Going Big Featuring An All-Star Guest List | 400 | Big Personalities and Big Design Celebrating 400 Episodes

I’m Josh Cooperman and this is Convo By Design. I’m starting to get a bit more reflective than I have been in the past. At the end of 2022, I will have been hosting and producing Convo By Design for 10 years. No, really. And this is a very special episode. #400

Designer Resources

ThermaSol – Redefining the modern shower experience. Episode 271 featuring Mitch Altman

Article, great style is easy. It’s the best way to buy beautiful modern furniture

York Wallcoverings – Designed to inspire for over 125 years

Franz Viegener – Finely crafted sculptural faucets

Moya Living  Beautiful, durable powder coated kitchen, bath & outdoor kitchen cabinetry

These 10 years have really flown by. In part because this is my second career. My first was in broadcasting, for those who have been listening to the show for a while, I will spare you from having to hear the story again. Suffice it to say, a lot has happened in design and architecture since 2013. I think the industry looks and feels very different now than it did then. 

Obviously, the last 3 years have been transformative, but even before the pandemic, the business was changing. In this episode, I want to share some of the incredibly talented people who have been on the show. I want to reshape some of their thoughts and ideas, share some of the places we’ve been over the past 10 years and take a look at the next 10. What will that look like for our business? So this is going to be a longer than usual episode because a lot has happened over the past 10 years and while I can’t cover it all here, I would like to share these ideas and excerpts from a few select interviews along the way. In no particular order and I don’t wish to leave anyone out, following are some of the things that really stuck with me along the way.

Before we get to some of the design talent, some thoughts on the future of the design business.

  1. Remote Design – The pandemic sealed it. Remote design is a permanent part of the industry. That is not going to change. Designers are not realtors. Realtors work a “farm” or a specific territory. Designers and architects need not do that and because of that, should be looking beyond the traditional borders and boundaries to develop a new clientele. As we have been discussing and exploring through the Remote Design House – Tulsa, the future of remote and virtual design is rife with opportunity and peril alike.
  2. Stellar Customer Service or Suffer the Consequences
  3. New Product Discovery – Specification and re-specification has fundamentally changed. 

Its so much fun to find new products. For me, that is the feel I get when I speak to new creatives. That is, those I have not yet spoken with. This first clip was from my conversation with  Julian Lennon, who has entered a new chapter in his life with a new album and a new collection of photographs that are offered at RH through General Public, Portia de Rossi’s company that represents emerging artists. I really loved my chat with Lennon, here is what that sounded like.

I wanted to share another Lennon connection with you. This time, with art furniture designer, Dakota Jackson. Jackson has an incredible backstory starting with his family, who were magicians and this is Dakota telling the story of a desk he was commissioned to build for John Lennon by Yoko Ono.

Back to some lessons learned along the way…

  1. You Must Market Your Brand – Take this to mean whatever you want, I have learned over time that since people hear what they want to hear, sometimes it is difficult to come to a universal conclusion. But I will be clear, if you want new or better clients, you must advertise or market your brand in better ways. Otherwise, and you are right in that ‘word of mouth’ can work, but if you are being shared client to potential client, you are still dealing with many of the same clients you wish to upgrade. Gone are the days when designers should be utilized for their knowledge base and trade discount. Designers are both creatives and futurists who solve the issues that most directly and deeply affect their clients. This is important. This is essential. This is valuable and requires proper compensation. There are virtual design services online that can provide designed spaces for $40 and there are “decorators” on Fiverr starting at $5. If this doesn’t concern you, it should. I’ll tell you a story, back in my broadcast days, I watched the radio and record industries lose control over the power to move music. First it was Napster, then social media, then Apple. Now, you can buy music online. When was the last time you bought an entire album? Unless you are into Vinyl, it has probably been well over a decade. The design business is no different. If a virtual design company can change the thought process as it relates to design from crafting curated and purposeful spaces to a simple space plan with furnishings that fit and in the right color palate, where does it end? It ends in devaluing the designer and I do this because I love what you do. Marketing you and your brand is crucial to the long term health of your design business and that of the industry.

Some designers who have paved their own way. Created a world around the design they create. One of those designers is the incomparable, Bunny Williams. Williams was always very clear in her focus and what her work and that of her firm means. She has always been crystal clear in her views on learning from others, I’ll let Bunny explain it.

From Bunny to another icon, Martyn Lawrence Bullard. I caught up with Bullard at the Lacienega Design Quarter Legends event in 2019. Martyn and his team were designing their showroom window to honor Tony Duquette. This provided him with an opportunity to get back to his theatrical roots and craft, in spectacular fashion. Fearless and fabulous. Listen.

