Speaker 1 00:00:06 Welcome back to the Interior Collective, a podcast for the business of beautiful Living presented by ICO Studio. I'm your host, Anastasia Casey. And today we are talking all about the logistics of distance design. Distance design is becoming increasingly desirable to clients around the world as they gain access to their favorite designers via platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, or even the expert. Today's episode features Julia Miller of Yawn Interiors, who has perfected the art of high-end distance design. Yawn Interiors is a values driven boutique design studio based in Minneapolis serving clients around North America. Julia's background in federal social work set the foundation for her hyper organized, incredibly thoughtful and empathetic project management style. Her interiors have been published around the country, and additionally, Julia was one of our very first design campers and we have been friends ever since. Hello, this is Anastasia Casey on the Interior Collective, a podcast for the Business of Beautiful Living and I am so excited to welcome my dear friend Julia Miller from Yawn Interiors. Hi Julia.
Speaker 2 00:01:18 Hello, how are you?
Speaker 1 00:01:20 I am so well. I feel like even though we've been working hand in hand over the last few years, I personally haven't gotten to talk to you since you were at Design Camp, it feels like. And that was over two and a half years ago.
Speaker 2 00:01:33 Yes, I know. It's crazy. I feel like the pandemic equally sped up time and equally like stalled it out at the same time. So in some ways I feel like, oh yeah, I was just at design camp yesterday, but not much else reflects that.
Speaker 1 00:01:46 <laugh> <laugh>, you have had a wild few years, I feel like you have just exploded on the interior design. Who's cool of Cool List <laugh>, and you've gone through so much. I know you just recently about coming up on a year ago, went through a rebrand with a talented team, a short creative, and it's gorgeous and you're in the thick of renovating Yawn Cottage. Can you tell us a little bit about your decision to do the rebrand and kind of take a step back as the face of the brand?
Speaker 2 00:02:25 Oh yes. So this I feel like was something that if I had thought more about how I wanted to structure my business before I started my business, it would've been really clear to me that putting my name on anything was not going to work for me. I just felt like as the business grew and especially as we expanded both, you know, we sell custom furniture, the Yawn Cottage kinda came up. We also obviously do a ton of client work. It just felt like the business was far beyond me and my name and, and really my ideas at that point. So the rebrand was about a year and a half in the making. We launched it last November. And so while it still feels like kind of new and fresh for me, it's felt like, oh, this is how it should have always been. And so yeah, I just wanna take the limelight off myself, kind of integrate, you know, my amazing team who obviously, you know, does a lot of he heavy lifting for both the brand but also get, you know, kinda evolving us into what we wanna be next.
Speaker 2 00:03:24 And part of that is the Beyond Cottage. So as we were thinking about kind of how we wanted Yawn to be in the world, one of the things that kept coming to me personally was just how to diversify what we believe in, which is that interior design can and will make your life better. Which I know sounds, you know, like a little crazy, but it's really about an experience in a space and it's really about how it makes you feel and what it facilitates and all of those good things. And so we wanted to kind of branch out and create a space where people could experience it for themselves, experience what good design, intentional design felt like. And so we, you know, we had been searching for a while for a property up in the North Shore, which is like my most favorite place in the world. And we came across this one in November and we just jumped on it. So I feel like it's an evolution of, of a lot of things that kind of came together. Lots of critical planning, but also just a lot of feeling your way through kind of what's next.
Speaker 1 00:04:24 So this is off script. Sorry to throw us a wrench in the mix so early in the interview, but I'd love if you can talk to us about how you came up to the name of Yawn as you stepped away from your own personal name, what that means to you and how you kind of settled on it. Cause I know for a lot of designers listening it coming up with what your name is gonna be, that's not your name. Yeah. Can be paralyzing. It's really scary, it's terrifying. And you're like, what do I commit to? And I love that you went with something a little abstract. So just talk us through that process a little bit and your, your way of thinking on it.
Speaker 2 00:04:58 Okay. So I, I, I luckily have a brother-in-law who's in marketing and advertising and I was kind of just talking to him about how, how to like come up with a name. I wasn't looking for him to name us. I mean, I wanted to kind of do that myself, but he gave me one key piece of advice that I feel like was, was critical. And he said, you wanna create your brand. You don't want anyone else to have created it for you. So you don't want, you know, the precedent to have been set by somebody who's not you and doesn't create what you do. So most of the brands that are super successful and have really strong brand identity and singular brand identity in some ways are kind of names you, you would not have thought of or don't like, aren't in the dictionary. So his kind of, you know, thought was you create your brand.
Speaker 2 00:05:49 So really it could be any name, but it's kind of best almost if it's not anything anyone knows about, it's like Google, Colgate, you know, know all of those brands where it's like, yeah, what does that mean? I don't even know, but I know it's toothpaste and I know it's a search engine now. And so that was really helpful for me. I really wanted something easy to say, something that wasn't complicated, something that kind of was, I don't know, had some nice lettering, sounds funny, but I really like the way Y looks. I don't know. And when we started working with Jen from Short Creative on it, you know, one of the things she kept asking us was like, what's the availability of something like this? Is there any competition in the market? Anybody who's already kinda claimed any of this? And they're really, there's only one other company that they don't use beyond, but they use beyond as a as and they use Beyond in some ways, but it didn't really feel like there's a conflict and it didn't really feel like I was gonna step on their toes by entering in with this name.
Speaker 2 00:06:42 And so we kinda evaluated it and I mean, I hate to say it, but things like Instagram handles were available, the website, you know, the full website I wanted yn.com was available, our Gmail, you know, kind of thing was available. So really I think it's, it sounds, it sounds complicated to rename yourself and it is, there's no way around it <laugh>, but I think the name for me, I don't know, it just felt right and it felt funny, you know, I was really kind of sheepish to tell my staff what it was, but I think that's, that's kind of the thing when you're creating something new, something no nobody's ever heard of before. And I think that's the initial reaction was like, well what does that mean? And I'm like, well I don't know. We're gonna figure it out. We're gonna create it over the lifetime of this business, however long that might be. But it's, it's whatever we want it to be, I guess was kind of my thought. And I think too, whoever names a business, I think just having confidence that it fits you and you respond to it and everybody else will get on board. So you're gonna have some feedback, you're gonna have some people who are like, that's weird. I don't get it. But I also feel like as momentum and businesses grow, that's the whole point is you created your own brand identity.
