Showhouses seem to be increasing in popularity, even though they require tons of work, and often tons of financial input, from designers. In Episode 3 of the Chairish Podcast, host Michael Boodro talks with established designers Young Huh and Neal Beckstedt, along with communications and business strategist Christina Juarez, to reflect on the value of showhouses and the impact they have on a designer’s career. “It’s an investment,” Christina says. “It’s a calling card, and it’s really getting yourself out there, so it’s not just your peers who know about you. It’s the end user.” Find out the ins and outs of showhouses by listening to the episode.

What you’ll get out of this episode:

  • Are showhouses still valuable?
  • What you really achieving when you do a showhouse
  • How to run a successful showhouse space
  • The impact of showhouses on a designer’s career
  • The process to get into a showhouse like Kips Bay
  • Budget, sourcing, outfitting, and deadlines

Meet our chic guests:

Neal Beckstedt is an interior designer known for warmth, ease, and elegance in his designs. In 2010, he founded his own firm, Neal Beckstedt Studio. Neal has also done work with fashion clients like Derek Lam and Robert Marc, and he has been selected twice for the Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York.

Young Huh is a Detroit native with an English degree from Smith and a law degree from Fordham. She founded her own design firm, Young Huh Interior Design, in 2007 and creates animated spaces with sophisticated surface treatments, pattern play, and color. She has designed two Kips Bay Decorator Show Houses that boldly embrace her bright, creative, and whimsical ideas.

A renowned communications and business strategist for design and decor, Christina Juarez has her own firm, Christina Juarez & Company, and over 35 years of experience. After a career in fashion, beginning at Oscar de la Renta and ending at Christian Dior, Christina brings passion, experience, and a no-nonsense approach into interior design and has worked with well-known brands and rising stars like Bunny Williams, Todd Merrill, Serena & Lily, Amanda Nisbet Design, and many more.

We mention these showhouses in the episode:

During the episode, we discuss these showhouse designs:

Check out these urther resources:

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Lead photo by Brittany Ambridge / Design by Young Huh


Michael Boodro  0:00  

Welcome to the Chairish Podcast. Today we’re talking about a very big subject in the design world, the growing number of Showhouses and their importance and what they really can do for a designer. I’m really happy to have three distinguished guests, the designer Young Huh, the designer Neal Beckstedt, and Christina Juarez, a brand specialist and publicist who has been working in the design field for 35 years. Neal Becksted is amazingly sophisticated for someone who grew up in rural Ohio. He founded his firm in 2010. And he has evolved his signature look that’s warm, woodsy modernism, very relaxed and elegant. His very first project as a designer landed on the cover of New York spaces magazine, which sadly no longer exists, and that’s something we’re going to talk about later. Last year, he did the Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse for the second time. And he did a sitting room that combined Pierre pieces with classic modernist pieces like the Pierre Jeanneret chair, paneled wood walls and rich colors. He’s known for his fashion clients including Derek Lam and Robert Mark. Young Huh is a Detroit native who attended the Cranbrook school before majoring in English at Smith, and then getting a law degree at Fordham. It’s rather an unusual trajectory for designers. She founded her own firm in 2007. And she participated in the KitchenAid decorator Showhouse in 2014. And again this past year, where her artist’s studio garnered a great deal of attention. 

Now I’d like to introduce Christina Juarez. After a career in fashion, which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever seen her at a design event, where she did stints at Oscar de la Renta and Dior. She’s spent nearly the past 20 years helping designers in the business with brand strategy and communications. Bunny Williams was her first client and today she represents both rising stars and well known brands. The design world has undergone a lot of changes in the past decade. But one thing that has remained consistent is the popularity of Showhouses. And in fact, there seem to be more Showhouses than ever before. 

