Yesterday, July 31st, 2018, marked the date, 5 years ago, when I first started my interior design business, Jana Donohoe Designs. What a ride it's been! I am so thankful to my family for supporting me, my clients for their trust in me, as well as for all of my vendors, tradespeople, installers and delivery crews who help me, everyday, create beautiful homes for my clients.
Without all of you, I would not be where I am today. Thank you!
In honor of this important milestone in my business, I thought I would do something a little crazy...and conduct an interview....with myself!
Lately, I've been getting questions from brand new designers about how I got started, etc., so I thought I would do this, and I hope it will be fun for you all to know a little bit more about me, how I got started, and what inspires me.
So pour your coffee, tea or wine (if you know me, you know I love both coffee and wine equally!), and enjoy. If you're a new designer and have any questions at the end, please leave me a comment, I'd be happy to answer them.
Q1: WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO CHOOSE INTERIOR DESIGN AS A CAREER PATH?
A1: I originally went to college majoring in biology, I wanted to work with
animals on some level...or so I thought.
Shortly after my husband and I got married, we bought a fixer upper. He
was in the Army and deployed shortly before we closed on our first home. While he was deployed, I was left to my own devices with a 1930’s home and in a new city. So I
invested a lot of my time into our home. (I may have ripped out our
entire kitchen while he was deployed, I’ll save that story for another
I think my passion for design was always there from an early age -my parents
renovated our homes growing up and often involved us - I just hadn’t
recognized it as a career. I started searching for local design schools about 6 months after we
bought our house. I couldn’t find anything local, so I started taking some
on-line design classes through the The Art Institute.
Eventually on-line design classes were not hands on enough for me so I made a 1.5 hr (3 HRS ROUND TRIP!) commute to finish my design degree in Raleigh-Durham.
Q2: WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN DESIGN SCHOOL AND HOW HAS THAT DIFFERED FROM THE REAL WORLD OF INTERIOR DESIGN?
A2: In school, I learned technical skills, specialized computer skills like AUTOCAD and
Revit, building codes, ADA requirements, spacial relationships, flammability ratings, etc. , but I did not learn that the real world has budgets!
I also did not learn how to decorate in design school. I learned that from studying magazines and the work of other designers I admired, like Mark Sikes and Suzanne Kasler.
Q3: WHAT ARE YOU MOST INSPIRED BY WHEN STARTING A NEW PROJECT FOR A CLIENT?
A3: It really varies from project to project. Each project and client is
unique, so my inspiration can come from a variety of things.
Sometimes I’m inspired by the architecture of their home, sometimes it's a collection they've assembled from their travels, a piece of art they've acquired, or the colors in the landscape outside their home. It really can come from anywhere.
A good example is this image from my Westhaven project, where I was inspired by all the greenery outside of my client's gorgeous picture windows in their living room.
I added touches of green everywhere, in the fabric choice for the pillows, the botanical prints, the book spines, and natural plants (do you see how the big one is flopping in the corner? That's how you know it's real! ) in order to seamlessly blend the interior with the exterior.
Q4: WHAT DO PEOPLE NOT UNDERSTAND ABOUT YOUR ROLE AS AN INTERIOR DESIGNER?
A4: Most people that haven't worked with a professional interior designer before think I just make things pretty with fabrics and colors and that I get to shop all day. Nothing could be further from the truth!
What they often don’t know is all of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes after the design concept is created and approved to insure their every need is met.
I take onsite measurements for tiles, rugs, countertops, window treatments, etc. I create floor plans, electrical plans for lighting placement, and all elevations including the detailing of custom millwork. This helps insure the labor estimates are accurate, and helps eliminate costly mistakes and oversights that eat up time and money.
I research, organize, vet and manage contractors, vendors, purchases and deliveries. My job doesn’t end after the design concept is created, but is just beginning.
I work very closely with my clients to make sure their home is completed on time (as much as I can control that ) and on budget...and I try as much as possible to make it a fun and seamless experience for them.
Q5: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SPACE TO DESIGN?
A5: Kitchens - I love all the gadgets and the organization that goes
into planning a kitchen. I analyze each and every move in a kitchen to make sure that function is a top priority.
Plus the kitchen is a natural gathering place and I like to think of my client's families making beautiful memories. I believe it’s the heart of a family, food always bring people
together. I personally love to cook and bake, too!
Speaking of cooking, did you see the recipe for grilled peaches in my last post, the one I had made for me when I was visiting the GE Monogram Design Center in Chicago to learn more about their products? It was delicious!! (and made with wine!) and if you missed it, click here to try it.
Here are images of two kitchens I've designed for two different clients. In each case, my favorite part was helping them get everything organized to make the best use of their space and to help them create family gathering spots.
Q6: WHEN DESIGNING A HOME, WHERE SHOULD PEOPLE SPLURGE, AND WHERE SHOULD THEY SAVE?
A6: If you sit in it or sleep in it frequently, splurge on it. Good upholstery and mattresses are the foundation of a sustainable interior that will stand up to kids and pets for many years.
With upholstery, it's not the fabric that's critically important, it's the frame construction. Buy a solidly constructed frame, once, and you will never have to buy again - unless you want to. Even a sofa shape can be changed over time by a good upholsterer, but if the frame is the very best, you will never have to buy that again.
I’m personally tired of the throw away mentality our society has now and encourage all of my clients to invest in the best they can afford.
Part of my job as an interior designer is to educate my clients on the differences, and the benefits of those differences over time. Once I do that, they really do understand and almost always invest in the best.
Also I would splurge on artwork. This is what makes your home unique and alive.
An example of how artwork makes a home come alive, is this one from my own home. We recently redid our LONG hallway (if you want to see more before and after pictures of what we did, please click here ) and this piece of colorful artwork that greets us each time we open the front door is one that creates a focal point we all enjoy.
Q8: WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT DESIGN OBSESSION?
A8: Marble- I have an obsession with marble, although this is not a new obsession. I just really love things that are naturally beautiful and marble gets me every time. I use it everywhere I get the opportunity. An example is this custom white carrara marble countertop I designed for this master bathroom's sink.
As for a current design obsession? Walnut and cerused oak are my two current favs. I love the modern look and the warmth real wood imparts to my client's homes.
Q9: WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR INTERIOR DESIGNERS JUST STARTING OUT?
A9: You have to have grit, lots of drive and determination because it takes a while to build a clientele. It helps if you have the ability to support yourself while you build that clientele, so you don't give up too soon.
Don’t give your services away for free. Even if you're brand new, realize your ability to see space in three dimensions and then to come up with a creative vision and to execute on drawings and floor plans, has financial value.
Always work with a contract.
Don't be afraid to defend your design vision or concept. As designers, we see problem situations
and solutions that aren't always obvious to our clients.
And above all, find a mentor or join one of the many Facebook Groups that exist online now to help new designers learn the business of design.
Q10: WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 3-5 YEARS?
A10: I think most designers strive to be published in a national magazine and I'm no different. I
would love to be published in House Beautiful or Traditional Home one day soon.
Over the last year I have been really focused on learning and growing as a business person in the interior design industry as well as an individual. So, in three to five years, I see myself having a small boutique design firm with great employees.
There is so much scope and opportunity in the design industry, I see myself as never being bored!
This is one of my favorite quotes about design. I hope, over my entire career, that this is what I will have accomplished at the end. If I can do this for my clients, who put their trust and faith in me everyday, then I will have succeeded.
Again, thank you all for your support in these first 5 years. I love creating beautiful homes for my clients, and feel so lucky that many of them ( of you! ) have now become good friends, too.
From me to you...casually inspired....