Q&A: What’s going right, right now for designers

After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic causing a cascade of problems for the home furnishings industry, Decor News Now wanted to shift the conversation to what’s going right for the design community right now. Where are designers finding inspiration? What strategies are working well for them? What do they want to cultivate more of in their businesses?

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We put those three questions to designers who were scouring the High Point Market April 2-6 for outstanding products in 13 categories for the International Furnishings and Design Association’s IFDA Selects program. They took time from their busy schedules of shopping, trend spotting and speaking to give us their thoughts. (Read all about the IFDA Selects finalists and winners here.)

What’s the most effective thing you are doing in your business right now?

Tym DeSanto
  • “Keeping focus on the projects that I can inspire throughout the entire process and staying clear on opportunities that don’t fit. My mantra right now: ‘Inspire with focus!’” — Tym DeSanto, aka the “Renaissance Guy” from HGTV’s “Design Star,” host of the “Style File” video series, interior designer and product designer
  • “Building partnerships through the Meraki Design Alliance has been critical to the success of my practice in recent years. I created the alliance with Dani Blake, a Richmond-based designer that I’ve worked with for several years and invited Monika Nessbach of Charlotte and Svetlana Hanzyy of Nashville to join forces. Our ability to share knowledge, resources and skill sets without the burden of traditional business models has proven wise and effective. I look forward to strengthening the alliance and, with time, to adding other members.” — Gary Inman, IFDA, award-winning designer, president of Gary Inman Home Couture, Style Spotters adviser and professor
Gary Inman
  • “The most effective thing I am doing for my business now is social media, specifically video content shared on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. I find that setting up the tripod to film my processes in action and behind the scenes allows existing customers, as well as new followers, to see what we are all about with a variety of examples to keep followers engaged.” — Victoria Valentinas, president and principal designer of VLV Designs
  • “Collaboration. That one word says it all for my business’ effectiveness. The back and forth between my team, our contractors and the architects we work with, and most certainly, with our clients. My goal is always to bring an elevated design experience and that can only happen when there’s collaboration between the stakeholders.” — Valerie Garrett, founder of Valerie Garrett Interiors, award-winning residential and commercial designer, and member of The Alliance
Victoria Valentinas
  • “Participating in industry organizations and utilizing my cultural heritage to be a voice and influence for diversity.” — David Santiago, IFDA, founder and creative force for Casa Santi and Strictly Santi, product designer, TV personality and video host
  • “Social selling via Instagram and utilizing project photos for Instagram Stories and Reels.” — Rachel Moriarty, award-winning San Diego area designer, author, influencer and chief executive officer of House of Moriarty Inc.
  • “Focusing on spreading the word about a more sustainable lifestyle. My panel at High Point Market, “Products with a Purpose – A Sustainable Shopping Journey,” was very well-attended.” — Nancy Fire, IFDA, founder of Nancy Fire Designs and Design Works International, High Point Style Spotter, former design director for HGTV and HGTV Home, certified GREEN leader

What’s the thing you love most about your work right now and how are you trying to bring more of that into your life?

Valerie Garrett
  • “The thing I most love about the work I do is that I am back to doing it in person! I work with color, materials, texture, and by researching what’s new and next. As we emerge from COVID, I can do this at markets and with my industry colleagues, manufacturers, designers, retailers and friends. It was much more difficult doing it from home on a computer. I need the engagement to speak to the details! And I love our community, so it is lovely to see them all again.” — Patti Carpenter, IFDA, global trend ambassador, consultant to Pantone, advisory board member of the Black Artists and Designers Guild, and founder of carpenter + company/Trendscope
David Santiago
  • “I love that today’s COVID-era homeowner has a better understanding of home and how the home can serve and support their lifestyle. The more I see how the work that I do impacts the clients I serve, the more I work to ‘practice what I preach’ in my own home.” — Cheryl Luckett, founder of Dwell by Cheryl, and licensed product designer with Sylvester Alexander and Wildwood Home
  • “I love incorporating color, pattern and vintage! I’m connecting with local vintage dealers to fill in the gaps in my projects as a way to deal with supply chain issues. I am canvassing local flea markets, estate sales and co-ops.” — Rachel Moriarty
Rachel Moriarty
  • “I recently made a move to Atlanta and have become a part of its big design community. And while it is big, I’ve also found it to be so welcoming and warm. From designers to vendors to artists to artisans, so many people have included me in so much, and I feel fortunate to be sharing in this wealth of people and also wealth of resources. There’s definitely been a flow from the professional side of my life into the personal side. Friendships are growing, and I’m grateful for that.” — Valerie Garrett
  • “I’m loving working with artisan makers, artists, antiques dealers and custom fabricators to add truly unique elements to my design compositions. I love the relationships and the synergy that occurs with these creative collaborations. I’m working to build my network to include more of these makers while continuing to build my long-term relationships with manufacturers.” — Gary Inman
Nancy Fire
  • “Combining wellness, sustainability and intent into my business and everyday life.” — Nancy Fire
  • “I love the opportunity to combine my two passions for art and design by being able to help my clients think outside the box by creating custom art for their canvases, as well as their walls and ceilings. Here at VLV Designs, we love creating custom art from fabric patterns in our client’s space, as well as encouraging them to look up and bring drama to the room through custom faux finishes.” — Victoria Valentinas
  • “Mentoring and giving back through design.” — David Santiago
Patti Carpenter
  • “The opportunity to inspire through fresh new concepts makes me tick. I am constantly looking for ways to live this out.” — Tym DeSanto

Where are you turning for inspiration right now?

  • “I am looking at everything for inspiration now. Consumer behavior is certainly top of mind as we emerge from COVID. Nature is another area we are always tracking. As humans, that deep, intrinsic and inherent connection is so important now. The talk of biophilia is on everyone’s lips and ‘the outside in’ experiences are essential. We see innovative and sustainable solutions leading the conversation.” — Patti Carpenter
Cheryl Luckett
  • “I am turning to my incredibly talented colleagues for inspiration.” — David Santiago
  • “Inspiration is everywhere! I love finding inspiration while travelling south of border to Mexico. And on Instagram and Pinterest!” — Rachel Moriarty
  • “I love following designers and artists on Instagram daily to see what they are doing to get excited about design and the creative community. Also, by following and supporting each other, I feel inspired to always better myself, my projects and my business.” — Victoria Valentinas
  • “Turning to my peers and honoring the change I see in our industry toward a better, more sustainable environment. My mantra is ‘educate, not alienate.’” — Nancy Fire
  • “Architectural history and the natural environment. Texture, color, shape and structure!” —Tym DeSanto
  • “Participating in show houses and attending show houses. Seeing what other designers are doing, how they’re putting things together and what selections they make is so inspiring. And, honestly, just being out and about. I love putting myself in a position where I can explore — see touch, feel. It’s so important to me for my inspiration. I can never underestimate an afternoon at a museum for the most wonderous source of inspiration. Seeing great works of art done by the greatest of their times never fails to amaze and inspire.” — Valerie Garrett
  • “As a resident of High Point, I have the extraordinary privilege of year-round access, via High Point x Design, to many of the top showrooms in one of America’s ultimate design destinations. I can pop into Oly Studio, Splashworks, Verellen, Asian Loft, Cohab.Space and many others to work on my projects or to simply recharge myself with extraordinary design, art or even antiques at Randall Tysinger Antiques and Schwung. High Point is truly the center of American design.” — Gary Inman
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