In New York alone, we have Kips Bay, which is really the granddaddy of them all, and is now in its 47th edition. We have the Hamptons Showhouse. We have the Holiday House and there’s a new Brooklyn designer Showhouse. So we want to talk about why there’s so many, and what is the benefit and the cost to a designer? It seems every major city has their own local Showhouses, which is fantastic. I mean, San Francisco has a great one, the Atlanta home for the holidays Showhouse is a great one and there are great ones around the country. So the question is, why are there so many. It benefits charities, which is a wonderful, wonderful thing. And I know, as a member of the public myself, they can be incredibly informative and inspiring. What you don’t always expect is they often feature practical solutions and clever ideas that you can adapt at home. And I think that tends to get overlooked. But on the other hand, they can ask a lot of a designer in terms of money, time, inspiration, stress, their staff calling in favors or loans so we want to talk about all of that. Of course, we’ll talk to our two designers who have done the Kips Bay Showhouse, each of them twice. But we also wanted to ask Christina about why she would recommend it to a designer, how designers get in and what it does in terms of their career and their awareness? Because in this age of social media, Showhouses can be great, but there’s not the print support that there used to be. In fact, many of the Showhouses were supported by magazines like Traditional Home or New York spaces. But there are fewer press outlets and the press and shelter magazines have less budget to do that kind of thing. They don’t do it as often as they used to. So I thought Christina would be a great one to give us an update on what is the status of a Showhouse in terms of a designer’s career? 

Christina Juarez  1:48  

Yeah, I think it really varies depending on the goals of that particular client. For example, if I have a client in DC or Richmond or Virginia and they know they want to start doing more work in Manhattan, by all means if they’re interested in doing a Showhouse I might suggest that they partake in you know Kips Bay or a Holiday House. And in the same way if I have a designer who’s in New York and wants to work more in the southern regions, there’s the Atlanta Homes for the Holiday or Homes and Lifestyle. And there’s Kips Bay, which expanded two years ago into Palm Beach. So, you know, I think for a designer, yes, it’s an investment. It’s a calling card. And it’s really getting yourself out there. So it’s not just your peers who know about you. It’s the end user who’s going to be hiring a designer. 

Michael Boodro  5:28  

But in terms of getting yourself out there, there’s not as many outlets for that as there used to be. I mean, I remember in the past, when I was young and impressionable, every year, the New York Times would do a full page or two page story on the Kips Bay Showhouse and now they might do a small thing online. As I was saying, there’s not as many shelter magazines to run those pictures as there used to be and even local papers don’t give as much attention to designers as they used to. Their staffs are strapped, they’re smaller, and they have less budget. So is it still effective? Or can it still be effective?

Christina Juarez  6:01  

Definitely. And it could change the trajectory of a designer’s career. I remember going back about 10 years and working for Richard Mishaan, Amanda Nisbet, and Campion Platt, and Kips Bay had a funny little townhouse on 64th Street for that year’s Showhouse. And the three of those designers had the entire third floor, there were three rooms. They were the ones that happened to make the New York Times and it really changed the trajectory of their careers. Amanda Nisbet was approached by licensed product lines, textiles, furniture, lighting. It really changed, as Young can speak to. It really can change and begin that upward trajectory of a career. 

Michael Boodro  6:51  

But is Instagram now the New York Times? Is that how the images get out?

Christina Juarez  6:57  

Yeah. And I think Sasha Bikoff really hit that point home and Young in this last year as Kips Bay Showhouse. They created rooms that were visually inspiring, innovative, and exciting. And they became the Instagram darling rooms of those respective Showhouses.

Michael Boodro  7:22  

You know, Young, I want to ask you about you because you did the Showhouse in 2014. And again last year. In 2014, and I remember very distinctly, you had a very awkward space. It was something like a cross between a storage area, a hallway and a bathroom. It was kind of a nothing space which often happens with the younger designers who are lesser known. They get into Kips Bay and they’re all excited. And then they get this space that’s tucked away or off a bedroom, you know, but this is how you grow. And you have to rise. So you have to be very clever and you were in that room. But one of the things I remember is that it was one of the first rooms and this was back in 2014, that really looked at chintz again. The fact that you had a chintz , and that I thought was very precious. And that got some attention, but it was tucked away. This past year, your artist’s studio, which had skylights and everything was fantastic. And you did a standout job and had a great wall covering that sparked a lot of attention and lots of Instagram things. So my question to you is, did you think about it differently doing it the second time? I mean, it was clearly a bigger canvas, but how did you approach it?