Speaker 1 00:07:51 I love that so much. Thank you for sharing that experience. I have to tell you, Julia, working with our clients at ico, I have had count them four different people give your rebrand as an example of how they want to move away from their personal name to like a grant name. Oh, and all for examples, including Bretton Cara from Phillips house. They were like, Julia did it perfectly. So I just want you to know that everyone who's watching is applauding you. And I think it happened so gracefully and the end result is beautiful.
Speaker 2 00:08:24 Well, thank you. And I think, you know, it's, it felt right for me and I hope that if someone else is feeling that like, ooh, my own name on the door isn't feeling right, that you can totally pivot. And like I said, it's painful, it's terrible, it's expensive, but it's, it's really, I think just part and parcel with being a business owner. You know, you change, you grow and leaving room for whatever that might be, I think is so important.
Speaker 1 00:08:49 So now, almost a year later, does it even feel weird anymore or at this this point, have you settled into it?
Speaker 2 00:08:57 I think sometimes it feels weird because I, I feel like we're still like, I'm still getting used to it in some ways, but in many, many, many, many ways it almost feels like I never was Jay Miller Interiors. I think I'm getting used to like, I think having a bigger umbrella probably more than the name itself, if that makes sense. Absolutely. But the name feels like it's always been, and I think too, people call us, I mean now in emails people call us, you know, the Y team or yn or someone called me Mrs. Yn the other day, <laugh> in an email. And so it does feel like yes, it represents who we are and more importantly, it re represents what we wanna be. And I'm so thankful that it all lines up perfectly. Like all of our social lines up, all of our website, all of our branding now lines up. That was something that I didn't have before. And I really do feel like, like streamlining it all intentionally, even though it literally took us a year and a half is worth it once you launch.
Speaker 1 00:09:58 Yeah. Well that is fantastic. I have a little more backstory to ask you about before we get into the meat of today's episode. And so when we first met, I guess it's been almost three years since I first knew you. Fun fact, Julia was ICO's first ever website template purchase. We launched at noon,
Speaker 2 00:10:21 I was at
Speaker 1 00:10:22 At noon on a Wednesday, and at 1201 Julia purchased her first website template. And I will never forget that. And I just feel like I can really have my entire career indebted to you. It was such a pleasure to get to serve you in that way when we were launching products in the first, in the first half. And it's so cool to see how you've evolved beyond that into like this huge powerhouse brand now. So talk to me about how your studio has gained a couple more bodies since you first started. I mean, that would've been almost three years ago when we first were working together. Who did you hire first and what crucial hires have you made ever since?
Speaker 2 00:11:01 Okay, so my first hire was a project manager. And I think that pretty quickly in this business, at least for me and the the other interior designers I know it's pretty clear where your skillset lies and mm-hmm <affirmative> and interior design has a way, as a, as an industry of bringing you to your knees for better or for worse. And I was feeling like there were so many details and moving pieces and client experience stuff that I just couldn't manage and, and quite frankly was surprisingly not good at it. I always had thought I was a pretty like, detail oriented, <laugh>, efficient, organized person. Turns out I'm actually not. Um, and so really it was pretty clear to me that like I wanted to deliver excellence, you know, in all ways. And I was, you know, outpacing my skillset and time really and being able to do that.
Speaker 2 00:11:54 So I hired a project manager, she evolved into a senior designer, she left briefly but is coming back maybe for a little while. And then I hired after her, after she moved into that senior designer position, I hired another project manager. Cause we backfilled that position over time. We grew and grew and grew. That project manager also had amazing, Samantha had amazing skills in her past life as an interior designer of course in la And she just took this job cause she was moving to Minneapolis, felt like, yeah, I'll see what hap what the Minneapolis design scene is about, off project manage and then maybe move into a design position. Lo and behold, she did, she's been with us for two years and so now she's a senior designer. So her and I kind of spearhead projects together. We've hired another project manager. I think you'll see a theme here.
Speaker 2 00:12:41 It feels like in a small company. The two positions I offer <laugh> are designer or project manager. And, and that's true for the most part. But we backfilled Samantha's position with Sarah. And Sarah is wonderfully talented and in terms of all things technical, she also has a design background and degree and she's actu we're in a big shuffle right now. She's actually moving into kind of, I hate the word junior designer for some reason I feel like Junior just feels, I don't know, kind of mm-hmm. <affirmative> unfortunately, I don't know bugs me. So I'm, I'm thinking of ways to rebrand kind of how our, our titles all work. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but she'll probably move into more of like a designer one position is kinda what I'm thinking. Where she does a lot of our backend technical support. She's super good at floor planning, she's really good at anything to do with cad.
Speaker 2 00:13:29 She's like a, she can draw anything in sketch, she can handcraft the, the tiniest of details. So she's kind of moving into that support role. And then we're backfilling her with you guest set a new, we're calling her a project director cuz she's actually gonna serve both backfill some of the, some of the jobs that Sarah was doing like purchasing and procurement, but also we need like a studio manager. And so we hired someone, Tina who's gonna come in and she's gonna kinda, she's kinda gonna take the back end and some of that like procurement work into combine it into one job. So I feel like we're always, I'm always trying to keep a pulse with my staff of like what people wanna be doing, what's their zone of genius in a small company. It's hard to offer everybody a job that we all love all the time. But I feel like mm-hmm <affirmative>, one of my goals is to always be trying to think about how, how to best utilize people and also how to offer them something new in a small company. Which is, which is a challenge.
