Caitlin Flemming: How the Pandemic Changed Our Interior Design Process, Forever

Episode 4 September 15, 2023 00:55:19
Caitlin Flemming: How the Pandemic Changed Our Interior Design Process, Forever
The Interior Collective
Caitlin Flemming: How the Pandemic Changed Our Interior Design Process, Forever

Sep 15 2023 | 00:55:19


Show Notes

Three years after the start of the Covid pandemic, interior designers are still catching up to the rush in the industry, the delays in delivery, and the overwhelm and exhaustion we all experienced. As interior designers became more nimble, flexible, and efficient, changes to their process were inevitable. Today, we’re chatting with interior designer, best-selling author, and dear friend, Caitlin Flemming. Caitlin walks us through how her studio pivoted during Covid, the changes she kept in place, and how it affected her process moving forward. Then, we'll discuss her latest book, "Sense of Place". 


Links Mentioned in this Episode

Caitlin Flemming Interior Design


Sense of Place

Travel Home

Design Camp

Kwin Made

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Episode Transcript

Anastasia Casey 00:00:08 Hi, I'm Anastasia Casey, your host of The Interior Collective, a podcast for the business of beautiful living. Three years after the start of the Covid Pandemic, interior designers are still catching up to the rush in the industry, the delays in delivery and the overwhelming exhaustion we all experienced. As interior designers become more nimble, flexible, and efficient changes to their process were inevitable. Today we're chatting with interior designer, bestselling author, and dear friend Caitlin Flemming. Caitlin walks us through how her studio pivoted during Covid, the changes she kept in place and how it affected her process moving forward. Bonus, we get to hear all about her newest book, Sense of Place out September 19th. Hello Caitlin and welcome to the Interior Collective. I am so excited for the show because we have been friends for years now and I'm about to get to see you wait, meet you in person for the first time at Design Camp. No, no, no. We met, we met, we met at Haven Conference when I came to your Jenny Kane event for the book signing of your first book. Caitlin Flemming 00:01:17 Yes. I'm so excited. Thank you for having me here. AC 00:01:21 We have a lot to cover and I'm really excited for the season as a whole because we have some guests coming back to, like dig deeper into things and we have a lot of new topics, but I'm really trying to get super specific this season. I feel like we've gone through all the fluffy stuff and I'm ready to like dig in deeper to really help our listeners run their business the best way that makes the most sense for them. So I really wanna focus in today about on staying true to your ethos and how things have changed for you in that ethos since the pandemic over the past few years. So first question first. Why have you decided to stay solo for as long as you have? CF 00:02:08 So I was solo until 2015 when I was pregnant with my son Jackson. And I knew I had to get another set of hands helping me and I think it's quite a daunting task for any business owner designer to sort of unveil everything behind your business and the inner workings of Caitlin Flemming design. It's a, do you know, I, I was a little bit nervous. What if it's not, you know, structured correctly? All of those different things and choosing the right person to bring on was something that I couldn't really wrap my head behind, but I knew I needed to do and I went through the interview process and talked to other designers about how they interview people and my first hire is still with me today, which is amazing. AC 00:03:07 Yeah, that's almost 10 years now. CF 00:03:09 Yes, she and I are very close. We're almost like sisters. We're family at this point. We live actually eight blocks from each other, <laugh> now. So it was one of those things that had to happen because I was growing my family and it has been life changing. And since then I have brought on a few different people. I have another girl that we brought on and I can explain that later on. And then I have a few different part-time people that also work for me. AC 00:03:46 So when you brought on that first person back in 2015, at that point were you offering interior design services or was that really before the evolution of that, back when you were running Sacramento Street, which was like my bible through college and <laugh>, was that person coming on for like a very specific role or you were like, I just need another set of hands? CF 00:04:07 Yeah, so Sacramento Street started in 2009. I started writing and that morphed into me then working for a designer. I wasn't working for a designer back then. I worked for her in San Francisco for a year and a half. And then started getting inquiries through Sacramento Street to do projects. And it was kind of one of those great times in life where we were, my husband and I had just gotten married. We, I, took the leap of faith in 2011 and started doing design work on my own at that point. And I had this first client that followed my Sacramento Street die hard. And she took this leap of faith in me working on her project. And I have done two projects with her since. So I always say she, she believed in me and I also had a mentor back then that gave me some very wise advice that I still take into account. He said that no project is too small if you feel, you know, sorry, back up. Where should I start again? So that AC 00:05:32 You can start with just, he said, CF 00:05:34 Okay. He said to me, no project is too small. And I asked him about that and he said, let's say somebody comes to you for, for a living room. You never know what that project could morph into. But if you like the person that you're speaking with and how they want their home and if they have the same aesthetic as you, you