Our guest on the very first Spinning Yarns Podcast is Collien Driscoll of Driscoll Interior Design. Collien is a western Maryland native with a fine arts degree in interior design from VCU.
She’s been blending contemporary interior design with classic architectural details for over 20 years. She works with a variety of clients in the Maryland and Pennsylvania area ranging from residential to commercial interior design.
As an interior designer, Collien’s primary goal is to enrich and enhance people’s lives by designing spaces that are not only beautiful, but also highly functional and comfortable.
When not immersed in her various client projects she can be found enjoying music, photography, art and renovating her own historic home in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.
Key Points From This Episode:
- Hear more about Collien’s background and how she got started in the interior design space.
- Collien shares her advice for designers who are looking for inspiration.
- Learn more about how Collien establishes an emotional connection with her design clients.
- Understand what it takes to own your own business in the interior design industry.
- The biggest challenges Collien faces in her job as an interior designer.
- Discover Collien’s major influences when she is designing.
- Learn more about the trends in the design industry, and how it is turning more feminine.
- Collien shares her tips for launching a successful brand in the digital age
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Collien on Twitter — https://twitter.com/Driscoll_Design
Collien on Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/driscollinteriordesign
Collien on Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/DriscollInteriorDesign/
Driscoll Interior Design — http://www.driscollinteriordesign.com/
Chief Architect — https://www.chiefarchitect.com/
Frank Lloyd Wright — http://franklloydwright.org/
Alphonse Mucha — http://www.muchafoundation.org/
Houzz — https://www.houzz.com
Read The Podcast Transcript
[INTRODUCTION] [0:00:28.9] GO: Hello everybody and welcome to the first edition of the Spinning Yarns Podcast. I’m George Owens and with me is the owner of RugKnots.com, Naheed Mir.
Our guest on today’s show is a western Maryland native with a fine arts degree in interior design from VCU. She’s been blending contemporary interior design with classic architectural details for over 20 years. She works with a variety of clients in the Maryland and Pennsylvania area, ranging from residential to commercial interior design. Pease welcome Collien Driscoll of Driscoll Interior Design.
[0:00:59.9] GO: Hi Collien, how are you today?
[0:01:01.4] CD: I’m doing great George, thanks so much for having me here today. I’m very excited to be here with you and Naheed.
[0:01:08.3] GO: Well so, for the listeners, tell us a little bit about yourself and about your interior design business?
[0:01:13.5] CD: Well, I’ve been practicing design for over 20 years. I do mostly residential, a little bit of commercial. I have an older home so I do a lot of projects on my own too, which is great in my spare time, which I have very little of this days.
[0:01:32.7] GO: If you can give us a little bit of a background and just let us know where you draw your inspiration for designing a space and what advice would you have for people who don’t know where to pull inspiration from?
[0:01:46.0] CD: Well, inspiration for me really can come from anywhere but mostly it comes from an initial meeting with the client. What I like to do is sit down with them, get a really good feel for them, their personality, their lifestyle, the way they live and the inspiration really comes from an emotional connection with them and the feeling that I get. It’s really important that I listen to them.
In my down time, inspiration usually comes to me in various forms that can just kind of pop up in a thought or I could be out in nature and see a flower or a field and the colors and that field. It’s a combination of things really. This might sound very odd but dreams, I will have dreams about projects and clients and I’ll wake up and I’ll have this wonderful solution. It’s pretty cool.
I don’t know if either one of you have had dreams like that, that kind of speak to you and give you answers but it happens to me every now and then.
[0:03:01.0] GO: It sounds like a lot of creatives that’s kind of how they draw a lot of inspiration and it will just come to them in a dream or an idea for a photograph for photographers will come to a dream, they’ll wake up and — or a song lyric.
[0:03:13.6] CD: Absolutely, yeah.
[0:03:15.4] NM: So tell me about the question you had you said, “emotional connection”. Can you tell us that, we always think that these are very much — designers are very much connected to colors and you are saying, you actually want to have an emotional connection with your client? Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
[0:03:33.6] CD: Yeah, absolutely. In order for me to design for a client, I really need to feel their energy. We all put out a certain field of energy and usually pretty good at picking that up. It’s more instinctual, it’s more of a feeling and every time I go with that, it’s always spot on. It’s a very guttural.
[0:03:59.6] NM: Okay, that’s very interesting.
[0:04:01.9] CD: Yeah.
[0:04:02.7] GO: I can imagine that you really hone in on your clients that way, you really get to know them so that each and every design is personal to them.
[0:04:10.3] CD: Absolutely and there’s a lot of psychology involved as well. Which, you know, if you think about it makes sense because our environment plays such a huge part in the way we feel, it certainly changes our mood or can change our mood depending on where we are. For example, fluorescent light.
