours and there are no comments.

    In any case, I am looking for a retirement home in California, my adopted state which I never should have left. Because my budget is minimal, I have had to look at recently flipped homes. You know what that means: horrible design, horrible granite, even worse color choices although there is still a lot of grey which I now know how to work with and can be fine in a sunny state.

    Grey can’t work in my present location because the sky is grey most of the year. I would be hauled off to the loony bin if I had to look at grey walls and sky all of the time.

    My conclusion, after delving into the online decorating scene: Americans in general have no taste and many never clean or pick up.

    If the industry could bring affordable decorating to the masses, this might make us all just a little more civilized.

    If individual blogs can do it: more power to us all.

    Work is changing everywhere. There is no way to keep the design industry isolated.

    Here’s the rub on my home search: the best thing is to find a home I can rehab myself, but since all cash rules in distressed homes, I am locked out of that too.

    And I can’t get over all those shows with a whole house of furniture which no one ever states is going away after the show’s cameras go away.

    And yes, I still do watch sometimes out of some perverse impulse.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 2:01 PM

      Hi Ramona,

      Thank you for this terrific comment! I concur with your assessment of most Americans. Something not mentioned is that these services as well and especially the internet has killed the furniture store industry. In fact, many of the online sources, I believe are defunct furniture stores. It’s a “Hey, if you can’t beat ’em…” sort of thing.ReplyCancel

  • Kellee Kennett - March 17, 2019 - 10:10 AM

    Laurel,
    I’ve been looking for inspiration on Houzz since the tornado that hit our little town of Cairo, GA 2 weeks ago today. We are lucky to be alive and our 100+ year old home sustained repairable damages both inside and outside. Many of our neighbors, some without insurance suffered far greater property losses. We are grateful to God for sparing our community any loss of life!
    I am finally at a point in my life, might have something to do with approaching 60, that I realize I might need some help from an architect and interior designer. In 2004, I designed and acted as the general contractor and designer for renovations of over half of our other home. It was so easy then. After 5 years of working on this home, walking into the living room, smiling and thinking “I really like this room” now gone in 1 minute. I realize it’s just stuff, but it was a part of me searching and selecting that is gone. It is all very personal.
    I will seek help to rebuild but not from Houzz as the other day, I did a quick search for designers and landscape architects, (lost my entire yard of trees and fencing), only to be inundated with email leads via Houzz! Nothing like filing my mail box with useless leads! So thank you for your most timely blog and I look forward to part too. And thank you for your much needed humor!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 1:57 PM

      Hi Kellee,

      First of all, I am so sorry for your devastating loss and grateful that everyone is physically okay. I imagine that emotionally, this is a very hard pill to swallow and will send healing thoughts for your recovery. I think that you’re on the right path.

      And yes, that badgering is what turned me off to Houzz six years ago. It was a professional thing, but they bombarded me with solicitations and most were via the telephone. That kind of hard sell is total turn-off to me. And then, I could not get them to stop until I fear I was actually screaming at them. I try not to do that, so if it comes to that, I know that something is horribly wrong. And that is when I realized that for me, that company was bad news.

      But, it wasn’t until last year that the stories began pouring in of other reports of abusive situations. It’s really a shame. I do believe that in the beginning, it was a great idea and then it appears that greed got involved. Who knows? All I know is that the selling part of their business is not on a level playing field and I have a problem with that.

      The idea books. Fine.
      The forum. Great!

      If pros get work, really great. But most say that it’s mostly tire kickers. And the other issue is their nofollow link so that the designers do not get a backlink from houzz. If you take an entire community of designers that ARE creating dofollow links to houzz through those “best of houzz” badges on their websites, but the link is not returned in kind, it gives houzz this tremendous SEO (search engine) power. This is why designers say that they can’t compete. It’s because they’ve unwittingly have given their power away.