should always then try to take the project if you have the bandwidth. And some of my smallest projects have turned into the largest projects, they're just testing, testing you because it's all about relationships. They wanna see if you have a great working relationship with you. I mean you're really diving into someone's whole self and you're really getting to know their family. And I always say, I wish I had a psychology degree because it's a whole different ball game when you're getting into design. AC 00:06:31 I'd love that piece of advice, especially when you're dealing with potentially younger families. I know that you have a ton of tech clients here in the Bay Area and so many other avenues that clients have come to you through. But realistically someone can say like, Hey, I'm ready to do my kitchen and my living room 'cause there's a shared space. But maybe they aren't financially ready to commit to a whole entire house project right now. But like you said, taking on that initial space can really evolve into that next house when they're ready to upsize, downsize, whatever that looks like. So I love to hear that. 'cause so often we hear only take the projects that fit your minimum scope and that sort of thing. And I think that there's just not always one way to do that. You are so thoughtfully small and nimble. And I wanna break into that a little bit more. You've carefully and methodically hired over the last couple of years since really we've gotten closer. Your team has grown and kind of shifted specifically. Can you break down your company structure as a team now and also what it looked like three years ago right before the pandemic started? CF 00:07:35 Mm-hmm. I mean I think for any design business a lot has changed since the pandemic <laugh> from the pandemic to now and even before, and I used to have a studio space, but our lease ended during the pandemic and our landlord actually wanted to raise the rent, which I couldn't believe <laugh> AC 00:07:57 Gutsy. CF 00:07:58 I know it was quite gutsy and we were actually as a family moving at the time and we kind of thought about it and we, we weren't in our studio space that much. So we left that space on Sacramento Street actually. And we kind of restructured more of how we work remotely because all of the girls that work for me have families. They have kids, they had their kids home, some were having babies. I mean all of the different variables were happening. So we really found a way to work remotely but then meet in person, you know, once a week or at a job site. And once we were at the job site then we'd have our meetings and we just got more efficient in how we worked. One way that we really hunkered down at the beginning of the pandemic was we were, you know, pretty slow. CF 00:09:04 We didn't know what was happening in the world and so we broke down how all of our spreadsheets were working, what was working, what wasn't working, how we were tracking furniture, how we were gonna have to track furniture because we couldn't go to the receivers anymore. Like all the different variables were occurring for all design businesses. And right before the pandemic hit we act-, I actually hired on a another person because both Emily and I were feeling, Emily who's been with me, we were feeling very swamped in the workload. And finally she voiced, I think we, I think we finally need someone else. And quite serendipitously honestly, two days later I received an email into my inbox from some, you know, someone random saying, I love your design work, I love working in spreadsheets, I've worked with people doing operations and or you know, all of the things. And within a few days she was hired <laugh> because we interviewed her. It all happened serendipitously and now we're like a family. But yeah, the team now I have Emily and she is on the construction side of things. So she manages all of our construction schedules and then Gina manages all of the ordering, tracking the, you know, the pipeline of it, getting into the client's home. And then I have someone that works remotely on all of our CAD work. All of the renderings. All of the elevations and yeah, that's our small team. AC 00:10:52 So you have a construction project manager, you have a procurement person and then you have this CAD person. Is that CAD person full-time? CF 00:11:01 No. AC 00:11:01 Awesome. So it's just like as you have the work, you can send it over, you use them all the time. It's a great partnership, but that's not someone you have to have on payroll at a, on a regular basis. CF 00:11:12 Yes. And I should say both Emily and Gina who work for me are not full-time. AC 00:11:18 Oh, okay. That's super helpful to know that. Like even with, well how many projects do you typically have on deck at one time? CF 00:11:27 I'll say currently we have three full construction, like one ground up, two down to the studs and then we have four furniture AC 00:11:42 Furnishing jobs. Yeah. Okay. That's super helpful. I think it's really nice for people to hear like a benchmark of like, okay, Caitlin felt like when she has this many projects, this is where she needed to have. Yes. Those extra hands. CF 00:11:53 And I think I should add all those. That's a little bit light because of Sense of Place coming out. AC 00:12:02 Which we'll get to talk about soon. I cannot wait to dig into book number two. CF 00:12:06 I know I call it the Jenga puzzle. <laugh>. AC 00:12:09 <laugh>. How do you find the time for all of it? So when you were hiring and I think that we can go back to that time, right? Pre pandemic, before you hired that second person, what were the specific tasks that you felt were most urgent that you needed to delegate to someone else? CF 00:12:28 Before the pandemic we had a lot of moving parts happening with us. And because both of my gals work part-time, I think that is why I needed someone else to help with the workload. And it was great