10 Obstacles Holding You Back from Success

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-An obstacle is often a stepping stone- (1)Designers: What’s holding you back from your biggest success? What obstacles are you putting in your own path? Too often, we are our own worst enemies, so I want to give you an idea of how to avoid the Top 10 issues that can keep you from realizing your best success, and better profits for your business!

Obstacle 1. Commoditizing Your Services. Do not commoditize your services. What does this mean? It means there isn’t a going hourly rate for all designers like there is corn, or chickens, or soybeans or any other commodity. We are all different and we each offer a different experience and expertise to our clients. You must be sure that you’re offering services that have a lot of VALUE  to your particular group of clients – and that includes your customer experience. You should also think carefully about charging an hourly rate that can set up a comparison between you and another designer purely based on your hourly rate, not your experience, not your signature style, not your level of service, and not your uniqueness. Consider moving to a fee-based structure or maybe a block system for hours that will remind your clients that you are a creative consultant, not an hourly worker.

Obstacle 2. Not Requiring Up-Front Payment for Service and Merchandise. Are you a sofa salesperson or a creative consultant? Your clients need to pay you for the time you invest in creating their design, and that means an upfront payment or at least a retainer for your creative concepts and intellectual property. And they absolutely have to pay you before you order one stick of furniture. You are not a lending institution and you are a not a furniture store. They have to pay you for the goods before you order them. Period. And a 50% deposit really isn’t enough.

Obstacle 3. Maintaining a Costly Facility/ Overhead and Large Staff. This is the age of lean-and-mean business. Do you really need that large office? Or any office at all? Do you really need five employees? Can you use outsourced help rather than full-time employees? Are there some jobs that you just don’t need to do at all? Find your sweet spot between being overstaffed and understaffed, because going too far to the other extreme (i.e. taking out the trash and running errands yourself) can also really hamper your profitability. Ten years ago I wanted my business to be BIG BIG BIG, now the only thing I want to be big are my profits!

-An obstacle is often a stepping stone-

Obstacle 4. Not Knowing Your Current Financials, Client Pipeline, and Earnings Goals. If you don’t get your financial house in order, then you aren’t going to ever be profitable. You have to know how much money you have coming in and going out each month and if all you have is one type of design service where you wait for the phone to ring from a new clients, it’s going to be REALLY difficult to project your revenues for the months ahead. And you have to know your markups and margins and which services you offer (because hopefully you have several) are most profitable and which you should even stop offering. Plus you have to have financial goals and one eye on future business. Planning for future growth and profitability is the key to less stress and more financial and time freedom.

Obstacle 5. Not Investing When Necessary to Grow in Profitability. As I said in #3, there is a fine line between paying too much in overhead and expenses, and not paying enough. Understand the difference in something that really is just an expense, and something that is an investment that can help you truly grow your business. This can include key hires, consultants/coaches, marketing/PR, professional photography, web design, and more.

Obstacle 6. Working With Non-Ideal Clients. A non-ideal client can actually cost you more than she can pay you. If you have a difficult client, or a client that doesn’t pay well, that one person can drain you creatively and professionally, taking you away from other clients and from the work you need to do to get more business. Ask yourself if that person is really worth it. If you spend hours in stress that you could be marketing and networking or you spend hours chasing down payments that you could be creating an effective business development system, then the client is not worth it. So stop telling yourself you can’t afford not to take every client that comes along. The truth is you can’t afford to say yes to them!

Obstacle 7. Inconsistent or Non-Existent Design Procedures. What is the #1 best quality in an interior designer? It’s the ability to LISTEN, really listen to the client. That should be the first step in your design procedure, but you also must have a good, organized plan that will keep you on track. A solid process, an organized schedule, and a detailed task list will keep you on track, no matter what challenges are thrown into your path.


Obstacle 8. Not Listening to What the Public – or Your Existing Clients – Want. Again, it’s all about listening, whether it’s to what is happening out there in trends and new ideas, or listening to your clients and what they need in the way of service and experience. Keep your ears, and your eyes, open.

Obstacle 9. Never Taking Action. Take Action! Many people have no problem imagining what they want their business to look like or run like, but they never get there because they don’t put the process of HOW to achieve it on paper. All great success begins with the first step, and any action is better than inaction.

Obstacle 10. Fears that You are a Fraud or a Fake. The idea of Impostor Syndrome has been a hot topic recently – it’s the idea that you are going to be unmasked as a fake, as a person who doesn’t know her business. This is such a self-destructive idea that women in particular feed themselves over and over. Don’t do it! It will undermine your professionalism, your confidence, your commitment to your business and your ability to sell yourself or your design visions. Of course you don’t know everything. No one does. But listen up! You are NOT a fake – you are a professional who deserves respect – and that includes respect from you!