Speaker 1 00:14:27 I if you haven't already listened to our episode in season one with Marie Flanagan cuz she walks through how she titles her designers because she also doesn't feel like junior designer is the right term. She's like, in a lot of ways they're doing the hardest part of the job and so she does mm-hmm <affirmative> a designer one, designer two and lead designer tiered program. So I actually love that so much. We had junior designers here at ICO and after hearing her say that I was like, that is so true. We're switching that immediately. We've moved to a one two and lead structure as well and everybody has just felt that, that feels really good. So I'm excited that you're figuring that out as well. That's
Speaker 2 00:15:06 So great. Yeah, I don't, junior designer, to me it just feel, yeah, it just doesn't feel quite right And I feel like in a system where I don't know that titles really do matter, senior, junior and people have associations with the importance that someone brings if they're a junior designer. I dunno. I just feel like, yeah, again, similar to our name rebrand, it's like I wanna set the precedence of what our staff delivers and a titles are important but also they should, you know, are, I don't know, they shouldn't dictate too much.
Speaker 1 00:15:36 So backtracking a little bit, we'll keep it brief, but Julia, tell us about what you were doing before your personal home project that I feel like was the catalyst to this new venture and like complete life transferring transformation. Really walk us through what you were doing, what happened on your personal home and kind of how that pushed you to start taking on clients.
Speaker 2 00:15:58 Okay, so briefly, I was a clinical social worker. I had an msw, I worked in the federal system for about 12 years as a social worker and I loved it. I felt it was honestly like a vocation I kinda had settled in. But then you know, in the back of your mind there's always these things where you're like, well, but maybe I could also do some other things with my life. I think I had my second kid and it was like, whew, am I gonna be a 30 year career person here? Cuz I easily could have. And it just was kind of a sobering moment of like, there's a lot of other stuff I'm really interested in. Design obviously was number one. We were doing this personal renovation on my own house, but honestly I just didn't have confidence I was good at it or could do it cause I didn't know any of the technical skills.
Speaker 2 00:16:44 And I had seen how much technical work went into a really big project in my own house. So while I did all the selections and stuff, we worked with an architect, I just was like, oh my God, there's no way I, I don't have time to go back to school. I already have an advanced degree. I thought it was kinda off the table for me. But after doing that project we, we were published in Better Homes and I think it was just this moment of like, you just gotta try it, you just gotta see what happened. So I moonlighted as an interior designer for a little while while I kept my federal job just to kind of make sure it was really what I wanted to do. So it was a super busy time in life. But I'm thankful I did because it allowed me to really build up a lot of the backend stuff to quit my job.
Speaker 2 00:17:24 It gave me a lot of confidence that I could do it, but I really feel like doing my own home and you know, having somebody else say like, yeah, this is good enough to be published was the confidence I needed. I needed confidence, I needed someone to tell me that I could do it. And that was kinda the push for me to do it. And so I did. So I said 20 18, 20 19 year of yes I'll say yes to anything. And so I did that. I did small projects, I did bigger projects, I did paint consultations, I did, you know, hardware placement calls, <laugh>, I mean it was like everything and anything. And yeah, it really, and it really helped I think shape my understanding of the industry and also helped me figure out, okay, how do you make money doing this? Mm-hmm <affirmative> what, what are services you wanna provide? What don't you wanna do? All of that.
Speaker 1 00:18:15 So at the beginning of 2021. So this is fast forwarding probably three years into having your business, sorry, lemme just repeat that. So at the beginning of 2021, I guess that's about two and a half, three years into you doing this as interior design and no longer at your federal job. One of your biggest goals that you shared with me and you shared on your blog was that you really had a desire to expand your full service interior design services nationwide. And I think that this is such a hot topic for people, especially after the boom of the last few years in the industry. What sparked your desire to take on projects outside of Minneapolis?
Speaker 2 00:19:02 So first of all, it was driven by inquiry. So I feel like the first several good projects that I was able to land were outside of Minneapolis. So I think in so many ways it forced my hand. Like to not have taken on those projects would've been a complete loss of opportunity. And so I was committed to figuring it out. So I think I'm super not unique in that way, but I think that's different. That's different for me that, you know, I think it's not the same for everybody. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So that really forced my hand into, into it initially. And I think once I started doing it, it was just kind of part and parcel of the work that we can do. And I think because I had a previous job that required me, although I'm not I guess the best at it, I learned to be super organized and prioritize things and communicate like, I mean I'm used to being on the phone and writing a really thorough medical notes. You know, translating all those skills to a distance project actually was not as difficult as it sounds. I think it's really about how you set up your work and what expectations you set for the client that dictates how successful your project is. But I think for me it was just like the clients that I wanted to work with that had like the budgets, the aesthetic, the project scope just suddenly were out of Minneapolis and that still is the case. I think we probably have 50% of our work outside of the cities.
Speaker 1 00:20:28 Oh wow. So I'm gonna get really nitty gritty. I have very technical specific questions for you in today's episode. So let's just dive right in. Oh, I answer 'em
Speaker 2 00:20:38 All <laugh>. Ok.
Speaker 1 00:20:40 So how much do you think that Instagram, your blog, social media and honestly probably that first publication in better homes of your personal space has helped or inhibited those out-of-state inquiries? Were those like a big spark to where those inquiries were coming from?
Speaker 2 00:20:56 So I think the, I feel like it's true and maybe you know this better than me actually, that publications don't necessarily convert to projects always. You have to, I think like regional publications do better, like smaller magazines. But we, I haven't had the experience even with like we were in just Western Home Journal for example, out for like ski town stuff and I, we haven't gotten a single inquiry from that publication. So I think the biggest thing for me is Instagram and I, and I still get, I think we're getting a lot more referrals, which is awesome. But I think new inquiries and almost clients that are the perfect fit for us come from Instagram. Mm. And I know that that sounds crazy almost. I think Instagram is almost better for us than a referral sometimes, which is extra crazy. But um,
Speaker 1 00:21:49 I can see that. I can see that someone can really understand your aesthetic, can really connect with the way you do things, the how you do things and the why you do things when they're invested in you via Instagram versus someone down the road from them hat a renovation and they need a designer. And so they just took a recommendation.