      But, it can be gotten back. If I can do it, ANYONE can!ReplyCancel

  • Liz Palmer - March 17, 2019 - 10:07 AM

    THANK YOU LAUREL !!!! I’ve long been leery of Houzz and their business practices, but never did the research you did. As someone who had a career in TV, I know full well what goes on behind the camera to make these home shows. Bottom line – they LIE. Hopefully, at some point we’ll stop buying into the crapola and understand this is entertainment, not reality! Thanks again. LizReplyCancel

  • ROSE DiNapoli - March 17, 2019 - 9:56 AM

    Good post, as always Laurel. I think it is often hard for clients that do not have experience with quality workmanship to not get seduced by the price and accessibility of sites like HOUZZ, Wayfair, now Amazon.

    I just watched the YOUTUBE video can’t help but think that it would have been far more compelling if a celeb actually did this to their OWN house. I would venture a guess that nothing in the NPH’s gorgeous Harlem townhome featured in Architectural Digest a few years back could be purchased on HOUZZ.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 1:42 PM

      Hahaha! So, true Rose. Although, there are some high-end vendors that appear to be something they’re not. And the one charging 25% more than Henredon’s retail price for a so-called Mark Sikes sofa? wtf???ReplyCancel

  • Deb Carey - March 17, 2019 - 9:42 AM

    Hi Laurel,

    I love your posts. Your writing style is wildly entertaining and hugely informative, which is a rare combination. I will be watching for your book:)

    I am not a Designer but I know all about business and you are 100% correct. Who ever controls the distribution of your product, controls you and your business success.

    Plenty of industries have had to jump this same hurdle. Cheesemakers sold all their cheese to Kraft. Brewers contract brewed for Sam Adams. There is a lawsuit in my industry (beer) between Pabst and Miller. Miller brews Pabst. As PBR became popular Miller suddenly had no interest in filling orders. And why would they?

    This precarious situation is resolved when the craftsperson creates their own boutique brand and reclaims marketing, sales and distribution responsibilities and control.

    Which right now you say…what does beer have to do with design..not much. I agree. But business is business.

    In short, control your brand. It is not as quick or simple but it will result in long term stability and ultimately greater financial reward for you.

    Keep up the good work.
    Deb
    Founder/President
    New Glarus Brewing Co.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 1:40 PM

      Hi Deb,

      Thank you so much for this wonderful, insightful comment! You know, I lived in Milwaukee for three years (in the late 70s) and still have a mom and sister in the area.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - March 17, 2019 - 9:40 AM

    So much to unpack here, Laurel, but a fascinating set of topics. I am not in the design industry, but rather a marketing strategist (though not a digital specialist by any means.)

    My two cents for designers is to understand the role that various online channels play in their true target shopper’s (i.e. client’s) consideration and conversion process and invest accordingly. If you are a designer who wants design clients and awareness is your gap, then maybe social media can help if, and only if, it can do a great job targeting your local area *and* reaches *your* shoppers (i.e. prime targets who are actually likely to become your clients) *and* lets you to deliver conversion-driving tool/messaging (a prompt to take the next step). I feel like there are a lot of other, more focused ways to do this. Are most people on Houzz actively shopping for an interior designer? Eh, I dunno. Or merely browsing for inspiration (e.g. design porn) or shopping for lamps? To me as a user, Houzz seems like a lot of layers to go through to get a designer. When I hired mine, I asked around for a referral and went to my designer’s website and read her spiel and looked at her book and shot her an email. But that’s just me (coincidentally reinforcing your point about building your own brand/website) and also that she built relationships into referrals.

    Meanwhile, Houzz is using the designers’ content to create *their* product, which is content that holds our attention, and got X number of eyes on that content for Y amount of time.

    In sum I’d just say for designers to know the path-to-purchase of their desired clients and be at those key steps where hard choices are made, and find a way to remove the client’s barriers (is it intimidation, perception of expense, or simply a crowded design field?). In my case I was intimidated so I shopped for someone who seemed approachable. Which has absolutely nothing to do with Houzz.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 1:38 PM

      Hi Jennifer,

      Please scroll down to see my comment to Madonna regarding the main issue with Houzz. There are lots of other sub-issues, but one of them is not using our images for inspiration. That is absolutely fine.

      And yeah, intimidating designers give our biz a bad name. I would say to them (metaphorically), “remove they ego. It’s not your house; it’s your client’s house. You are designing for your client. Smile. Be personable, warm and friendly. And think, collaboration.”