  1. Trade Groups, Media, Trade Shows, Manufacturers and Showrooms… Step Up – The past three years have been draining on all of us, but that is no excuse to stop trying to elevate. I conduct many post-conversation interviews after I stop recording for the show. I ask designers, artists, architects what they see in the business, what the experience has been like, day to day and what they need from industry resources. The number one response is better customer service. Sending out samples does not constitute customer service. Nor does calling on designers to see what projects they are working on. Customer service is answering the phone, returning an email within 24 hours, dropping a less important activity to find out where that chair is and when it will be delivered. Customer service is following up, proactively on damaged merchandise and if it can’t be fixed, replace it quickly, if it was discontinued, offer a suitable replacement or provide credit, again….proactively not reactively because designers don’t have the time to chase you down. Trade groups and trade shows, I get that it is about the per foot display, ticket and advertising revenue. And it should be, but I would challenge you to offer a deeper engagement, a better experience for those attending. There are some that do it right. Salone, Maison, WestEdge… But there are others who don’t put a great deal of pride into the experience of those who attend your events and I think there is a tremendous opportunity here. And media, ours is a billion dollar industry and as such, deserves a far more robust media platform. I have had a very good working relationship with the shelter publications over the years. It pains me to say this but it is time for you to step up your game. This is not directed at everyone… Bring back the contributors and editors. You can’t cover a diverse industry like ours with a handful of writers covering everything with fewer word and images on fewer pages of edit. Paper costs have caused some publishers to make difficult choices, cutting editorial staff and circulation. I encourage you to learn from radio and don’t allow digital to take all of your readers and advertisers. I am a tactile person, I love design magazines, I want you to be around for a very long time. 
  1. Diversity in Design, Cultural Recognition and Creative Attribution Is Inextricably Tied to the Business of Design… And that’s a good thing. It’s more work, it is. Knowing the back story of all the materials used in the work is a significant amount of work to document but it also provides an incredible opportunity to elevate the narrative of the work and the byproducts that make the sum of its parts.

In 2019, I produced a conversation at the WestEdge Design Fair. This was a fantastic conversation. Here’s a bit from that encounter. First you will hear from Brian Pinkett of Landry Design Group, then Brigid Coulter, Ron Woodson and Breegan Jane closing it out.

  1. Rise of The Work Room. They are here to stay.
  2. Wellness is the Most Important Function- It has become and inextricable part of design since March 13, 2020. It’s both incredible and stunning to attribute a major movement to a specific day, but the entirety of the US and the world can look back at the day the US closed. What happened next was a terrifying, confusing and disruptive time during which the pandemic taught all of us that our homes were not designed to function in times of universal turmoil. Following that, the creative community does what it always does and looks for ways to fix problems. These fixes came in the way of functional redesigns, rethinking what “home” is and how it can better serve those living there. Wellness in design… Air, water, sound, experience. These four concepts represent a wholesale change in design thinking, and location thinking as well. 

In Southern California, it was March 13, a Friday and I thought if this is going to happen, might as well get it all down to see what we can learn from it. I started a series called, Designing for Disaster. The next two clips feature guests form that series. First up is 

Thomas Kliggerman who shares a personal story of being locked down while in the midst of designing his own personal new home.

Joe Berkowitz joined me for an episode of Designing for Disaster and shares some truly valuable design advice about space planning and ways to keep everything in scale.

It would be a mistake not to mention that while all this is going on, we were all worried about catching this new virus. Worried about our friends and family dying from it and this podcast kept me connected to the design industry. My friends, old and new. Being confined to a small beach bungalow in Southern California wasn’t completely horrible. As a matter of fact, the connection with my family during this time is something I will forever cherish. The uncertainty was awful. But, I was home with my family and through this show I was able to keep the conversation going. I hope it was useful for you too.

Throughout the pandemic, actually before and most certainly after, wellness has been at the top of every priority list. Because of that and because I so appreciate my partnership with ThermaSol, I want you to hear from Mitch Altman, 

DIEM – 2014 with Roman Alonso partner with Commune Design and Mayer Rus, West Coast Editor of AD talking about the creative freedom that California, and more specifically Los Angeles offer creatives. Moderated by Mallery Roberts Morgan. This conversation was a simple creative comparison between New York and Los Angeles. What is so interesting about this, to me, is that as you listen, it is a binary conversation about cultural and artistic relevance in the United States. I enjoyed listening back to this conversation from 2014 and I hope you do as well. A look back at the halcyon days between the turmoil of the great recession and civil war. Before a global pandemic and record setting financial and business disruption. A time when we could afford to have a simple conversation about who does it better.

Loved listening back to that but at the same time, while it seems so long ago, it really wasn’t. But some things have changed. The design fly-overs have emerged as a place where some factors have converged at an important time. Designers who are doing incredible things in Oklahoma, Colorado, Kentucky and Texas. Speaking of Texas, I was so fortunate to have a conversation with friend Kyle Bunting who invited some of his friends, Lauren Rottet, Jan Showers and Fern Santini for a really fun conversation about design in the lone star state. Here is what that sounded like.

