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Free the Designer: A Recap of Design Manager’s Star-Studded HPMKT Panel

Working as an interior designer is an all-consuming lifestyle, and that goes double for when you’re the business owner, devoting countless hours to both the business as well as the creative side of your career. That’s why Design Manager is leading the #FreetheDesigner movement, aimed at helping interior designers find ways to work more efficiently and manage their businesses in a way that promotes their creativity.


At this fall’s long awaited (after Spring 2020 MPMKT was cancelled due to COVID-19) High Point Market, we hosted a panel with five stars of the interior design industry, who discussed 15 Strategies to Free Up Time to Design. We were fortunate enough to get Bria Hammel, Marta Mitchel, Ivonne Ronderos, Lisa Kahn, and our favorite tax and financial expert, Peter Lang, to share their wisdom with a wider audience. Here, we’ll recap what each of them had to say.


And also we’d like to give a special thank you to Neil MacKenzie of Universal Furniture for putting on such diverse, educational and entertaining programming throughout Market.

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Marta Mitchell

Marta Mitchell HeadshotMarta Mitchel of Marta Mitchell Interior Design is a strong proponent of hiring a team with targeted expertise to eliminate the bottleneck that prevents many businesses from reaching the next level, and fully trusting those team members to take ownership of their work. So what else works for her?

  • During the panel, she reiterated the positive impact this approach has had not only on her business, but her overall life, giving her the necessary time to focus on the direction of her business and her personal designs, while making time for self-care when needed.
  • Hiring a dedicated Project Manager, who is responsible for purchase order management, including expediting merchandise orders and coordinating installations, and interfacing with furniture vendors, has had a particularly positive change to her business.
  • Another important decision was to switch from Quickbooks to Design Manager, which, with its reliability, cloud functionality, and the elimination of redundancy that comes from centralizing all of the business’s data, freed up time and mental energy across her staff.


Bria Hammel


Bria Hammel, founder of Bria Hammel Interiors, uses a business management system called EOS that includes assigning her individual team members one to two projects per quarter that aim to improve the business in an area outside of design. What else does she recommend?

  • She also focuses her attention on the parts
     of the design process in which she is strongest, including procuring clients, managing relationships, and setting the design vision.
  • Bria, who is also a Design Manager Brand Ambassador, shared her best tip for getting new clients: She invests in great photography that helps her website and social media channels, including the BHI blog, stand out.


Ivonne Ronderos

ivonne-ronderos-1000x600Ivonne Ronderos, founder of DKOR Interiors, strongly believes that communication is the key to success. What else works for her?

  • In addition to all other aspects of an employee’s responsibility, Ivonne says training them on how they should communicate as a member of the firm is essential to empowering a team.
  • Design Manager is also an extremely helpful communication tool as it makes pertinent information readily available to recall for an impromptu discussion or to share over email.
  • Also, Design Manager’s document creation functionality provides clients with a professionally polished and visually consistent means of receiving and retaining information about their project.
  • Lastly, she says that prioritizing is essential to remaining efficient. Focus on your most important tasks and then eliminate distractions.


Lisa Kahn

lisa kahn headshot

Lisa Kahn of Lisa Kahn Designs follows David Allen’s Getting Things Done Ⓡ (GTDⓇ) approach to organizing her priorities, narrowing down what is important in the moment and filing ideas and actions that can be pursued at a later time into another column. What else?

  • She also diligently schedules her time in blocks, for example, reserving certain hours in her day to respond to emails and return phone calls. By removing the pressure to respond to incoming messages instantaneously, Lisa can readily access her creative abilities to “make design happen”, which every artist knows can be a challenge.
  • She also ensures that she begins her day the same exact way no matter what she has on her plate; protecting her morning ritual and carving out that time for herself gives Lisa the energy and clarity of mind to be as productive as possible and not get distracted throughout the day.

Peter Lang

Peter LangPeter Lang, The Designer CPA, is an accounting virtuoso who happens to work exclusively with interior designers. He is well-versed in the complicated business model and accounting needs of interior design businesses, and is highly qualified to give financial advice to this unique niche of business owners, many of whom are frustrated by spending more time on business issues than on creating art. Here is what he advises:

  • First and foremost, put together a strong financial toolkit that includes both dedicated professionals who are trained in finance and accounting (whether internal, external, or both) and support software that is customized to the interior design industry, like Design Manager.
  • At the same time, stay in control of your business by reviewing your bank statements and other financial reports to catch mistakes or irregularities that could be a sign of fraud. Pinpointing a problem early on can save not only a headache, but possibly your entire business.


All in all, Fall’s High Point Market, the first major interior design trade show to take place after COVID-19 changed the world earlier this year, was a great success. Check in with the Design Manager blog for an upcoming review of the Fall 2020 HPMKT, as well as all other important interior design business advice and industry goings-on.


If the Free the Designer Panel taught us one thing, it’s to take ownership of the way we spend our time, whether it's through procuring the best tools, hiring the right team, or scheduling our time in advance in a way that dedicates the necessary time for creativity. To see the entire Design Manager HPMKT panel, visit our Youtube channel. To save time and #freethedesigner in you, sign up for a free trial of Design Manager and find out how an industry tailored accounting and project management software can bring your interior design business to the next level!

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Margot LaScala
Margot LaScala
Contributing Author

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