How do you want to feel when you walk through the door? That’s one of the most important questions interior designer and businesswoman Piper Gonzalez asks her clients during the discovery phase of a new project. “I think there are certain key elements and if you nail them, it gives you an overall sense of what the person wants when they walk into a space. Do they want to feel energized or relaxed? Do they want to feel like they're on vacation or do they want to feel like they're in their safe place?” says Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’s talent for tuning into the needs of her clients has garnered considerable buzz and numerous accolades over the past 13 years she’s been in business. Recently, we interviewed Gonzalez to find out more about her creative process, how she balances life as a designer and business owner, and what tools help her save time and streamline her operations.
How Genuine Relationships Lead to Referrals
As a designer, Gonzalez is laser-focused on providing one-of-a-kind designs tailored to her clients’ lifestyles. “I really try to develop a relationship with my clients and I genuinely do care about them,” says Gonzalez. “It's very different when you're working for a friend or when someone feels like they have a friend working for them.”
Getting to know her clients on a personal level is what enables Gonzalez to create a space that truly represents who they are. “Part of the fun for me is getting to know the client and then creating a space that feels like them and isn't just a cookie cutter design,” she says. Gonzalez is less worried about what’s trendy right now and more concerned about what makes her clients feel at home.
“Part of the fun for me is getting to know the client and then creating a space that feels like them and isn't just a cookie cutter design”
Because she is deeply involved in every project, Gonzalez is able to fully immerse herself in each of her clients’ worlds. “The person who developed the relationship has to be the person to come up with the overall design and then go down to the details because you're the one who knows them well,” says Gonzalez. “I don't think that's something that a large firm could easily handle.”
Building genuine relationships with her clients has paid off and even become a steady source of new business for Gonzalez over the years. “I always find it a huge compliment when clients say that they love that when they walk into their house, it feels like their house, and when they walk into their friend's house, it feels like their friend's house.” It’s this sentiment that has set Gonzalez apart from other designers and encouraged clients to recommend her to their friends.
Making Time for Design
How does Gonzalez find the time to focus on design and run her business? “I have been really lucky to have at least one really good support person at all times,” she says. “I think knowing where my weaknesses are and hiring appropriately to fill in those gaps is key.”
“I have an MBA, so I can be very business minded. But I have found that I cannot be very business minded and very creative at the same time,” says Gonzalez. In order to create some separation between the two, Gonzalez’s assistant knows to group logistical tasks together on days when there isn’t as much design work to be done. “If I have to be turning out a new design that day, I need to have my full attention on that,” explains Gonzalez.
Aside from blocking out time for business-related tasks, Gonzalez and her team also use Design Manager to save time and streamline processes. Previously, they would have to enter proposals, invoices, and tear sheets separately. Not only was this time-consuming, but it also created room for human error and discrepancies in the data. Gonzalez says, “Tear sheets used to take us three days to pull together. With Design Manager, they’re done in 15 minutes. It’s incredible!”
Design Manager also helps Gonzalez and her team organize old projects and easily track down pieces for new projects. And once the mobile app is released, she won’t even have to access the full software to look up basic item details from a project. “I’m so excited about the new app,” says Gonzalez, who regularly calls her assistant at the office to send her photos of items from previous pitches. Now, she’ll be able to quickly access all of that information directly from her phone with a few clicks.
“Design Manager has saved us a tremendous amount of time,” says Gonzalez. What will Gonzalez do with all of her reclaimed time? She’ll continue doing what she does best — creating beautiful spaces that are personal, practical, and timeless.