You know, when you are in a room with fluorescent light, it makes you uncomfortable, it’s not soothing and warm, it’s cold. You never want to spend a whole lot of time in a room with fluorescent lights. We’re going to have to talk about taking care of your office, George.
[0:04:51.7] GO: Yes, we need to paint the walls a certain color.
[0:04:54.7] NM: Yes.
[0:04:54.9] CD: Yeah. And getting — since I mentioned lighting, for me, lighting really is everything; lighting and color, because it does change, it changes color. Light changes color and it definitely affects your mood.
[0:05:12.3] GO: To sort of piggy back on that a little bit, how did you know you wanted to get into interior design?
[0:05:17.8] CD: I never really knew I wanted to get into interior design. I loved art, I was creative growing up, but I also have a very analytical part of me. I love math, I love science, but I also love art. For me, interior design just really struck a balance between those things and that’s how I chose it. Because I thought, “Wow, this is a great balance, this is a happy medium between those things and it was either become an attorney or artist. So there you have it.
[0:05:54.2] GO: Two relative extremes there.
[0:05:56.1] CD: Yeah.
[0:05:58.2] GO: With that, you know, once you did kind of land on the idea that you wanted to get in to interior design, what made you decide to start your business rather than joining an existing one?
[0:06:09.1] CD: Well, after I graduated college, I went to BCU in Richmond and got a degree in interior design, I started working for a company in Richmond called Printer’s Alley and they sold fabrics and furnishings, we designed window treatments and custom bedding, that sort of thing.
Working at Printer’s Alley, I met a friend or I made a friend there who later became my business partner and we decided that, “Hey, you know, we’re doing this for this company, we could do this for ourselves. We could create our own hours, we could have that freedom that comes with owning your own business.”
So her and I started a corporation and the name of that business was Flare Incorporated out of Richmond. That’s how I started my own business and kids came along, well, marriage came first and then kids and we both kind of went our separate ways, but we both continued to have our own businesses. She’s a very successful designer out of Warrenton, Virginia and as a matter of fact, I just ran into her at market a couple of weeks ago down at high point.
[0:07:25.4] NM: That’s so nice, and you met her after a little bit of time, right?
[0:07:29.0] CD: Absolutely. Yeah, so we’ve known each other for over 20 years and if I ever need some inspiration, you know, I’ll call her and…
[0:07:38.2] GO: Still bounce ideas off each other? Very good.
[0:07:41.9] NM: The question is, Collien, how hard it is to own your own business in the interior design world?
[0:07:50.2] CD: Well, you know, it’s extremely hard but it’s also extremely rewarding. When you own your own business, and you know how this is Naheed, you strive to do your best with everything you do. Even the smallest job, you want to make sure that your clients are happy because everything ultimately falls on you. So it’s a huge amount of responsibility, but with that being said, it’s also amazingly rewarding because it is falling all on you.
[0:08:25.8] GO: I guess with some of those rewards, what would you say? I mean, do you have any favorite projects you’ve done or any of it stand out that you can look back to.
[0:08:33.7] CD: For me, the most rewarding part is seeing the project come to fruition. I will draw up plans, I’ve got this great architecture program called Chief Architect. Everything I draw is in 3D and I’ve drawn house plans for several clients and watching those plans come to life from the very beginning when we’re grading for the building and digging a foundation to putting up the framing, putting the roof on and then the finishing touches. Moving in furniture and hanging the ornaments.
[0:09:11.2] GO: Seeing the project come together.
[0:09:12.3] CD: Yeah, and then I can compare what’s on the computer in 3D to the actual finished home and it’s amazing how close they are.
[0:09:23.8] GO: Yeah, that’s always kind of the rewarding part. You watch some of those designer shows and they show like the computer rendering of what it’s going to look like and then they show the final project, the completed project, and seeing how close they are.
[0:09:35.4] CD: Yeah, you know, on those programs, they do it like overnight, you know? It’s done overnight, and our projects, especially when we’re building can run well over a year for sure. Secondly or probably most rewarding is when I get a call form a client or a text with a picture and you know, they say, “I love my rug,” or, “Oh my gosh, this window treatments are amazing.”
I just did an install a couple of weeks ago for some clients in Waynesboro and the husband was like, “Rock star!” He was just blown away, he couldn’t believe how great this window treatments look and especially for a man to say that, that’s just a whole lot. Yeah.
[0:10:24.7] NM: Tell me also Collien, how do you keep yourself organized? That’s the biggest question interior designers struggle with.
[0:10:32.6] CD: That is an excellent question. A lot of notes! I have all my notes, and this is going to sound crazy, but I have all my notes on my iPhone and I keep them there. That way, when I’m on the phone or in the field, it’s always there and I write it down. I also have a project manager. Yeah, because you just can’t do it all on your own.
[0:11:02.5] NM: Exactly.
