Design professional who is transitioning from fashion to a career in Interior Design.

So that's the opening sentence and reality of my world! I have been a Children's Wear Designer, in NYC, for the past 23 years. I went to the Fashion Institute of Technology and received a BFA in Fashion Design. It has been rewarding and considering I have worked 4 days a week much of my career, and make a good living, I shouldn't complain. BUT personally it feels like Groundhog Day! I should warn you now I will proof read this but English/ Spelling (thank goodness for spell check) and grammar have never been one of my strong points. 

Going back to my childhood, my mother for the first 12 years of my life was a stay at home super creative mom. She wallpapered, painted, sewed and could make whatever she wanted. My father had an aluminum siding and roofing business. Both my parents came from large families. My mom was the oldest of six children, while my dad was third youngest out of eight. Most of my uncles were in construction from small jobs, to full house remodels and rental properties. As a child I was up on the roof and always around some sort of remodel/ construction job site. If my families houses were being improved my uncles did the work themselves. I loved seeing the mess turn into beautiful spaces.

In High School, I was in the Fashion Design program and we had an annual fashion show, where I made several garments from scratch. I didn't know that Interior Design existed as a career option back then so my creative outlet was fashion. I took classes at F.I.T. on Saturdays and then during the summer for High School students. When I graduated (a year early), I ONLY applied to F.I.T. so THANK GOODNESS I was accepted!! I was married and had a baby from the age of 16 so I can't imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn't been accepted. Luckily "it all worked out" and I graduated F.I.T. in 1996. I was only 5 years into my career when I realized  I wasn't going to want to do this the rest of my life. I owed a house by then and loved decorating and remodeling. I also pretty much only watched HGTV which is when I realized, I wanted to be an Interior Designer when I grow up!!

I attended night classes in Interior Design and in 2004 I received my degree. Around the same time we took on a huge remodeling project of our home. We added an entire second floor and extended the house out 10 feet. With the help of my step father and brother-in-law, I designed the entire remodel, which was given to the architect to draw up for the permits. My uncle was the contractor that did the remodel so I had hands on experience though out the entire process. Every morning at 7am we went over the plan for the day. The house went from a 1975 sq ft ranch to a 3800 sq ft 2 story home (including the basement). With my degree out of the way and the distractions of the house, I faux finished, applied venetian plaster, painted and designed my house. I LOVED every minute of it. Life happened, my son attended college and a career change was just not an option. So I continued on as the not so glamorous "Fashion Designer".

Fast forward to today.... Finally after dabbling here and there over the years in Interior Design projects, I am in a position to make a career change! I am super excited for what the future will bring. I hope you will follow me in my journey as I transition from Fashion Designer to Interior Designer : ))) I hope to aspire everyone to follow their dreams because I truly believe that if you put your mind to something and work hard ANYTHING is possible!!!


Nicole de la Cruz

(my alter ego since my husband spells it Dela Cruz but I told him de la Cruz is more glamorous lol a la Oscar de la Renta ; ))

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How to manage client expectations!! with Claire Jefford

So, it has been a minute since my last blog post and by a minute I mean about a month. Completely overwhelmed by the thought of writing a blog post on each and every event or course I have taken up to now caused me to freeze and stop updating since I fell behind. One result of this was I started posting a Facebook Live video every Friday since around April called “Week in Review”. It became much easier for me to jump on FB and just give a quick 10-15 min update on the week. I originally planned to blog about my weekly events but have yet to consistently post. Fast forward to today I have decided (which is always the first step) to just catch up to date the best I can and just post as I complete rather that a specific day of the week. I have accepted the fact that I just need to let the past go and move on! So here goes…..

Claire Jefford and LuAnn Nigara

Claire Jefford and LuAnn Nigara

We last left off at the Lunch and Learn at Lillian August in CT. The next event I attended was on my husband’s birthday April 23, 2018. He was kind enough to drive with me to LuAnn Nigara’s Window Works in NJ for the Lunch and Learn with Claire Jefford. Usually these events start with lunch and networking for an hour and then lead into the speaker talking for about an hour. Well Claire is just so amazing and giving of her knowledge that her talk about "How to Manage Client Expectations" went on for over two and a half hours! I actually left before she finished because my husband had dropped me, went to the zoo (alone on his Birthday remember) and then was waiting for me outside. He wanted to avoid the deadly Staten Island traffic which I can’t blame him for so I wound up leaving and listening in the car since it was being recorded on Facebook Live.

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Some of the key takeaways for me were the following:

The need to Build Trust, Show Value and Educate your Clients

To communicate effectively with clients. Claire has her hours of operations and a no texting clause in her Letter of Agreement (LOA).

To have your processes locked down and be clear when explaining them to clients. Her service includes one revision with up to three changes. After that it is billed by the hour. The quicker the clients can make a decision the less they will pay.

Claire is transparent regarding her designer discount and discusses it with her clients upfront.

The importance of your website and branding. To keep your branding consistent across all platforms. To list your services on your website with explanations of them.

The importance of professional photography. To only have the after "pretty pictures" on your website and to put the before and after in a blog post instead. Start off small and put pictures of your house or a vignette if you don't have a portfolio of work yet. Having six great photos is better than having a lot of bad ones.

How videos on your website can help your business. She sends hers out to clients after they book the initial consultation with her to explain further her process.

Always communicate with your trades and make sure they are clear as to the direction of the project.

The minimum budget for projects is typically $15,000 and when there are built-ins the range can be up to $30,000.

To charge for your consultations, have clients pay upfront for them, send a questionnaire to gather more information, send a reminder email prior and to provide as much value as possible during the consultation.

To use trade and custom furniture as often as possible to have the best return for your business. You will not be nearly as profitable if you source retail and there is a higher chance of clients “shopping” you.

Claire also spoke about the importance of going to market to test out furniture and learn about the products in order to see the quality and comfort. Doing this gives her confidence when sourcing and giving recommendations to clients. I visit the NY showrooms regularly but I am looking forward to visiting Las Vegas and High Point Market in the near future! 

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Another thing Claire spoke about the various packages she sells. Since so many designers inquired about her LOA and processes Claire has various documents and video lessons for sale on her website. I did purchase her very informative “Rock the Consultation” bundle package which I’m glad I did!

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One last thing to mention about the day is I was super excited to share with Claire that I would be attending the Maria Killam’s Live Color Workshop to become a Certified True Color Expert the following three days. I knew Claire was taking the refresher course since I am in her FB group Interior Design Business Strategies. Stay tuned for the next blog post with details from that amazing three-day experience!!


Nicole DelaCruz