Speaker 2 00:22:11 Yes. And I think too, one of the things that helped me early on I think really hone in on what work I wanted to do was actually less about scope and budget and it was more about aesthetic. I learned that I'm actually not a super versatile designer. Like I can't do French country and I can't do, you know, like modern farmhouse, you know, and I can't do something that's super traditional. Like I just actually am not good at it. And so I think by having a platform that was like primarily allowed us to express our aesthetic helped us attract clients that wanted that. And Instagram has been amazing for that. So I think you're right. Yeah, like a referral, while they may have a great project, I may not actually be able to kind of do it well for them, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it's, so that's where I think having a presence, both a blog and Instagram have been super helpful and establishing kind of the type of work we do and want to do and are good at.
Speaker 1 00:23:11 Okay. So let's dig into how you actually make this happen from afar. Walk us through what you provide your full service distance design clients.
Speaker 2 00:23:22 Okay, so first off, what we offer to our distance design clients is not any different than what we offer to our Minneapolis based clients. And I think initially I was trying to distinguish the two and they're really, as we've grown and as I've learned like how we, how our process works, there's really no difference. The only difference I guess you could say is, is site visits. But we do those here anyway. It's just we have to get on a plane and there's expenses associated with that. But in terms of our involvement in the project, in terms of our deliverables, those all stay 110% the same. I say design projects are slightly obviously more intense on the communication side, email, phone calls, that kinda stuff. But in terms of how we deliver our work, it's, there's zero difference. So do you want me to get in? Do you want me to tell you like so from the moment of inquiry or how much, how much info, how much nitty gritty do you think you guys want? <laugh>
Speaker 1 00:24:19 Girl? Yes. I'm sure everyone listening is like tell me everything.
Speaker 2 00:24:24 Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. So it's the same for our local work. So if you could just translate, you know, speaking to designers out there, what you already do for your local projects. Just imagine that. Imagine just some of the extra checks and balances you have to add in. So we get an inquiry, say they're in San Francisco, which is actually really great for us right now cause we have six projects in San Francisco. And so that really piques my interest because we're building a lot of trade relationships, a lot of contractors, we kinda understand how things are starting to work out there. So that's an inquiry I'm super interested in. So I do my usual thing, respond, send an investment guide for our distance projects. We do have a fee minimum because it's just a big investment for us to get up to speed for distance work, like seeing the project.
Speaker 2 00:25:11 And it's a big investment for the client for us to come. And so I'll, you know, there's a minimum fee investment for them. And so just making sure the project kind of fits that. And then really once they sign on, once we do the proposal and the retainer and the zoom scope of work consultation, which walks us through the project once they're signed on, we just get started with our usual process, which is a site visit. So we try to always do a site visit before we start any design work. So whether that's for the site measure, we do our own site measures. If it's a furnishings only project or a light renovation project, if it's a construction project, you know, typically there's an architect already on board. And so we don't really, you know, have to do any of that technical stuff. But we try to also get face-to-face time with the client and the team cause that really helps to build that relationship and rapport. So step number one, before we start any design work site visit, and again that that could look a lot of different ways, but we try to get it in right away.
Speaker 1 00:26:09 Julia, at this point in step number one, you have a signed contract at this point? Mm-hmm. <affirmative> or this is before you have a signed contract?
Speaker 2 00:26:17 No, sorry. Yeah, so the contract is signed. So we, so after inquiry we do what we call a scope of work consultation, which is basically the same as what we do locally and only it's on Zoom. They send us plans, they, I require inspiration, I require that everyone sends us inspiration prior to that scope of work. Cause again, I wanna be seeing what they want. Can I do that? Am I the right person? As much as I feel like clients are interviewing you, you have have to interview them. And so part of that process is,
Speaker 1 00:26:46 Yeah, I have another question about that because I do feel like that initial, for us, we always recommend that someone has like a complimentary 20 minute phone consultation where really at this point it's like us as designers deciding like, does this person sound like someone I would like to work with? Before we even get into like the real details of the project. And so when you're talking about someone who is not in your city and it may just be a Zoom call, like h what are you looking for to kind of feel out those potential red flags with a client? That usually happens in that initial consultation before they sign a contract.
Speaker 2 00:27:23 So when you're on Zoom as much as like you're not getting maybe kind of a lot of like the touchy-feely that you do with someone in person, like you can get a lot of information from someone on Zoom. Mm-hmm <affirmative> both how they talk to their partner, how they give you information, how they show you around their space. You know, we require them to, if it's an existing space, to literally take their iPhone and show us around and give us a sense of what they're looking for. And I feel like we have, I have yet to have the distance component of our work be an issue in, in figuring out if a client is good or not. You know, like Got it. I think whether they're in person or it's on Zoom. And I think even during the pandemic, even local projects, we are doing scope of work consultations via Zoom just cause we didn't wanna be in people's houses unnecessarily.
Speaker 2 00:28:07 So I think it gave me good practice on facilitating those and knowing what to ask and how to break the ice and how to make people feel comfortable. But it also I think helped me just have the confidence that you can decide pretty clearly based off of, you know, the feelings that you get and how people answer questions if they're a good fit for you or not. And I think too, so it's both that personality thing that you get, but it's also then I ask them to send me inspiration prior to the call so that I can look at it and kind of really assess aesthetically if I can achieve what they want and if I'm the right fit for them. And I think that's almost just as important in that initial discussion before you get to a contract and a proposal with someone is like, am I the right fit to execute your vision? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so you kind of can feel some of that out I think, in that, in that scope of work call.
Speaker 1 00:28:57 Got it. That's so helpful. Thank you so much Julia.
Speaker 1 00:29:02 One of the first impressions prospective clients have of your brand is your website. If you don't have a strong online presence to show off your work though you're losing out on potential clients. ICO Studio offers a selection of limited edition website templates designed specifically for interior designers just like you. If you're looking for a more hands-off experience, you can add on implementation and professional copywriting and we'll have your new website up and running within a few short weeks. Visit idco.studio to choose your favorite before it sells out. Okay. Continue on with your process. So at this point, mm-hmm <affirmative>, you've got a contract and like as far as trade day and when you're like needing to get get measurements and bids, is this something that you would be flying your team out or just you or would you hire someone locally in their area to get those measurements? How do you navigate that portion?