Young Huh  8:36  

So I think if you’re gonna go ahead and do a Showhouse, you’re really investing a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of effort. For Kips Bay, you can expect 20,000 visitors to come by and about 100 media outlets. So you really want to create drama, and a moment where everyone is going to be able to take an Instagram moment. So I think, you know, if you’re going to do a Showhouse, you really want to make an impression. And today you do think about Instagram for sure.

Michael Boodro  9:16  

Well, this brings up another question, which I want Neal to talk about, too, and this applies not just to Showhouses, but I think it’s especially pertinent in terms of Showhouses. Do you need to make Instagram worthy rooms and rooms that look great? And is that little small snapshot the way you would get on Instagram? Does that tend to do a disservice to designers who work in a more understated or traditional manner or may have more elegant but refined not as obvious impact? Not as colorful? Is that a disadvantage? And is this something that’s skewing the look of a Showhouse?

Young Huh  9:56  

I actually disagree. I think that quiet architecture is a high contrast in these small quiet moments where you’re using light to utilize a design effect. You know, a lot of white rooms, beige rooms, clean cut rooms look really great on Instagram as well. So I don’t think it’s just for maximalism. I think it’s also very architectural, thoughtful spaces that look really well there. And while we all think that Instagram is really important, and certainly getting those impressions can really change the face of your career and how well your showroom does or Showhouse does, I don’t think that that’s the reason why we’re designing these spaces. We’re designing these spaces to express ourselves artistically. To do something impactful. To do something that we can’t really do in clients homes. Like in 2014, when I did the chintz and patent leather room. That was really something I could do there but not in someone’s house. I mean, at the time, chintz was not very popular.

Michael Boodro  11:14  

I know. So it was liberating in a sense.

Young Huh  11:17  

Exactly. It’s your chance to really express and spread out your design wings. And, you know, I think that the bolder, the more expressive you are, whether it’s quiet or maximalist, I think it really behooves yourself to, or one to really take a risk. Whatever your aesthetic is, to really go for it and show what you’re all about.

Michael Boodro  11:48  

So I’d love to know, you said it can change your career. How did it change your career? Young, and have you done other Showhouses besides Kips?

Young Huh  11:55  

Actually, I’ve done quite a few Showhouses. I did Ronald McDonald House twice. That’s a Showhouse where they select you, and Holiday House. And so I think the way it changes your career is, you know, most of us tailor our design projects to our clients these days. And let’s face it, most people are fairly conservative.

Michael Boodro  12:23  

I always say that people want what their neighbors have, but just slightly better.

Young Huh  12:28  

That’s very true. And, again, a Showhouse is a way to really express yourself entirely as a designer. It can really make a name for you, if you really go there.

Michael Boodro  12:46  

So in other words, this is your chance to go all out, even if what you’re going all out about is a whisper.

Young Huh  12:52  

Yeah. I mean, if you have the most elegant whisper, the most beautiful moment, it can be so powerful. It doesn’t matter if it was a small pretty moment, or an over the top jewel box, or whatever it is that you’re interested in. But I think if it expresses something that can really spark people’s imaginations or really encourage this next wave of design ideas, then I think it can be really impactful.

Christina Juarez  13:29  

I think the end user also learns a lot about the designer from a Showhouse. Think about it. When you see a designer’s work in a magazine. This is work that they’ve done for a client, often in collaboration with the client and dictated by a client’s whims, needs, budget and faith. So I think you can learn about a designer, learn what their capabilities are and really become inspired by their own work that they’re creating for themselves rather than the work they created for other people that you see in the magazines.