      But alas, some are not capable of this, but I’ll tell you, as I’ve said. When I go to the shows, the other designers there are so amazing. Wonderful, wonderful people and it makes me feel so proud!ReplyCancel

  • Parnassus - March 17, 2019 - 9:07 AM

    Hello Laurel, Much food for thought here. I hate anything that kills originality (as by stealing someone else’s), which these megasites seem increasingly to do the more they exercise control. But I also have faith that there will always exist the cognoscenti who value the original and individual, and will know who deserves the credit.
    –JimReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 1:29 PM

      Hi Jim,

      I agree. And, no matter what, there will always be people who want to work with a PERSON. And, who realize that they will be getting something unique to them and their needs; not some insipid banality spat out by a computer.ReplyCancel

  • Donna Baird - March 17, 2019 - 8:55 AM

    Hi Laurel, I’ve been a subscriber for a while but this is my first comment. I have just graduated from NYSID but my first career was Marketing and I have been mulling this problem for a while. Firstly I think all the concerns about online services are valid but here are a couple of “devil’s advocate” thoughts.
    1) Many of the people using Houzz etc were never your clients anyway. These are people who used to do their own thing and are now reveling in the expertise and convenience of an online service.
    2) As designers we need to continue to add value to the process in a way that online services cannot…. and we need to communicate that on our websites to our clients. Anyone can plump pillows but only we can co-ordinate contractors, source unique furnishings and ensure the safety and wellness of our client’s spaces. I suspect the role of the designer is changing. Because online services will take over the “decorating” part, designers must move further into partnership roles with architects to influence how a space is being laid out in the first place and then make it functional and beautiful.
    3) To point 2)we can further differentiate ourselves from online services through pushing for accreditation… and I say this whilst being fearful that I may never have the hours I need to become accredited! This is a complicated point… and probably one better discussed over a glass of wine haha, but I suspect the era of the town decorator who got their start because someone liked their home is coming to an end. This is the service that will be replaced by online services. For those contemplating a major renovation…., there is hope for us yet, but we need to act fast to educate folks on the differences between designers and decorators.

    Hope this adds some value to this very important topic
    DonnaReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 1:26 PM

      Hi Donna,

      Congratulations on your completion of the program! I wish I could address all of this. I still have 25 comments waiting in the queue. Or, as I say sometimes. I’ve created a Bloggenstein!

      But, much of this is going to be addressed in the next post. The reality is that most people have NO IDEA what we do or the liability we have hanging on our shoulders. But, guess what? They do find out. They find out when they try to do it themselves. Can I tell you the number of times, the new client was practically kissing my feet because she was so upset over the mistakes that were already made. So, it’s about advocating for ourselves and yes, pointing out the HUGE difference in service over some cheapo cookie-cutter (stale cookies, at that!) online service.ReplyCancel

  • Gail Hayes - March 17, 2019 - 8:53 AM

    Dear Laurel

    Threats to anyone’s livelihood are both serious and frightening. I think sounding the alarm is warranted. My only concern is how you and industry respond. There are many examples of how disrupters (competitors who turn the current business model upside down) are winning and winning desively. Uber has decimated the taxi business in Atlanta but it was a weak, poorly managed, consumer unfriendly etc. Houzz is a disruptor in your space due to professionals in your field who were not responsive to consumers. The under 40 consumer will search the web before buying and hiring interior design help. You are in the small club of designers with a strong presence on the web with an open mind and loving spirit. I encourage to keep up your good work and work even harder to help the public access the decorator treasure troves of fabric and furniture. If you don’t, more disruptors will emerge and your industry will be redundant.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 1:19 PM

      Hi Gail,

      I agree with all you’re saying. And thank you for the kind words too! In the beginning, our industry from a residential standpoint was ONLY for the super well-heeled. And it was more of a “ladies who lunch” thing. Then, over time, it trickled down to include those with certainly some money, but not necessarily born into it.