[0:11:03.2] CD: I’d rather focus on design. What I’d like to do is draw the design, source the materials, and then hand it over to my project manager and have her implement it. Because that’s what I love. I love design. I don’t like having to deal with contractors and make sure that the fixtures are coming in correctly and things are being installed properly. I’d rather deal with the creative aspect.
[0:11:31.9] GO: Yeah, keep yourself busy with the creative side rather than the whole business as a whole.
[0:11:36.5] CD: Absolutely. Yeah, you just can’t do it all on your own.
[0:11:42.7] ANNOUNCER: You’re listening to Spinning yarns, the interior design podcast brought to you by RugKnots.com. If you are an interior designer looking to grow your business by offering discounted hand-knotted rugs to your clients, setup your trade account today at RugKnots.com/trade and get exclusive discounts on all our high quality rugs.
[0:12:04.5] CD: Even though I try.
[0:12:10.6] GO: I guess sort of the favorite part of your job, what would you say would be the most difficult aspect of your interior design?
[0:12:18.3] CD: The most difficult, I would say, is being behind a computer for more than two or three hours. It’s very isolating, I spend a lot of time drawing up plans, sourcing online and for me not having that human contact is very difficult. Some days, I’ll go eight hours in my office behind the computer and at the end of the day, I’m completely drained and I feel like I really feed from human interaction, and I need that, I need connection with people. So that’s the most difficult part and I know some people would say, “Oh, I don’t like working with people,” but you know, I’m definitely the opposite. I need people to boost my energy and yeah.
[0:13:05.9] NM: So Collien, do you think that you know what your strengths are? Like what you're saying about feeding energy from the people? So you know what you need to do and give everything else to the project manager, that has helped you grow your business?
[0:13:21.3] CD: Oh absolutely, yes. Because all really need to play to our strengths for sure. It seems that at least in my experience, the things that I enjoy doing are the things I excel at. So I obviously am not great at project managing because I don’t enjoy it. I certainly can do it, you know? I do, do it but I’d rather stick to my strengths.
[0:13:50.4] NM: That’s a good answer. Yes.
[0:13:54.3] GO: We’re just wondering, how powerful can a well-designed space be? How does that affect mood, comfort, etcetera? Can you expound on that?
[0:14:03.0] CD: Absolutely, one of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received was from a client who we built their home and I actually drew up their house plans and he said to me, “You know, Collien, I used to look forward to going away on vacation because of the beautiful rooms at the hotel and especially the suites with the spa bathroom,” and he said, “But I get that every day in my own home.”
And they took a trip to Ireland last year. He said, “You know what? I miss my bathroom. I miss my shower.” So a room and your environment can totally transform your mood and make you feel good. So space is paramount. Space is absolutely paramount.
[0:14:59.4] GO: Well I guess that could be one of the greatest compliments is likening his vacation, or his home to vacationing, so very good. Who or what are your major influences when designing?
[0:15:13.2] CD: Well this really goes back again to getting to know the client and getting a feel for who they are because when I’m designing for a residential client, it definitely needs to reflect their taste and style and who they are. Personally some of my biggest influences I would say number one would be Frank Lloyd Wright, Form Follows Function, the clean lines, everything was so meticulously designed and his work is brilliant because of the thought process that went into every detail.
Now on the opposite end of the spectrum, Alphonse Mucha is one of my all-time favorite artists and he did the style of Toulouse Lautrec. He did a lot of the graphic advertisements in the Art Nouveau style. So we have two totally different styles. One very clean and the other one very organic and curve-linear and feminine and I think that’s key for my inspiration is that balance. Again, I keep going back to balance and striking that between those two different styles.
So I’m very much influenced by those two artists, an architect and an artist. But ultimately it does come down to the client because ultimately they live there. I design it, but they live there so it’s really going to reflect their taste and style. But I’m certainly going to influence them.
[0:17:02.2] GO: Inject some of that influence into the design.
[0:17:05.1] CD: Absolutely, yes.
[0:17:05.7] GO: What would you say some of the motifs or design trends are currently? I mean what’s kind of hot right now?
[0:17:12.0] CD: Oh grey, grey, grey. You haven’t noticed, everything is grey these days. We have I guess the past several years we’ve seen a lot of live edge; industrial or heavy or masculine and now I think we’re turning a little bit away from that. We were over this heavy industrial and now we’re going with thinner more graceful lines and more delicate, more feminine and you see that in the finishes.
So if you’ve looked at magazines or if you’ve been on Houzz, you’ll see more of the old warmer finishes in fixtures and lighting, and so I think that heavy industrial live edge stuff is on its way out and this more delicate organic graceful style is coming in. More feminine, which I’m not totally okay with.
[0:18:14.5] NM: So what the colors you went to high point also?