Speaker 2 00:29:54 All of the above, but in general our team kind of try, we're a little bit controlling in this way. Like we try to do it all. We try not to hand off too much to anybody else unless we have to. We do have someone like in LA that's done some measuring for us, some site measuring for us for clients on very rare occasion that we don't do it. But that's the only time I think we've used someone to like produce work for us more as like a subcontractor. But otherwise, yeah. So when it comes down to figuring out like a warehouse and you know, a painter and all that kinda stuff, most of the time our clients are super helpful. So your clients already have a whole wealth of information about their area that you should rely on. And typically, at least at with our clients, they have done work in the past whether it's been with a contractor on their own, so they kinda know maybe who a good painter would be.
Speaker 2 00:30:47 Most of the time they have a handy person they've used in their life before that kinda stuff. But I would say the majority of the projects that we work on are much larger. And so there's, you know, there's a whole contractor firm involved and so they tend to, they have been handling more of like the construction side of stuff. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, but it does come up all the time, like window coverings, we don't measure ourselves for those <laugh>, we require a company to do that for us. So we've, you know, and that's where like a designer network, I'll put it on Instagram, Hey, we're in San Francisco and we need a window treatment workroom, who do you recommend? I can guarantee you I would get like four people telling us who, four to five people telling us these are the people I've used, these are great. And so I feel like it's just putting, putting it out there in the world.
Speaker 2 00:31:33 Also too, like we have a project in New York right now and there's an architect in DC that I've been, you know, messaging with for a couple years just about work and stuff. Turns out she's the perfect fit for this project. So I brought her onto this project. It's about networking really. It's about figuring out who's in that area, who could do, you know, who's a good fit. And also relying on experts, you know, other designers who either work in that area or live in that area and can give you the information. And then that goes likewise if someone has a project here, I'm more than happy to share our warehouse, our workroom, whatever people would need to facilitate their project.
Speaker 1 00:32:09 Ok. So I feel like two, two follow up questions real quick. First question, I think people listening might be hesitant or reluctant to feel like they could message another designer in a market where you have a client that's not your home market and ask them to share vendors or resources, how do you navigate that to where it feels like a win-win for both you and this other party?
Speaker 2 00:32:36 Well I think that, I think that you kind of have to have, have a previous relationship. So like Instagram I feel like is a really easy way to develop relationships with other designers, commenting on their stuff, DMing them when they've done something, you know, that you resonate with authentically. So I would probably only reach out personally to another designer about a recommendation if I had already established a relationship with 'em. However, I think what's also a super helpful tip is just like using the ask a question box on in on the Insta stories. Mm-hmm <affirmative> like I need a receiver in SF who can help me. And that's most often how I do it because while we know, while I do know a few designers in San Francisco, like we have a couple projects in Sun Valley, I don't know any designers there actually. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I would probably feel uncomfortable DMing a couple of 'em to ask. So I just do it that way. I just say, okay, we're in Sun Valley, anybody know of any, because cuz I think too, everybody's working everywhere now. You know, like you don't know who's had a project there. So like us, we're based in Minneapolis but we have projects all over so I may not live in that area but I may know and I may be able to give that information out. Does that make sense?
Speaker 1 00:33:49 Yeah, good point. Okay. And then second follow-up question, just for people who are looking to break into distance design, how are you charging for these days of travel time where you're going to get your measurements and like do that discovery day? Like how many people do you feel appropriate bringing cuz you're billing that back hourly? Or is it like a flat day rate and who covers the travel costs? How have you set that up?
Speaker 2 00:34:14 So we charge hourly for all of our projects. So at that proposal, prior to contract signing, I send a proposal for the amount of hours. I think it's an estimate a project will take. And included in that I say are the hours that we will spend on your project, not travel. And I, so I estimate those hours cuz for all of our projects we do a site measure, we do our, like our same process. So I can kind of guesstimate how many hours it's gonna take. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and then I just say for any travel time, we just charge half of our hourly rate so that we do collect a little bit of, you know, income on our travel days when we are dedicating our time to our client but not really giving them any value, you know, besides just getting there.
Speaker 1 00:34:57 So to clarify, you mean like the days that you are physically on an airplane, those are being billed mm-hmm <affirmative> at half hourly rate and is that half hourly rate per person or if the whole team's there you're charging one half hour rate?
Speaker 2 00:35:11 Nope, it's per person. Every person on my team, team, we actually all charge the same hourly rate. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I don't have like a tiered system because they feel like the work that my team does, it's just as important as the work I do. And so mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we all charge the same rate. So yeah. So it's half of that rate per person.
Speaker 1 00:35:29 Got it.
Speaker 2 00:35:30 Yeah. And then I just say, you know, I don't make any money on, I don't mark up or add anything to our airfare or hotel or car rental, I'd just charge that out as it's incurred. I say, so I'll happily, you know, if sometimes clients have wanted to book travel for us and so that's great, they're happy to book our flights or whatever if they wanna use points or they have a, you know, whole system that they wanna use. But otherwise I just, I just charge 'em exactly what we spend and then we have a meal per diem as well. And so like I said, that's where I set that minimum project fee because it adds up quickly for us to be involved in a distance project for us to like get there and get established. So I wanna make sure it's worth their while cuz travel does add up.
Speaker 2 00:36:11 Um, and I would say we're, we're pretty judicious about who goes when, unless it's like a full install, it's usually one or two people traveling. Like we have a project in Tahoe that's getting installed so Sarah and Samantha are gonna go together, I'm gonna stay back. You know, so I try to be really, really conservative while still getting the job done with kind of who I send and they're working. So it's, it's got, you know, the, it has to be justified, but yeah. But then the hours once my staff get to the project are estimated in that initial proposal time.
Speaker 1 00:36:43 Julia, are you willing to share what that minimum is that you're like willing to take on a distance design project? I think that would, could be we'll scale for someone.
