Above: ELLE Decor A-List interior designers Paloma Contreras and Brigette Romanek are just two of the professionals available for advice at the Expert.
Sometimes you need a whole-body makeover. Other times, you just need a face-lift. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is the philosophy that designer Jake Arnold is trying to apply to the design world—when lockdowns prevented in-person interactions last year, Arnold, like so many other people, was forced to rethink his business operations and go entirely virtual. Zoom meetings, FaceTime, and even Instagram conversations became the norm. It was then that Arnold—identifying a need in the marketplace—decided to launch the Expert, a virtual platform to help connect interior designers and potential clients.
“When COVID and lockdown brought my regular design projects to a halt, I started experimenting with video content on Instagram,” Arnold says. “The videos were performing really well, and in turn produced hundreds of DMs per day with followers asking me to help with their homes.”
After discussing this problem with his peers in the field, such as ELLE Decor A-List designer Paloma Contreras, he realized that they too had been struggling with how to handle the number of questions they were receiving via Instagram. For Contreras, the Expert is a welcome solution.
“I receive countless questions on a daily basis from people asking for paint colors, advice on styling their coffee table or bookshelves, what kind of rug to use in their space, and so on,” Contreras explains. “I am usually happy to share, time permitting, if the question pertains to my own home or a showhouse project, but it becomes a bit trickier when they inquire about a client’s home, since clients pay a premium for the resources that result in their home being unique from their neighbors’. It doesn’t feel right to give those sources away to the general public.”
Another dilemma that top-tier designers face is not having the capacity to take on every project that comes their way, which is why most require a minimum budget. At the same time, not every client is redoing his or her entire house—some may want to redo only one room. With the launch of the Expert, now anyone can book a session with one of 75 designers—ranging from 25 to 55 minutes, with fees from $150 up to $2,000—to ask any question they’d like.
ELLE Decor A-List designer Brigette Romanek was one of the first designers Arnold approached for this new venture; she confirms that the accessibility aspect of the Expert is a game-changer, not only for her business but for the industry as a whole.
“Good design is for everybody,” Romanek says. “I think it changes lives, outlooks, and attitudes, and allows more beauty and comfort into someone’s life. That’s a beautiful thing to be able to do.”
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