So are you putting any of these obstacles in your path to success? Make it a goal today to clear out those obstacles, even if you have to work on them one at a time. Print this list, hang it by your desk and knock out all 10 of these obstacles this year. You’ve still got time to make this happen in 2016. But only if you make it a priority. Taking even a small step to knocking these challenges out of the way will make your business stronger and more likely to survive the inevitable changes we will continue to see as small business owners.

You can do it!







PS – Too overwhelmed to tackle these obstacles on your own? My Designer MBA  event can help put your financial house in order, get your fees in place so you’re charging what you’re worth, and will talk you through my sure-fire design processes! It’s set for May 10-11 at ADAC in Atlanta and I’d love to see you there! Click here for more!

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Saturday’s Secret Sauce: Finding the Courage to be Imperfect

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So I don’t really consider myself a perfectionist. Did you just laugh? No, there are definitely people in my life that I think hold that title and I often watch them struggle with thinking anything they do or have is ever really what they wanted it to be. I don’t think that is me. Rarely is anything good enough for these perfectionist people in my life and they beat themselves up in the pursuit of perfection. I don’t do that. Or do I?

Let me be clear,  I think I definitely strive for an extremely high standard. But in my opinion, I am not a person who thinks what I create and what I do is never good enough. I am often satisfied with my work and my accomplishments. I think I am good at many things. I know I am an expert at times. I definitely hit a point of satisfaction and “good enough” for me in all that I do. Eventually.


But isn’t is funny how our self-perceptions aren’t always totally accurate. Isn’t it odd how we can see ourselves one way when the world may see us differently? If I am honest with you (and me), that bar I’ve set for myself in all that I do is pretty darn high and I have to really bust my buns to hit the level where I think I can stand back and admire my handy work, where I think I have accomplished what I set out to. I am a visual and creative person and my visions are not simple or easy to reach. In fact they are often grandiose. So is it perfectionism…I don’t think so. But maybe. Kind of. Sort of. Ok, possibly.

Just this week I found myself wondering if I was at least 50% perfectionist. Or maybe 75%. But certainly I am not 99%. I mean, seriously. Is perfectionism an all or nothing trait or would we be more honest if we looked at our “degree” of perfectionism and how we rank on that scale when it comes to  REALLY reaching our goals and dreams. And am I 50% in my cooking and 87.5% in my interior design? And what about in my self-image?


Ultimately, these are the questions at hand. Can we give ourselves a break? Can we relax and not be striving all day every day. Can we relax? Can we have less proving ourselves, and more being ourselves? Can we feel more comfortable than ever in our very own skin? Can we be at peace? I think those are the answers to whether we are a perfectionist or not and I am beginning to look more and more like a perfectionist with each one of my answers. Yikes!


Just as I was thinking about this idea of perfectionism this week and struggling to tackle my to do lists at home and at work,  a profound article by one of my favorite gurus Brian Johnson hit my inbox. And in it he said “Let’s quit setting ourselves up for failure and burnout by thinking we need to be perfect and just get on with the business of becoming a little more courageous day in and day out!”

Wow! I hadn’t ever thought of how courageous it is to set out every single day to just do your best. I hadn’t ever framed our constant pursuit of our goals and to use our gifts and talents as courage. Courage! What a relief. Just showing up is courageous. That feels good! We don’t have to be perfect. There really is no such thing. All we have to be is courageous.


Brian is totally right! Life is so hard. Even for those of us who have it easy in the grand scheme of things, who have jobs (or even dreamy jobs) and have food and shelter and love and friendship. Even for THOSE of us, life isn’t easy. I mean just dragging our tired selves out of bed each day to start down the monstrous list of to do’s we have can be totally overwhelming at times. And if we throw perfectionism in on top of it all, if we have ridiculous standards of how those “to do’s” are done, then how can any of us ever feel accomplished, feel joy or feel at peace? We can’t.

It is true. It takes REAL courage just to show up everyday. It takes courage to take our gifts and give them away. It takes courage to face the expectations of life and of the world and of our friends and our family and our clients and our community. But most importantly it takes courage to face the expectations we set for ourselves.

The moment we can stop trying so hard to be perfect and just accept ourselves for who we really are in all our perfectly imperfect glory, THAT is when we find true joy.


Brene Brown in her fantastic book Daring Greatly talks a lot about courage and how to be vulnerable and show up in life. She was inspired by the great Teddy Roosevelt when he said…”It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, who’s face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory or defeat.”

