When it comes to design, Lauren Dahl of Dahl House Interiors sure knows a thing or two. Lauren focuses her business on illustrations, blogging, and E-Designs for her clients, offering up some of the best interior space designs we’ve seen! She’s a go-getter that loves to change things and make things happen, and we were so thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with her! Read on to find more about how Lauren got her start in design, where she draws inspiration from, and what she wishes she would have known when she started her business in this exclusive feature photographed by Tarah Matthews.
How did you get interested in design? How did it all begin?
Art and Design has always played a role in my life, even at an early age. I’ve learned a ton along the way, from childhood and on through adulthood, but that desire to create something, and to be the boss, that was always there. Having my own business, only made sense, and to me, is the only thing that lead to creative fulfillment for myself. Making art on the side was not enough. I mean, it was wonderful, you know, to come home from work and be able to paint, or draw, or work with a small client, but in the end, it’s what I needed to be doing full time. That whole thing about following your heart, that’s real, and everyone should do it, in any amount possible that their life allows for it.
What is like to be such a young female entrepreneur in a booming industry? How do you make sure that your brand stands out?
You are so right, about design being a “booming industry.” It’s really crazy to think about how many people are in the creative industry, not just including interior designers and decorators, but artists, and printers, and even writers. Small parts of me are intimidated, or maybe scared is the right word. But the teacher in me says, go you, good for everyone. How great it is for each person who gets to make a living off of being creative. Also, there is enough work to go around. At least I think so, and that’s what I’ve been telling myself. I mean, if you make a product or service that you believe in, then others will too.
To make sure my brand stands out, I make sure to stay authentic to who I am. In social media, in my work (both interiors and art-making), and in my interactions with clients, I make sure that I am being me. Maybe just a tad more professional. I am totally obsessed with art. Not just making it, but collecting it, finding it, and sharing it with others. So, that’s definitely one thing that I think allows me to stand out. Even when I’m working on an E-Design, I put a ton of love and effort into finding the right art piece, to fit within a clients budget, but also that makes them happy, or evokes some sort of emotion in them. I really feel that a lot of interior designers out there forget that art is so important in a space, and in the end result, end up with a generic piece of art. Which is fine, I’m just an art snob I guess. I’m also a chocolate snob. Expensive chocolate only. I should be ashamed!
What’s your best piece of advice for young women starting a business? What do you know now that you wish you had known then?
Well, I’m still figuring it all out myself, but I can say that even within the last year, I have learned a ton, and grown a lot. Here is my advice:
- Sometimes you have to not make money now, to make money later. When I very first decided that I wanted to turn my passion, into a business, I knew that no one would hire me without a portfolio. I already had a blog, but it wasn’t very professional. I needed images of finished spaces, and that would give me clients. So, I used several people as my starting point. Did I get paid? No, not in money, but you can’t always think in terms of money in the early stages. To me, I got “paid” in experience, and in the opportunity to add a finished interior space to my portfolio.
- Work your butt off. Accept that you will be working harder than other people in the early stages, because you are not yet established. Accept that some people will not understand this, but they can back off, because it’s not their dream, it’s yours. Work as much as you can, without jeopardizing relationships and special moments. Before I was ready to quit my full time job, and pursue Dahl House Interiors full time, I would come home from teaching (which was my full time job at the time) and work on art and design. I was so exhausted. My husband and I had a new baby, I had 150 middle school students, and I was trying to tone my preggo flab and what not. It was a lot to balance, but I couldn’t stop, because if I stopped, then I wouldn’t get to eventually have the career I really wanted. I should clarify that “work” back then, meant making a website that was appealing and professional, work meant designing my logo and business card, work meant hustling for clients, work meant editing photos and making plans. Work back then, wasn’t even much interior design related work, it was just all prep-work that needed to be done, so that I could eventually gain clients.
- Treat every single client, like they are special, because they are. Even those clients that are there, just to get you started. I am so thankful for each person that has had me design a space , or create a piece of art for them. It is because of them, that I get to do what I love. The work load may get tough, and yes, sometimes you underestimated the amount of work each unique project will take, but push through, and learn from it. Maybe you realize you need to charge more, or maybe you realize that you need to change up the process in which you do things, but whatever you do, continue to be thankful for each client. Treat them like they are special. Be professional, yet personable with them, and follow up after each project.
What motivates you and keeps you going?
I am motivated by the idea that my job could be doing what I love, and that I could be the boss of all aspects of my day to day life. You hate to put a dollar amount on anything, but it’s kind of necessary. I’m motivated to be able to make money, by creating lovely rooms, and artwork.
You office is simply stunning. Light, airy, and with a pop of pineapple! What inspired you to make such a bold design move?
Thank you so much! I wanted to be able to use my office, in my portfolio images, so it was important that it stood out. I never feel distracted when working in my office, because the bold pineapples are balanced with a lot of white, and organization. I actually feel very inspired when I am working in there. Pineapples are a trendy item, but like hello, they are also a really wonderful and interesting shape. I love that they are bottom heavy, round-ish, and actually have a small pattern on the base. It translates into the perfect image for a focal wall. Plus, it’s just paint, I could paint over it tomorrow if I wanted to.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your designs? And how does your design process work for clients?
Each client brings new design inspiration. Sometimes, the space is inspired by a particular object the client has, that is significant to them. Like, a collection of old, hardback story books, handed down from their grandparents, Or maybe a small piece of art their child made. It’s my job, to be inspired by their soul, so I can create a room, that not only is beautiful, but also, so “them.” Most clients, are “E-Design” clients, meaning they are using my online interior design service. The great thing about E-Design, is that I get to work with clients living all over the place! Once a client contacts me about a project, I get to work. They send me images of the space, dimensions, a completed design questionnaire, and any inspirational photos. I then, create a mood board draft. The client then approves, or we make changes, and a final mood board is sent. Along with the final mood board, I also send a detailed shopping guide (with links to all items they need for the space, that absolutely fit within their set budget), and a guide for where to install all items. The client then orders items at their own pace, and installs the items, also at their own pace.
Photography for Best Friends For Frosting by Tarah Matthews