to, for Emily to voice that she, that we needed the help because we were, you know, we were doing all these projects, we had way more projects than now just because of Sense of Place being coming out. But we needed help with tracking, ordering, planning the details that go into the backend of the design business is so crazy. I always tell people that ask me about going into this business, I say, you have to be so meticulous and very detail oriented because you can lose track of a pair of nightstands that you're custom making and you're like, oh yeah, I forgot that we were custom making those. I wonder if they're on schedule still. So having somebody fully devoted to making sure everything is still on schedule for that install date is priceless. AC 00:13:45 When you say that all of your team members are part-time plus the contract draftsperson is part-time like 20 hours a week or like 30 hours a week? Is there a range in there? CF 00:13:57 It varies week to week depending on what our workload is. And then I ask them what their bandwidth is from week to week. AC 00:14:09 Got it. CF 00:14:09 So it depends. AC 00:14:10 I think the way you said you were so grateful that she voiced needing additional help is really just such a testament to you and like the safe space that you have created. I think it's so important for people who are managers in, whether it's an interior design business or any business, to be in a space where to create a space where people feel comfortable to say, I am giving 110% of everything I've got, you know, my limitations because I'm a stay-at-home mom, I work from home or I'm not and I'm working 70 hours a week and whatever that is. But to be able to let someone say, I care about this business so much, I'm telling you, I think we need someone else because something's going to start slipping if we aren't able to resolve this. CF 00:14:57 Agree. AC 00:14:59 What part of your process are you not willing to delegate? CF 00:15:01 Everything. AC 00:15:03 Got it. <laugh>. CF 00:15:05 Yeah. I instantly know when clients send to me their inspiration and I see how their, the rooms are configured and everything, I instantly kind of have a vision already in my head. And so giving up that vision is hard for me to do because it comes quite naturally to me sourcing fabrics, pulling 'em together, all of that. So I think that's, that's the part and that's why I think I keep it so small. AC 00:15:58 Right. Because the next step would be to hire another designer and that's the part that you don't want to give up. Yeah. I think it's so important that you realize that ahead of time because, and I'm speaking for myself personally as well as I know a lot of other designers, when you scale so quickly and you grow so quickly, it often becomes you're hiring junior designers or other designers and suddenly all you're doing is managing people or the logistical part of the business. And you have to think: was my goal to be a people manager or was my goal to be a designer? And to like keep that in focus takes a lot of patience and I feel like restraint. It's really easy to say, yeah, let's take on more projects. How are we gonna do this now we need to hire other designers. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. But it's like it happens overnight. Suddenly you have, I feel like between when you go from two employees to three employees is when you switch over to being not just a team. Now you're managing a team and it's like a very specific threshold. CF 00:16:59 I agree. And I, there's also something about having a small business that I love, knowing that I can have my own schedule and also that I can pick up my kids at the end of the day and take them to swimming, take them to soccer and I can answer emails while I'm at soccer. But I don't have this huge team that's at the office, you know, that sees me leaving to go do that. But also that's why my gal are part AC 00:17:32 Sorry, go ahead. It'll mute me while you're talking. So <laugh>. Okay. CF 00:17:37 I also know that that's why I don't know where I was going with that. Sorry. AC 00:17:42 No, it's okay. Having a small team, giving you the flexibility in your schedule, it's not like you have a team waiting for you to be be in office to review things and you're just like off going for a bike ride. Yeah. And taking Amelia to the beach, like <laugh> there is <laugh>, there isn't as much CF 00:17:58 <crosstalk> off at the beach but <laugh> AC 00:18:01 <laugh> there's not as much pressure to feel like work hours that you expect out of your team team. You wanna lead by example and make sure that you're following those same things. CF 00:18:11 Exactly. AC 00:18:12 So I know everybody's kind of over talking about pandemic, but I feel like when we gloss over it, we are missing a really great learning opportunity and also just a chance to have candid conversations of how, how it transformed the industry. And I'm not sure if things will go back to the way they were. Things will slow down, normalize as far as pace, but there's a lot of things that pivoted as far as operationally. Logistically. So first question on that topic is what was your work load like before? And I know you touched on, usually it's a little heavier than it is currently when sets of place is about to come out. But how did that workload change throughout Covid? Did you see the influx of inquiries? Did things totally die for you? What did it look like for you? CF 00:18:59 It was insane <laugh>, to be completely honest. We had past clients coming back to us asking us to help refresh their homes. We had clients wanting to do second homes or their vacation homes. It was mind boggling at some points how many inquiries I was getting and managing and, but it was also incredible to see this industry kind of soar and become hugely needed by so many people. And to see people reflect each, you know, they were taking, I envision they were