Wow. Leaves you speechless, doesn’t it. And I love this quote from Brene’s book Daring Greatly where she says…“Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

How profound. We can never feel at home in the world, if we don’t feel at home in our own skin; if we can’t give ourselves permission to be who we really are.


And from Brene’s book The Gifts of Imperfection she says, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

Talk about needing courage! Can you show your TRUE self? I am a bit nervous just thinking about this concept. And I do strive to be honest and authentic in all that I do…but wow! Our true self–the one that is vulnerable, and doesn’t know everything, and is flawed. Can you show her?


Well that brings me back to Brian Johnson and his admiration of the wisdom of Alberto Villoldo in his book Courageous Dreaming where Alberto says…

“There are no perfect human beings! Persons can be found who are good, very good indeed, in fact, great. There do in fact exist creators, seers, sages, saints, shakers, and movers… even if they are uncommon and do not come by the dozen. And yet these very same people can at times be boring, irritating, petulant, selfish, angry, or depressed. To avoid disillusionment with human nature, we must first give up our illusions about it.”

We are human, friends. And humans aren’t perfect.

And Brian also highlights the words of Abraham Maslow who said “No, what we need is to be honest about what it means to be human: that we are fated to miss the mark of perfection but achieve small and impressive acts of courage and greatness. Instead of thinking that some people are flawless, we ought to take inspiration from the fact that our heroes, celebrated or not, brought themselves back on course again and again whenever they realized that their behavior was out of alignment with their intent. Simply saying, “Enough—I’m moving on!” is an act of courage that breaks the spell.”


So can you do it? Can you show up as your perfectly imperfect self? Can you give yourself a break? Can you do less proving yourself and more being yourself? Can you achieve “small and impressive acts of courage and greatness” each day in spite of your “human-ness”? Well, I am an optimist, so I think we can. And this my friends, is definitely the Secret Sauce to a life of joy.

Happy Saturday from this imperfect almost perfectionist. xo,

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What Is That Color? Ethereal Green

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I love to create calming, quiet spaces for bedrooms – after all, getting enough rest is critical to our health! Color is so important to making a space feel restful and soothing, and that’s why I love soft shades of sea tones or other colors from nature. This tranquil green really fits the bill!

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It’s a great color called Rainwashed from Sherwin-Williams! It reacts well to natural and interior light and, just like deep sea waters, it can appear blue, green, or a lovely neutral, depending on the light source. I paired it here with a very crisp white and a deep dark black to give great contrast and to keep the palette classic and refined.

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The result is a tranquil bedroom that’s welcoming and ethereal, ready to help you unwind and ease into a great sleep. I would also use this gorgeous color in a bathroom or a formal living space, where it would be amazing to see it reflect the light!

So what do you think of this Rainwashed green? Where would you use it in your home? Let me know in the comments section below!

Colorfully yours,






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New House Diary: The Library

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New House Diary

One of my favorite things to do to relax – besides cooking and tennis – is to read! I read on my Kindle, I read on my iPad, and I of course still read printed books. You can see just a few of them below in a photo from our previous house. In fact, I have so many books that I planned a fantastic room in our new house just for them. Some might call it a study, but I like to call it my library because I plan to “check out” and read in there a lot!

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I wanted this room to be cozy and relaxing, with plenty of great seating and of course a ton of built-in shelving that can adjust based on the size of the books.

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Yes, I will also have a TV in this room because my husband and I will be vying for time in here. He will want to watch football because he’s claiming it as his “man room,” and for me it will be mainly a place to read and to dig through all the fabulous design and architecture books that I own. You can even see my notes to my contractor below, asking about shelves for heavy books. Because some of those design books weigh a ton!

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I have the perfect piece of art to hang between shelves on the opposite side of the room, just over a relaxing sofa that will give my family a great place to sit and read together. My daughter loves to have me read to her and now that she’s in 5th grade, she often does the reading and I do the listening – we really enjoy this time together!

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Here’s a shot below of the room a couple of weeks ago – it’s just off the front entry. Ignore the awful butterscotch pudding color in the entryway! Thankfully that color is long gone now! But the wall you can see the preparation for my cabinetry and where the art and sofa will soon be.

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And even more exciting, here are a couple of “in progress” photos because the cabinetry is being installed as we speak. It won’t be long now because the “library” is really starting to shape up.

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So whether you call it a study or a library, I can’t wait to show you the finished room full of books and shelves and a fabulous POP of color! In fact, I might even need a few more books – so tell me in the comments section below about your very favorite design books in case I don’t have some of them!







