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Suzanne Kasler on why the design business is better (and harder) than ever

Suzanne Kasler on why the design business is better (and harder) than ever

In 1995, Suzanne Kasler, a native Midwesterner and a commercial interior designer, abruptly packed up her things and moved to the South—her husband’s company had transferred him from Indiana to Atlanta. It was a tough move. “I cried for two years,” she tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast.

Eventually, Kasler found reasons to look on the bright side. As part of the move, she pivoted to residential interior design, and her business began to take off. The Southeast was just beginning a decades-long period of growth (it’s still going), and Kasler found herself with the right skills in the right place at the right time. “Atlanta has been the best place for [my career],” she says. “It kind of makes you feel like there’s a plan in life and a destiny we all have.”

Kasler’s background in commercial design gave her technical skills that helped her stand out from the pack, as did her aesthetic leanings, which have always been to edit as opposed to add. It made Kasler distinct in a scene where decorative maximalism had long reigned. There, her timing was good too: She was making a name for herself in the South when magazines like Veranda were bringing the region’s design to a national audience. Over time, Kasler has become one of the industry’s most celebrated talents, appearing on the AD100 and Elle Decor’s A-List; landing licensing deals with Visual Comfort, Hickory Chair and Ballard Designs; and publishing four books, including her latest, Edited Style.

Racking up awards and accolades is one thing—dealing with 19-month lead times, furniture that has grown mold in transit and the drawn-out logistical hell of the pandemic era is another. Throughout the episode, Kasler discusses how adapting to COVID-19 has changed her business, maybe forever. “The challenge for us today is a project that might have taken 18 months to two years is taking two-and-a-half to three years now, but what you’re selling them is the same,” she says. “We had to bring in other clients to fill the downtime, and it made it too stressful in the office, because you still had the client that was going to be finishing, and you had the new client, and there wasn’t the break there has been in the past. That’s been something we’ve been looking at very deeply.”

Meanwhile, Kasler has been staffing up on back-end employees to deal with logistics and continually refining her pitch to clients (the key, she says, is to set brutally honest expectations around timing). And if all else fails, she’s taking matters into her own hands, hiring a truck to go pick pieces up from furniture manufacturers directly, rather than letting them languish in a warehouse.

As a result of this crazy time, Kasler is hoping that we can all let go of the notion that productivity and busyness is everything and focus on a more holistic picture. “In the design world, we’re doing more business than we realized we could do. And our businesses have been impacted in a positive way in terms of productivity. But then you have to look at the overall wellness of your team—and it’s been a lot,” she says. “Productivity isn’t the only way to look at something. When you have a business, it’s the entire package—the connections people make with each other.”

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Crypton.

Homepage image: Suzanne Kasler | Courtesy of Jill Cohen Associates

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