Young Huh  14:11  

Yeah, I think it’s really your chance to be an artist, like truly be the designer that you want to be.

Christina Juarez  14:17  

Right. When Sasha Bikoff did that stairway and I keep bringing that up and referencing that because it was so widely Instagrammed. But if you really looked at that space, you could learn a couple of things about that designer without even knowing her. You could know that she gets her inspiration from history. It was all inspired by Sottsass and there had just been that big Exhibition in Venice during the Biennale. You know, that designer can work with a brand to collaborate on something. She collaborated with the rug company on carpet and she collaborated with Huzzah on the stairwell. So you could say this is a very proficient designer who can collaborate and create custom work.

Young Huh  15:11  

But not only that. I think what Sasha did so well was she was so gutsy, and in a way that no one had imagined previously. So again, when you stretch people’s imaginations and when you create that aha moment, people are blown away.

Christina Juarez  15:28  

Yeah. And I think she opened the door for a lot of other designers that say, oh my God, I can really go wild.

Michael Boodro  15:38  

After 74 years, one could accuse Kips Bay of becoming a little bit staid and she sort of blew that open. But I think you did as well, Young, with your artist studio. And it was actually a different aspect of your work for me. It was something different that I was kind of oh, look what Young did.

Young Huh  15:59  

I’m glad.

Christina Juarez  16:00  

So many people said, I just want to live in this space. And it’s something you don’t even know you want until you see it. And that’s another opportunity designers have.

Michael Boodro  16:13  

Diana Vreeland line, you gotta give the people what they don’t know they want.

Christina Juarez  16:16  

Yeah, it’s like a fantasy. 

Young Huh  16:21  

Well, I think that for me, what makes Showhouses so fun to attend is that element of fantasy, to see creative ideas and to see something extraordinary. And I think one of the things that happens in Kips Bay is you’re spending so much money and there’s so much pressure. The tendency is to give people what they want or ask for and have a proper living room or a proper bedroom. And I think that when you do take some of these risks, and maybe it’s a little too whimsical, or maybe someone doesn’t want to actually execute a room like this, it still really broadens everyone’s horizons in the design industry. And it just makes the industry also more fun and the Showhouses more fun.

Christina Juarez  17:19  

And innovative.

Michael Boodro  17:21  

Right, right. So Neal, you’ve done Kips Bay twice as well and your last room, which I loved, was not a large room, but it had a real impact. And one of the things I loved about it was that you had that beautiful sideboard. And you know, just as Young gave a clue that chintz was coming back, I’m hoping that you’re giving a clue that antiques are coming back.

Neal Beckstedt  17:47  

I hope so.

Michael Boodro  17:49  

So tell me a little about your inspiration for both of your rooms.

Neal Beckstedt  17:53  

Well, the last room, which was in 2017 which feels like forever ago. But two years ago, inspiration was just something very international and eclectic. And I wanted to show what I could do. And I love showrooms where it really gives you that platform to really figure out a direction and say something without any limitation.

Michael Boodro  18:16  

Because you have the very pale wood paneling. 

Neal Beckstedt  18:19  

Yes, the oak paneling and pop of color. So I wanted to show a warmth, texture, play of pattern, color, all in a tiny space, and all the things I love, which is everything from Danish antiques to European 18th century pieces to African mass, to everything. It was like that eclectic mix was what I wanted to showcase.

Michael Boodro  18:42  

And I think that people underestimate small spaces. Usually when people have a small space they paint it white but many of the rooms will depend on the real estate market as to when Kips Bay picks their houses. But often, there’s a lot of small rooms, and they’re among the most memorable.

Neal Beckstedt  18:58  

I agree. Even in small spaces anywhere, I think you have to go big on them to make them more amazing or they feel a little too empty or not special enough, even for your own home.

Michael Boodro  19:09  

So I wanted to ask both of you. Young, how did doing the Kips Bay Showhouse affect your career for better and or worse? Why don’t we start with you, Neal?

