Monthly Archives: February 2020

What’s My Line | 259 | How to Create and Take a Design Product Line to Market



Resetting the scene for you, the WestEdge Design Fair was held, as it is every year, at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica. These conversations were held in the Convo By Design Programming Lounge with custom designs from John McClain, Studio Akiko, Isbell Interiors and Julia Wong Designs. This conversation was transformative for a number of reasons. Interior designers, many if not most, want a line to call their own. That signature line not only creates an opportunity to do business outside of the design studio but it is considered by many to be a legacy proposition, something that extends beyond the design work.

As such, I wanted you to hear from power players in the space, and you are about to hear that conversation featuring Sue Firestone of SFA Design, Arch Interiors, Christopher Grubb, photographer, Gray Malin, designer Xander Noori, and designer Leslie Shapiro Joyal. This group was expertly questioned by journalist and editor, Alex Abramian. This group brings some serious firepower. Enjoy and be inspired.


Sweeten Your Design | 258 | Jean Brownhill



You listen to Convo By Design for a few reasons, I have been told, and 2 of those reasons are to find inspiration and hear the stories of designers, architects, futurists and creators responsible for the direction of design in So Cal and beyond. I have an amazing guest in Architect, founder and CEO of Sweeten, Jean Brownhill.

Brownhill’s story is a complex one full of long shots  successes and uphill battles. A women who is disrupting the construction space by attempting a massive change in the way the business is done. I want you to know that I use the word “disrupting” carefully and with purpose. Because that word has become overused with regard to business changing the status quo and because simply changing something isn’t enough, it has to be positive change or what’s the point? 

Brownhill is addressing some common issues and attacking those issues with thoughtful strategy available via Sweeten, a company that matches clients with vetted contractors in a transparent ecosystem that incentivizes the trade to remain on good terms and Sweeten is compensated through commissions on work transacted within that ecosystem. While I have not experienced the service myself, I like the idea because it provides all parties with positive motivating factors for doing things the right way. That would make Brownhill and Sweeten a truly disrupting company. And regardless of how you feel about that idea, what cannot be denied is that a woman… of color… an architect… in  the construction space… who has raised millions of dollars in VC funding… does make Jean Brownhill a unicorn. She is one of very few, this is her story.

Convo By Design is presented by Walker Zanger….A remarkable company and an equally remarkable design partner.  While the Walker Zanger brand was built on the promise to inspire designers and architects to do their best work, there is far more to it than that. Yes, that promise is fulfilled everyday through a commitment to provide the best ceramic, glass, stone, porcelain, quartz and concrete surfaces and finishes but at the heart of this is a family owned and operated business that provides stunning surfaces for a well designed home.  Walker Zanger started in 1952 and they are absolutely one of the best trade partners a designer can have. Check out their newest collaborative line with designer Pietta Donovan. A collection of Cement and Ceramic tiles inspired by the the patterns and colorways of the 1970’s and created with a comfortable modernity. Walker Zanger is on the cutting edge of design featuring products for every style and architectural feel you can create and they provide homeowners with the materials that dream kitchens and baths are made of. Check out any of their 14 showrooms across the country or shop online, Walker Zanger dot com.

That is a wrap on this episode of Convo By Design featuring Jean Brownhill, this was recorded at the WestEdge Design Fair in Santa Monica in October 2019. Thank you for the time Jean, thank you Walker Zanger for your generous support of the show and of course, thank you for listening. Without you, there is no Convo By Design!  Until next week, keep creating.


Beautiful Together | 257 | Product Partnerships Designed to Succeed



Every week, you and I go on this journey through the inner workings of the business of design and architecture together. Actually, that’s not completely accurate, it’s not just the business, it is the inner workings of a big complex machine of which the business is an integral part but certainly not the entirety of what we talk about every week. The very DNA of this world is design and architecture. Within that are many detailed and complex inner workings that aren’t always what they seem. I had an opportunity at the WestEdge Design Fair to sit and talk with some people of whom I am extremely fond. They include New Zealand born, Brooklyn based interior and product designer, Pietta Donovan and Walker Zanger Marketing Director, Erika Egede-Nissen. We talked about partnerships.

