If it weren’t for a single postcard, Allison Caccoma wouldn’t be the renowned interior designer that she is today. But sometimes small coincidences can have huge impacts.
Today, Allison is based in San Francisco and has a diverse portfolio of projects sprinkled across the East and West Coasts. She is also the owner of design shop, Decoration, yet finds time to preside over several charitable initiatives, including serving as President of the Board of Directors of the Northern California Chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art.
For this latest edition of Design Manager’s Creative Conversation series, we sat down (virtually, of course) to speak with Allison and learn about how she has built her successful career, which is continuously evolving and reaching new heights.
When a Twist of Fate Brings New Beginnings
(A West Village NYC Brownstone designed by Allison Caccoma)
With such a prestigious pedigree and portfolio of multi-million dollar projects, it’s hard to imagine that interior design is actually Allison’s second career. She was living on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and working on Wall Street for nearly a decade when one day she received a postcard in the mail from the New York School of Interior Design (NYSID) advertising a class called ‘Historical Styles’. The school was close to her apartment so she decided to take the night class for a fun reprieve from her long days in the office.
“Little did I know it would change my life,” Allison says. “I fell in love with the school and the idea of a career in interior design and never looked back.”
A Move to San Francisco Marked Her Next Adventure
(A home in Presidio Heights, San Francisco designed by Allison Caccoma)
In 2011, Allison moved to San Francisco to get married and moved her firm with her. But after living in New York City for 25 years, the West Coast lifestyle came as a bit of a culture shock to Allison. Instead of changing herself to fit into her new surroundings, Allison found a way to establish her authentic brand, blending her traditional East Coast style with a West Coast sensibility.
“I stayed true to myself and that is how I have been able to succeed,” she says. “We have so many East Coast ‘transplants’ in the Bay Area, and my design style is both comforting and unique. I definitely have a little niche.”
She credits diligent organization and a strong team with allowing her to succeed in managing projects across the country. She says, “I spend a lot of time traveling – which I love,” she says. “As a designer, we do work all over the country and even abroad. It takes an immense amount of organization and energy but it is actually very easy to do. I find that out-of-town projects can be even more efficient with fewer, more comprehensive meetings. FaceTime and Zoom are making it all even easier!”
Design Manager has also been a huge help to keeping her business operations running smoothly without taking a lot of time or resources. At one point, she was persuaded to try a competitor, and hated how cumbersome it was compared to user-friendly Design Manager. Plus, interfacing with Quickbooks was time consuming. She switched back to Design Manager in short order, much to her bookkeeper’s delight.
In 2015, Allison participated in her first designer show house, the San Francisco Decorator Showcase House, which helped to elevate her profile to an international level.
“It was an absolutely wonderful experience designing my room yet collaborating with other designers to create a show house. I established amazing friendships with these designers. Most importantly, this show house is a long-standing SF tradition to raise funds for San Francisco University High School’s financial aid program for grants to allow deserving students access to a college preparatory education. Students and faculty are volunteers at the show house so it is a full-circle collaboration.”
Expanding Her Business Into Retail
(Allison Caccoma’s San Francisco retail store, Decoration)
In 2017, Allison opened up a retail storefront called Decoration, where they sell a curated selection from collections by John Rosselli International, Bunny Williams Home, and Christopher Spitzmiller, plus a selection of handmade items by local artists and a few special vintage pieces. She says,
“My shop has been an absolute joy for the past three years. I host trunk shows (now via Zoom and Cheque!), art exhibits, cocktail parties, and events for designers. It is also the best marketing tool a designer could have. Along with my own home, it is the most true form of my design style. My advice to any designer thinking of opening a shop would be to have a good budget – and stick to it! Be disciplined. Since we all love to buy beautiful things, amassing an inventory is a little too easy to do!”
Allison also uses Design Manager to manage her retail business, saying, “the Inventory and Showroom features have allowed me to keep both businesses under the same platform which has been great for my accounting!”
She sees e-commerce as an important element of her future business, particularly in a post-Covid world. However, she has a strategy to maintain the integrity of her style and execution. She says, “I was so tired of interior design turning into shopping online that I wanted to go back to the days where shopping and design was an experience. I styled the shop to be a home with vignettes for a Living Room, Dining Room and Study and customers would come in and enjoy being in the ‘rooms’. The response has often been ‘I could move right in’ or ‘I want to take this all home with me’.”
She has also been surprised by how high her sales have been from Instagram and she is redesigning her website to have a shopping cart as well. While she looks forward to returning to the ‘old days’ of shopping in-person, she embraces e-commerce as our immediate future.
Allison works incredibly hard, but her passion for interior design makes it feel like nothing but fun. She is constantly seeking ways to improve her business, give back to the community and to find new sources of inspiration through her travels. While she evolves and elevates, she always remains authentic to herself, making her brand strong and clear. We look forward to seeing what Allison comes up with next.