taking their, the funds that they usually spent to travel and they were finally investing it in their home because they were in their home 24/7 and realizing, oh I haven't done anything to my space or I don't like it and I want to feel like this is my place and this is where I want to be and this is where I want to relax and hang out with my family. And families were feeling like they weren't reflecting how they wanted to live. And so I think that was a huge moment in the design industry for all of us. And it wasn't, you know, it was across the board I was passing off inquiries to so many designers because I didn't have the bandwidth and it was truly incredible to see and it's still continuing even with everything happening in the world. AC 00:20:43 That was my next question. Have you experienced any slowdown particularly, you know, we're about to start Q three of sorry, we're about to start Q four of 2023. Whoa. Um, CF 00:20:57 Whoa is right. Ha. AC 00:20:59 Have you seen a slowdown? Is it still coming in that heavy, those inquiries and are your inquiries, new inquiries from people you haven't spoken to or is it still people ready to refresh? They just moved. Like existing clients that are ready to work again, CF 00:21:15 We still have an increase of people bringing in like new projects. But CF 00:21:24 We've had, I've had the construction projects that we are working on at the moment are quite delayed due to permitting and that is a whole different area that has changed in the past few months because I think those departments are finally back in the office and they're finally nitpicking thing pieces that have never been nitpicked before. Uh, so we've had this this weirdness where these three construction jobs are ebbing and flowing, like they're gonna start, they're not gonna start. And so I've had to be careful taking on additional projects because of the workload that I know is about to bombard our team. So I've just been very careful about accepting new clients and we're already going into 2024 with accepting clients. But it hasn't, it hasn't died down. AC 00:22:22 That's amazing. Especially in your area because you know, my sister lives in San Francisco, my parents are in San Francisco. The city changed a lot during the pandemic. It really emptied out. And I know that you aren't working exclusively in the city and you have projects in Marin and on the peninsula and that, but it's amazing to see that even in a city that quieted during the pandemic, that work is still coming in. I think what I look at how the industry changed through the pandemic and I feel like it went from, it almost legitimized the industry. It went from being this like super elite industry that only the wealthiest of the wealthy would have an interior designer on a regular basis. And I feel like what as you said, people spending time in their home really needing to understand what worked, what didn't work and if they even enjoyed being there has now made people realize that investing in interior designers, investing in their overall wellness and it's something that you should actively budget for and actively participate in. And I feel like for us as a whole in the industry, that's nothing but great for us to be able to take on projects of different scopes and scales and people really enjoying being at home. CF 00:23:37 I love home so AC 00:23:39 <laugh>, we're CF 00:23:41 Very home. We're a homebody family. So I love that my kids jump on the sofa and it's white <laugh>, you know, people always say how do you do that? But I just, nothing is too precious in my home and I love that they feel a certain way in our home. So. AC 00:24:00 So you mentioned that your company went from working in the studio, now you all work remotely and then you have check-ins usually aligned with a site visit. How has your company culture in that aspect evolved and how do you maintain a company culture when everybody's working at home? CF 00:24:19 Yeah, well I think the biggest thing that changed is that my husband left his job in baseball <laugh> and is now helping with the operations side of the business. He is also finally able to be at home. He traveled more than 20 days a month for the baseball season and then left for spring training. And, and so that is a huge change in the business because I am able to fully invest time in this in the design business because before when he was gone I knew that I would have to juggle the kids and all the different things by myself 'cause I was like a single mom when he was gone. So it's really nice to have him help with the operations side, the accounting side, the bookkeeper side. And that has changed a lot so that I'm like on can go to projects, not have to be home for every pickup, that sort of thing. CF 00:25:29 But I think we as a team are just very organized and because we're so organized with these spreadsheets that we've created for each project and we know we don't have to check in with each other to see when are the, when's the custom bed arriving. I can go to the spreadsheet and check the ETA because I know they've put it in there <laugh>. Whereas before I'd be texting like, when is this arriving? And that I could totally see that being really annoying. And so we've just managed it in a different way and now we can have check-ins that I don't have to check in. I can just check it myself and not bother them. AC 00:26:15 I feel like having a remote team increases the success of that because when you're all sitting in an office as the business owner or as the leader, I will default to just like, Hey Kendall, when is this, this and this due? Like you'll just ask. But when you're working from home you'll usually look at least one or two places before paying someone to get that answer. Yeah. Is it like that for you? CF 00:26:39 Yeah, I mean and I love having all of us together and it's so much fun. It, I mean it's so much fun and we'll get together like