How did you get where you are today?
I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. I came to Chicago in 2008 to go to to art school at SAIC
and got my MFA in 2012 in Fiber and Materials Studies. I live with my two boys ages six and three in Logan Square, Chicago. I founded Relativity Textiles
in 2015 due in part to a Kickstarter campaign I funded for $21,000 with the help of my friends and family. This covered start-up costs and I launched the first collection in 2016. I never knew I would be a wallpaper designer or business owner, but looking back on my life, it makes a lot of sense. My dad was a math teacher and had me and my sister doing these art puzzles called tessellations at a young age. I use this in my teaching and my design work all the time now! I also was a girl scout and a sales person from early on and ran a few small businesses before starting Relativity Textiles. It took a very brave moment in my life to quit my day job(s).
What’s the design scene like in Chicago?
Chicago is an interesting marketplace. There seems to be a very diverse community of designers here who’s styles really range, but the homeowners lean towards safe and gray. I have few wallpapers that work for the shy or muted palette. This is why I tend to seek out designers that are not afraid of pattern, color, and large scale textiles. Other markets are more adventurous but there are several Chicago designers who can think outside the box and they’ve become my closest relationships.
From where do you gather inspiration?
All over the world. In fact, I made it a point in graduate school to find out more about the textiles that have been made historically in other countries. The bank of images that one can find when doing even surface level research is enormous. We can drag and drop on Pinterest all day long and find beautiful patterns in architecture, nature and historical fabrics from India, China, Indonesia…the options are limitless. The issue I’ve found with this though is that textile designers tend to do a lot of “borrowing” without naming the source. It sort of dilutes the meaning of a wedding garment from 6th century Moroccan culture when we turn it into a throw pillow or a dog bed. So, I try very hard to find the source of an image and name my patterns after their authentic place of origin.
How do you cultivate strong relationships with Showrooms and interior designers?
Showrooms have typically found me. Instagram
has been a wonderful marketing tool and word of mouth is also as strong as it ever was for business referrals. I haven’t had any luck with influencers or giving away product to famous designers. But, I think a lot of people know about me because of events I’ve participated in, such as the Chicago Ivy Designer Meet & Greet, Design Chicago
in LCDQ in Los Angeles, and SUPPLY School in Austin. My showrooms have done a great job of promoting me to their designer network. We had a big feature 2 years ago in a local design magazine that brought practically zero customers, but being featured on the Nate Berkus blog
was a big deal. It goes like that. Sometimes you put all your eggs in one basket and it leads no where, and then sometimes out of the blue, great things will come to fruition when I didn’t even try.
What are some of your best-selling wallpaper patterns and colorways?
How do you manage both an interior design business and wallpaper business at the same time?
So, my interior design clients are few and far between. One of my very first ever projects was the Lake Forest Showhouse. I decided to collaborate on that project with a friend of mine who is also an Ivy Designer, Claire Staszak of Centered by Design
. That project was a huge commitment and investment. I learned a lot by doing that Showhouse. I designed Arabian Nights specifically for that hallway, actually! And since Farrow & Ball was the paint sponsor, we coordinated the wallpaper with their collection of colors. So, in short, I usually only take on interior design clients when a wallpaper customer will ask me to help them fill out their room or their home with things to match or coordinate with the wallpaper I’ve just sold them. I love interior design, but I have no time to go back to school for a certificate. For the record, I don’t think it’s necessary to have a degree to do something, especially in a creative space. So, this is just me channeling my creative skills in another way. Wallpaper design or interior design, it all comes from one part of my brain and it all takes up time and requires lots of time management. I love both careers and I get to meet amazing people in each part of my job.
As a wallpaper brand owner, I am isolated a lot of the time. I work in my home office and I am next to my computer all day. I have assistants and interns, but unless I’m hosting a Lunch & Learn meeting, I rarely get out! I purposely travel and network a lot to be able to socialize with designers. But, the rest of the business is very routine. I have to coordinate lots of moving parts, but I am lucky to have a lot of help. I work limited hours and that’s how I can balance life and work (all the different types of work I do!). This job has busy seasons and slow seasons and the work is never reliable. I never know when I’m going to make a sale! So, sometimes it’s nice to take on a design project, custom wallpaper or painting commission just to fill in the gap.
Can you offer interior designers some tips of best practices for choosing the right wallpaper for a space?
Follow your gut. First, take a look at some options. Don’t look at all the options, it gets really overwhelming! I like to use the “If the house was burning down…” kind of mentality. Grab the thing you like the most and run with it. Once you’ve decided on a pattern you like, you can coordinate furniture and paint colors with the paper. If you’re working within different limitations, I suppose it’s best to consider how you want people to feel when they enter that room. Is it supposed to feel calming? Is it supposed to surprise? Powder rooms and entryways are ideal areas of your home for being bold, using pops of color and texture that you wouldn’t typically use in a large room, and for showing off your personality; because being wild in small doses is always a good thing.
Photo by Aimee Mazzenga, Design by Relativity Interiors with Tara Shade (homeowner – Creative Director for Nate Berkus) featured on the NB Blog
Why did you join Ivy?
I joined Ivy for the networking aspect. It’s very hard to meet designers who are not in my city. It’s a great way for me to spread the word about Relativity Textiles by “meeting” other designers virtually. Also, I’m a creative. So, numbers are not my forté. I taught myself QuickBooks Online and it was so NOT intuitive. So, seeing the Ivy platform for the first time was kind of eye opening. I still use QuickBooks Online but having the ability to create invoices with images has been a really key component to saving time. I normally would create PDF’s in InDesign and then spreadsheets in Excel. So, Ivy saves me about three extra steps to do it all in one place.
What have you learned from the Ivy Designer Network Facebook Group?
So much. Nothing specific stands out, like, “Where do you buy doorknobs?” It’s more about the idea of a place where you can be anonymous and also get real-time, honest feedback from people who are doing the same job as you, wondering the same things, and needing outlets for conversations you can’t have at a networking event. No one is going to go to a cocktail hour and feel comfortable ranting about their nightmare client or how their cement tile was ruined because the installer didn’t seal it. These things are learning resources for me as I begin my career and I can trust these women (and men) to give me answers to things that might take me days to Google. Ivy Designers share trade accounts, advice, and pump each other up. It is so rare to find a group of competitors who will do that for each other.
How does Ivy help streamline your day-to-day workflow as an interior designer?
Ivy has given me the ability to communicate with my client in a streamlined way about their project timeline, budget, and design elements via a professional invoicing platform. It’s a one-stop-shop for these three functions and I don’t have to worry about three softwares and three logins and all of that.
What’s an Ivy feature you can’t live without?
The Ivy Product Clipper
. I used to screen shot everything and keep it in folders and title each one and keep another list of the link to the product so I could return back to it, and then a column for price and email of the vendor….blah, blah, blah. It was intense! Now, it’s all there with the click of a few buttons. It’s all archived forever too. Creating a proposal this way is so easy. I am glad this is my introduction to design because doing it any other way for a length of time would’ve driven me bananas.
Here at Ivy, we’re more than just an interior design software. Our mission is to provide interior designers with the community, resources and tools needed to manage your business beautifully. Are you searching for a business management tool to help streamline your workflow as an interior designer?