      The reality is that the vast majority of people will never hire decorating help. And the majority of us cannot even afford to go to Pottery Barn and plunk down 25k for an entire room of furniture. To add to the difficulty are all of the mainstream decorating shows that make it look like you can put a room together for under 2,000. Absolutely, if you do nothing but take furniture off the street and the rest from tag sales and the like. But, they unrealistically show built-ins that were done for 150 bucks. For the wood, okay. What about the labor? It’s beyond farcical. However, some people actually believe it’s possible.

      No, reality TV is at least 90% fantasy. It’s nothing but mindless entertainment.ReplyCancel

  • Téa - March 17, 2019 - 8:53 AM

    Very interesting post, Laurel. Thanks for all. I’m not a pro, just an enthusiast – and I did find that info on the florist industry helpful. “know better, do better!”ReplyCancel

  • Ali B - March 17, 2019 - 8:39 AM

    Love Mrs. Maisel! She is hilarious. The Catskills especially with her dad is tummy holding with laughter material. I find Houzz hard to follow sometimes except for the forum where you can ask for help. Blogs such as yours as much easier to follow. You and a few others have gotten me through my house renovation. Demo day was 3 weeks ago and now they are putting the house back together. The kitchen and both bathrooms were taken down to the studs. I’ll email you pictures when it is complete. Thanks for all you do!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 1:06 PM

      Hi Ali,

      I feel like I’m turning into my mother that I only heard of that show recently. ugh. Maybe I should read People Mag. LOL!!! But, that’s what I was going to do the post about. And, maybe I will still do that one day. I was addicted after about ten minutes of watching. haha!

      I identify so strongly with the character. but, what’s so interesting is that in the beginning of the show, there’s a new year’s celebration of 1956 which gave me chills as that was five weeks before I was born! And my older son is the same age as Rachel Brosnahan. What an amazing actress! She was born to play that part. But, when I was young, I ADORED vintage clothes and still on occasion wear things reminiscent of the period.ReplyCancel

  • Madonna Gorriaran - March 17, 2019 - 8:38 AM

    Houzz is also not much into full disclosure. Ashton Kutcher is a brilliant young man and has probably now surpassed what he’s made in films and television by investing his hard-earned cash in start-ups. One of those start-ups was Houzz. So, yes, he was smart enough to treat his mom (who seems great, as does his entire family–seem like super nice people) and get exposure for a company in which he had quite a lot invested.

    However, I do disagree with Tom to an extent. There are always going to be people like me who can’t match a lamp to a lampshade without it looking like Great-aunt Myrtle’s living room. Some of us with Myrtle’s taste (okay, most of us) are aware we’re lacking some gene designers have a couple/three sets of and will use Pinterest and Houzz to show a designer what we like but have no ability to get for ourselves.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 12:59 PM

      Hi Madonna,

      Okay, Sorry, if this wasn’t made clear. But, using houzz in that respect and pinterest too, is absolutely fine. For ideas. Nobody has a problem with that.

      What’s going on, if it’s not clear, is that houzz is selling from our photos items that we specked for our clients. Only the products they are showing are usually not even the right products; not even close. 95% of the time, they are dime store alternatives to our high-end custom beauties that we slaved away getting just right for our paying clients.

      Houzz of course, is pocketing all of the money for any products that are sold, that wouldn’t have been sold had there been no photo from our portfolio.

      If they were an upstanding company, there would be an affiliate tracking code, so that if the designer’s image was used to make a sale on houzz, the designers would be getting a commission! Anything else is not fair and we feel duped. I am no longer on there and even when I was, never went on the site since 2013.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa Hassler - March 17, 2019 - 8:31 AM

    Thanks for this post. Your advice is spot on for real estate agents too – just substitute Zillow for Houzz. We too have been duped into paying a 3rd party for the privilege of getting leads that we could get ourselves to a company that uses agents as fodder for their business model. I agree that having your own website and increasing your SEO on that website is the way to get your name in front of potential clients. Too many agents think that their brokerage site is sufficient – it isn’t.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 12:50 PM

      Hi Lisa,

      Yes, Zillow and their “Zestimate” sucks the big petunia. They’ve had my apartment listed at anywhere between 100,000 less than it’s worth to over 500,000 more than it’s worth. Right now, it’s listed at about 350,000 more than it’s worth. It’s a joke.