next week we're getting together because we're reorganizing the sample library because what I've done is I've dumped it all into the office and every time and you know we haven't been around this summer and it's time to clean it up. Um, but it's so much fun to be all together. But at the same time I, because we're all so close, we're just like chit chat all day long. <laugh> about family and what we're doing. Oh what are you drinking? What recipe are you making? That sort of thing. So the default is we just start chit-chatting about non-work items and we're all very efficient when we're not together in the office. AC 00:27:31 You mentioned the office, do you have an office space in your home now that you gave up the studio? CF 00:27:36 Yeah, so we live in a marina style building and so we're, we live on the top floor but then behind the garage we have two rooms attached to the garden and one of those rooms is the office, which is nice. It's separated. AC 00:27:53 That is so nice. You have a physical separation but there's still a place, a home base if needed when you have your team in person. CF 00:28:01 Exactly. Although we usually sit at my dining table <laugh>, <laugh>. AC 00:28:06 So I've heard you say spreadsheets a lot and we're gonna get into the nitty gritty of that. But I'm wondering how you and the team typically communicate since you're all remote. Do you guys use Slack? Are you totally email based? Is it phone calls? Usually? CF 00:28:20 I am not a Slack user. We've tried that. I've tried Asana, I've tried all of the above. I am better. We have a group text that we do and then we, I call, I like to talk to people. AC 00:28:40 <laugh> Great. CF 00:28:42 I don't, I'm like this takes too long. Can I just call <laugh>? I also hear their voices. AC 00:28:48 Yes. Especially since you are also close. CF 00:28:51 Yeah. AC 00:28:54 This October we are headed back to the Santa Monica proper hotel for design Camp 2023. Join designers from around the world as we go in depth in small group breakout sessions and large keynotes covering topics like systems and processes, design, presentations, maximizing profitability, marketing that converts, updated software solutions and so much more. Meet celebrity designers, Bria Hamill, Chael and Co and Caitlin Flemming. While we dine al fresco under the stars, Design Camp is loaded with surprises in a lifetime of friendships. Don't miss our final event of the year. Visit to secure your spot. As for the design process, what, if anything, did you pivot during the pandemic when it comes to sourcing? Because everything was backorder was sitting on a boat somewhere. How did that shift? CF 00:29:47 Yeah, when items started coming six months late, nine months late and then also looked like that they had gotten thrown out of an airplane, it really motivated us to find work rooms locally in California to start producing furniture for us. It kind of hit me hard. It was mind boggling how damaged pieces were coming to us and so it really kicked us into gear. I started to talk to other designers to see what they were doing to try to figure out a better process for us. And I started to meet people in Workrooms to see their work and did all the legwork to find these amazing makers that now make all of our furniture. So we do mostly all custom furniture, upholstery and woodwork. And then on top of that we do heavy vintage pieces, which I love. I have a thrill of the hunt, I'm a treasure seeker, I love to hunt for items. So finding those custom makers was essential for me. AC 00:31:16 I love that that process hasn't shifted back, that you're still like we're going custom. It's one of a kind, it's made perfectly for that client. It's local. We're supporting other small businesses and even though things have caught up mostly in the trade vendor world, I just love looking at your projects and how none of them could ever be recreated 'cause they're so bespoke and unique. I have so many listeners that are eager to source more vintage or really nervous and don't really know how to get started with the custom world. How, I think the first thing is to ask is do you have like, a markup formula for those things? I know people are like, well if I go custom or vintage, I lose that percentage of markup that I would've made through my trade vendors. So how do you set that retail rate? CF 00:32:09 So for the custom pieces, I consider what they're producing it and selling it to me for as the wholesale rate and then I do my markup. And quite honestly the pricing of our makers is very fair. Sometimes clients get very nervous about the custom pieces and they see they just me talking about it, they haven't seen the number quite yet even though I've given them an estimate of how much it will cost per room. But they just get nervous and then I show them the pricing and it's maybe a little bit more than a retail piece and it's custom and it's in the fabric that they want. It's, we can change anything. Like we have clients that are shorter that don't want a deep sofa. All the different things are totally custom to that client, which is amazing. So I do my markup off what the maker has sold it to me for. CF 00:33:16 And then vintage, you know, I get nervous too. Still <laugh>, I'll be honest. But what we do is for accessories, I am constantly purchasing pieces smalls all the time. And I go to antique malls weekly because every booth changes every week and I love finding new pieces and I know it will go somewhere. I've had so many people ask me, oh you bought that, where are you gonna put it? And I'm like, I don't know. But I just know that I love it and I won't find it again and I'm gonna regret it. And if I don't use it in my own home, I know that I will use it in a client's zone. Plus half the things that come go into my home disappear sometimes. 