Betsy Helmuth (@BetsyHelmuth) is an interior designer & decorator in New York City. Her company, Affordable Interior Design, offers, well, affordable interior design. Over the years, she’s designed rooms in over 1,000 apartments, allowing her to create a systematic approach to working with busy clients.

Betsy’s latest book, Big Design, Small Budget, will be available Dec. 10, 2014. Pre-order a copy and give it to the interior design geek in your life this holiday season.

Big Design, Small Budget by Betsy Helmuth

Big Design, Small Budget by Betsy Helmuth

Our conversation centers on the eccentricities of New York City apartments — and apartment-dwellers — as well as the systems Betsy has used to build a thriving business.

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Show Notes & Links

  • Betsy is the first Busy Creator representative for the Interior Design industry.
  • People who shop at Ikea and Target are Betsy’s key customers
  • New Yorkers feel a lot of anxiety about their space, and their storage (or lack thereof)
  • New York City apartments can be “insultingly small”

“Small is a relative term.”

—Betsy Helmuth

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  • Betsy has worked with over 1000 apartments; each year she works with 250 clients

“It's a cookie-cutter plan, but within that there's a lot of individuality.”

—Betsy Helmuth

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  • West Elm
  • Betsy has developed a core 20 questions to determined how her clients live in their

“After 1000 apartments there's no judgement. I've seen it all.”

—Betsy Helmuth

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  • Client On-boarding/Discover Process
  • Best business advice Betsy every received: “If the name of your business doesn’t say exactly what you do, change it.”
  • The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch
  • Clients find Betsy by Googling “Affordable Interior Design”
  • The Ikea Effect — If you built it yourself, you create an emotional investment

“Never ever ever, ever, build your own Ikea (unless you're a professional).”

—Betsy Helmuth

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  • 80/20 rule applied to Ikea (80% crap, 20% gold)
  • Japanese school of thought for actors who clean their own stage, it builds awareness of the world
  • “Honor your space”, give it attention
  • “Your space is like committing to a partner”
  • Multi-variable Differential Equation
  • “not-yet-ness”

“The limitations define 'the box', and that's where the magic happens.”

—Betsy Helmuth

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Tools

Techniques

  • Develop a core series of questions to ask your new clients
  • Offer plans or packages so clients can choose based on their need
  • Build your room around an “inspiration item”, especially one with three or more colours
  • Mix woods within colour families
  • Get a storage unit if you need to hold on to something
  • Utilise open-close storage, such as a desk with cabinets and drawers
  • Staple cables to walls and furniture to keep them out of the way
  • Re-evaluate your workflows around your growing and changing business

Habits

  • Locate outlets when you enter a room, especially in NYC
  • Answer your own phone
  • Work late hours, after the kids to go sleep
  • Get to the coffee shops where you can get stuff done
  • Turn the TV on (in the background) for creative flow

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Get Interior Design: A True Beginners Guide to Decorating on a Budget by Karen Mitchell as a free audiobook
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About the author: Prescott Perez-Fox

Prescott Perez-Fox is a New York-based graphic designer and brand developer with 17+ years experience in branding, packaging, graphic design, and web design. He runs The Busy Creator.

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