      One time, three years ago, when my white paint post was in the number one position. Yes, I was shocked too and it’s slipped to number seven at this point. I had a bad day where 500 realtors who had been duped and given duplicate content had all hyper linked to my number one post. Only, they didn’t say, go read this fabulous post by Laurel Bern. No, they used some other keyword that I don’t remember so that they could rank higher for that keyword. I called some of the realtors who didn’t realize that their posts were not original and who had paid a lot of money for content that not only will not help them, but could possibly do themselves internet harm.

      grrrr… I made that horrible marketing company remove those links! They weren’t too happy about that, but tough noogies. I didn’t want to be any part of that subterfuge!ReplyCancel

  • Anna - March 17, 2019 - 8:31 AM

    Loved this post! I’m in the middle of the challenge of my life – moving from a 2 bedroom apartment in Brooklyn to a 5000 sqft house in Jersey that is basically a gut reno. Sure, Houzz inspired me, but it only made me realize how much I need a living, breathing, collaborating expert to help me along. you can’t replace the experience, education, and passion of a designer with an idea board that you send to your contractor. I mean you could but then your place ends up looking like every other gray room on Pinterest.

    As a side note, Laurel you have come through big time for me in this process. With every stage of this very challenging process, your posts have perfectly been timed with the exact challenge of the moment for me, so thank you. Today I’m making paint color decisions for this giant house that has pretty molding but not much paneling or wainscoting and I want white everywhere so please wish me luck. And if you happen to read this and feel like answering, throw me a little lifeline and let me know if you think white walls (cotton balls or Acadia white) can look gorgeous on giant tall walls that don’t have much paneling but pretty base and crown molding. Thank you! And as always, looking forward to your next post!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 10:50 AM

      Hi Anna,

      Here, here on the needing a designer for at the very least, guidance. As for the giant walls, I think that white is the BEST color! Go look at Gerald Bland and William McLure for inspo.ReplyCancel

  • Tracy - March 17, 2019 - 8:30 AM

    This Houzz ate my lunch thing — it’s happening in other industries as well. Take the legal profession — small firms and solos are competing with Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer for things that the town lawyer used to do, like your will.

    It’s also happened with agriculture to a horrifying degree. Read about the poultry industry and how it screws farmers. Same model — we’ll help YOUR business, just build this chicken house. (They build the chicken house). Farmer is partnered with Big Ag and making money on chickens, it’s all good. Then, oh hey, your chicken house needs to be Upgraded. That will be an extra $100K for that ventilation system. And now you owe your soul to the company store. Who’s offering financing for those must-have improvements? (That you can’t sell your product any more without?) The Corporation.

    As a farmer said to me, “If it’s so great, why don’t they build these chicken houses on THEIR property?”

    Laurel, I think you’re on track — be your own brand. But be a niche brand. Stand out from the crowd. But it’s a sh*t ton of work. And I think those big companies like Houzz offer the seduction of a leg up, a kind of short cut, under the lie of “partnership.”

    I think the other part of this is educate the consumer. You usually get what you pay for. Don’t cheap out on a will. Discover a good egg from a small farm. And don’t buy box store silk curtains.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 10:40 AM

      So, well said Tracy! What it took me 3,200 words to say, you said it all here. “be your own brand. But be a niche brand. Stand out from the crowd. But it’s a sh*t ton of work. And I think those big companies like Houzz offer the seduction of a leg up, a kind of short cut, under the lie of “partnership.”

      Bravo!ReplyCancel

  • Diana Bier - March 17, 2019 - 8:23 AM

    Hi Laurel,

    All good points, and very concerning.
    I think the deeper issues that the design community has to face is threefold: the trend towards disposable furniture, the DIY mentality, and the internet itself.

    There is a perception, especially among millennials, that designers are not necessary, because it’s so easy to do it yourself. You buy the cheap garbage on the internet (because it’s much cheaper), of course with no design plan, and if you don’t like it in a few years, just throw out the furniture and buy new cheaply made garbage. All the while never being satisfied with the results (just read the “Design Dilemmas” page on Houzz), and adding to the crap in landfills. Which, ironically, is anathema to the recycling/sustainability mentality of the millennials.

