Behind the Design: Ivy Design Firm Stalburg Design
Behind the Design: Ivy Design Firm Stalburg Design – Birimingham, MI
Barbi – how did you get where you are today?
Barbi Stalburg: I studied at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for eight years, with a BS in Architecture and a Dual Master’s Degree in Architecture and Urban Planning, which included six months of study in Florence, Italy. It was such an intense time, but it really taught me a lot about thinking outside of the box and space planning. I am grateful now for those years of training and realize that my education truly gave me a solid base to design, as well as run my company.
I am from the suburbs of Detroit, but now spend time in both Birmingham, Michigan and in Washington D.C. where my husband currently resides. We actually take on work in both cities!
Originally, I began working for a small boutique firm that specializes in larger cities and urban environments. We created new outdoor spaces in several small towns and helped to improve the downtown streetscapes. I traveled the country and met with business owners and community organizations, often proposing changes to zoning and site planning in order to create more authentic spaces.
At that point, I decided to put my roots down and spent several years at Hamilton Anderson Associates in Detroit. The talent and dedication from that firm is like none I have ever seen. They have truly helped to reshape the landscape of Detroit and taught me that you can run a business, be successful, and still be nice to everyone you meet. This firm is truly a class act and I am proud to have worked there.
I decided to open up my own company to spend time with my young children and be closer to home. I wanted to create spaces and work, but also be able to pick my kids up on the playground after school. This allowed me to shift the company focus to a smaller scale of design, and we began transitioning to residential and interior architecture.
“You can run a business, be successful, and still be nice to everyone you meet.”
How do you apply your years of urban design and project management to your end-to-end design process?
BS: Urban design and residential interior design may seem far off, but they are more similar than people realize. While they are different in scale, thoughtful space planning and cohesive elements make up the building blocks for any physical space. Just as a neighborhood needs to have areas for circulation, rest, safety and interest, designing within the home is the same starting point. When I first transitioned to running my own company, I used to feel that urban design was so much more socially responsible than building just one particular home. My thinking shifted when I realized how valuable it is to provide an authentic and rejuvenating space for our clients. They need a haven and a sanctuary just the same, so they can recharge and head back out into the world play their part.
What’s the design scene like in Birmingham, MI?
BS: Birmingham is very heavily saturated with designers! It is an affluent community, and many homeowners are perpetually re-designing and remodeling their existing homes, and new builders pop up every day who are tearing down older structures and creating new homes. Some people are independent consultants who design or decorate part-time. We have found that we fill a very specific niche where our homeowners, builders, and clients not only need material selections, but they require the spacial thinking and planning that comes from architecture training and interior construction drawings to go along with that.
Who are your favorite vendors and tradespeople to work with in Birmingham, MI?
BS: I absolutely love working with Advance Plumbing. They are located in Walled Lake, Michigan as well as in Midtown Detroit. Their products range from items we can source for builders who are renovating rental properties in the city to high-end luxury products for kitchens and bathrooms. We also love working with Cercan Tile, they are based in the Michigan Design Center and source really interesting and unique products that make our bathrooms look incredible.
How does designing make you feel? What’s your business mantra?
BS: Designing makes me feel authentic. It is a beautiful process to help create someone’s space with their vision, their budget, their unique sense of style. Each and every project comes out of this collaboration, and we take such pride in creating something new and different each time.
I’ve never really had a business mantra, but I can absolutely say that I have never let any obstacle stop me from growing, learning, and trying again. Ever. Not a difficult job, not a mean client, not a construction nightmare. Nothing will get us down for long, and there is always a learning opportunity.
“I have never let any obstacle stop me from growing, learning, and trying again.”
Do you attend design conferences and trade shows? If so, which markets and what’s your market strategy?
BS: We attended NeoCon a few years ago in Chicago, we frequent the Merchandise Mart in Chicago as often as we can, and we attend High Point Market in North Carolina for the Spring furniture show. Most of our marketing is done on Houzz.com and we have a very large public profile there. Most of our work comes from people seeing us on Houzz and reading our reviews.
“Most of our work comes from people seeing us on Houzz and reading our reviews.”
How much time do you dedicate towards website maintenance and upkeep?
BS: More than you would think! In this day and age, first impressions are everything and we make sure we have the most professional images and up to date posts on all our our online sites. Instagram tends to take a lot longer than other website maintenance.
Why did you join Ivy?
BS: Ivy was not on my radar until we started doing more interior design. The more merchandise we began to sell and source, the clearer it became that we needed a software program to help us organize and streamline everything. Now we run all of our invoices through Ivy, while QuickBooks Online is behind the scenes and secondary.
How does Ivy help streamline your day-to-day workflow as an interior designer? What’s an Ivy feature you can’t live without?
BS: I can’t say this enough. Ivy has truly changed our business. Our day-to-day workflow used to be inundated with tracking things, small non-billable tasks and correcting mistakes. With Ivy, we have almost cut that entirely from our work day.
We cannot live without the Ivy product library! We have filled it with hundreds of items including plumbing, lighting, hardware, cabinets, countertops, etc. We use it for sourcing construction items as well as furniture and fabrics. Also, I love how we can send proposals that have individual cut sheets and people can pay online. My clients appreciate that level of professionalism, our streamlined approach, and they like being able to pay with a credit card on their end.
“I can’t say this enough. Ivy has truly changed our business. Our day-to-day workflow used to be inundated with tracking things, small non-billable tasks and correcting mistakes. With Ivy, we have almost cut that entirely from our work day.”
What have you learned from the community of designers using Ivy?
BS: We connected with a designer who does renderings with Chief Architect, and we have worked with her several times. We have sourced products from other designers if we don’t carry a specific line. The Ivy community has been great and I know I could benefit more from spending more time looking into other ways to connect.
How has Ivy transformed your business?
BS: Ivy helped my business become equal parts consultant and product sales. Before Ivy, our revenue mostly came from hourly time or flat fees. We would have clients purchase directly from the lighting store or the plumbing store, or used to take clients to big box retailers for furniture. Now, because we are so streamlined, we purchase everything directly and then sell to the client. We have become more professional as a result.
Photography by Brett Mountain Photography
Ivy is the # 1 software for designers. To learn more about Ivy, schedule a demo with an Ivy Guru who can show you how designers use Ivy to streamline their workflow and make more time for what they love, design.