Speaker 2 00:36:53 Yeah, totally. So we charge hourly. So I think of all of our projects in terms of hours, how many hours is this project going to take my team? And so I've learned that a minimum of 250 hours of our time is a good minimum threshold for us to get involved with the project. And so we can accomplish a lot in that amount. But I would say the majority of our distance projects or the majority of our projects in general are, are double that amount of hours. But that's a good minimum for hours and that's over the lifetime of a project. You know, that's not all incurred in the first month. That's, this project is a new build in Sun Valley and it's gonna take us three years. It's important that, you know, we established that minimum I guess. But yeah, those hours are spread out. But yeah,
Speaker 1 00:37:38 Thank you so much for sharing that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's just like so nice to have a benchmark for people to work from. Okay. So I think the concept of initial design presentations is fairly easy for our listeners to comprehend being done from a distance, especially since we've all mastered the Zoom presentation during covid. But I'm curious if your new construction, full scope remodel clients around the country expect you to be pre present in person to present that initial design concept?
Speaker 2 00:38:08 Ooh, good question. So I think yes and no, and this is a discussion that we have usually at that very first site visit, like what their expectations are around and what their hopes are around our involvement and presence. I guess I would say 90% of our clients don't, don't care, don't want us to be, don't need to spend the extra money for us to come in in person and present. But like this week we presented a project project in Sun Valley and a project in San Francisco and we sent all of our samples ahead of the project, you know, to the client. So while we're presenting, they still have the samples in front of 'em, you know, so they still get the full experience but we're just not in person with them. So I would say the majority of people, I don't really think it, it matters, at least from my experience that we're in person for that.
Speaker 1 00:38:58 Great. So I'm your client. I've hired you, you're not gonna come present to me here in Austin live. We'll do it over Zoom. You've sent me a box ahead of time. Talk me through specifically what's in that box. I know samples, but are there printed copies of the presentation? What else goes into that experience for someone?
Speaker 2 00:39:18 Well this is an area of growth for us, so I do feel like kind of that initial sample experience could be better. So right now it's just a nicely packaged box and we don't send a printed copy of our presentation only because I've learned that I don't want clients to see it ahead of time without us. So I can't predict when a box is gonna arrive, even if U says they can. And I don't want anyone thumbing through stuff without us walking them through it. So I've said I used to do that, but I've since stopped because I want clients, you know, to get the reason and the, you know, kinda the meat behind why we made our selections from us. So I don't do that. So after the meeting I'll send them an electronic version of course for them to review and then I will happily send a printed copy if they prefer after the presentation.
Speaker 1 00:40:11 I also love the flexibility of if you need a little more time to make one or two last revisions <laugh> you have up until the moment to do it. Yes.
Speaker 2 00:40:22 You have literally the day up. Exactly. Well and honestly, you know, by sending the box we, we pigeonhole ourselves into some selections, but you're right, like we just presented a project and it was like the paint color was just not hitting right. We just could not land it. And we had like kind of been masterminding it, thinking about it and literally 15 minutes before Sarah applied, you know, a new color to the SketchUp model and we're like, boom, that's it. You know? So yes, there is some flexibility that you earn by not sending all of it at once.
Speaker 1 00:40:54 So how do you collect your edits or revision requests from your clients during distance design? And this probably is exactly how you do it with your local Minneapolis clients, but what is that process to get that like official feedback from them?
Speaker 2 00:41:10 So I used to do like a full dub sodo revision form mm-hmm. <affirmative> and I felt like nobody filled it out. Nobody filled it out. So what I've done is I try to make as like our clients are all very busy, big professional people typically. And so I've tried to make it as easy as possible. So I offer them any, i, I offer them a bunch of different ways to give us feedback. What's been the most popular lately is either a revision meeting where, you know, we go through everything, they'll have thought about it and they just tell me, you know mm-hmm. <affirmative> some, for most people it's like, it could be a, a phone call in the car. They, they tell me that's fine. I feel like a lot of our clients since we also are really good at vetting them up front for aesthetic stuff, they'll tell us in the presentation what they don't like half the time.
Speaker 2 00:41:58 Mm-hmm. <affirmative> half the time they'll be like, Ooh, love everything. Hate the wallpaper. You know, and so that's like, oh, revision. Got it. Wallpaper. So I feel like during the presentation too, we encourage clients to interact with us, you know, while we absolutely wanna run through what we've decided and why. And it's also an opportunity if there's like a gut reaction that they don't like that they can totally share it with us and we'll add that to, you know, our revision list. Oh you don't, you don't want Yeah, whatever you don't like the floor tile. Okay. Got it. I'll revise that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that kind of stuff. So that comes that most often it comes that way. We do have a couple of clients right now with really, really big projects that are into the Google doc. I will say it's a double-edged sword, but what we like about it is it's just forever there.
Speaker 2 00:42:42 Sometimes when you're relying on your me your memory or, you know, I don't, I'm not always the best during a presentation of running down all those, you know, small revision things. And so having a Google doc actually is helpful in kind of just tracking information and we have some clients, a, a handful of clients actually right now that really prefer to communicate that way. So I kinda say however you do it, but I kind of give them a timeline like in order for us to, you know, either do the next presentation or for me to give you revisions to keep your timeline moving, I need, you know, we need to be in contact again in at least two
Speaker 1 00:43:16 Weeks. If you have a client who, particularly I feel like in this Google Doc situation,
Speaker 2 00:43:21 <laugh>
Speaker 1 00:43:22 Where the feedback is kind of like trickling in. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, do you start edits as you see them come into that doc or it's like they send you an email and say everything's in there and that's when you start?
Speaker 2 00:43:33 Yes. I tell clients that we, so with our design process we do a design discovery concepting phase and that's where we get a lot of feedback originally before I've even selected anything. So that's actually step one for us before we get to design presentation is like, what do you think about patina or finishes that Patina, tell me about how you like wool. Oh you have an allergy tool? Wool got it. Not gonna happen. You know, like we have a, it's a big conversation. Sometimes that meeting is like four hours long. It's a big meeting mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but it really is that me throwing out things both combined with, it's a, it's a very professional presentation that we've put together, but it's more of a conversation. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I feel like at that point, I know this is a person who is not able to handle an un rectified tile edge.