    Case in point–I needed outdoor furniture for a backyard renovation. I went to a very high-end retailer here on Long Island, since I had great experience with them last year. The owner of the business spent about 2 hours with me, showing me all the options in styling, fabrics, and finishes. AND giving me advice on quality and durability. Then priced out the whole package. As I would never go behind a retailer’s back, I put a deposit on the furniture. Just for kicks, I wondered what the prices would be online, so I googled the items.

    Wayfair’s price was about 36% higher than the high-end local brick and mortar store. So the perception that buying online is always cheaper is flawed. My thought is that the retailers are wise to these internet warehouses–they too can see what the prices are and can adjust accordingly. I’m hoping that the pendulum swings back eventually. BUT it’s up to the design community to communicate the value of a designer, both in cost and time savings, to the general public.
    Time will tell.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 10:36 AM

      Hi Diana,

      I agree. And, it’s true that working with a designer, the prices can be less, too. It was when I was taking clients. Generally, Wayfair has the lowest prices unless the same thing is at OKL and you guys can use the errant promo code that has been working for the last seven months or so. I got it from a postcard!ReplyCancel

  • Cynthia Lambert - March 17, 2019 - 8:21 AM

    As always, a good analysis, Laurel. I deleted it right away, so don’t have the name of the company, but a few days ago I got an email for an “interior design” service that was basically Burger King for design.

    The way it works is this: you pick a room – say “bedroom”, then pick one of four styles – traditional, modern, hip, or something like that, then they show you a photo of the room, and you order it. Just like that. You order the room, only instead of “hold the catsup or mayo, you “hold the side table” or “hold the rug”. So they have designed the room for you, and ship it to you. I was so disgusted that I deleted the email right away, but the idea of working with a designer, or individualization is thrown out the window, and the 2 rooms I took the time to look at were so bland that they were uninteresting to me.

    But most Americans, sorry to say this, have no taste or individuality, which is why they hire decorators to begin with, only the design world became so bland and soulless to answer to the needs of their clientele, that they shot themselves in the foot. Luckily traditionalism and maximalism is coming back, but I don’t think it will ever fully recover.

    And then you get people like Joanna Gaines, who has no design background and no taste, and all the lemmings pile on and then Lowes and Home Depot start stocking design elements that she uses, and you’ve got the lemmings all decorating their homes that way. Ick.

    And Architectural Digest piles on to the situation with their poor editorial choices, re-emphasizing modern, stripped-down, bland, soulless interiors and now we have a real situation. I haven’t bought a design magazine in years. Even Traditional Home is no longer traditional. A group of us have taken to posting/talking about back issues going back to the 80s and 90s to get back to good design again. It’s very disheartening. So, yes, I do think the design industry is endangered, for various reasons. They embraced the greiged-out, milquetoastiness of today, the same way the fashion industry embraced the grunge look that nearly killed it. It’s not good design, but there is hope – if there is change. We need to go back to feathering our nests in a warm way, with antiques and family things, and “cocooning” the way we used to do. That’s the only hope for the design industry IMHO.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - March 17, 2019 - 10:28 AM

      Hi Cynthia,

      I know these companies, but also can’t think of the name off-hand, either. A woman sent me their four styles and I couldn’t differentiate them either. Same, same. Architectural Digest, you know has a new staff the last couple of years +/- and it’s like H&M took over Bergdorf-Goodman.

      But, I think your take is right on the money. In our “instant-I-want-it-now” society, people think all they need to do is phone in room number three and then cross that one off their list. And for some, it’ll be fine. They’ll be filling their stomachs, but in the end, they’ll still leave hungry. When my boys were little, I used to take them to McDonalds no more than once a week, if they behaved. And that is exactly how I felt after eating there.ReplyCancel

  • Runningonemprt - March 17, 2019 - 2:55 AM

    Thankyou for the webinar, Laurel, I will check it out for my (non int des) blog. Never hurts to get more readers!

    Happy St Patricks Day to ya, I’m sitting here with a Baileys and hubby is nursing a Guinness, at the pub.

    Hugs, CathReplyCancel