'cause I needed it in a client's house for an install and my family gets home, they're like, where'd that table go? I'm like, sorry, it's gone AC 00:34:16 <laugh>. We'll find another. CF 00:34:17 Sometimes we'll find another and it'll be even better. And we got a refresh. So I that I markup vintage the same markup. So yeah, AC 00:34:28 The same as custom. And is that in like the 30, 40% range ish? It's, CF 00:34:33 It's 30%. AC 00:34:34 Okay, that's so helpful. Thank you for sharing that. Um, I think I know the answer but I'm gonna ask anyway. Do you use a design software, like a design management software or do you use spreadsheets? <laugh>, CF 00:34:48 We use Ivy. AC 00:34:50 Okay. CF 00:34:52 To track hours and do billing, but we use spreadsheets to track everything else. Got it. We've created our own spreadsheets for each project and the, that's like the bread and butter to us managing projects and we share those with contractors and architects. That's where they get the plumbing schedule, the, you know, paint schedule, everything. The contractor just has to go to that one document. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and they know where to purchase it. It's easy. AC 00:35:29 And I'm assuming they get view only access so they're not missing anything up. <laugh>. CF 00:35:34 Yes, <laugh>. AC 00:35:36 So in a lot of ways you're, you're eliminating a step 'cause you're essentially in these spreadsheets, you're essentially building out your spec book and your FFE schedule and it's all in one place. You're just, then I'm assuming there's a column for like this is in production, this has gone to the receiver, that sort of thing where you're tracking that? CF 00:35:55 Yeah, it has where it's what it is, where it's from the link, the CAD links that we can put, we can put it into the CAD drawings or the architect can put it into the CAD drawings. We have the dimensions where it's being sent, pricing, all the things. AC 00:36:16 So one thing that gets a little fuzzy to me, I understand when you're sourcing from a vendor, like you know you have your rep and you hopefully get the information of where it is or how long that's gonna take. When you have something that's like vintage or custom, what is the check-in process Vintage, obviously you've purchased, you have it in stock or you know you found it on first dibs and you have a tracking link for that. But for those custom pieces your, your procurement manager, how often are they calling that workroom to check on the schedule? Do they call at all or is it like, you know, you wait until it's almost due and then you follow up? CF 00:36:56 So she, we approve everything down to the nitty gritty of you know, we'll send inspiration, an inspiration photo of what we want that piece to be. I sometimes sketch something out or they sketch something out in SketchUp for us to approve. Then once we pay, they give us how the lead time of that piece. So then we put that into our schedule and then we kind of check in halfway. So halfway through that process we ask the question, will this still be on time for a pickup of you know, this date that you told us or is it gonna be before or after? You know, sometimes miraculously it's before. So that's kind of our halfway point is when we check because we just wanna make sure that we're on schedule 'cause we're planning to shoot the project or you know, all the other things are getting installed, that sort of thing. AC 00:38:04 So on those custom pieces you say you would swing by and pick up. Does that then go, do you still use a receiving warehouse or for these custom pieces, are you taking them to the client's house in in segments or is there like a proper, you know, two-day install? CF 00:38:19 So it depends on the project. Like currently we have a project here in San Francisco where they aren't living there yet and so they wanted to avoid the receiver. So then we have, for instance, we have some upholstery made in Los Angeles and so we also have our right hand mover who brings everything up for us from LA. And so we warn him, okay this sofa's gonna be done on, let's say for instance, September 8th, could you pick it up? And he says, oh I'm coming up to San Francisco with some other items on the 12th, does that day work? And then we meet him there. But usually most projects we, in my contract I say must go to the receiver and we do one fell swoop install. But with this particular client, because they're not living there, we are billing for our time to go and meet them and install each time something's delivered. But we've kind of joined it together like I do, we had to wait till all the upholstery was done, that sort of thing. So we did like these chunks of move-ins. AC 00:39:36 And for instance, with multiple upholstery pieces being custom made, does your workroom hold onto that until all of the pieces are ready to get picked up? Or did you have to pick those up in pieces, store them somewhere before delivering to this project? CF 00:39:51 So with every project we submit all of the upholstery items together so that then they're being worked on all at the same time so that then we can pick up in one batch and if it's their delay, they hold onto it until all pieces are completed. AC 00:40:11 Got it. That makes perfect sense. So for designers who wanna source more vintage pieces, can you advise how you propose those to clients in the design plan? Because like you said, you're ready for an install, you steal a table from your house that obviously hasn't been pre-approved, that exact table unless you knew it was going in that project. Are you like explaining to a client that it's gonna be something like this in the initial design presentation or how does that work? CF 00:40:40 So with each design presentation we put in vintage pieces and we say it will either be this piece or if it has sold by the time we present, it will be something in kind of similar, similar price point. We will find something that is similar to what we are proposing and then got it. When I say