How to Transition Your Business Into a Full-Service Interior Design Firm (with Hearth Homes Interiors)

Episode #305 the Wingnut Social Podcast

How to Transition Your Business Into a Full-Service Interior Design Firm

Are you thinking about transitioning from a staging business to a full-service interior design firm? Watch this video! Katie and Olivia of Hearth Homes Interiors started as a staging company and found success, but they decided they wanted to pivot and go all-in as a design firm. Today, they walk us through what led them to that decision, as well as how they navigated the transition.

Hearth Homes Interiors is a Santa Barbara design firm owned by two sisters-in-law, Katie Labourdette-Martinez and Olivia Wahler. After starting as a staging company and finding success, they decided they wanted to pivot and go all-in as a design firm. Their work reflects that highly-coveted, quintessential Santa Barbara style—refined and timeless, approachable, livable, and filled with organic textures and layers.


Are you a new designer or decorator entering the industry, but you’re not quite sure whether you’d like to do staging or design? Staging is an incredibly necessary service, especially for the real estate market, but it can require a lot of logistics. You’ll occasionally be met with long-term homeowners that may be uncomfortable seeing new furniture in their home, or are upset that they have to put their personal identifying items away. However, this needs to be done because staging has to appeal to the masses – it needs to be visually appealing to the most amount of people possible. With design, you can be more specific to the person that will be living in the space. You can give a different sort of flair to design that you cannot with staging. Olivia says designing a house for a family to live in is extremely gratifying; she loves designing it to their lifestyle and creating a space that’s going to comfort them and make them happy.

When it comes to staging, you need to be able to plan out your finances. Having inventory and storing that inventory can get really expensive – consequently, staging is a business where people are often breaking even. You have to be very strategic if you want to make staging a profitable business. You also need to be aware of how the market is doing in order to price your business appropriately. You can dip your toes in the water (without the financial risk) by redesigning existing spaces and freshening up what people already have. Do you really need to have your own inventory for staging? There are business models where you could rent your furniture, however, it’s a trade-off as it may compromise your overall furniture selection.

Is staging or design more lucrative? For Hearth Homes Interiors, staging had a cap – they only had so much warehouse space and inventory, so they couldn’t stage an endless amount of homes. Additionally, during slower months as well as the pandemic, the market became unpredictable. The status of the market is a big part of staging overall. With design, Hearth Homes found that there was a lot more potential to make more money, and the market has less of an impact since it’s a luxury service.


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CONNECT with Darla:

Darla’s Interior Design Website:


Resources & People Mentioned:

“Night Road” by Kristin Hannah

“The Alice Network” Kate Quinn

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