Whether your interior design studio is a new start-up or an established firm with name recognition, it’s essential to remain current and not become stale in order to appeal to new business and recruit and retain talent. But what are strategies for maintaining your competitive edge as an interior designer and keeping team members on top of their games? This guide outlines the basics.

Tina Ramchandani quote: "I encourage seminars and conferences, so we can learn what other designers are doing and how to improve our systems."

Keep Learning

Travel-themed bedroom
This Michelle Nussbaumer-designed bedroom in the designer’s own San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, hacienda features Moroccan motifs inspired by her travels. | Photo by Douglas Friedman

Maintain that creative spark and keep your interior design studio on the cutting edge of design by continuing to learn. Novel design practices and technologies evolve constantly so it’s imperative to remain cued into design innovation. Seek out continuing education courses or pay for your staff to take a course. Tina Ramchandani, founder of her New York-based luxury interior design studio Tina Ramchandani Creative says she attends conferences and listens to podcasts. “Recently my team attended a virtual conference led by Gail Doby [Coaching and Consulting for Interior Designers], which was inspiring and enlightening,” she says. “I encourage seminars and conferences, so we can learn what other designers are doing and how to improve our systems.”

KD Reid, founder of his namesake interior design studio, offers, “The implementation of training and education for your personnel not only supports your team but also demonstrates that you care about them and their future and that you envision them developing alongside your firm.”

Michelle Nussbaumer, founder of Dallas-based interior design studio Ceylon et Cie, says she always learns something new from consulting her vast design library. “Start your design library with classics, and you will learn so much from those who came before you,” she says, recommending all the David Hicks books, all the Cecil Beaton books, and Horst: Interiors.

Get Social

Living room with deep dark blue walls and a white corner couch
Home Designed by Tina Ramchandani | Photo by Jacob Snavely

Consulting social media offers a wealth of design inspiration. “Instagram is always at the back of our minds, as it’s a quick way to see what people are doing,” Ramchandani says, but cautions, “It doesn’t predict future trends, just what’s current right now.”

Not only does social media offer a means to evaluate what interior design studios are concocting, but also it gives you the opportunity to share your work and remain relevant in the design conversation. Meredith Xavier, principal and founder of marketing, public relations, and business development company Ligné Agency—which counts a number of interior design studios as clients—says, “As daunting and exhausting as social media feels most days, capturing the moments when your firm is actively doing what makes you so unique shows potential clients why they want to work with you and helps them get an insight into your creative process.”

Reid agrees that “the greatest approach to keep current and relevant is to have a social media presence.” He says, “You are the face of your brand, and how you come across will influence how others will see you.” And he suggests if social media is not your strength, add a young savvy design associate to your interior design studio to help achieve an online aesthetic that supports your business.

Stay Connected

Beyond social media, actually staying connected to A&D industry colleagues, manufacturers, and potential interior design clients IRL also proves to be a valuable strategy for staying abreast of what’s hot. “The team and I are also constantly visiting showrooms and talking to our vendors to learn about what’s current,” says Ramchandani. “Relationships and connections are our top priority. That shines through when we’re hiring because I’m looking to connect with our team members.”

Mix Things Up

Living room with colorful furniture as bold accents
Modern Treehouse Design by KD Reid

Consciously take care to avoid falling into a rut and prevent your work from becoming tired. “Constantly challenge your team and yourself to mix things up,” Xavier urges. “Find new sources. Explore new places. It’s so easy to source from the same places, use your in-house library, and repeat certain aspects of what you do to make the process faster when things are busy. But challenge your staff to think outside the box.”

Nussbaumer explains, “We don’t use the same brands or vendors for every project, which helps keep things from becoming stale.” And she encourages creative thought through team-building activities. “We do outside projects together—sometimes we’ll take a pottery class, we’ll travel, we’re talking about meditating as a team on a weekly basis. Play is important to the creative process, so we do our best to make time for it.”

Be Open

Bathroom with blue tiles as accent pieces
Bathroom Design by MIchelle Nussbaumer

Being alert, opening your eyes, and really taking in your surroundings present inspiration wherever you are and wherever you go. “Travel and the environment around me are always my go-to sources for inspiration,” Ramchandani says. “Since travel has slowed, I’ve turned to movies, books, and galleries for sparks of ideas, and I really love where these places have taken me.”

Nussbaumer says she gains a fresh perspective from her interior design clients and her young design team plus travel and mother nature. “Travel and seeing what’s happening in our current design climate are key,” she says, noting she just went to the Venice Biennale and to Switzerland with her team this summer, where they saw Balthus’ Grand Chalet. “We try to reference historical research in our modern work.”

Interior designers can also keep a fresh outlook by keeping an open mind overall. Reid urges, “Accepting unconventional and challenging design tasks keeps your mind open to new ideas and draws more interior design clients to your business.”

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Featured image: NYC Kitchen Design by Tina Ramchandani