Susan Ferrier… On achieving the shared desires of her clients. She first wants to understand desire and then listens to gain nuance.

The Architects… I have had the opportunity to speak with some of the greatest architecture minds working today. Here are just a few, Roger Seifter from Robert AM Sterns Architects talking about a  Southern California John L. Woolf home and the thoughtful, loving restorative process that goes into all their projects. This is a distinguished list and in no particular order, except that their ideas are exquisite and their work is the physical manifestation of this ideas for all to see and a lucky few to enjoy. They include, Paul McClean, Dan Brunn, Woods & Dangaran and Jamie Bush

Thank you, All as well as those not included in this episode for taking some of your time to share your story. Your stories are what make American design and architecture true art form.  Special thanks to CXD sponsors and partners ThermaSol, Moya Living, York Wallcoverings, Franz Viegenr and Article Furniture. Thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule to listen to Convo By Design. I produce this show for you. Those in the design industry to hear what others are doing and hopefully provide you with some inspiration to do that thing you do. Remember why and for whom you craft and create. Please subscribe to the show so you don’t miss an episode, you can find us everywhere you get your favorite podcasts. Thank you, have a great week and take today first. -CXD

300th Episode Special | 300 | Seven Years, 500+ Guests, 300 Episodes and Here We Are

To be completely honest, I can’t really tell you which I am more excited about, hitting episode 300 or ushering out 2020. It is completely irrational to blame anything, let alone everything that happened in the year, but I can’t remember a year as absolutely traumatic as 2020. And regardless of how you feel about the outcome of the elections, the future of a vaccine, or the return to normality, whatever that means, here is what I know. When this whole COVID thing started back in March, I started talking to designers and architects, nobody knew what was happening, everyone, myself included said things like, “In these unprecedented times” followed by a statement about the obviously troubling times were in. But, here’s the thing. As the weeks passed, more conversations took place followed by even more research… I slowly learned something. These are not unprecedented times. There was a pandemic in 1918 and the Spanish Flu went pretty much the same way this one has. There were people who complained about masks, society was shut down and it had a massive effect on how life changed on the other side. In the mid-1920’s Le Corbusier was touting the benefits of cleanliness and minimalism in residential design. 

Prior to and during the early 1900s, indoor bathrooms featured mostly porous wooden furniture and paneling, it held germs and bacteria. The new focus on cleanliness led to tile, linoleum, built-in bathtubs. It led to bigger closets and less cabinetry that held clothing. It led to tile in bathrooms, more specifically the use of subway tile in residential design, and revolutionized toilet and porcelain sink production.

We are seeing some very similar behaviors and it is safe to say that design and architecture will change again after this pandemic is over. Not unprecedented. We have been through civil unrest, economic recessions, depressions… we have seen trying times. These are not unprecedented times, they are new to us. In an effort to try and understand what comes next I have spoken with incredibly talented designers and architects to help shed some light on what is most likely next. Speaking of “what’s next”, that is what is the most fun for me about producing this podcast. Exploring exquisite design now and figuring out what is going to come next with the best in the business today. That is what Convo By Design is all about.

So as I present episode 300, as is tradition, we look back on some of the conversations that have transpired over the past 7 years. It would be impossible to do this as if 2020 hadn’t been a completely different kind of year. Yet, much of what you are about to hear in the following episode has led up to this. I have long said that designers and architects are futurists and storytellers. You are going to hear some of those conversations and as you do, you will notice that every one of them has something in common, the betterment of life through design and architecture.

2020 has been a trip, has it not? When this whole thing started, I ran a special series called Designing for Disaster which was an opportunity to focus on the pandemic, in real-time and it was fascinating to hear how designers and architects were adapting in real-time.

I spoke with designer Joe Berkowitz about how design was going to change post-COVID. Joe shares his thoughts on the ‘edit’, something he already incorporates into his work, but now, is even more important than ever.


COVID was not the only major issue we dealt with head-on in 2020. A core component of social injustice is the lack of diversity in American society and our business is not exempt. Listen to Jean Brownhill, architect and CEO of Sweeten as she shares her story and her introduction to architecture. Jean is incredibly talented and driven, this is how she got her start. 

On that same topic, I produced and moderated a panel at WestEdge Design Fair that covered the very issue of diversity, or lack thereof in the business. Some thoughts from Brian Pinkett, then Bridgid Coulter, and Ron Woodson.




2020 also brought a new series called The Showroom, a partnership between Convo By Design and Walker Zanger showcasing incredible work as well as an inspirational series designed to shine a light on working more efficiently within design partnerships. This is John Colanari.



Speaking of partnerships, we have a great partnership with Texas-based, Thermasol. This is Mitch Altman, the man at the helm of this family-owned and operated company doing groundbreaking work in steam showers for over 60 years.


