Office Tour: Krista Coupar & Lisa Davis …

I am excited to kick off the first post on the Monogram Decor blog with an office tour of a dynamic duo of Krista Coupar and Lisa Davis.  These two dynamos recently joined forces and moved to a space in the San Francisco Design Center that makes me weak in the knees.  I was lucky enough to corner these two busy ladies for a bit to discuss the new digs, their working relationship and garner some tidbits of insight for running a successful business……

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Public relations and business consulting for interior designers under the same roof?  Sounds like a little slice of heaven, but how did you two hook up?

Krista Coupar (KC): We were actually introduced through a mutual friend, but it wasn’t until Lisa debuted her firm formally on Facebook that I reached out to her.  She’s a natural in PR and spent the past 25 years in the design industry as what I perceived to be a brand ambassador for San Francisco’s Kravet, Lee Jofa, and Brunschwig, so it was kind of a no-brainer that I wanted to collaborate with her once she opened her doors.  Her personality and approach is a complement to my business and its a benefit to have another person looking at the same business goals and objectives but completely differently.  We are able to problem solve quickly which is a valuable to the clients that work with us.  And honestly, she cracks me up.  She’s all business with a wicked sense of humor.  Who wouldn’t want to work around someone like that?

Lisa Davis (LD): It’s a dynamic partnership.  Krista is a whiz at understanding the nuts and the bolts needed to run a successful interior design business.  I am more “front of the house” — I jokingly call myself the “Yenta Matchmaker” because I really seem my job as understanding my clients brands and matching them to the outlets that make the most sense.  Krista gets our client’s business affairs in order with web sites, project photography and finances.  Once that back of the house stuff is taken care of, she passes the baton to me and and I get the word out about the fabulous things they are doing.

Lisa Davis PR

So this question is specifically to Lisa, how has public relations changed for the design community?  It use to be designers did a show house, shot their projects and pitched them to print magazines.  I am assuming things have changed a bit…..

(LD): It’s a misconception that public relation professional are all running around trying to get their clients into magazines. Don’t get me wrong, getting published is a piece of the puzzle, but it doesn’t encompass the entire landscape.  Digital mediums like online magazines, blogs and now blogs (video blogs) are changing the landscape.  Not only do they provide instant “gratification” to a client (interview on Tuesday and have the profile pushed to thousands of people a day later) but those online opportunities more often than not translate into business opportunities.  A small percentage of design projects ever see the printed page, so I counsel clients to be strategic and look at online as an opportunity to target a specific audience.

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And now for you Krista, your business takes a really different approach and fills a void for many designers.  Can you explains how you found this niche?

(KC): I wish it was this massive epiphany were I had a moment of clarity while meditating some place that would make folks envious, but really it was a combination of questions and frustrations I found myself and other designers had while navigating the industry.  I found there was a few core issues that I kept coming across that I wanted to address or resolve, namely work/life balance, managing (and surviving) volatility as a designer and delivering a premier experience to clients.

And I found that a membership program could answer those three questions.  It’s the business infrastructure of design under one roof.    By managing design staff myself, in-house, and “lending” them out to designers, combined with giving designer a shared office space they could use when they need to meet with clients outside the job site (everyone needs a home court advantage from time to time), designers are able to manage their business in ways that are more fluid and flexible to their life’s priorities.  Its like cloud computing for design — it bursts when you need it and scales back when you don’t.  It also helps to have access to consultants that can help guide you along the way, and that’s what Lisa and I provide, along with our contacts and connections to the experts in the industry.

 

Coupar Consulting Lisa Davis Employees

 

The office space is gorgeous.  Can you share some of your favorite items in the space?

 

(LD):  The four incredible light fixtures from Coup de ‘Etat that hanging in the center of the office.  But honestly, the light in the space is so gorgeous.  I know “light” isn’t a thing per say but honestly, with those windows and this natural light, it’s a joy coming into the office.

 

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(KC):  Seriously?  That’s like asking which one of my children I like best.  I got on this kick reading about the great designers of San Francisco from the 1970′s-90′s when MaryJo Bowling’s piece on photographer Fred Lyon popped up on my newsfeed one Saturday, and literally sunk a weekend reading about Michael Taylor, Charles Pfister and John Dickinson.  I’ve always been inspired by Michael Taylor, but it was nice to revisit the elements in particular that I’m drawn to, specifically his use of plants, often in dramatic scale.  I found a huge Palm from Sloat for a steal and couldn’t resist.  With the high ceilings of the office, it makes a major statement almost to the point of being theatrical when you enter the space.  I found a fabulous rug at Modern Fever, its pattern is textural, earthy and shiny; mixing wool, silk, hemp and linen in a way that feels like ripples in water.  Other rugs from the same showroom rotate through the conference room and other areas of the office monthly giving the space a fresh feel.  Because the new office, as with any new venture, calls for an economy of dollars, I chose Lee Industries for most of the furniture, mixed with some Kravet pieces, focusing on balancing quality with value.  The conference room pieces are all from Witford.

