March 27, 2019

Designer Q&A: Wendy Labrum

Today’s post is another installment of my Designer Q & A series where I ask some of my favorite designers and those I think you might be interested in hearing from, for some tidbits on getting into the business and about some of their favorite projects.  Today I’m excited to share Chicago-based designer Wendy Labrum’s work and Q&A answers.

Wendy designed one of my FAAAAAAAAAVORITE showhouse spaces of all time, this green lacquered room from the Lake Forest Showhouse I blogged about in 2017.  I still absolutely ADORE this room- with its combination of traditional and modern details, color and neutrals and casual and formal finishes. It’s brilliant, truly.

How did you get started in the Interior Design business?

I took a meandering road to interior design. I studied art history and design in undergrad, but ultimately decided to study English to prepare for law school. After working for a large law firm after college, I decided it wasn’t for me. I went into marketing for a few years and worked with several design-related clients which brought me full-circle back to interiors. My husband and I moved to London for a time, during which I laid the groundwork for Wendy Labrum Interiors, and I established my firm upon our move back to Chicago.

Any advice for those who are looking to start their own Interior Design business?

  1. Work for a bigger design firm first – it can help provide the experience you need to build a business. I always say that the actual design work is the easiest part – running the business is much harder.
  2. Prepare to work hard – being a business owner is challenging, but can be very rewarding. Don’t shy away from the inevitable challenges.
  3. Don’t be a diva. There’s no room for it in client services.
  4. Close your eyes and jump – most successful entrepreneurs had to take a leap of faith at some point!

What would your dream project be?

A giant pre-war Paris apartment with all the original plaster mouldings OR one of the great old American estates from the first part of the 20th century – think The Great Gatsby house.

Tell us about your favorite project to date – this could be about a project that went wrong throughout but turned out perfect, a particularly fun/trusting client, a personal project, etc.

My favorite project to date is a contemporary large-scale new construction home in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. It was my first comprehensive project where we designed every detail of the interior architecture from plan to completion. It was especially challenging because these clients, who became great friends in the process, weren’t aligned in their design vision, so it forced me to push my boundaries as a designer to create something that was representative of both of their very differing personalities. The end product is not a reflection of me and my own design inclinations – it’s truly a reflection of them – which is what every project should be.

Here are images of that project (photographed by Meghan Beierle-O’Brien):

Thanks Wendy for sharing your tips with us!

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