Speaker 2 00:44:21 This is, this person's not gonna go for his leash tile, this is not gonna happen for them. So I'm not even gonna present at final presentation as a leash tile to this person. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> or they do not like, like tile vari color variation. Okay, great. I'm not gonna present you that. So we've already weeded out in that concepting phase a lot of these questions I feel like, and so, you know, we get through the design concept, that's basically our approval to do the pr to do our final selections. And then really after that, I feel like clients have very few revisions often and they know that in order for us to either do the next presentation or to revise things, they have to give it to us in completion because I don't want my team spending time reworking something that they a, that the client isn't done mulling over.
Speaker 2 00:45:12 You know, like we could have just changed out the wallpaper. Turns out they now maybe like the wallpaper but don't like the tile, you know. And so for us, I don't, I want there to be a clear, okay, you're cutoff date <laugh>. And so I actually take clients off Pinterest boards. I, you know, say we're gonna go dark for a couple weeks while we work on this stuff. We're happy to receive any initial thoughts you, or any additional thoughts you've had. Like you went to a restaurant, you saw cool LA light or something you like to send us that. But really hopefully we'll have gotten out all of the need to tell us what you like and don't like in the concept phase.
Speaker 1 00:45:50 Amazing. That's fantastic. I love that you don't have tons of revisions. I will say I have noticed a trend lately towards Google Doc slash live meetings cuz I am fundamentally all about revision requests need to be submitted through zao. So there's a signature and a date and like once it's submitted you can't change it. But yes, I, for instance, we're getting ready to launch Nate Burka site this weekend and their team I so exciting. We've been working on this since February. But their team, amazing team, it was such a perfect, pleasant project but they definitely were on the Google Doc team. Like they definitely wanted, yeah. To be able to leave notes in there and as we made updates we could delete them from the Google doc and Google will have all of those revisions in the, in the page history. So that's a nice part about that is if we cross something off saying like, we've done this or this change has been made, we can still go back to see what their actual feedback was. And I do think that that is a beneficial part of the continuous Google Doc communication option. So
Speaker 2 00:46:55 It is, I'm like right before this I was literally reading, reading a Google doc that the client had finished about three weeks ago and I've since moved on, you know, I had a, you know we've done, I've done the other kitchens and I've designed other things and now I'm like, oh my gosh, I completely forgot this one tile that I was really liking for them. The husband hates cuz it reminds him of a video game. I completely forgot that. You know, so it's in that Google doc and I don't know if that's a note in all honesty that I would have taken myself. And so I do think while it's sometimes like overwhelming to open the Google doc, I think it is actually really helpful. So especially for people that have a lot of feedback mm-hmm <affirmative>, you know, you wanna listen to them, you wanna give them an opportunity to give you that to you. And I think a Google doc is great for that.
Speaker 1 00:47:40 Yeah. I definitely think it contributes to someone feeling like they're being heard. Yeah. If they can get it down on paper that you're seeing and it's in this live document, they can feel like, great, someone on this team is reading this. So Totally.
Speaker 2 00:47:52 Let's
Speaker 1 00:47:53 Fast forward a little bit cuz now you've gone through plans and now we're in project management phase. What happens with site visits when it comes to these distance design projects? What cadence are you promising your clients that you'll physically be on site to check in on progress?
Speaker 2 00:48:13 So again, I feel like when we have, when we start the project management phase, our projects are bigger and comp more complicated. So there's a builder involved and so they honestly set the cadence. They're like, okay, we are gonna have plumbing and electrical roof done by December. We need you on site, you know, before I close up the walls or something like that. So really for a lot of our, especially our distance work, we look to the trades or the builder to tell us what, what they need from us. I feel like when it comes to project management, our job is to support them and to do whatever they need and as quickly as we possibly can to not delay the project. And so often we'll have that conversation after presentation and after everything's approved with both the client and the builder. And so that looks a lot of different ways, but we try to get out there for really key times.
Speaker 2 00:49:10 Plumbing, electrical, rough is really big. We'll also come out for paint or finish finishes. So like if they, if we have a bunch of cabinetry for example, the painter will have all the stained samples ready for us and we'll approve tho we like to approve those in person. Yeah. But otherwise we have projects right now, like we're, we're about to embark on a really big one we've been working on for like two years in San Francisco and the builder is phenomenal. They have weekly site visits and we are just gonna zoom in. So, you know, we'll be on that every week meeting, we'll just be on the phone while they're doing walk on the sites, you
Speaker 1 00:49:44 Know. Amazing.
Speaker 2 00:49:45 So really it's about, again, it's about relationships and it's about being flexible with how you work to meet the team. But I don't know, I can't emphasize enough how important it's to get a team together that's high quality. You know, it pays you back not only in the quality of your project but also in the ease of how everything is is done. Um, so yeah.
Speaker 1 00:50:07 Okay. So as we get ready to wrap up, I know we have gone over our time <laugh>, what key systems and processes do you have in place to keep your contractors up to date your clients educated and your team streamlined when managing a project from afar?
Speaker 2 00:50:24 Okay, so again, same as we offer in person. So I think that that's really helpful as you're developing process is you know that this is how we do every project. So for us we have Dropbox, Dropbox system that we use. Mm-hmm <affirmative> that's really great that everybody shares. We don't have any live documents that we share cuz that's kinda dangerous. So we PDF everything, date everything, have Foldered dated. So we've learned that that's really critical is to have everything timestamped. So we have a very complex Dropbox system, but also we have a software that we started using about two years ago called Design Spec. I think one of the biggest issues for designers is figuring out how on earth to not wanna die by a thousand tiny cuts while you're making your spec books. <laugh> and Design Spec is amazing for that. So it makes everything look really pretty.
Speaker 2 00:51:18 It's relatively easy to use, it's a little bit more of an expensive software. So it's probably not for, you know, someone that's just starting out. But as you're growing it'll, you'll immediately see it's worth. So we use that software. So all of our specification books look the same. They're easy to track edits and they look really, really nice. They're not hard to, they're not hard to use at all for any trades. So we do it that way, both as like an insurance policy for us that we gave the information. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But also I think it really helps contractors ahead of time know what to expect with installation of certain things. So in that spec book for lighting, we'll put, like this one has a four inch canopy and needs to have, you know, like a specialized jbox put in, you know, we'll put that all in the spec book. Um, so there's a lot of opportunity to put tons of information in there. So that's super, super helpful.
