The first thought I had when opening up this gorgeous home tour in dropbox was, how in the world am I going to narrow down these stunning images?! This beauty is jam-packed with so much design goodness, dreamt up by Kristen Forgione and the team at THE LifeStyled COMPANY. Not only is Kristen an incredible designer and biz owner, she also runs a shop (that we love to frequent), she’s a mama to two sweet girls and she’s launching a podcast this spring. Entrepreneur goals? Absolutely. Grab your Monday cup and get ready to dive into what might be one of our favorite interviews (and home tours) yet!
When you’re done having your way with this inspiring feature, make sure to connect with Kristen and THE LifeStyled Company, our newest creative on The List!
Tell us a bit about your story. What was your journey to becoming an interior designer and business owner?
I literally cannot remember a time “design” didn’t live within me… for the longest time, I thought I’d be a fashion designer but as college came and went, I never got that fashion degree. I got a degree in bartending, boozing and living up my early twenties. When I met my husband, I was doing high end weddings and events at a resort here in Arizona. That job was such a blessing in that they allowed me to create through event design and trained their employees at a level that is still unmatched. I like to think our dedication to our clients comes from all those years saying, “yes is the answer, what’s the question?”.
In 2011, my husband and I bought our first home and had our first baby. I started a very casual blog, called THE LifeStyled COMPANY sharing both the successes and failures of our renovation, event design and fashion styling. My first official project was our daughter’s nursery and I remember being so damn proud of that thing… so proud in fact, that I entered it into a design contest and it friggin WON! At that point I still had my corporate job but soon after the space won, I had a bunch of friends and family asking me to style everything from tables to weddings to spaces! Six months after launching the blog and three free “design sessions” later, I took the leap. I continued doing weddings and events along with Interiors for as long as I possibly could but it became pretty clear about 2 years in that I couldn’t keep doing both and I couldn’t keep going at the pace I was going, alone.
From that point on, Interiors became the main focus of THE LifeStyled COMPANY and we started figuring out how to grow the team, change the business to be totally in control of our clients and projects and evolve into what we are today. It’s been a RIDE let me tell you, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
If you had to describe your design style like a cocktail, what would it be?
Straight up, top shelf with a splash of some muted colored juice
In addition to designing beautiful spaces, you also have a fab little shop. What was the process like launching the shop? Do you have any advice for others who want start their own?
Launching the Shop is not the hard part… keeping the shop going, stocked, merch’d and all the other million jobs that come along with it is the hard part. The Shop started as a passion project for us because we were already buying at a wholesale level for our client projects and we wanted to bring those unique pieces to a retail level. We treated the space like a project, built it out, styled it and launched!
Advice for those who want to start their own would be to have a really good understanding of the business/product side of retail. Retail margins have become super tight because of how shopping has changed online… everything is shoppable in 2 seconds so if you want to operate a profitable revenue stream, you have to have all those costs dialed in. From space to labor to purchasing and anything in between. You also need to be there… a lot… especially in the beginning. Because I have a full time job called Creative Director, my biggest challenge these days is making the time the Shop and our Shop team still needs from me. I couldn’t do it even for a day without everyone on our team!
You’re also a mama to the most adorable girls. What does your typical day look like and how do you juggle work and family life?
My husband is the key to all of this… we wake up together, I shower, he gets our girls up and makes us coffee/breakfast (no you can’t have him). Then we switch! He goes to the gym in the morning so I handle getting our babes dressed and hair and teeth brushing and school snacks and backpacks and all of that. Then I drop them both off at their schools and head to the office! We do a ton of meal planning, have a lot of help with our family and our Nanny and drink a little wine too. Ok, a lot of wine.
What is the most fulfilling part of what you do?
100% the relationships we make with our clients. Yes, the beautiful homes are a plus but no matter how gorgeous the space is, it’s totally soured when the relationship isn’t organic and authentic. When it is, we truly become friends for what I hope lasts a lifetime.
What advice would you give your younger self in your first year of business?
I don’t know that I’d tell her anything. Actually, I would. I would tell her I am proud of her. It’s anything but easy. Business ownership is the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I feel like part of what makes it so rewarding when you get to even a moment of positive reflection is the journey to get here. If I gave myself all the warnings ahead of time, I would have certainly made different decisions and that would have ultimately totally changed the trajectory of my company. For those reasons, I’d just tell her I’m proud.
