Behind the Design: Shannon Adamson of Shannon Adamson Interior Design
Designer Spotlight: Shannon Adamson of Shannon Adamson Interior Design, LLC – Seattle, WA
How did you get where you are today?
I’ve had a somewhat untraditional path to starting my own firm in that I’ve worked as a designer for a variety of other companies for 13 years before fully branching out on my own. That experience exposed me to a lot of different ways of doing business (good and bad), and has informed the way I currently run my business.
I’m originally from Boise, Idaho, and received my Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design at Utah State University. My internship was with a 198 year-old firm in Edinburgh, Scotland. That firm had an in-house dream team of furniture makers, drapery seamstresses, and upholsterers. It gave me an appreciation for handcrafted custom work and the importance of supporting those dying crafts.
After completing my internship, I went to work for a hospitality design firm in Boulder, Colorado, and lived in Colorado for the next ten years. In that time, I went on to work for a solo residential designer, a mid-sized design-build company, and as a corporate in-house designer for a restaurant concept. About 2.5 years ago, my husband and I moved to the Seattle area for his job and I began to develop my own business, while continuing as a consultant for the restaurant company. In August of last year I officially struck out on my own, and am loving it!
Shannon Adamson Interior Design is a full-service design studio creating functional and beautiful spaces. How do achieve this?
Working in both commercial and residential design has reinforced the importance of not only how good something looks, but how well it holds up over time. Because of that, in all of my projects, I strive to focus on how the design will look in 2, 5, or 10 years. Anything can look good in a photoshoot just after install. To me, the true test of a successful design is how well the components hold up with use, and how timeless the aesthetic is.
Who are some of your favorite local Seattle vendors that you work with?
Partly out of unwillingness to drive in Seattle traffic more than I have to, and partly out of wanting to support small local companies, I’ve focused on getting hyper-local with my resources. Because of this, some of my favorite vendors are close to my home, a little north of Seattle. Elpis and Wood is my go-to live edge wood shop. My workroom, A Custom Shade, does top-notch work just a few miles away. J Garner Home and Dixon Group in the Seattle Design Center are life savers, and my custom furniture/millwork guy, Mike Veatch can create anything I throw at him! The interaction with the makers of each component of the design is one of my favorite aspects of the job. I learn so much from them, and it makes my next design that much better.
How does designing make you feel?
It sounds so trite, but it’s really such an integral part of who I am. Designing makes me feel at peace, energized, and inspired.
What’s your business mantra?
I’m definitely working on this! At the moment, it’s kind of an anti-mantra that goes something like “How on earth do I keep my clients happy and be a mom and wife too”. I’ve got a 22-month-old, so I’m still figuring it out. So many designers in the Ivy community make it work, and it is so inspiring to me!
When you start a new project, how do you get to know your client and the space?
For residential projects, I think you can learn a lot about a person just from seeing their living space. A fascination with this aspect of houses is what lead me to study interior design, and you can infer a lot about the inhabitants when visiting their home. Aside from that, I spend a lot of the initial design meeting getting to know the clients, where they are from, what they do for a living, and all of the usual stuff. All the while, you’re trying to get down to figuring out what it is they really want out of their project. Not just a nice-looking space, but what they really want.
For commercial clients, I focus on branding; what messages they want to project to their clientele through the space. Is their current space projecting that brand, and why or why not?
As far as getting to know the space, I take time to do a very detailed site measure that allows me to analyze the space, take notes on directions of windows, and analyze the building systems (electrical, plumbing, structural) that might impact the project. It’s important to get undistracted time inside the space you’re working with to really take it in.
In your opinion, why is it important for interior designers to take advantage of wholesale pricing through local design center showrooms and manufacturers?
I’m not sure how designers work otherwise! Working through local showrooms and manufacturers allows for so much more customization and variety in our designs. Through those showrooms we have access to literally thousands of manufacturers all over the world that aren’t available to the general public. In my mind, clients hire a designer to put something together that is uniquely made for them. If their next door neighbor can buy the same beige sofa from Crate & Barrel, what value are we really offering?
It also allows us to support U.S. manufacturing. Most furniture lines shown in design centers (particularly mid-to higher-end ones) are benchmade in the U.S. from domestic materials. The workers are protected by labor laws, and there is a pride of workmanship. What standard retailers primarily offer are mass-produced factory-made pieces imported from China. The quality control and workmanship isn’t there, the designs tend to be blah, and the quality of life for the factory workers certainly isn’t there.
A designer for whom I’ve worked for several years has toured multiple factories in China that produce upholstery pieces for Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, and Crate & Barrel. It’s a lesser product in so many aspects.
As designers, we have a lot of market influence since we purchase exponentially more furnishings and finishes than any one household will. How and where we spend our clients’ dollars has a far-reaching affect, and we should be mindful of that.
Why did you move forward with Squarespace as your website platform?
Squarespace’s ease of use, and beautiful templates are what sold me. Ain’t nobody got time for anything else! Their templates are particularly geared toward people in visual fields, which works well in our industry.
Why did you join Ivy?
I was really grabbed by the tagline of “design software that isn’t stuck in the ’90s”. Like many other designers, I’d been subjected to working with klunky, comedically outdated design software. When I started amping up purchasing for my clients, I knew I didn’t want to deal with any of that. Enter, Ivy!
How has Ivy helped streamline your workflow?
It has compiled my invoicing, project tracking, and purchasing all in one system. I love the responsiveness of the technical support. They are probably sick to death of my requests, but the level of service is outstanding.
What have you learned from being part of the Ivy Designer Network?
So, so much! From new to-the-trade resources I was unaware of, to meeting other Seattle-area designers, to getting introduced to The Business of Design and A Well Designed Business podcasts, it has really been an important go-to resource that has changed the way I approach my business. It also makes the journey of a solopreneur feel a lot less lonely. I love my Ivy network!
What’s an Ivy feature you can’t live without?
The time billing function is fantastic, and the Ivy Clipper is aces!
Are you an interior designer in search of an easy interior design software and project management tool to run your business? Learn more about Ivy here.