Girl crushing on the faboosh Libby
We’re honored to welcome Libby Langdon, an author, interior designer and TV makeover guru as seen on NBC’s Open House, The Rachel Ray Show & HGTV’s Small Space, Big Style.
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Hard work, dedication and just the right amount of awesome!
Dana Helms: Can you tell us about how you got started doing what you’re doing now? Was there an ah-ha moment that defined your path?
Libby Langdon: I started my own design firm in NYC in 2003. I grew up in High Point, NC with my Mom an interior designer and my dad in textiles. My ah-ha moment was when my now ex-husband left me on our 11th wedding anniversary, we’d had a film production company together and I knew once I was divorced I wanted to do something completely different. I had some friends that were about to open a new restaurant in NYC and I decided to throw my name in the hat as a designer. I was completely refocusing my career and thought “what’s the worst thing that can happen? The worst thing just happened; I went through a difficult divorce”!
I took a fearless approach to my life in a way that I’d never done before, taking chances, opening myself up to all sorts of new opportunities, and I wanted to see where it took me. My first design job at La Masseria in New York started it all. As I was designing La Masseria I also auditioned for a FOX makeover show called Design Invasion (still feeling fearless!), where the designer would have $6000 and 12 hours to make over a space they’d never seen before. I booked the show and spent the next 6 months traveling to a different city each week, going into real people’s homes all across the country and making over their spaces on TV. It was frightening, rewarding, exhilarating and after I shot the first episode I knew interior design and makeover TV was going to be my path. Shooting the show was truly a guerilla interior design school training-ground and I learned not only how to become a problem solver but I saw how people really live and what they really want.
DD: What do you love most about what you do?
LL: I love helping people to live in a more beautiful and comfortable way than they ever imagined and in a style that’s uniquely theirs. I honestly believe that if you love where you live it manifests itself in all aspects of your life. I feel like I’ve never done the same design twice and I love that! I usually install projects in clients homes in one day and I absolutely adore when they come in at the end of the day and see their home all pulled together, with their own fingerprint on it and they realize this is the space they will be living in from now on. It’s unbelievably gratifying!
DD: What is the proudest moment of your career?
LL: One of the proudest moments of my career was writing and launching the release of my book, Libby Langdon’s Small Space Solutions, It was such an incredible undertaking to write a book and when I started it I wondered if I’d ever finish it. It was born out of appearing on 5 seasons of HGTV’s Small Space. Big Style. I’d compiled so many small space design tips and I knew if I wanted to get into designing products and licensing deals that I would need to write a book to establish myself. I left my heart on those pages and sometimes people ask me when I will write another book and the answer just for now is… never.
DD: Is there a project that you think of as your absolute best?
LL: One of the projects that I think is my absolute best is when I designed a second La Masseria restaurant in Rhode Island, It was a chance to take all that I did on my first design job 6 years before, La Masseria in New York, and improve on the design. I’d learned so much over those 6 years and to be able to use that information to make the new design even better was such fun. It was also incredibly challenging to take the space in Rhode Island and transform it. When I first saw it, the place was a total dump so to see where it started and how it ended up was so rewarding.
DD: Who/What inspires you?
LL: My clients are my first source of design inspiration. I like to sit with them one on one and get a sense of how they live, entertain and spend time in their space. I ask about their favorite vacation, a favorite piece of art, do they read a lot, like to watch TV and all that information sits in the back of my brain and it starts to meld into a design. I like creating a look that’s personal and pointed and perfectly suited just for that client and since no two clients are the same it allows me to explore all different design styles rather than regurgitating the same look over and over again.
DD: Has social media changed how you do business? For the better or worse?
LL: Without a doubt social media has had a huge impact on my business and it’s definitely for the better. Social media takes my brand and personality that I’ve built off-line and bring it to life online. I’m in the business of reaching the consumer and letting them know what I do and who I am. Social media also helps me keep control of consistent, on-point messaging, and telling my story the way I want to. It is a huge time commitment, but strategic planning helps me sprinkle my “Libby-ness” into the world. I sometimes worry that people think I’m over-touting my projects but when I get fun responses I know I’m doing okay – in my own funny way.
DD: What advice do you have for others struggling with social media?