Neal Beckstedt  19:21  

I bless and say my career is with Kips Bay. I did the first one in 2012, two years after I started my office, and no one knew I started my office. It was my introduction, I like to say. I remember Margaret Russell walking through and the whole team coming through and saying, Oh, you’re Neal Beckstedt and that was my platform. The next year she listed me as ones to watch and that made my career happen and it was incredible. And then the last one I did Kips Bay in 2017 and that put me on a different level. And then we were on Elle Decor, top A list. So I think it’s a huge important factor. Not only is it fun to work on a creative level. On the business side of it, it really elevates you. It gets your name out there. It’s very important.

Young Huh  20:17  

Yeah. I would say exactly the same thing. No one knew who I was until I did Kips Bay 2014. And soon thereafter, I was named Vogue Rising Star. And people started to ask me to do things. And the really big thing is, you don’t get to be in front of these editors normally, but at Kips Bay, you have them walking through your room. You get to talk to each of them about your work. And it’s an amazing platform. So after this latest Kips Bay, I was named on the Elle Decor A list and it was just a lot of attention that I probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Michael Boodro  21:05  

Okay, so I’m assuming that you two are not the only designers who would like the same transformation. So let’s talk a little bit about how this happened. Like, how did you get selected for Kips Bay? Is there an application process? Do you have to submit ideas for it? What’s the process?

Young Huh  21:26  

Actually, this year for the first time, Kips Bay actually emailed out a process. So you need to submit a hard copy portfolio. I had a graphic designer design a portfolio. I had it hard bound. I put Kips Bay Young Huh portfolio on the cover. It should have a bio and a headshot and submit it before December 31 to the Kips Bay offices..

Michael Boodro  22:03  

So all about that presentation?

Neal Beckstedt  22:04  

Yeah, you’re selling yourself.

Michael Boodro  22:06  

It was the same with you Neal because you had only been in business two years.

Neal Beckstedt  22:10  

You had to pitch yourself. And I think it’s the most important job that you should tailor it to. And you should put all your effort into that room. And, and to your point, you don’t need the biggest room. And when your first room it shouldn’t be and it won’t be the biggest room. So make an impact and go all out.

Michael Boodro  22:34  

Okay, so let’s run through the process. And once you know you’re in, then what happens? 

Neal Beckstedt  22:44  

You first meet at the townhouse and you do the walkthrough.

Michael Boodro  22:52  

So what’s the timeline? So you meet at the townhouse? Because it depends on the real estate market. And if there are a lot of places on the market that aren’t selling as this the current situation fidse. But I know some of you have had a scramble. So is it two months ahead or three months ahead?

Young Huh  23:06  

You do not get three months.

Neal Beckstedt  23:11  

Six or seven weeks. 

Young Huh  23:12  

Yeah. But if you’re lucky, seven weeks. It was seven weeks when I was doing Kips Bay the first time. So the other thing you should know is that they’re going to select the top designers and then they’re going to see how much space they have left for the new up and comers. And so the first time I did it, I wasn’t selected until five weeks before.

Michael Boodro  23:41  

Like I had gotten into college off the waiting list.

Young Huh  23:45  

Right? I had to wait to get off the waiting list. And I remember Nizara walking me through and saying, I have some good news and I have some bad news. Good news is you’re in. The bad news is you get this freight hallway.

Michael Boodro  24:00  

And it really was a freight hallway. But yet, Young had the sense to think patent leather and chintz. Nobody was thinking about either of those and made a truly memorable space.

Young Huh  24:14  

Oh, thank you. Yeah, but I was like, I’ll take it because this is my chance. I think if they do offer you Kips Bay, take it and figure out how to make it work. Because the second time you get more wiggle room.

Neal Beckstedt  24:30  

You’re going to get more real estate.

Christina Juarez  24:33  

Square footage.

