Kimberley Seldon of Business of Design: “Use the good stuff”

Use the good stuff. After my parents passed away, I cleaned out their home, which is something a lot of grown children have to do. I found some silver flatware that I don’t recall my mother ever using. Now I have that flatware at home, and I use it every single day. As part of my […]

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Use the good stuff. After my parents passed away, I cleaned out their home, which is something a lot of grown children have to do. I found some silver flatware that I don’t recall my mother ever using. Now I have that flatware at home, and I use it every single day.

As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberley Seldon.

Kimberley Seldon is a designer, broadcaster and writer who advocates for spaces that celebrate the people who live in them. Educated at California State University and trained in Toronto, she has been in private practice since 1991. Based in Toronto and Los Angeles, the award-winning Kimberley Seldon Design Group today creates exceptional living spaces for exceptional people throughout North America.

In 2004, Kimberley founded Business of Design — an online learning platform for independent designers — to share what she’s learned about how professionalism powers creativity. She continues to coach and speak to aspiring designers around the world, and to be inspired by their passion.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

A career in interior design was not my first choice. Growing up in Los Angeles I did what so many of us do, I went into television. I worked at ABC on the TV series, Ripley’s Believe It or Not. Later, I decided to go to design school when I was expecting my son. I thought it would be an interesting way to stay occupied since I couldn’t start another series right away. Once I got started in school, I fell in love with the creative process of design. I was hooked.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

I did well in design school, and I immediately took on my own clients. That’s where I learned, the hard way, that the formula for successfully running an interior design firm is 80% business plus 20% creativity. Unfortunately, I had that backwards, which meant that although I gave it everything I had, my clients were less than thrilled with the experience of working with me. That led me to hire a series of expensive business coaches and along the way I learned two important things: how to run projects and how to run a business. From there, I developed a 15-step project management strategy that allows me to deliver projects on time and on budget, something that separates me from most other professional interior designers.

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?

Fortunately, the funniest mistake I ever made wasn’t for a client, it was for my mother. I was in Junior High and my parents wanted to install shag carpeting throughout the house. For reasons I cannot explain, my mom allowed her bossy 11-year-old to select the carpet. I chose a different colour for every room in the house. Orange for the living room, blue for my bedroom, green for my brother’s bedroom, etc. I remember coming home from school that day and being so excited to see the new carpet and it took me 3 1/2 seconds to realize, I had made a terrible, terrible mistake. Imagine my mother’s surprise 10 years later when I decided to go to design school.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m so grateful to have a variety of projects on the go at all times. Right now, we have residential projects in Los Angeles and Toronto. Many of our clients have a primary residence as well as a vacation property and we frequently get hired to do one and then when that’s done, we’ll get hired to do the other. This gives us an opportunity to stretch ourselves creatively. We are also designing an executive lounge for a corporate client right now. That’s such fun. It’s a cross between a Soho House and a Dave and Busters.

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

Don’t fear it, fight it, fix it, or freak out. Let it flow. Renovating and building homes for clients is such a joyful process, but it’s not without its challenges. No matter how difficult the situation, I have never faced a problem that was insurmountable. I’ve learned to keep calm, ask for help and know there is a solution. That philosophy has helped my clients too.

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?

I have been fortunate to have several career angels in my life. Karl Lohnes hired me for my first styling and editorial job for Style at Home magazine. The first time we worked together was pure madness. Karl asked me to create a full holiday interior which had to be shot in the middle of July! It was challenging but also a great introduction to the industry. The woman who got me my first television show, which allowed me to travel and interview the world’s best interior designers is definitely a career angel. Cheryl Horne is Director of Operations for Business of Design®, which is business training for design professionals. Cheryl is my professional North Star.

Thank you for that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Be discerning. I have a favorite candle, Diptyque Feu de Bois. It’s the scent I love the most, the one that relaxes me, so it’s the only scented candle I have in my home.

Own less. This probably sounds insane coming from an interior designer. I guess it ties into the one above, be discerning. I love the freedom of having everything I need, without excess. My mom taught me to buy quality rather than quantity.

Use the good stuff. After my parents passed away, I cleaned out their home, which is something a lot of grown children have to do. I found some silver flatware that I don’t recall my mother ever using. Now I have that flatware at home, and I use it every single day.

Clean the windows. Clean windows allow the world outside to more clearly come into view.

When in doubt, go big. The biggest mistake people make when decorating their homes is choosing things that are too small. When faced with a choice, provided both items fit comfortably in the space, go with the bigger option. This is true for furniture, area carpets, artwork, display objects, etc.

Do you. Don’t let anyone, even your interior designer, tell you what you love. If it makes your heart sing, find a place for it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Oh, this is fun. I would launch a respect campaign. Let me think how this would work. We could match individuals who come from completely different backgrounds together. They would spend one year getting to know each other. They’d meet via zoom each week, and then, once a month, they would take turns spending the weekend at each other’s home. Maybe this would help us learn another person’s perspective, eliminate some of the ungrounded fears and bias that are so prevalent now and break down some of the barriers that stand in the way of coming together as human beings. Yup, that’s what I’d do.

Either that, or I would insist that every single person who buys a home has to work with a professional interior designer.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

This is the most challenging question in the interview. There is someone I would love to meet, Michelle Obama. I can’t think of another human being who has navigated the world more gracefully. She is a really good friend of mine, but we haven’t met.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@kimberleyseldon @business_of_design

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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