Behind the Design: Ivy Designer Rachel Waldron of Waldron Designs
Ivy Designer Spotlight: Rachel Waldron of Waldron Designs – Vashon, WA
How did you get where you are today?
RW: I was born and raised in Seattle. During my college years, I had the idea that when someone “grows up”, they move far away from home. So, I looked for a new home in Boston, New Haven, New York, San Francisco, and Portland. Every time I returned home, I was so happy to see our skyline that I wanted to get down on my knees and kiss the ground. I was never meant to leave. I did end up moving out of Seattle proper after having children and now live on Vashon Island. It’s an island the size of Manhattan but with a population of 10,000. The island is a magical place with a wonderfully tight knit community. We get the rural, island-lifestyle, with Seattle just a 20-minute ferry ride away.
Waldron Designs specializes in creating calm in outdated, discombobulated spaces. What are some ways you manage this process?
RW: I strongly feel that cohesion and simplicity are the key to my designs. My projects are no fuss, and focus on the big picture. I love going into these crazy outdated “patchwork homes”, and showing people how, with continuity of finishes, color, and line, we can create a cohesive space regardless of how contrasted it may be from the start.
How do you stay in-the know about new-to-market products and materials to incorporate in your designs?
RW: Honestly, this is the biggest challenge I face as a business owner on an island with two small children. During the work-week, I am essentially a single mom, so all those evening events that introduce new products with wine and continuing education courses are out of reach for me. They mean I need to leave the island, find a way for someone to take care of my kids (which may mean that I don’t see them all day), and miss my husband entirely. It’s not an option for me, because my family comes first. So, I work hard to attend online and daytime courses as well as asking my contractors and subs what new products they are working with and why. I love to hang out during an installation so that I can see how it works and how it is installed.
Who are some of your favorite Vashon, WA vendors that you enjoy working with?
RW: Ooh, that’s tricky – we don’t really have “vendors” here. I have a few contractors on the island that I work with regularly: Trace Baron Construction, Bob Stewart, RO Construction, and Blue Dog Builders. We have two very talented wood shops on the island for cabinets: Salmon Bay Woodworks and Sound Woodworks. The island is brimming with artists though and that’s where the list simply doesn’t end. Bob Powell makes metal panels, signs, etc. and Larissa Clark is a mind boggling amazing tile artist. David Blad is a tile installer who is incomparable.
How does designing make you feel?
RW: Ridiculous. Ha! I get so excited about projects that I’ve been known to jump out of my seat with excitement. I giggle and talk out loud while I work about how wonderful (or horrible- don’t worry, horrible always gets better) the project is. I sing and dance in my seat. It’s so fun!!
What’s your business mantra?
RW: Ooh, that’s a good question because our business has been growing and changing so much. My tagline was always “My Passion. Your Paradise.”, but with more staff, we updated to “Our Passion. Your Paradise.”. But, I’m not sure that’s our mantra. I would say our mantra is more simply, “Simplify and Unite”. The best designs are when there’s nothing more to remove…I think that’s a quote I read, but I believe it wholly.
We noticed that you have a live chat on your website – how has this impacted your business?
RW: I honestly haven’t used it much as of yet. I work with a product retailer to offer product on my site. The chat goes directly to them and they have a full staff to manage it. That may be the best part about it – the fact that I don’t have to worry about it at all, and know that my clients who may want to do their own retail shopping have access and good support.
What kinds of questions do you ask in your standard complimentary 30 minute phone conversation before you meet with new potential clients?
RW: This is my opportunity to get to know the client. Sometimes, all I have to say is, “Tell me about your project”- they’ll handle it from there! I take notes as quickly as I possibly can, they can have quite a bit to say about it. When my clients book the phone consultation, I send them a questionnaire to complete before we talk. That answers a lot of my preliminary questions (budget, how involved they want to be, project type, etc.), and during the phone consult, I simply review their answers and let them know how I work with projects like theirs typically. I ask them if this feels like a good solution to their problem, and if not, what their ideal solution would be.
How do you maintain a good work life/personal life balance?
RW: It was really hard initially. My family is always first – and when launching a business, sometimes I had to remind myself that I had to spend a LOT of time on my business so that my family could be first. I saw myself becoming addicted to my phone, always looking to designer groups on Facebook to help me get through my business challenges, and so often that I was checking my phone when I should have been playing with my kids. I finally deleted apps, and made myself a promise to treat my phone like a… phone when at home. I have a business line that doesn’t ring after work or on weekends. When I’m home (and I’m still working on this), I keep my phone plugged into the charger, treating it as much as possible like a wired phone. That’s not to say that I don’t pull it out when I put my kids to bed so they can listen to soft music while I play games or read, but I’m not working during that time.
I also made myself a promise to work during school hours and be around for my kids while they’re young. I leave for work when they get on the bus, and I leave work to get them from the bus stop and go home. I have a strict policy to not work outside those hours, and am sure to inform my clients of this when we begin work. Most of them respect it and are impressed with this devotion to my family.
Why did you make the switch from Studio Designer to Ivy?
RW: Studio Designer had everything…but it wasn’t user friendly. It was dated and my clients absolutely hated it. When I had the introduction to Ivy, it was a no brainer. Ivy has it all with the user-friendliness and the no fuss approach that suits my business style. There is literally nothing on the market that compares to Ivy.
How has Ivy helped streamline your day-to-day workflow?
RW: Ivy has helped me stay informed and on top of things. I don’t forget to bill a client or forget when a sofa is shipping, it all comes right to my inbox. The best thing about Ivy is that it’s something I don’t have to focus on or spend a lot of time with. I pop in, get what I need done in a few minutes, and all my clients are informed, I’m informed, and everything is in order.
What’s an Ivy feature you can’t live without?
RW: All of them. No, seriously, do I have to choose? I think probably the proposals if I have to choose. But, in my head I’m saying “and the retainers, and the Purchase Orders, and the ETA’s, and the vendors…”.
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