Student Success - C. Anson Hedges
NYIAD students are out there in droves decorating clients' homes, serving as consultants in department stores, and re-designing everything from metropolitan penthouses to lakeshore cottages. If you've started your own business, if you've been hired by a decorating firm, or if you've achieved success in some other way in the field of interior design, we want to hear from you! Click here to let us know about the waves you're making!
If you missed earlier installments of this series, here's your chance to read more about the accomplishments of NYIAD students. Just visit our NYIAD Student Success page.
Designer Monthly: What initially drew you to the NYIAD Interior Design Course?
Hedges: I chose NYIAD because I could take the course work in my own time, and the cost of the training couldn't be beat. As I progressed in my studies, I came to realize that I had chosen the best school for me. I learned all aspects of interior decoration; I learned the business; I saw what to expect from personnel in showrooms and how to interact with them.
I had checked out several other schools here in New York City, and all required an extensive time commitment and an expensive monetary commitment. I also work full-time and the classes at other schools were almost always scheduled at inconvenient times for me to attend. Like most New Yorkers, I wanted what I wanted, and I wanted it NOW.
When I read through the course work that NYIAD offered and compared it to other schools, there was no real difference, at least at that first look. I didn't realize how extensive the business training would truly be.
Designer Monthly: What kind of work are you doing now?
Hedges: Currently, I'm working full-time at a day job and working as a decorator with my own firm part-time.
Mostly I do redesign, a one-day, fee-based project that allows me to use the training I received from NYIAD. I use furniture and accessories that are already owned by clients and arrange and edit them so the clients' homes reflect who they are and how they want to live. I also draw up a plan for clients to gradually upgrade their furniture for pieces that are more appropriate and which will increase the value of their homes.
Sometimes this means that a client starts with furniture from box stores and national retailers. When they have the funds, we replace the pieces of furniture with designer or antique investment pieces.
For instance, I'm currently working on combining two households—mine and my partner's—into a new apartment we just bought in a gentrified section of Harlem. My partner wants the style to be a comfortable "New York Home." We have cottages on a lake in the country and the décor out there reflects that environment. Now we want something more urban. As we both are moving in from much smaller spaces, we have to acquire more furniture.
I drew up the plans and we agreed on a configuration of furniture. I then shopped and consulted until we had a style we both were comfortable with and liked. I made two presentation boards, one for the furniture we can afford now and one for the fine pieces to replace the former.
There is an interesting occurrence with this plan. Clients see the second, designer pieces and want to skip what they can afford. I have to reign them in (and reign in myself in the case of our apartment) before they bankrupt themselves.
Designer Monthly: How did you get your first design job?
Hedges: My first design job was for my day job. It came out almost as a challenge. "OK, Mr. Designer, we want to redo this meeting room. Do it." To add to the fun, there was no money for the project: I had to really design on a dime as it were. The room is a meeting room and lounge and is currently only about 75% complete from my design, but there are no funds for drapes and finishing touches. But even in its un-finished state, I still get compliments on the work I did.
At the same time, I had a job for a friend of a friend who was planning a holiday party and wanted the apartment set up and decorated. The complication—and there always seems to be a complication—was that the owner wasn't even in the country. She would return just in time for the party to start, which would be too late to make any adjustments. I got the tree decorated and the furniture placed and was working on the serving areas when she walked in the door a day early! She was so excited about having her apartment done, she changed her flights. I wouldn't be telling you this story unless she loved it, which she did.
Designer Monthly: What do you like best about the work you're doing now?
Hedges: Wow, there are so many things. I can tell you what I don't like…marketing. I want to decorate, but first I have to find clients! It wasn't until I developed the attitude that marketing is my job and my vacations are when I get to decorate that I really started pushing the marketing. And, marketing is a must, a have-to, a you're-not-going-to-get-to do-anything-unless-you-do-it, a thing that you do constantly, otherwise you'll just sit in a beautifully-decorated office which you will have to eventually close because there is no income to sustain your business.
But I digress. I love to shop; I love to draw floor plans; I'll draw floor plans and elevations by the hour; I love talking to folks and I love making their house into Their Home. The caps for "Their Home" are deliberate. It's a title; what I think of while doing the designs is that I'm working on "Their Home."
Designer Monthly: What are the challenges involved in your work?
Hedges: The most difficult thing for me is giving clients what they ask for. I walk into someone's space and look around and can see what I could do, should do or want to do. Then, in the interview or conversation with the client, I hear something diametrically opposed to what I'm thinking. I'm still learning to hear what the client is really asking for and that comes out in the conversation that is not about the room.
Their likes, dislikes, the colors of their clothes---yes, I look in their closets. What easier way is there to see what colors they are drawn to? What they are comfortable with and what makes them feel secure. It's not just about what they want to use the room for. If they say, "parties," I'll bet they don't throw a party all that often, but they love or even cherish having a couple of friends over for conversation and time together.
The challenge is merging what they say they want with what you hear them saying they want with what you are actually seeing the room need. That's the art of decorating.
My other challenge is in the legal aspects of the business, what licenses, registrations, forms, Tax IDs are necessary for me to be in business. Luckily, sorting through all that is covered in the course material.
Designer Monthly: How have your studies at NYIAD helped your work?
Hedges: I have to say that my NYIAD studies help in almost every aspect of my work. Not only did I learn the rules for interior decorating (so I can break them when I have good reason) but I was given the tools for the business side of interior decorating. I have the forms to present to clients and vendors.
It wasn't until I got into conversation with other decorators that I really found out how much I really learned from NYIAD. Before, there was a little voice in the back of my mind that said I would be learning more or better if I were in a classroom with a teacher hanging over my shoulder. But that's not true!
I learned so much, more than in a classroom and mostly because I had to learn it. I was given everything in the course material but there was no one to ask questions of conveniently. The student advisors were there every time I needed them, but I had to submit my questions by email and wait for the answer or I had to telephone and try to describe what was visually in front of me. I made more of an effort to learn because I didn't have the crutch of a teacher right there in the room. And, when I was stumped, I learned how to communicate as a decorator so Janet Ramin (my student advisor) or my instructor would know exactly what I was talking about.
Designer Monthly: What's next for you?
Hedges: I think it sounds facile to say this, but: "Everything!" Everything is a discovery. Everything is a new experience. I recently found that I have a flair for color and I'm not afraid of it in the least (just take a peek at my bedroom). I'm learning to interact with and ask suggestions of the showroom personnel and I'm amazed at the ideas they are willing, in fact eager, to give me. I've learned that people really do want to have a Home—not just a house—and I'm learning how to give it to them. I know the ABC's of decorating, thanks to NYIAD, but using them to write the literature of decorating is something that I'm learning. My hope is that I never stop learning. This is too much fun.