What is your best advice for growing an engaged community on Instagram?
BE SOCIAL! This is the easiest, free-ist thing to do! I think people forget that the “social” part of social media is the key. The authenticity comes when you engage from a social place, just like you would with your friends. You don’t have to “try” with your friends and you shouldn’t have to try on social either. Yes, when you get to a point where the social turns into a business, you have to be strategic but you never want to lose the genuine approach to being social. Care about people and people will care about you. Super simple way to implement this: genuinely comment and like the first 5 posts during your scroll, every, single, time. No matter who or what they are from and watch what happens!
You have an incredible team to help run LCo! What did that process look like growing your team?
NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART… my lawrd. We have been through it all with employees and FINALLY have the team of my dreams! It’s taken four and a half years to get to the right people. Here’s the thing though… it was just as much me and my leadership that needed work as the employees I was hiring. They weren’t all terrible but some of them were just not for us. But I didn’t even know what “us” meant then. I remember a serious shift in our talent when (after what is hopefully the last person I ever have to fire) I changed my thinking to working for my employees instead of my employees working for me.
I decided right there and then that if we were going to grow this thing like I envisioned, I needed to make them the FIRST priority and our clients second. I hope that doesn’t scare any potential clients reading but the success or failure of a project largely lies in their hands and they need to feel empowered and supported. Our culture breeds ultimate respect, creativity and humility. Design and clients come second.
My first hire was an Office Manager because getting business wasn’t an issue, keeping all the admin tasks in order like getting paid was! I was billing 6 months after a project wrapped which is just totally unacceptable. I knew a Design Assistant wasn’t going to help me drive revenue because ultimately at that time, I was still the only one going on consults and deciding on what business to take or leave but an Office Manager could help free me up to be spending less time in the office doing admin tasks and more time out in the field. We made it about nine months with just me and an Office Manager, then came a Design Assistant, then a Designer and so on!
Were there any sacrifices you made to start your business?
Umm… the list is long. My husband and I saved $20k in order to quit my corporate job… we started LCo on $600 of my first official client’s money and kept it REAL LEAN for years. We probably could have loosened the purse strings sooner but I just kept going and didn’t focus on the success all that much. I kept making little tweaks with little investments. I didn’t have a pedicure for two years… is that enough of a sacrifice?!
You recently announced that you’ll be launching a podcast! We can’t wait to listen in! What was the driving force behind this idea and what topics can we expect to hear when tuning in?
OMG it’s insane. Listening to the sound of your own voice is a friggin trip. Woo…. saw…. any who, yes it’s going to happen! Driving force was 100% our social following. They kept asking for more info, more details, more attention and while I think most people thought they wanted to see a blog come back from us, that ship has sailed for me. I think I was like top two worst bloggers of all time. The podcast will be a way we can connect with people in a whole new medium and be able to cover topics from business to design, family, and whatever else we want to talk about! The podcast will debut in March and we’re planning on the first season lasting 12-15 episodes!
If you could sit next to any other boss babe in the world on flight across the country, who would it be and why?
Boss Babe – Bethenny Frankel // Powerhouse, change my life forever if I ever get 36B and she gets 36C… Michelle Obama
What does a beautiful home mean to you and what is your number one tip for crafting a space you’ll love for years to come?
A beautiful home to me is reflective of your own personal style. Tip: Be on a journey to constantly be listening to your needs within your space and be empowered to make those changes.
Instagram account(s) you’re currently crushing on:
@fozzcook (because #crickettheawesomedog) // @thatcheeseplate (because Charcuterie) // I guess you probably want something Design so in that world @klhcustomhomes
Current favorite book and/or podcast:
Podcast Law & Whit // Book The Business of Bohemians
3 apps you can’t live without:
Lightroom, Bravo + Door Dash because as much as I love Design, I love food and trash TV too!
Favorite beats usually playing in the studio:
Omg, we are known for our playlists in the LifeStyled CO Shop! Betty Who, Bebe Rexha, Dan + Shay, Shawn Mendes