Interior Design as Business Therapy

The title on my business card and the sign above the door say that I am a commercial interior designer, and this is certainly true. I studied design in school, have long experience working in the industry, and have the technical certifications that come with this profession. Some days, however, I am as much of a therapist as a designer.

Over the years, I’ve learned that the relationship between client and interior designer is rather unique. Most of the business leaders that I interact with spend their days managing the endless tasks and demands that define corporate America. Staff meetings. Budgeting. P&L reviews. Business planning. Hiring. Firing. You get the idea.

However, when my clients talk to me, their focus changes. The conversation shifts from day-to-day concerns to big picture aspirations. They talk about people and strategy, their vision for the future of the business, the things they wish they could accomplish, and the things that are holding them back. I often hear things they have not told anyone else — and this is where the therapy comes in. Some of the issues have nothing to do with design but are tangents of larger business and personal challenges that are weighing them down.

For example, a long-time client recently confided in me that he was tired of expensing six figures annually to rent office space and believed his business should be accruing equity instead. He was already heading down the path of purchasing a building instead of leasing and explained all of the financial benefits of doing so. I also learned that he disliked the inevitable issues that owning and managing a building entails. How to pay the mortgage when a tenant leaves, who to call when the roof leaks, why did it snow 6 inches on Monday morning, and, most importantly, what to do with the building when it no longer suits his business.

My client hoped that by taking on the responsibilities of owning real estate, he would feel better about paying rent. In our conversation I asked a few tactful—but challenging—questions, and through his answers, he realized that owning a building was entirely at odds with the “purpose” real estate plays in his business. Ownership, he realized, did not fit his long-term goals for his business or his life. My role as therapist complete, I then described creative ways to derive better function out of less space by increasing efficiency of his real estate assets — exactly the type of counsel you expect from an interior designer.

Weld Ransom, CID, Managing Partner Weld Ransom, CID
Managing Partner
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