I get asked about this subject quite often and discuss it on the show equally often, what makes a good partnership between designers, showrooms and manufacturers? What is the best way to approach a line of products while trying to both hit a spot in the market, maintaining brand identity while simultaneously breaking new ground and being innovative. All these things are difficult to do in isolation but combined in a product launch. It’s hard, it’s complex but is also something that is best done in a collaborative framework. You don’t know when I was recording this intro and it’s immaterial to the point of the story but today I had a conversation with a showroom manager and their director of showrooms who was in from out of town. I was explaining how Los Angeles is different than New York, and how we are different compared to Houston, Dallas, Miami and Chicago. Of course we are, and those differences are not just regional, local or national. Design today is all about making our spaces truly unique to us as opposed to making our spaces exactly like the projects found in the trade publications. Listen, as the associate publisher and online editor for Modern Luxury Interiors California Magazine, I see the challenges the industry faces when trying to differentiate themselves from everyone else. Manufacturers, showrooms, designers and architects all face those very same challenges. You listen to the show, and if your new, welcome, you’ll be up to speed very quickly, I believe in brand, differentiation, innovation and that the true value of design lies in the talent of the individuals who create. Today, I offer a story that will touch on all of the above. The collaboration, partnership, innovation, promotion and execution is based on a few universal truths.

Nobody does this alone, you need others to help you succeed
Luck is something earned by working hard so that you are in the right place at the right time
More is learned by listening than by speaking
True mastery is displayed through application than description, in other words, show me, then tell me.

Todays story is told in two parts, first with Pietta and Erika. They are going to explain the anatomy of this unique and special partnership. Following that, you’ll hear from Jonathan Zanger and his perspective on the same subject.


The Christopher Kennedy Compound in Turlock, CA | 256 | Hosted By Nancy Russert of Les Beaux



Design houses are one of the elements unique to interior design and architecture. It’s like our version of the runway show in fashion, or the car show in the auto industry. Christopher Kennedy has become quite adept at ideating the design house and executing them. Christopher is a regular fixture in Palm Springs during Modernism Week and you have heard about some of those here on the podcast and even seen some of the interviews on our YouTube channel.  As a side note, before I started the podcast, I produced a design house in Hollywood I called Small Space, Big Style and Christopher was a featured designer on the project. He masterfully designed a 70’s inspired living room and was an absolute pleasure to work with. So when I heard that Christopher was creating a design house in Central California, I really wanted to cover it for you.

I had another idea at the time, I wanted to assign this project to someone who could cover its from a designer’s perspective so I reached out good friend, previous guest and fabulous design talent, Nancy Russert of Les Beaux and Twist Custom to go and see this project. She did, and in the process, created what is really a travel journal to the Central California Valley City of Turlock, definitely NOT a hotbed of design to see this project.

Convo By Design is presented by Walker Zanger….A fantastic company and an equally dependable design partner.  While the Walker Zanger brand was built on the promise to inspire designers and architects to do their best work, there is far more to it than that. Yes, that promise is fulfilled everyday through a commitment to provide the best ceramic, glass, stone, porcelain, quartz and concrete surfaces and finishes but at the heart of this is a family owned and operated business that provides stunning surfaces for a well designed home. Walker Zanger started in 1952 and they are absolutely one of the best trade partners a designer can have. Check out their newest collaborative line with designer Pietta Donovan. A collection of Cement and Ceramic tiles inspired by the the patterns and colorways of the 1970’s and created with a comfortable modernity. Walker Zanger is on the cutting edge of design featuring products for every style and architectural feel you can create and they provide homeowners with the materials that dream kitchens and baths are made of. Check out any of their 14 showrooms across the country or shop online, Walker Zanger dot com.

This is Nancy Russert starting off where most good travel stories begin, the airport. #Design #Interiors #MidCenturyModern #NancyRussert