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Hey folks, on today’s pod we have Garrison Hullinger of Garrison Hullinger Interior Design in Portland, Oregon. Garrison is a bold designer with an unconventional path into the industry. Here he offers perspective on getting into the industry, learning from mistakes, and developing a design aesthetic.

Garrison found inspiration early in life. After his father passed away when Garrison was young, his family scraped money together to buy and fix up a house. His uncle was a custom home builder and his dad worked a lot on the side, so he was always dragged to the job site, and his mother was always rearranging furniture and painting the walls. That inspiration for design was always there – and soon enough, friends and family were asking for his advice.

He originally worked in retail for a long time, and then moved to Williams-Sonoma Home in 2007, where he learned all about the guts of furniture. He was encouraged to take his first design project in 2009: a showhouse, during the economic collapse, which he designed and staged. He won all of the awards that year, and that’s how he began his career!

Garrison doesn’t have a traditional career path, and had learn some things the hard way. Many design schools don’t teach you about budgeting and financing, so he was on equal footing in that sense. However, it was hard to network, and he says that he felt like an outsider early on when trying to break into the industry. But his individualistic path has charged his design aesthetic. He takes chances, goes boldly, and expresses himself.

His firm has about thirty employees, just six years after he moved out of his attic! Building that team was really important to Garrison, and he sees his role at the helm as providing guidelines for a cohesive design aesthetic and letting his staff do what they do best. In other words, he provides the narrative that shapes the brand’s design.

One mistake he’s learned the most from: mismeasuring a sectional and ordering an amazing custom fabric from Italy — only to find out he’s short. He put it into the home and realized that it didn’t work, and he had to order a whole new fabric. Lesson learned: work with vendors and walk them through a project. Talk to contractors who have the know-how on whether a project will actually work out. Work with and listen to the experts you employ!

To learn more about the business of interior design and life as a designer after school, visit The Chaise Lounge Podcast.

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