Student Success Nathalie Fugere
In October 2013, Nathalie Fugere closed down her home staging business in order to fully explore interior design. Understandably nervous, she initially worried she wouldn’t establish a sufficient client base to achieve financial stability in 2014. Her worries would prove unfounded however, as her business would successfully land nine major projects in its first year.
Close client relationships, outstanding patron loyalty and personal passion for projects, we’ve learned, are 3 crucial cornerstones to Nathalie’s ongoing achievement and consistent workload. One project she remembers, for example, involved a complete re-build of a family home that caught fire several years ago. We recently sat down for an interview with Nathalie, an interior design alumna of ours, to ask some questions about her post-graduation business achievements.
Why did you decide to begin with an education at NYIAD?
I felt like I needed a diploma, I needed to feel that what I was doing was right, and I needed to learn why I was making certain moves. I wanted to have the ability to explain the reasoning behind my career choices. Now, because of my studies, I am more confident in my decisions."
Tell us about your first real design job.
"On my first real job, I was scared to death. I was afraid that I had taken on a project too big for a beginner. I didn't spend a lot of time sleeping, because I was constantly worrying, "did I take the right measurements? Did I order the right color?” I was so nervous about color choices.
But at the end of the day, I realized that it didn’t matter how big the project was- it mattered that I established wonderful relationships with the people I worked for, and the people I worked with.
No matter what, designers will always have challenges to face. But the relationships gained along the way are what will really make or break your career. If I didn't have the kind of connection I have with my wholesalers, for example, I would probably face more struggles- and my orders wouldn't move to the top of the pile as quickly as I need."
How does an interior design career blend with your life overall?
"I am doing what I love. Before this, I was working for high-tech companies, and I wasn't able to be as imaginative. I find that because of my work now, I can really use my creativity. I love experimenting and learning new things, and I find that this work is perfect for me in that sense.
Not only that, in my previous job, I was working 60 to 70 hours per week. Now I am able to manage my time, and it has given me much greater work life balance overall."
What kind of work are you doing now?
"Right now I am managing my interior design firm with the help of one assistant.
My approach is: always host 2 hour consultations with clients, even before you’re officially in business together. It’s important to determine whether or not a connection exists between us, and to get a sense of whether or not the project will run smoothly. If I don’t feel an initial harmony during that first meeting, I refuse to continue with the project. Because of my background in business, I’ve learned exactly which market I want to reach, and which projects I know I’ll work best on.”
How do you think your education at NYIAD has helped you achieve the success you’ve earned thus far?
"Because of the time I invested in my education, I feel more confident in my choices. I feel more poised when communicating with clients, and I feel that I can now offer more academic explanations for my stylistic decisions.
I remember one lesson in particular- "How to Deal with your Wholesalers." As I worked my way through it, I found myself saying, "Oh, I do that! Oh, I don't do that. Why haven't I been doing that? Oh that's a good idea!"
I also remember working on a project during the lighting lesson. The curriculum made me realize that I needed to revise my designs, because I had been making a few mistakes up until then. For me, the course was very practical. I sometimes go back to certain lessons when I'm feeling unsure about a choice I’m making for a client. Then, when I'm in front of my clients presenting my decisions and ideas, I can communicate in a much more professional and confident way."
What are the main challenges you consistently face in this field of work?
"I think the biggest challenge for me is saying no to my clients. I'm known as a nice lady, and it’s hard to be tough on people- but it’s important sometimes.
I once went to a seminar where the speaker said there are 3 different categories of clients. There’s the ‘shopper,’ who always wants to find a deal. Then there’s the ‘knowledge tester,’ who hesitates on making their decision. Then there’s the ‘perfect client,’ who has faith in the stylist- they are buying the design expertise, and they understand that you will come with the perfect plan for them. If you're able to figure out which type you want to work with, the job will be easy."
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
"I love the fact that I get to manage my time, I get to create a relationship with my clients, and I am able to accommodate their needs. I find that not everyone has an eye, and not everybody knows what they want. When I have a client that has no idea what they want, that's when I feel challenged, and I love working with people like that.”
What’s next for Fugere Interior Design?
"The next thing that I plan to do is to approach the media, and build more of a public name for myself. There are magazines that contacted me about using my designs, and I’d like to start working with them more frequently.”
If you could give one piece of advice to amateur designers, what would it be?
"First, believe in yourself. Second- when I talk to designers in their 20s and 30s, what is usually lacking is a business approach. It's one thing if you want to be an interior designer, but when you want to start your own firm, you must have a good background in business. Most of your learning will happen with experience, and learning from your mistakes."
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