A provider of complete interior design solutions.

That’s what Beth makes herself out to be. What does that mean?

Well, she doesn’t consider design to be about having fun or buying pretty things. She considers design to be about presenting an end-to-end solution for a client who brings her a design problem.

And she believes in giving back to her fraternity through her company called The Design Coach which has many emerging designers among its clients.

How long have you been in the industry and how did you get your start?

I have been in the industry since 1981, so 38 years. I changed my major mid-stream in college from fine art to architecture and interior design. I received my Bachelor of Science in Interior Design and Business Administration from the Department of Design Sciences in the College of Architecture at Arizona State University.

I worked at a hospital during college so gravitated to my first job with a sole practitioner who did medical complexes. I quickly decided that was terribly boring and moved to a large interior design firm (10 designers) who did model homes and residential properties. Since then I’ve moved between commercial and residential design, starting my own company in 1994. We specialize in creating timeless interiors for luxury residences.

Image Source: Beth Whitlinger Interior Design

What would you say have been your biggest successes and biggest struggles working in the interior design industry?

I feel my biggest successes are every time we install a project. The majority of our projects are fairly sizable remodels, so the client’s move out of the home during construction. I love the look on our client’s faces when we do a “grand reveal”. They’ve seen drawings, swatches, renderings… but nothing rivals actually being in the space. They enter each room like a kid at Disneyland, marveling at the splendor of their new environment. That feeling lifts me up for weeks.

I struggle with the industry at large since there is no licensing or title act. So many professions cannot use their titles unless they’re licensed and accredited (architects, engineers, lawyers, notaries, doctors, etc.). Anyone wanting to be a designer can hang a shingle and say they’re a designer. For those of us who have invested time and money on a degree and continuing education during their career, it can be incredibly frustrating.

I have an educational background in design, architecture, construction, and engineering. Other than copious amounts of explanation on my website or to a client, I have no easy method of differentiating myself from someone who thinks ‘decorating is fun’, starts a business, and has to learn by doing, for example, which materials are suitable for what type of environment, or why they shouldn’t have had a random handyman remove a wall.

I have no issue with people wanting to be in the industry because I believe it is a fabulous way to make a living and enjoy what you do. I’m not an elitist about who should and shouldn’t join the profession. In fact, my other company, The Interior Design Coach, provides consulting to designers to help them navigate the business end of the profession. Many of my clients are emerging designers who have not received a formal education in design. All I’m saying is there needs to be a way for the public to differentiate between the levels of education, accreditation, and experience, for their own protection. I sincerely hope, someday, that changes.

Image Source: Beth Whitlinger Interior Design

 

In the course of your daily work, what do you find to be the biggest sources of pain & aggravation (i.e. what are your biggest daily hurdles)?

My biggest daily hurdle is the crazy amount of e-mail to which I have to respond. Technology was supposed to make our lives easier and it really has just filed our days with a lot of busy work. In the past if a client or rep had a question for you they would just pick up the phone and call. Now, it takes several emails back and forth to get the answer for just one issue. We used to keep a log of all the questions that arose throughout the day and then make one call to a vendor or client to go through all the issues. I’ve been slowly changing back to that model, especially with clients, since I know that personal contact is sorely missed in our industry.

Second is probably getting trades to perform up to our standards and expectations. We work with some amazing trades who really make us look good. All it takes is one who doesn’t quite hold up their end and it can sour the whole project. I wish more people in our industry had a higher work ethic; it would make us all have an easier time with our projects and clients.

What do you do to keep up with the latest trends in the industry?

My off time is spent scouring shelter and fashion magazines. I love going to trade shows, attending CEU’s, listening to webinars… my life is filled with everything design related.

Instagram and Houzz also provide a wealth of what is going on in the industry at large. I follow some incredibly inspirational designers from all over the world.

How would you say that you are able to differentiate yourself from the competition?

The design and construction industry is inherently filled with drama. There are backorders, freight damage, construction “surprises”, cost overruns… the specialty of my firm is to bring a sense of calm to our projects so our clients have a stress-free experience. We basically shield them from all the issues that arise and present them only with solutions, from which they can chose the path they prefer. We are problem solvers and make sure our clients are not subjected to any of the aggravation.

Is there anything that you know that you wish someone had told you when you were getting started in the business?

Design is not glamorous. It’s not about running around town looking fabulous, playing with pretty fabrics and shopping (I wish!). The majority of your time is spent behind a desk analyzing data and details and coming up with creative solutions to design dilemmas.

Beth’s college education included training in Business Administration and it shows in her approach to interior design.

She certainly has a very strong idea on what should and should not be allowed as far as interior designers advertising themselves goes. And she certainly has earned every designation/accreditation she gives to herself.

Do you know of any other interior designer who has such a business-like approach to the field of interior designer? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.

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