Margi Kyle knows what’s ailing you, and she has a cure. “You change your energy when the energy changes,” Kyle, The Designing Doctor, LLC, advises.
Kyle has spent her entire career learning, then teaching. Her cure for what many decorating businesses may feel as a slowdown is education with a big dose of technology. It’s a treatment that has worked for her from the very beginning, and she’s still taking her own medicine. In July, Kyle spent several days learning a new Web-based program, 3Dream.net, available to the trade only.
“I can go in and draw up my room design, my floor plan, to any dimension,” she explains, “then in 2-D I can put fabrics on anything I want and in 3-D I can put pictures in there . . . it automatically lists everything that you put in that room so you’ve got an automatic source list of all the products you’ve used there.”
Such technology has been the subject of seminars Kyle has presented over the years, it is something she has used in her own decorating business and it’s the prescription for retaining clients at a time when many businesses are slow. “We’re not getting the whole house anymore. We’re doing it in bite sizes, and technology will keep that whole house going. So, five weeks [after finishing a project for a client] I e-mail the bathroom window that doesn’t have a window treatment on it and I put a little window treatment on top of the digital image I took of her bathroom and I put a price on it, and she wants it. It’s done.
“Our attitude today is, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m done with that client,’ and then we move on. We’re only done because we’re not doing our homework properly. We need to keep going on this. And the best way to do that is through technology,” says Kyle.
It’s also a matter of being ready for when business inevitably picks up. “Do you want to be the state-of-the-art? Do you want to be a step ahead of the crowd when we get out of this?” Kyle asks. “You’ve got to learn now. If you’re not busy working with clients, get busy learning some new tricks that will make your business soar when it’s good again.”
For Kyle, it’s all about finding the hole in customer service, the niche, the thing that no one else provides. “There’s still business out there, you can’t tell me there’s not any business. People are on hold, but you’ve got to find a new way to romance them.”
Kyle started teaching classes the next week after graduating from the New York School of Interior Design and has never stopped. She has taught the complete three-year interior design program at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada; teaches “Windows of Opportunity,” a Hunter Douglas CEU-approved seminar to design university students and chapters of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID); she has written articles and continues to write CEU-approved classes for the industry. She has been host and producer of “Desperate Design,” a decorating and lifestyle series as well as several other television design programs including, of course, “The Designing Doctor,” a weekly show dealing with all aspects of decorating and design.
“I just found a weakness in that area [of education] and what designers really needed to know and I tried to fill it,” she says. Kyle states her mission as “Using all my expertise and experiences to motivate, rejuvenate and educate my clients through their design journey to embrace their world.”
That seems to be the same attitude Kyle takes in presenting seminars for decorators and workrooms. From her experience in her own business, she understands that there is so much a designer needs to know that window treatments often are overlooked in their education and the mistakes can be glaring. “You can put sort of a funky accessory in a room and people just rarely go to it, but if you treat a window incorrectly it’s magnified. A window usually is the largest vertical element in a room. It lets in light, it usually can be a focal point and your eye naturally goes to it.”
She also understands that this can create a divide between designers and workrooms, “because the designer feels like she should know this, but really doesn’t. There is such a need for window design education, it’s tremendous.”
Kyle’s remedy is for workrooms to realize they can be the experts and have valuable knowledge to offer. “When I’m talking to a group that’s maybe half workrooms and half designers, I tell them if you two don’t work together you’re going to miss a lot. If the designer doesn’t know what she’s doing, then charge her.”
Kyle believes the window treatment industry is moving in the right direction with groups exchanging ideas and knowledge. Working together is another idea that has sprung from own business. “I have the Carol Burnett theory: You’re only as good as the people you hire. I always hired good workrooms and good installers, and believe me they have saved me many times and I have given them wonderful business. It needs to be a two-way street.”
Among Kyle’s many industry affiliations, she also is the executive director and instructor of the Dewey Color System. It’s a three-part system that decorators can use to understand the personalities of the clients they are working with and to quickly and simply pull together color schemes that will suit them.
She explains that it begins with a psychological test of color. Clients choose their primary, secondary and achromatic colors, which reveal their personalities, their core beings and how they relate to others.
Next comes the Coordinator, a 12-color color wheel system that dissects each color into its complementary colors, triadic colors, split complementary colors, neutrals and undertones. This system helps decorators pull color schemes together quickly.
The last part is a color test in which clients rank 12 colors from their favorites to their least favorites. Ranking all 12 colors is important. “Sometimes,” Kyle hints, “we need our least favorite color to ground us and to make us face realities.” She suggests try adding just a touch of a client’s least favorite color in another room. It might surprise everyone that’s the room the client goes to when making tough decisions.
As a color expert, what is Kyle’s prognosis? “You’re going to see us going to a lot of blues. You’re going to see a lot of greens, but the hot color stories are yellows and grays. Yellow is a very optimistic color, and gray is very grounding. Gray is a very creative color. It needs to be worked with properly, or it can neutralize other colors to the point where they are just muted out.”
And what about decorating business trends? Will fabric continue to be the treatment of choice? “Absolutely,” Kyle answers. “I look at the ’90s as ‘We survived.’ We all lived in big houses and we couldn’t really decorate them and so we did the basics. In the 2000s, with everything that’s happened, people want to feel safe. It’s not ‘Home, sweet home’ anymore, it’s ‘Home, safe home.’ They want to feel like their homes are finished and nothing will finish a room faster than a finished window treatment. Draperies and fabric soften that space and give it a feeling of opulence.”
What’s happening now Kyle sees as just a cleaning out process. “When the times are tough the tough have to get tougher. We’ll all survive this.”