Convo By Design was built on fascinating conversations with world-class talent. Showcasing a handful of those. First up, Michael Berman.


Thank you, Michael, this is Cesar Giraldo from the Convo By Design Programming Lounge in 2017.


Up next, designer Lori Dennis. Lori is a multi appearance guest on the show. She is a friend and I always appreciate her take on the business.


Thank you, Lori. This is Ron Woodson and Jamie Rummerfield…

One of the events missed in 2020 that I cannot wait to come again is the La Cienega Design Quarter’s LEGENDS. In 2019 brought Convo By Design was an official media partner and as the event brought in design icon, Bunny Williams, we got a chance to hear her thoughts on what designers REALLY need to know. And then, she shared her thoughts starting out as a new designer working for the storied firm of Parish Hadley and specifically, what it was like working for Sister Parish.

This is Ryan Saghian from episode 112. Now, Ryan is another friend who has appeared more than once on the show and he never disappoints. Ryan is highly opinionated, incredibly talented, and always fun to talk to.


Thank you, Ryan Saghian. This is designer Ryan White who designer the Convo By Design Programming Lounge from the WestEdge Design Fair in 2016. It was a really special place masterfully designed by Ryan White and it could not have been executed without partners like Snyder Diamond and Warner Bros.


We wrap part one with architect Ward Jewell to whom I often refer back to when I need to be reminded of what’s really important. In times like these, look back and you will find your path for the future.


Next up is the soft-spoken but incredibly talented, Joan Behnke talking about the value of art and how art influences her design.


Thank you, Joan, this is Cliff Fong from episode 68. Another fine example of a multi-disciplinary designer, in this case, a fashion designer turned interior designer and entrepreneur.


Victor Zolfo, set decorator is going to tell you what it feels like to win an Oscar and a Bafta for his work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Have you ever wondered what that feels like?

Dakota Jackson and his work are legendary within the art furniture movement. The magician turned designer turned magical designer talks about crafting a one of a kind gift from Yoko Ono to John Lennon.


 That was Dakota Jackson, this is Timothy Corrigan


Thank you, Tim. This is architect Takashi Yanai


This is Rachlin Architects, Michael Rachlin from episode 16


There are those that know how to develop a line, a goal for many designers. One of the best I know at this is Sue Firestone.


Designer Kyle Schuneman focused early on small spaces and millennials. This is more important now than ever before.


This is a series of set decorators Rosemary Brandenburg first, then William DeBiasio and K.C. Fox. Set decorators are first and foremost, storytellers. Architecture is the language of design is the storytelling of design. While set decorators are not necessarily designers, they are some of the best storytellers around.


I am ending with one of the absolute best interviews around. Martyn Lawrence Bullard is highly accomplished, you know this. But if you listen to how he tells the story, you can understand how he got there.

As I wrap up this celebration of reaching episode 300 I am reminded that I did not get here alone. As a matter of fact, without the incredible creatives that appear on the show every week, you heard a small sample here but there are literally hundreds that have appeared on this show over the past 7 years. Without the trade partners like the WestEdge Design Fair, Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts, ASID, LA Design Festival, Pacific Design Center, and Set Decorator Society of America, this would not be the show that it has become I am eternally grateful. A huge thank you to all the media publishers and professional publicists who bring their skills to sharing the stories of our industry and make this possible. And most importantly, thank you for listening. Thank you for subscribing to the show and engaging at our events for the past 7 years and for the last 7 months, exclusively online. 

Thank you for your emails, your texts, and your show suggestions. If it wasn’t for all of you that make up this amazing design and architecture community, what’s the point? So thanks for listening and until next week, Keep creating.

An Icon Returns to LA | 241 | Dakota Jackson

Let me set the stage for you. I’m sitting in the HOFA Gallery on LaCienega, surrounded by white walls and beautiful works by local and international artists. This is the perfect setting for an interview, and what makes it that much more special is the fact that I had been looking forward to this conversation for a while. It was with Dakota Jackson.  Yes, Jackson is a legendary furniture designer, yes, Jackson also mastered the art of brad partnerships as the one he has nurtured for quite some time with Steinway & Sons. But, he is also a masterful conversationalist.  Because of this, I knew that I was going to be tested.

This is a conversation about so much more than furniture and design. This podcast affords me the latitude to explore new avenues with creatives. To really see what lies beneath the work and where it comes from.

Dakota Jackson is a masterful creative with a background in the art of magic, theater, illusion and craft. He is also a true artist with a legendary story to match his body of work. We talk about the desk he crafted for John Lennon at Yoko Ono’s request. You’ll hear about the days on Warhol, Diane von Furstenberg and his participation in the American Art Furniture Movement.

This is designer, artist, magician and maker, Dakota Jackson.