“5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO of Anderson Design Studio,” With Kathy Anderson

You are only as good as your client. The more experience your client has the better client they can be. We typically are always educating our clients on the process of design and construction all along the way. As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathy Anderson, […]

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You are only as good as your client. The more experience your client has the better client they can be. We typically are always educating our clients on the process of design and construction all along the way.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathy Anderson, IIDA, managing partner and principal designer of Anderson Design Studio. Kathy founded Anderson Design Studio in 1988 after working in the design field for several major architectural firms. Through her talent and innovative leadership, she guides the ADS team in challenging each client and each other. She is noted for her attention to details and expertise in providing complete interior design services from conception to installation. Her 30 years of design experience include the Presidential Suites at Gaylord Opryland, Gaylord Texan and Gaylord Palms, Sinema Restaurant, Renovation of The Grand Ole Opry House, Nashville Underground, Ole Red and Opry City Stage in Times Square, NYC. Additional projects include the Green Hills YMCA, Nashville TN, RCA Studio A, the Library at University School of Nashville and Starstruck Entertainment on Music Row in Nashville.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us what brought you to be an interior designer?

Myparents loved to buy homes and remodel, then sell and do it again. House flippers before it was a TV Show! I just grew up seeing how things could be torn up and put back together and decided to make interior design my career. I went to UCLA and graduated with a degree in interior design.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began Anderson Design Studio?

In 30 years, there have been so many! In 2010 Nashville had a major flood. The Grand Ole Opry House, the home of country music in Nashville, was destroyed. We were called to do a renovation, in a quick response time. The backstage area had 14 dressing rooms and each has a different theme. It was an intense project, but very fun.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

No mistakes are really funny! I look back and maybe some things I would have done different on some early projects, but I can’t think of a mistake. I really only remember the good!

What do you think makes Anderson Design Studio stand out?

I think my years of experience helps the young designers learn the business. Interior Design is problem solving and to be good at that you have to do it over and over. We have great ideas and always offer new perspectives, so there are always new things to figure out. We are not cookie cutter.

What exciting new projects are you working on now?

We have such a variety of projects that is always stays interesting. We are doing a 6000 sq. ft modern farmhouse in Nashville. It’s the most fun to work with the architect from the schematic design phase. We are doing a 2000 guest room renovation at the Gaylord National hotel outside Washington DC. We have a renovation of a villa in Isla Mujeres, Mexico and we are doing Peer Music Group in Nashville. We always have about 30 projects in one phase or another.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Communication is key. Have systems in place for procedures on how to do things but be flexible when needed. Interior Design is a service business and every client is different. Be flexible to adjust.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

Again, communication! Also have a schedule and outline the scope. Set deadlines and make the client aware of those too. The clients need the designer to guide them, not the other way around! Also, always be willing to continue to learn…there is always a new design opportunity!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Alice Fong and Yoko Miyagawa with Fong & Miyagawa Design Associates Inc. in Los Angeles was my first design job. They were such great mentors and taught me so much. I patterned my business after them. I also learned a lot from Gary Everton with EOA Architects and Kem Hinton and Seab Tuck with Tuck-Hinton Architecture & Design. I also have to thank all the amazing craftspeople and contractors who have shared their knowledge with me along the way.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have been able to volunteer my design services to several non-profit organizations such as Oasis Center and Alive Hospice. I also feel like sharing my knowledge and being a teacher of young designers helps them to learn the business. There is only so much they can teach you in school. I think just making the world more beautiful and functional makes for a better world! If your workspace or your home is well designed, it adds a quality to your life.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. It will never be easy! Each project has a new set of design opportunities. If you come up with a creative ceiling detail for example, you then have to figure out the construction and the lighting specifications to make that happen.
  2. You are only as good as your client. The more experience your client has the better client they can be. We typically are always educating our clients on the process of design and construction all along the way.
  3. The business of design such as proposals, specifications and purchasing, follow up, re-selection, coordination with the contractors and subs are the majority of your time, not design.
  4. Things are always changing. For example, LED lighting. With that comes coordination of the color of the light (how cool or warm) and the specification of a dimmer that coordinates.
  5. You have to be knowledgeable on so many different areas; cabinet design, plumbing, electrical, lighting design, doors, hardware, tile and hard surface materials, wood, interior architectural details, moldings, furniture, art, drapery, window treatments, AV, office systems, and the list goes on and on…. It’s a career that never gets boring!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

That’s a big question! I lead by example and kindness and helping each other is a movement I would like to see grow in the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Things of Quality have No Fear of Time”. If you do good design, it will stand the test of time. If you live a good honest, quality life and be kind to your family and friends, the quality of your life will be better too.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

I spend so much of my focus on design and my business that I would have to say the category of Health and Spirituality is where I am seeking more knowledge. A private meeting with Deepak Chopra would be my choice.

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