Karen – how did you get where you are today?
I am originally from Venezuela. I lived in Costa Rica for about 10 years when I did my 6-year Bachelor Degree in Architecture from Veritas University. I moved to Miami, FL in 2013, where I completed my Bachelor Degree in Interior Design. Miami is where my husband and I decided to start our residential interior design company, KAZA Interiors.
How is Miami unique from other major design hubs?
Miami is unique because of its multi-cultural approach to city living thanks to its huge immigrant population from places like Cuba, Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Uruguay, Brazil, Spain, Russia, Italy or Israel. Moreover, the fact that many older Americans make Miami their second home during winter months and that many younger Americans are born and raised Floridians leads to a well-rounded blend of cultures. South Florida is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, real estate markets in the United States. As such, the region attracts a lot of wealthy international real estate investors. This opens up the market for both commercial and residential interior designers to offer design styles and approaches that are as diverse as the customers looking to build, renovate, design or decorate their home. Because of these factors, South Florida has also attracted a large variety of vendors and providers of goods and services for interior designers, thus creating a big and healthy market for the industry, which includes local design emporiums such as the Wynwood/Design District
in Midtown Miami or DCOTA
(Design Center of the Americas) in Hollywood, FL.
Who are your favorite local vendors, installers, and people of the trade in Miami?
We love to work with Prosein
, an importer and vendor of tiles, furnishings, bathroom fixtures and wall decor, originally from Venezuela, now with two design centers here in Florida. Cindy Aviles, one of their sales reps, is exceptional in finding us the best products for our clients. They always have high quality goods at a reasonable price. As for installers, we work with Walter Sebastiani
, a local general contractor from Argentina with great floor installing work.
What trends, colors, materials and styles are you particularly into right now?
The project we just completed had a modern and simple transitional design that we just love to do because there is something beautiful in the back to basics approach to design. Sometimes people like to correlate beauty with complexity or eclectics, so we like to show how going in the opposite direction is also a wonderful approach to interior design. For this particular project we just completed, we used VOC-free Sherwin Williams Harmony paints, choosing Oyster White for the comm
on wall areas of the house, and the clients were ecstatic about its versatility. As the sun hits through the high ceiling windows of the living room, the color seem to change hues depending on the time of day. Moreover, it is a simple, but beautiful color that its easy on the eyes, especially for common areas where the family spends most of the time together, eating, watching TV, playing games, etc. As for materials, we always like to work with porcelain tiles, as it is a durable and very adaptable man-made material, without the porosity of natural stones such as marble, limestone or travertine. From shiny, marble-like squared tiles to elongated, wood-like tiles, porcelain can be used for a variety of indoor spaces designed with a variety of styles.
Do you attend markets? If so, what are you go-to-markets and what’s your market strategy?
I continuously attend local market fairs and shows in the South Florida region, such as ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair) and design events at DCOTA. At these shows, I usually introduce myself and my company, hand out my business cards and collect business cards to constantly increase my network of vendors and suppliers. Once we get a client looking for any particular style of furniture for example, I go through my network to see if any of these companies I have found out about during these shows are able to offer what my client is looking for. I usually prefer to work with local vendors as to not have clients waiting longer than necessary and then having to deal with state-to-state handling issues or import issues. Living in a design hub makes relying on local vendors easier. However, once in a while an out of state or international vendor has something very unique that I am able to offer a particular client, so when I start that particular project I increase the project completion time accordingly. That said, I never go to markets or design shows with a preconceived idea or looking for something in particular, as my goal is to learn and just increase my network as much as possible. Once in a while though, if I am in the middle of a project, I do tend to look for something that may fit my current project while I am at the design shows.
How does designing make you feel?
In one word, designing makes me feel unique. There is not a preconceived way to design spaces, and while my company creates functional designs and uses the rules of Universal Design to provide quality of life for any particular individual inside their residence, I do get to work with different styles, materials, furnishings, decorative objects, etc. which make my designs my own, all based of course on the particular needs and wants of the client. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, designing makes me feel happy, as I get to work with customers who may be looking for something different in their home, so I get to be part of their world while the process is taking place, and then I get to see the smiles on their faces when their home is what they were envisioning to be.
What’s your business mantra?
Our clients are King and Queen of the design process. We are in business because of them and when they want to redesign their space, we like to hear about their wants and needs as well as their hobbies and lifestyles, so we can give design ideas based on how they would like their home to be and what kind of functionality they want their home spaces to have based on these factors. We also work with environmentally-friendly materials and products as much as possible because if health is important to our family, it must be important to our clients as well.
Can you offer rookie interior designers some sage words of wisdom regarding business and project management?
In this business, as in any business, there are no shortcuts. Hard work does get results time after time, but you have to hang tough and continue working hard day after day. More specifically, you have to see what others are doing and learn from them while trying to find a unique approach that you can offer clients so you can have a competitive advantage. Always treat your customers with respect, no matter if you get their business or not.
Why did you join Ivy?
I joined Ivy because I liked the software interface and the community network of interior designers surrounding the company. As I was looking for a simple, yet thorough interface to make proposals and send invoices, I found out about Ivy, and without much thought, decided to join. I also liked the fact that Ivy was a growing company with exceptional customer service, which is what I like to offer my own clients.
How does Ivy make your life as an interior designer a bit easier?
My job is simpler by using Ivy. It’s easy to create work plans, write and send proposals and invoices, and create a database of products or services that I can look through for future projects that may be similar in scope to what I am currently working on. In interior design, there is a lot of legwork involved, from preparing budgets and going to client’s houses to looking for vendors or going to their place of business. Hence, the ability to prepare thorough proposals for a particular project in a timely fashion without consuming too much of my day is very important. Ivy has been very helpful in letting me save time for some of the other work tasks that I need to do for a particular project.
What have you learned from the Ivy Designer Community?
I am really glad to have joined the Ivy Community as I have learned a plethora of tips on how to handle social media as an interior designer along with how to handle clients in particular situations. I am particularly fond of the Ivy Webinars
as I get to learn about the trade market and other things that I would otherwise not find out about easily. Moreover, I enjoy being part of a community of like-minded individuals that work in the same industry and that are there to help each other and share thoughts and lessons. There is something to enjoy about being part of a group that is made up of interior designers for the benefit of interior designers because we all get to share what we love to do and learns from each other.
What’s an Ivy feature you can’t live without?
The proposal interface has many important features (the ability to post pictures, for example), but it is also easy enough to work around and send to clients. Adding new invoices to a particular proposal is also easy to handle and we benefit when clients are able to see this information in an organized, but simple way.
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?