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Gift Guide: Cooking and Entertaining with your Valentine

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Cooking and Entertaining

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Yes, 2016 is already flying by. And though I’ll be sure to buy some gifts and make a few “sweets” for my Hubby, it’s my 10-year old Valentine that I love cooking and entertaining with most. She’s my kindred spirit when it comes to the kitchen,  and we especially love baking for any and every holiday and special occasion. In fact we’re busy planning our Valentine’s menu as we speak. And these are a few of our favorite Valentine-inspired items that could help make our “Love-ly” celebration even better.

Are you going to be making sweets and treats for your honey this year? My little and honey and I would love to know your favorite “sweet” recipe.

Happy Cooking and Baking, Friends!








  1. Red Dublin Iced Beverage Glasses – Fun red glasses with starburst pattern facets cut into the surface are a great touch of sparkle to any holiday dinner!
  1. Ruffled Heart Dish –Baking is one of my daughter and my favorite things to do together. We could make such sweet treats in this Williams-Sonoma heart shaped dish! Bring on the Pies.
  1. The Cast Iron Way to Cook – This cook book has all of the great recipes I’m looking for to start using my new cast iron Staub pot! Are you looking for a fun way to spice up your dinner routine? From comfort food to international cuisine, this book has it all!
  1. Pink Square Baroque Dinnerware Service – Pretty in pink and oh so fabulous! This baroque style dinnerware set is beautiful to display and so easy to use at any dinner party! I happen to think it’s extra sweet for Valentine’s day!
  1. Cast-Iron Heart-Shaped Dutch Oven – If you’ve stolen someone’s heart, maybe it’s time you give it back- with this cast-iron heart-shaped dutch oven by Le Creuset! I bought this exact pot about 20 years ago in college as one of my first real pieces of cookware and I still use it today.
  1. Valentine’s Day Apron – Cook in style this Valentine’s Day with this apron from Williams-Sonoma. Isn’t that tiny little heart accent adorable?
  1. Cold Hands Warm Heart Mug – Kate Spade’s thermal travel mug is a fabulous gift for the chic girl always on the go this Valentine’s day. In fact, anything Kate Spade is the way to this girl’s heart!
  1. Red Tea Kettle – I love adding a punch of color with useful kitchen tools, like this red tea kettle! And a bit if relaxing chamomile could be the perfect recipe to relax on the day of love this year.
  1. Crown Tuscan Pedestal Servers – I love hosting family and friends for any holiday or event and I also collect cake plates and stands! So what better way to serve up sweet treats this Valentine’s Day than on this pair of blush pedestal servers!
  1. Personalized Guest Towels/Buffet Napkins – I love to add a personal touch to any party I host, like this set of monogrammed guest towels/buffet napkins! Those little red details and monogram are classic and fun.
  1. White Dinnerware with Red Trim ­­– Just a hint of red, like the trim on this dinnerware set from Williams-Sonoma could be the perfect accent to your holiday décor! The great thing about buying dishes with a hint of red is they are also great for birthdays, all the summer holidays, and then again on Christmas. So these are a great purchase.
  1. Valentine’s Day Mini Silicone Spatulas – Valentine’s Day is the a great opportunity to get into the kitchen and bake all of the mini sweet treats my daughter and I love! This set of mini silicone spatulas from Williams-Sonoma would be great for icing and batter alike!
  1. Red Acrylic Tumbler – A large jewel tone acrylic tumbler would be a great addition to any colorful tabletop! I’ll take a set of these “jewels” for Valentine’s day, please.
  1. Valentine’s Day Towel – Such an easy piece of décor to add for the holiday, this Valentine’s Day towel from Williams-Sonoma is a great gift for your baker or even a lovely hostess gift or surprise for any of your friends with a kitchen.
  1. Le Creuset Shallow Oven – I love entertaining! This shallow Le Creuset oven is designed for smaller meals and easily transitions from oven to table while looking fabulous in red!
  1. Let’s Chill Drink Cozy – The Let’s Chill drink cozy from Kate Spade is the stylish way to keep your drink cool this Valentine’s Day! Looking pretty in pink (and red) this striped drink holder is a festive way to celebrate with your favorite canned beverage.
  1. Pink Stoneware Cake Pan – A beautiful blush pink stoneware cake pan to bake a cake for that special someone is definitely on my list. My husband’s favorite cake is a chocolate chip pound cake and it would look so pretty in this spiral design.
  1. All You Need Is Love Glass Tray – A simple little trinket tray to serve your fresh baked sweet treats at your next gathering! I’m making French Macaroons this weekend for the first time and wouldn’t a couple of them look cute served on one of these tiny trays?


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