[0:18:19.0] CD: Oh pink. Pink, pink, pink, pink and, you know what? That is so funny, pink is my all-time favorite color. I never design with pink because of where we are but we are doing more pink these days. Actually I am renovating a powder room currently and the walls are called, pink color is called “love and happiness” and it is a beautiful pale pink.
[0:18:46.1] NM: Wow, that sounds nice.
[0:18:47.9] CD: It is, it is going to be gorgeous. Yeah and we’ve got a black galaxy granite counter top with some sparkle in it and then a beautiful mid-century modern globe with crystals and it’s going to be fabulous. I’m going to want to move in. So yeah, I feel a lot of pink. We’re getting more color because like I said in after George ask the question of color and I said “grey”, grey has been popular now in a while and so now we want color. We want something brighter than grey and so you’re going to see a lot of pops of color especially the pink, blue, purple.
[0:19:34.6] GO: Well I guess with grey a lot of design around grey you can add a lot of accent colors to that.
[0:19:41.8] CD: Accent colors. Absolutely, yeah.
[0:19:43.4] GO: So what is a typical day for you?
[0:19:45.8] CD: There is no typical day. You know it’s funny because on the days that I don’t have appointments I’m so excited because I am just going to go in the office and sit down on my computer and just accomplish everything on my list and invariably the phone will ring and there’s a problem with this, or somebody’s having a crisis with this, and no two days are ever alike and that’s one of the things I love about my job is that there is no routine and I’m always surprised and it is always interesting to see what the day will bring.
[0:20:23.7] GO: Can you offer any tips for launching a successful brand in the digital age?
[0:20:29.7] CD: Well number one is your website. You’ve got to have a website with gorgeous pictures. Pictures speak volume for your work. Without a picture potential clients have no idea of your style or your design sense. So having a website is first and foremost. I’ve gotten lots of business through my website organically but I’ve also gotten a lot of business word of mouth. When you have happy clients they love to tell everybody about you, kind of like your hairdresser.
You know, if you’ve got a hairdresser you love you’re like, “Oh you have to go to this girl. My girl is awesome,” and social media too. I have a hard time keeping up. It’s hard enough just running my business but then having to market on social media. I have a Facebook account, Twitter, I’m on Houzz, and Instagram of course, which is my favorite because that’s quick and easy, just snap a picture. But, you know, I am never on Facebook and when I am on Facebook, it is to promote my business. But I just don’t have that time, but it is important.
Advertising on social media is very important. People, when they are looking at hiring you, they want to see your — what’s the word I’m looking for? They want to see your presence, thank you. Yeah, they need to see a strong presence on social media because it makes them feel confident in your abilities.
[0:22:02.0] GO: It validates their decision to go with you if you are out there.
[0:22:04.5] CD: Absolutely, yeah.
[0:22:05.2] GO: You know, that’s some good tips for in the digital age. Perhaps some listeners may be considering a career as a professional interior designer, do you have any tips?
[0:22:16.3] CD: Absolutely, I had — she’s a high school student, but I always have a lot of students that do job shadow me. I’ve had five or six now and I welcome that because I think that’s really the only way that you’re going to know if a profession is a good fit for you and so she came along with me on appointments, she was in the office with me when I was working on the computer and space planning and designing and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to get into design.
But I got a beautiful thank you letter from her last week and she said, “You know, after being with you I’ve decided that this is what I want to do. This just feels so right for me,” and I think that’s really the only way you can tell is to get out there with somebody who is doing a day in and day out because otherwise you just don’t know.
[0:23:13.5] GO: Right, well that’s a great way for somebody looking to get into that field is to be able to job shadow you. Do other interior designers offer job shadowing? Is that common?
[0:23:26.3] CD: Well I certainly hope so. I don’t know about other designers but anytime that I have an opportunity to help somebody, especially a young person because you know, when you’re in high school, how do you know what you want to do for the rest of your life. That’s a lot of pressure and if I can help somebody make a decision, whether that’s going into the design field or eliminating, then I’ve help somebody and we always feel good when we help people.
[0:23:56.1] GO: Definitely. Can you tell listeners where they can find you?
[0:24:00.6] CD: Oh thanks, George.
[0:24:02.0] GO: You mentioned Facebook and you mentioned Instagram.
[0:24:03.8] CD: Yes, absolutely. Well my website is driscollinteriordesign.com. My Instagram account is @DriscollInteriorDesign as well and same with Facebook and Houzz and so yes, please find me on those platforms. I’d love to hear from you and George, Naheed, thank you so much for having me. This was such a pleasure.
[0:24:25.0] GO: Thank you.
[0:24:25.8] NM: Well thank you Collien.
[0:24:27.4] GO: All right and thank you everybody for listening to this first episode of Spinning Yarns.
[END OF INTERVIEW]