Last week we were in Savannah for the ART + IDS Conference which included the Interior Design Society’s Designer of the Year Awards. Between the city’s beautiful sense of place, daily poolside cocktail parties and banquet-style meals, business casual dress, and the glorious weather, it was the first time in a very very long time that work felt a bit like a vacation. To top it comedian Larry Weaver had us in stitches at the beginning of the conference, and for the finale,  the mind-reading Evasons awed us all and transformed skeptics into believers.


My colleague Thomas Lester, Business Editor at Home Accents Today, gathered together a mix of panelists for a State of the Industry discussion. In tow were: Sarah Paxton, President of LaDIFF in Richmond, VA; Breanna Frerichs, Director of Design & Trade Programs at Hayneedle; Libby Langdon, interior designer, product designer, and makeover TV celeb; and Mark Phillips, pres/CEO of Phillips Collection. They all agreed that there was plenty of positive energy in the industry right now and with change happening at an ever-increasing rate. Here are some specific sound bytes gathered from the session:

From Sarah Paxton:


The world is run by packers and shippers with 30% increase forecasted this year.

Richmond is seeing a resurgence in new home buyers…The experience in our store has to be above anything else...Vendors who don’t get the importance of telling the story probably aren’t getting the business they want...All of our star are ambassadors for our store and neighborhood. We put a lot back into our community...Think locally.

From Mark Phillips:

We have to realize that the public still doesn’t relate to who we are and we need the interior designer to reinforce our value.

Business is strong yet growing at a lesser rate...We have to introduce ourselves to new’s our goal to create demand for what we have...The scarcest commodity is TIME so all of our systems have to be top notch...We are never going to win the race to the bottom; “every piece a conversation” speaks to the need to be different...Things are going to change dramatically and faster than ever before...My best friends in the industry are my competitors...Differentiation is most important moving forward.

From Breanna Frerich:

It’s important to give the customer tools to make them feel that they are driving the ship.

E-comm is challenging and competitive and keeps us on our toes to what’s next and where we can fill in the gaps...We have to provide the right assortment to attract new customers and so we are being more curated in our selections and making it feel like there has been a designer’s eye on it.

From Libby Langdon:

You really want to know who your audience is. I am more Better Homes & Gardens than Architectural Digest. That works for me!

It’s an exciting time in that people are more aware of good design than ever before...People want to live in beautiful spaces...Because consumers can shop you, designers need to be incredibly transparent about what you’re selling to the client…Designers have to be super clear on brand messaging and what they are bringing to the table and how you are saving your clients money…I would never in a million years thought how much social media would impact my business...Video content is something people will need to harness...What’s important in the next five years is finding new ways to reach younger consumers and to make sure I can offer them what they are looking for.