 

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The largest impact on the space though, quite frankly is the art.  James Bacchi with ArtHaus curated my house and he was gracious enough to show some of the pieces from the gallery in our space.  The collection speaks to my aesthetic in art showcasing color and texture, and I love a bit of sheen.  The entry piece is may favorite, it reminds me of an silk scarf from the 1980s you’d find at a Barney’s or Bergdorf’s.  I think art is one of the places that can be very daring in interiors without compromising the livability of the space.

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You call the space a tete-a-tete lounge for designers.  Can you explain what that means?

 

(KC):  The literal translation of tete-a-tete is “head-to-head” and I really think that it embodies the intention of the space.  People “putting their heads together” and creating a better design, a better business, and a better network of support than if they tried to navigate the business on their own.  I always say that you can’t design in a bubble, and I think in most cases good design is an amalgam of artists and experts coming together, leaving their mark and creating something that’s well beyond what any individual contributor could conceive.

 

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Being around designers and decorators all day must result in some good advice.  What is the best piece of a advice you have gotten?

(LD): Don’t ever discount yourself or put yourself on “sale”.  I am not a fan of when I see designers do “one free hour of consulting.”  I think it diminishes the integrity of the industry as a whole.  You would never a respected lawyer or doctor cutting their rates as it would set a negative precedent.  Never negotiate your fees.  Have confidence that what you bring to the table is of value and worthy of being compensated accordingly.

(KC):  My guiding quote for design was taught to me while designing with Patrice Cowan Bevans Interiors and it was on her website: “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” Coco Chanel.  With the exception of shoes, I believe this to be absolutely true and it especially applies to interiors.

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What do you think is the biggest mistake designers make in running a business?

 

(KC):  Not engaging design staff early on to help you on your project.  Design assistants are revenue centers.  My mentor in business was a venture capitalist who would say “as long as you have pipeline, hire the revenue centers.”  They can only make you more money, they make the project manageable, and they train you to charge for your time  and delegate.  This will give you the time and mental space to run the project from a broad view and also solicit new projects.  Over time it prevents burn out and the vicious cycle of scrambling for the next project as a big project comes to a close.

 

(LD): Not planning for the “next client”.  You should always be thinking about the future and what that next client should look like.  I see designers get trapped in servicing a clientele that isn’t their ideal client base because they were not forward thinking.  Second, I often see designers not educating their clients on their investments.  People spend hours reviewing financial reports before making an investment but mere minutes on choosing a sofa.  Teach them on the different in quality between a mass produced sofa and one that is custom-made.  Last, designers need to sell — not only products but themselves.  It relates back to what I said about designers valuing the work they provide clients.  Once they value their service, it is easier to sell their services.  Okay you asked for one and I gave you three ….think I am passionate about this huh?

 

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What do you love most about working with clients?

 

(LD): Collaboration.  Letting designers do what they do best and then having their trust to carry the baton the rest of the way.  My job is about learning.  I study the media landscape and educate myself on my clients.  As I learn more, I come to appreciate how dynamic, varied and talented all my clients are professionally and personally.  Because I get to know them on both fronts, its easy to walk in front of an editor and pitch them because I am an extension of them.  It is a lovely way to work and I am tickled that I get to do it.

 

(KC): I feel I learn from them as much as they learn from me.  It is so profoundly gratifying to work with so many different designers and see the commonalities that draw us all to the industry.  My clients are strong, dynamic, curious and passionate about what they do and how they live.  They are artists and they perceive a world with infinite possibilities.   They remind me to stretch my boundaries and point of view. and to look at things with a fresh perspective.

 

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Finish this sentence:  ”Living your best life means …….”

 

(KC):  …….taking time to do what inspires you.  To craft a life you are proud of.  To take time for the people and things you love and to always be grateful for what you have.  To try and love and laugh a little bit more today than you did yesterday.  Travel.  Eat good food, and create beauty.

 

(LD): ……being your authentic self  always and living in the moment.

 

[photo credit: photo by adza]

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