Behind the Design: Ivy Design Firm Lisa Furtado Interiors
Ivy Design Firm Spotlight: Lisa Furtado Interiors – San Francisco, CA
Lisa – how did you get where you are today?
LF: I grew up and went to college in California. Graduate school brought me to the East Coast (Boston and DC) for several years where I stayed, worked, got married, and had my first child. We moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2007 where I continued to work in biotechnology. On maternity leave with my third child, I took a design class that rekindled a flame that lay idle behind beakers and boardrooms for years. Although I had various science degrees, an established career, and a promising future in the field, there was this creative itch that never let up. In 2012, I quit my job, enrolled in design school, and never looked back. It seemed like an unexpected 180 degree change to most. But to those that know me best, it made perfect sense.
“I feel truly honored that people trust me to help them create a backdrop for their lives.”
Lisa Furtado Interiors is a full-service residential design firm specializing in family-friendly interior design and renovation. How do you move forward with your design process keeping this client avatar in mind?
LF: I believe that beautiful can be practical. So many people think they should wait until their kids are grown up and out of the house to create an attractive, well designed home. Your house is the foundation of your family story. Most people want a space they can live life in, not just stare at from afar. I educate families on which furnishings are best to splurge and which make sense to save on. I encourage people to selectively invest in quality pieces that are durable, stand up to life, and can take the occasional beating.
I consider myself an authority on wear and tear. My house is basically a durability laboratory. I can tell you the importance of a well constructed sofa frame to withstand body slamming and dance parties. I can describe how hardwood performs under roller skates and hover boards. You may be judging my parenting skills at this point but you know who to ask when you can’t get the gum out of your mohair pillows.
How do you get to know your clients?
LF: There is a lot involved in cracking the code on clients. Of course I have my standard series of questions like, “How do you want this space to make you feel?”, and, “How do you use this space?”, and, “How much have you budgeted for this project?” But, sometimes it’s the subtle observations that are the most revealing. Is the dog hanging out on the love seat? Did your client’s brow bead with sweat when you mentioned the price of a decent sofa? How beat up are their baseboards? These observations are important factors to consider when determining how your clients live and designing a space that will function well, look amazing, and make them feel at home.
“I educate families on which furnishings are best to splurge and which make sense to save on.”
Who are your favorite vendors and people of the trade in the San Francisco/Bay Area?
LF: A few SF Design Center favorites are Quadrille, Madeline Weinrib, and Walker Zanger. Chairish is an amazing resource I use to source vintage rugs and the occasional piece to give a project a bit of history and soul. And, a shout out to Wallphoria (my wallpaper installer) who I’ve kept busy lately.
How do you maintain healthy relationships with the vendors and tradespeople you work with?
LF: At the end of the day, kindness, respect, and humility go a long way. In my former career, I lead teams of physicians, statisticians, and scientists. The key to gaining your team’s respect is understanding just enough to talk the talk, but relying on the experts to show you the best way. The same goes in this industry. I respect the experience and expertise of my vendors and tradespeople. Whether I’m working with a showroom rep or a tiler, I come prepared, but admit what I don’t know. I may have the overall vision, but they are ones that can ultimately help me bring it to life.
How does designing make you feel? What’s your business mantra?
LF: I think most people in this industry would agree that the fun, creative part is only a small part of the gig. Although running a business can have its challenges, the feeling I get when I’m creating something beautiful and personal for my clients is a high like nothing else. I feel truly honored that people trust me to help them create a backdrop for their lives. With every project I remind myself, “Make it livable, keep it personal, and make sure it’s amazing.”
What are some common business dilemmas you face and how do you navigate them?
LF: I recently had an epiphany that I don’t have to (and shouldn’t be) doing the things that I dislike to do in my business. That way, I can focus the majority of my efforts on design. I’ve since hired a bookkeeper, an accountant, and a team member that does my renderings, measurements, manages ordering, and reminds my clients to pay their invoices.
“My goal this year is to determine the right number and type of projects to take on in order to be profitable, maintain a healthy work/life balance, and continue what I love: designing bad ass spaces for my clients to live and play.”
Do you regularly attend trade markets and conferences? If so, which ones and what’s your strategy?
LF: I love High Point Market, but geographically, it’s not as easy to get to as Las Vegas Market. LVMKT is an easy trip for me to make twice a year. I typically take the first day to leisurely browse and be inspired. The second and third day are strategic work days where I try to source as much as I can for specific projects. My strategy in Las Vegas is simple. Work first, drink later. Although those darn showroom bars are so tempting.
How much time do you allocate to social media and marketing?
LF: Not nearly enough. I’m getting better at putting myself out there but it’s definitely not something that comes naturally to me. I’m working on it!
Why did you join Ivy?
LF: I was using and struggling with another platform before I joined Ivy. This particular software had it all but it was overly complex and it gave me anxiety every time I opened it. Ivy was like a visual breath of fresh air. It was simple, pretty, and easy to navigate. Sold.
What’s an Ivy Feature you can’t live without?
LF: The Ivy Product Clipper. Best. Thing. Ever.
What do you learn from the Ivy Designer Network?
LF: The Ivy Facebook Group has been a wonderful resource for me. It’s a safe place where I can ask business questions without feeling judged or simply find the source of a piece of furniture. Most often, I don’t even have to ask the question myself; I can find the answer by doing a quick search of past posts. This community has made me appreciate that regardless of how seasoned you are as a designer, we all have questions, similar struggles, and are continually learning throughout our careers.
What are your business goals for 2018?
LF: My business is only a couple years old but I’ve been fortunate to have a continual flow of projects and interest in my services. I recently hired a dedicated team member and established new systems, including adopting Ivy. My youngest started kindergarten in the fall which has given me more time to commit to running my business and less mom guilt, which I’ve always been plagued with. My goal this year is to determine the right number and type of projects to take on in order to be profitable, maintain a healthy work/life balance, and continue what I love: designing bad ass spaces for my clients to live and play.
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?