that we, I might steal something from my own home, we might be installing and I see a hole that we didn't think would happen, then I might take into account and talk to them and say, Hey we have this spot and it's feeling a little empty. Do you think we have any bandwidth to fill in here? And they're usually very open to making it what, what I want it to be and what I think they need. I'm not adding something just for the sake of adding it, it just looks empty. So AC 00:41:44 Right. Sometimes those last layers have to be kind of like an in-person situation. And so like you were saying, for those smalls, those vintage smalls, you are not line item approving every single one of those smalls. You have like an accessories budget and you go ahead and place those things. And I'm assuming at the end of install they go through and decide, yes, we want A, B and C, but we'll skip D. CF 00:42:07 Correct. Yeah. Got it. Mostly I would say, say 98% of the time they keep what we install because it makes the space feel like a home and complete. AC 00:42:20 You mentioned that your work room will do a SketchUp of what it is that you were potentially proposing. I feel like myself included, some people get overwhelmed by like, I don't have the skills to design this full furniture piece. Like how detailed does it need to be? You've said that you'll provide potentially a sample image. Are there ever, does someone need to be intimidated to go to a workroom and say, I know this is the type of chair I want, but they're not necessarily providing a CAD rendering of like every single square centimeter of the entire piece? CF 00:42:58 Yeah, I mean, I would say be as if you're starting out creating custom furniture. Be as specific as possible so that there are no mistakes. Because sometimes a workroom will not ask the questions, they'll assume you want something done and they'll just keep working. They won't ask you. So just having everything laid out, every question that you can think of that they might ask, ask yourself and just write it down in the notes to them so that they know what they're building. 'cause I've made a mistake, I've made many mistakes. We all have <laugh> and then you have to fix it and it's on, it's on you and you have to pay for it. And it stinks. I hate it <laugh>, <laugh>. But there's sometimes those things that you over it, you're like, oh yeah, we've done this before with them and they should know. And then they put a weird leg on and I'm like, oh, got to put the leg detail on there. AC 00:44:06 Definitely. So I'm really excited. Let's talk about your book, your second book written alongside Your Incredible Mother, Julie, Sense of Place comes out on September 19th. Tell us about the book and how it differs from Travel Home. CF 00:44:24 Oh, I'm so excited for this book to come out. It feels like it's, it's so special since, I mean, Travel Home was an incredible book. I can't believe how amazing it has done and is still doing AC 00:44:40 It's longevity. Yeah, CF 00:44:42 It's longevity. I never, I, it's beyond my dreams. And to create something tangible that has held its time is really special, but Sense of Place is AC 00:44:56 So good. CF 00:44:57 I can't wait for everybody to see it. The homes in this book are fantastic. And I think when with the first book, I think we, you know, we had a list of all these people and then we held out on a few and with Sense of Place, we kind of went guns blazing and asked people we thought we would never get to say yes. And it's about how to backtrack. I think with the pandemic hitting, it really made both my mom, Julie, and I feel a certain way about our home and what it meant to us and how we, our homes feel really special in what we took away from our surroundings and where we live. And there's something about living in San Francisco and the smell in the air and being next to the ocean and all the things that it embodies, I try to bring into my own space. And that's what we try to have come across with each person's home is how they created this Sense of Place and what the meaning of where they live is, you know, means to them and how it comes across in their own home. So, oh, I'm so excited. <laugh>, AC 00:46:28 I cannot wait. Wedding to see it CF 00:46:30 Wedding. Keep saying it's like a third wedding. It's like, here we go, AC 00:46:33 <laugh>. Oh, I bet. What does the title Sense of Place mean to you and what, what made you decide on that title? CF 00:46:44 I think, like I said before, we both felt such an affinity to where we live and what our homes meant to us. And we wanted, instead of with Travel Home, it was how travel influenced your aesthetic. And with this, we wanted it to be how where you live informs your space. And so that's really what we were trying to get to the root of with each person's story. AC 00:47:18 How do you and Julie decide which spaces to include? Like what criteria helped you curate that big Oprah dream supreme list of people? CF 00:47:32 Oh, so many text messages. <laugh> I, we both love scouring and finding and looking at interiors and so we're constantly texting each other images, designers that we're following tiny little details of homes that we love. I mean it's, it goes on I, we do it daily 10 times a day. I mean it's crazy. I mean, she's my best friend. So it's fun. And we create lists. I mean we have lists of people that we want to include, but then we break it down of, okay, how are we structuring this book compared to the last book? How do they fit into that category? Which designers fit into that category? Who has an amazing story that we already know that could, you know it, it will come across in this book so beautifully. So it's kind of, you know, that Jenga puzzle again, but with the designers and then will they say yes, you never know, we'll say no. And so yeah, and we've had, we had people say no in the first book and then we went back for book two and they said