LL: I think the most important thing is to define your goals. My goals are to build my brand and become more recognizable, securing an upholstery furniture line, rug line and wall covering line known, not just by buyers and retailers but also by consumers and share my design projects with media outlets as well as potential clients.
Pinterest is one of the top drivers of visitors to my website while Facebook has helped me to become more recognizable with people in the design trade as well as consumers. Twitter helped link me to some other top notch, high level designers and join part of a design community I wasn’t a part of before. Instagram lets me show a more personal side of my life which allows people to see I’m fun and approachable. Once you engage in social media, be sure to check all those fancy graphs and charts to see who you’re engaging with and what people are talking about. Then keep going!
DD: Can you tell us about what frustrates you about your career or the industry you’re in?
LL: I’m always confused when manufacturers at the furniture markets display furniture and fabrics for “shock value” or as an attention getting scheme. It’s the fashion runway for the furniture industry and it doesn’t translate well to my customers. I’m not in the business of meeting with clients and telling them what they HAVE to have. I’m in the business of hearing about the way they live their life with family, friends, entertaining (or not!) and how can I make their room designs work for their needs.
I also don’t like the interior designers that try to intimidate, steamroll and overpower a client with the looks that they want to incorporate. The client is going to be the person living in the space and not the designer so I like a more organic and intuitive experience with a client rather than a dictatorship. I want my clients to walk in and feel that I understood them and their lifestyle and got a perfect fit. As an interior designer, I’m not trying to teach a client a design lesson but rather creating a space that is perfectly suited for the way they want to live.
DD: Tell us about the private Libby – what do you love most about your home/life/family?
LL: I love going to our home in Sag Harbor and try to work there part of the week because I have several clients on the east end of Long Island. When we walk up the stairs to our top floor I start breathing deeper and letting out sighs of relief. It’s a nurturing space that relaxes and creatively feeds me at the same time. We love to entertain family and friends there. I’m the chef and my husband Keith is the bartender. We really adore when his grown kids come to visit and we all get some fun, relaxing, hangout time together. We also love having quiet weekends and although we don’t watch too much TV we look forward to watching Saturday and Sunday golf tournaments and football games. I feel so lucky because my family is fun-loving, loud and crazy and so is Keith’s family so we both really enjoy visits to Chicago and North Carolina, and when they all came together at our wedding in the Hamptons, well, that was just THE BEST!
DD: Tell us more about Libby and what’s been accomplished in 2013 that you set out to do and what is on tap for 2014!
LL: 2013 was fantastic!!! I started shooting my new show, Daykeover with Libby Langdon (Daykeover, not makeover because I do it all in one day!) and I filmed a special episode in conjunction with House Beautiful Magazine which aired on NBC in November. One of the rooms I made over is on the cover of the Dec/Jan issue. I designed and launched my new line peel-and-stick removable wall coverings for Casart Coverings, added several new pieces to my upholstery collection for Braxton Culler, and designed several new rug designs for my line with Tiger Rug. I designed a space in the first ever Hamptons Holiday House Showhouse and helped makeover a local theater in Greensboro, NC that my Mom is really involved with. I did some fun speaking engagements, everywhere from the graduating design class from High Point University to the annual conference for The Decorating Den in Memphis. I also had some wonderful time mentoring some incredible women through WithIt, a Women’s Leadership Development organization that I serve on the board of, sharing what I know with people who may be able to use that information is something I truly enjoy.
DD: What’s the best advice you can give to someone following your career path?
LL: Oh Gosh, where do I start? Put down your technology and start talking to people – people you don’t know. All of your clients will be complete strangers and if you can’t talk to strangers and make them feel comfortable, you’ll never get those clients. Interior Design is a personal business and it’s about how you handle and present yourself and communicate your ideas, work ethic and design philosophy. Pick up the phone and make a call. Human to human experience is super important.
Open yourself up to as many different resources as possible. It drives me insane when people say that can’t find something. High Point Furniture Market has over 12 million sq. feet of showroom space and a gazillion fabric showrooms. Learn how to turn over every single rock and pebble when you’re sourcing items. There’s also so much that clients can source online that if you don’t customize, you’ll be left behind.
About Dana Helms
When someone says social butterfly, they’re likely referring to Dana Helms. With her ability to wander through conversations online as if she’s hosting a cocktail party, Dana brings awareness and excitement to the social media party. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.