Speaker 1 00:52:11 Oh, so cool. I can't wait to dig into that. Okay, two more questions. I am so curious as to how you've handle prep for install. That's something I'm a little caught up on. When like you have accessories and stuff, do, do you send accessories to the receiving warehouse when it's distanced? Do those go to the client home specifically? How do you do that?
Speaker 2 00:52:32 Oof. Okay. I will say it's hard. Again, similar to rebranding, it's, I, I feel like we could probably grow in this area and we've definitely with every distance project for accessories specifically have changed our process change. I wouldn't say change our process but added in a new item, a line item and how we do it. So right now we've recently implemented and across the board 15% to any PR furniture proposal that we send out. So like if your living room, for example, costs, I don't know, like whatever, 50 grand or something like that. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, we line item 15%, so like 7,500 for accessories, say accessories, that could be custom pillows, that could be shelf styling stuff. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it could be random little things, hooks, whatever we need, we pull out of that accessories retainer we call it. And with that money that we collect up front, it's kinda understood with clients that they aren't gonna be able to line item approve every single accessory, but the items that we do purchase ahead of time, they're stuck with.
Speaker 2 00:53:38 And I think that that has been a game changer for us cuz one, we're not out that money cuz it adds up so quickly. Yeah. And two, I think it sets the expectation at the beginning that yes, we also accessorize and there's a process for that. So I think by collecting that ahead of time, we've done, we did a few projects where we didn't have any money ahead of time and I was out all that money hoping the client bought something and then I'd have to ship it back and it was a disaster. And so by setting this precedent, we're kind of saying, yep, we do accessories. This is your minimum investment, we're gonna at least purchase this amount and install this amount. And that has helped with the schlepping of things. We have some clients that wanna receive all that themselves and unpackage it and you know, get excited about it.
Speaker 2 00:54:21 And we have some clients that don't and we send it to a receiver. So it really, it really just depends. Sometimes two, we'll we'll receive it at our office. Like for example this Tahoe project, it's not, it's a second home for someone so no one's there very often. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and the receiver is really far. So we are receiving a lot of the accessories and we'll ship them ahead of time from our office for the install. So it really depends how we do it, but yeah. Right. Exactly. But really what we're looking for is the easiest thing for the client and also trying to cover some of the costs cause accessory installs get expensive. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, ahead of time and setting that expectation ahead of time.
Speaker 1 00:55:00 Okay. So as always, I love to end an episode of the Interior Collective with some fun sneaky news. What is something you can share with us that's in the works at YN Interiors?
Speaker 2 00:55:13 Well, you know, we're always, I dunno, I feel like trying new things and one of the things that we're toying with and we're gonna try to make happen is we do a lot of custom furniture and we're toying with the idea of doing a custom, but I should say semi custom bathroom vanity collection.
Speaker 1 00:55:37 My jaw is on the floor, <laugh> in the works. I'm emailing you immediately because I need vanities at the new house. So <laugh> it
Speaker 2 00:55:49 Gap, it's a huge market gap and I find it, you know, we custom design our own. So I'm not sure, you know, I don't think it'll benefit my business, but I feel like there's always people who are like, I want that vanity, how do I get it? Mm-hmm <affirmative> and I'm like, oh we had it made. And we partner with an amazing guy here locally, Andy, well from Roen Furniture, we already talked to him about fabricating them and we already do work together with faithful roots out in California for furniture and it's worked out really well. So what my thought would be that Andy would fabricate them, we'd have maybe 10 designs that people could choose from, but they would be semi custom customizable in the sense that you could change the shape or the size Uhhuh <affirmative>. So they could generally be size specific and we would offer, you know, like a couple of wood like walnut and oak with a couple of stains. But then also any paint color we could do as well. I think
Speaker 1 00:56:44 That is so,
Speaker 2 00:56:46 Yeah. Yeah. So we'll see. I think the trick is right, like people who wanna semi custom vanity, like is the price point, can we get the price point to a place that people who are not working with a designer or a custom builder wanna spend? I think
Speaker 1 00:57:03 That's my right. Can they justify that pricing
Speaker 2 00:57:05 Thing right now? Yeah, exactly. So yeah, so I think that's my biggest hurdle in trying to figure out how technical our designs get. Cause we started off with these really crazy ideas and then I was like, oh wait, this is really expensive <laugh>, so let's simplify that a little bit. So yeah, so we're, we're still feeling it out, but yeah, it's, it's on it. It should be on the horizon. I don't know when it's, you know, our side hustle. So when I have time I work on it. But yeah,
Speaker 1 00:57:30 I love that and I think that that could be some of the best sneaky news that we've ever gotten on an episode <laugh>, so that's
Speaker 2 00:57:37 So great.
Speaker 1 00:57:37 Julia, thank you so much for joining me today. I feel like you have walked in stride with me since I started my business and it's been such an immense honor to cheer you along from the sidelines. Your work continuously is pushing boundaries. It respects historic roots and it envelopes its visitors in warmth and efficiency. I just am such a fan girl. I just am so inspired by you. You can follow Julianne Instagram at Yawn Interiors and view her impressive portfolio and super inspiring inspirational design [email protected]
and make sure you follow along with the progress and get ready to book your stay at Yawn Cottage on Instagram as well. Julia, thank you. Thank you. A million times over. It was such a pleasure to have you today.
Speaker 2 00:58:23 Gito sta I feel like, you know, this is where it's like find your tribe, stick with them, work together.
Speaker 1 00:58:30 Absolutely. Thank, you'll let let you go. Thanks for letting us go a little bit over. I think everybody is feverishly writing down notes you can find anything
Speaker 2 00:58:38 You missed.
Speaker 1 00:58:39 In today's episode, you'll find the full transcript sources included in the show notes and you can find more details about Julia's process on her blog outlined at idco Do studio slash podcast where it's linked there. As always, thank you so much for listening. Please leave us a reveal on Apple podcast. Getting the chat with some of my biggest idols and dearest friends in the industry is definitely the best part of my job. And your support means so much. Have a great day and we'll talk soon.