Lauren Carras is proof that for every creative genius, there’s a business-minded individual working hard behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly. As the business manager for famous interior designer Miles Redd, Carras knows all too well that the devil is in the detail.
It’s up to Carras to simultaneously act as an office manager and a bookkeeper, ensuring that invoices get paid on time and that contracts are negotiated properly. With such a small team working on high-profile design projects, Carras says it’s her job to handle “everything but the design work.”
We spoke with Lauren Carras of Miles Redd to learn more about the business side of design, how she stays organized, and what helps her save time. Read on for a behind-the-scenes look at how a top interior design firm operates to produce truly remarkable work.
Photography by Architectural Digest
Small Team, Big Designs
Including Carras, the team at Miles Redd is five people strong. “Miles is very hands-on,” notes Carras. “He's involved in every project. It's not like the clients never see him or hear from him. They're dealing with him most of the time.” This level of involvement is impressive for a busy designer whose work has been featured in Vogue, W, House Beautiful, Elle Décor, Veranda, and Architectural Digest.
Photography by Melanie Acevedo
Redd likes to be deeply involved with every decision, not just overseeing other designers who are making the choices. “I think it’s impressive that we manage to do the level of work we do with such a small team,” says Carras. Because everyone is busy making Redd’s vision a reality, it’s up to Carras to ensure the back-end of the business is running like a well-oiled machine.
Process is Key
Miles Redd is famous for bold designs featuring a lot of layers. “It’s not just a simple modern room with two chairs and white paint on the wall,” says Carras. “We have so many items involved in a given project that it's hard to keep track of all these individual little pieces.” How does a five-person firm keep up with so many moving parts?
“Design Manager keeps my team organized and running smoothly,” says Miles Redd. “It lets us focus on being creative rather than billing and project management.” Having a software solution like Design Manager in place helps Redd and his team ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.
Carras has made it her mission to ensure that every detail is entered into the database accurately. “I try to keep Design Manager as clean and uniform as possible,” says Carras. “Everybody knows to put all the information in, not just that this is a chair. It has to have the dimensions, fabric, and the invoice number so that we're not confused when we refer to it later.” This attention to detail helps to keep everything organized and the whole team on the same page.
In a business setting involving many different vendors and items, it’s extremely helpful to have an organized database to refer back to when needed. “Whether it’s for that same project or a new one, there’s a lot of going back and finding old things,” says Carras. “If you keep a very neat system where you've got everything detailed and uniform, then it's so much easier to find, and you don't waste time looking for things that are right in front of you.” Design Manager’s detailed search functions enable Carras and her team to quickly filter through hundreds or thousands of items from the same vendors to find the exact item or items they’re looking for.
Photography by Miguel Flores Vianna
The Business Side of Design
Design Manager’s reporting functions allow the designers and project managers at Miles Redd to keep tabs on a project and make sure that every detail is accounted for, including money in and money out. “We use a lot of different reports to get an overview of the status of a project without having to manually look through every item in a project and examine it individually. Instead, we can look at a report and see if anything stands out.”
In the past, Carras has struggled to use QuickBooks to handle the bookkeeping side of interior design. “I have used QuickBooks in another firm, and the problem is that you can't keep track of anything in a way that makes sense for interior design,” she says. “There's no way of grouping things together by vendor or client, and it lacks an organization system relative to interior design.”
“I like being able to organize everything by room and put that on a proposal so that clients aren’t looking at a giant bill for a bunch of different things, they’re looking at a bill for their daughter’s room,” says Carras. Design is personal, and the function and meaning of a room have a lot to do with the value some clients attach to it. “If a proposal isn’t broken out by room, it gets confusing and clients get frustrated,” says Carras.
Lastly, Carras noted how important customer service is when choosing a business software provider. “The Design Manager team is very receptive to seeing what we really do versus what the program does that doesn't really work for us very well and needs to be changed,” she says. “The fact that they're willing to help us use it in the proper way to make sure that we're getting the most out of the software is huge.” Carras also noted that the Design Manager team “showed us a lot of new features that we're excited for when they come on board.” In particular, she’s looking forward to the release of the mobile app and its ability to capture pictures and take notes on items while shopping.