yes. So that was, AC 00:48:54 Yeah, I bet they did. After they saw <laugh> how big Travel Home was, I bet they were like, yes, please. Yeah. So are all of the homes featured interior designers homes? CF 00:49:06 No, we have interior designers. We have creatives who create textiles and then we have fashion designers. Um, yeah, it's amazing. I love that. I feel like even if you're in fashion or textiles, it still informs your home in such a beautiful way and it tells a story in a different way. So it's fun to pepper in a few people that aren't full designers. AC 00:49:36 What is the process like writing with a co-author? Is it iterative, evenly divided? Like did you break it up, you do this and I do this? Or a, A combination of both. CF 00:49:49 It's a u I feel like it's a unique process. We both interview the creative designer together. We come up with a questions together and then once we take that and we dissect all of their answers from our interviews, we then work together to figure out the outline of how their story's gonna be told. And then one of us will then write the piece and then one of us goes through and I call it C-T-C, Cut the Crap <laugh>. So we kind of pair it that way and it's, you know, it's usually while we're, you know, we're on the road so much shooting the book that it's usually we work best right after we photograph the house and have it fresh in our mind. And you know, we'll write, we'll write the story and then it'll be like, oh, but remember she said this while we were shooting, it wasn't in the interview. So it's, you know, we're kind of taking little bits that we might not have recorded and taking them and at peppering them into the final story. But it's a true combination of both. Or sometimes one of us will be stuck and we're like, here you take a stab at it. 'cause it's really nice to have that person and not be solo in writing it. Writing you have somebody that you can bounce ideas off of. I can't imagine doing it alone. AC 00:51:29 Earlier you said that your husband was traveling 20 days of a month, but then you were on the road shooting this book. Did you shoot the whole book in off season? CF 00:51:41 Travel Home was shot in the days that he was not traveling. Wow. It took, it took a village for that book to actually happen because he, we shot, you know, you have to, you have nine months to create, photograph the book, write it, turn it in. And so for Travel Home, yes we were piecing together his travel schedule and how we could be on the road and him taking time off and my mother-in-law coming in and my dad coming in <laugh> all the, all the different iterations of you know, help from family, but then Sense of Place he had left, he had already left. And so that made it way easier to shoot the book. AC 00:52:37 I can only imagine. Well Caitlin, I am so excited to continue this conversation with you at Design Camp this October in Santa Monica, but I love to end our episodes with something top secret and you told me that there is something top secret. So share with us what is next for Caitlin Flemming. CF 00:52:58 I'm excited to share that I'm working with Heather Taylor home on Little Something. AC 00:53:05 Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? CF 00:53:08 As people know, I'm a loyal purchaser of her linens. I have one on my table today and I love her, her line, her aesthetic and it, I think it really is special to me because I grew up in Mexico and so the way that she is using these textiles and working with workrooms down there, it's truly so special. So I'm excited to hopefully unveil it this fall. And then my mom and I are working on a third book <laugh>. AC 00:53:46 Oh my gosh, that's so exciting. I had my fingers crossed for a third book, but the Heather Taylor collaboration is major. CF 00:53:55 Yeah. So I'm very excited. We're turning in our third proposal. We're crazy. It's gonna be great. AC 00:54:02 That's so exciting. We are all waiting with much anticipation. If you haven't already, make sure and purchase your copy of Sense of Place. It's linked in the show notes comes out September 19th. 19th, yes. So make sure and get your copy, Caitlin. I cannot wait to read it cover to cover 87 times. I cannot wait to see who's featured in it. Thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing such intimate details about your business and the process of crafting such a beautiful, beautiful book. CF 00:54:35 Thank you so much for having me. AC 00:54:37 I will see you in like two months. CF 00:54:41 I know, I'm so excited. It's gonna be fun. AC 00:54:45 Wait, well, CF 00:54:46 With a whole bunch of other questions to ask AC 00:54:49 <laugh>. Yes. I have to come up with all new stuff. Well, I'll talk to you soon. Caitlin, thank you for joining us and we will get together in the near future. CF 00:54:57 Can't wait. AC 00:55:01 We will see Caitlin at Design Camp this October in Santa Monica as a keynote speaker followed by a rooftop book launch party. Caitlin's, casual storied and global approach to living beautifully is something I've been drawn to for over a decade. It's incredible to see her continuing to experiment and evolve her design practice while sharing her discerning eye with us through her books. Don't forget to pick up your copy of Sense of Place on September 19th, anywhere books are sold or pre-order at the link in our show notes. Follow along with Caitlin Flemming on Instagram @CaitlinFlemming and view her beautiful portfolio of work at Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of The Interior Collective, a podcast for the business of beautiful living where we bring you to the inside of home. Your reviews mean a lot to us as we work to keep our show commercial free and always accessible. You can leave a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or YouTube at any time. Until next week, I'm Anastasia Casey. --

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