Neal Beckstedt  24:35  

There must be a chart somewhere. It pays off. And with a small tiny, hall room or whatever it is, it makes you try and go harder. And I think you need to use that.

Michael Boodro  24:50  

So once you know you’re in, do you have an idea in mind before you see the space or do you wait until you see the space and then you think?

Neal Beckstedt  24:59  

I did not, I went in.

Young Huh  25:05  

Yeah. I mean, I think because I design so site specific, I need to see what I’m designing first, because you have no idea what the house is. It could be a modern apartment or it could be a really old townhouse. This year, we had this double wide crazy townhouse, so you just never know. And so it’s hard to design it in advance.

Michael Boodro  25:29  

So what’s the greatest challenge? I mean, did they give you a guideline list of saying, this is what you need to worry about? And these are the expenses? You know?

Neal Beckstedt  25:37  

I don’t remember that. No, sir.

Michael Boodro  25:41  

So you have to, in the space of five or six weeks, come up with a concept, get all your loans worked out and any custom upholstery that you’re going to have done or millwork in such a short time. Okay, how close do you come to killing yourself? And how close does your staff come to killing you?

Young Huh  26:05  

The staff was killing me from day one.

Neal Beckstedt  26:10  

I loved the process, but probably my staff was killing me. It moves fast, very fast.

Young Huh  26:17  

Yeah. It’s really exciting and fun, but it is stressful because of the timeline and logistics. But if you have a great team, or if you’re really nimble and if you’re doing it yourself, I think you could have a great time. I think the first time I did it, the night before, the President’s dinner was after we had been well underway in construction. And I remember we had a leak in one of the bathrooms and the plumbing was just leaking. And I had to go to the President’s dinner, which is a big black tie event and you have to step in front of the step and repeat and I was almost crying.

Neal Beckstedt  27:01  

I had no idea. I had the same situation in my room. Like my last room, I was on the top floor. And there was a leak in the townhouse, which is normal in these older townhouses, and there was a leak and I’m like, oh, my God.

Michael Boodro  27:22  

So let’s talk about the costs. And not specifically dollar figures unless you want to throw those in! Don’t you have to call in a lot of favors. Don’t you have to get donations and paint companies? So how much time does that take? How do you go about that? I mean, clearly, if you’re doing a well known Showhouse like Kips Bay, or even the Hamptons Showhouse, it’s probably easier to get Benjamin Moore or Farrow & Ball to give you paint, but how does labor all work out?

Neal Beckstedt  28:44  

I mean, I think it changes as you build your career. So I think it’s perfect for both of us to talk about. The first time around was quite different than the second time around. So the first time, no one knew quite who you were. And so I couldn’t just go to Bach and say, I need this coffee table. They were like, no. So the second time around, I did and they said yes. So we were still building our relationships with our vendors. The second or first year out when we were starting our business, was when we first did Kips Bay, so by the time the second time we did it, seven years later or six years later, you have those tight vendor relationships. We were using and buying from them for our clients and I went directly to all my go to favorite vendors and said, Hey, I’ve been honored to do Kips Bay, and they all said yes. My painter, my carpenter, my electrician, or actually their electrician, but everyone said, yes. 

Michael Boodro  29:45  

If they help you build your career, you’re going to help them build their career.

Neal Beckstedt  29:50  

It’s not only a team in our office, in our little studio, but it’s a team with our vendors and they all realize that. My go to painter, they know that. We give and take on projects and we need to really scrape and find a way to do this and other projects you can do it. So it’s always that push and pull and when it comes to this, they understand the power of this too, because we get work out of it and they understand then they get work out of it. So it was a team effort.

Michael Boodro  30:19  

But it is an expenditure.

Young Huh  30:21  

Oh, yeah. Even if you get everything donated, and now Kips Bay has become such a machine, there are sponsors lined up to help you. And you know, you get contacted by people who want to offer donations.

Michael Boodro  30:38  

Oh, that’s nice.

Young Huh  30:38  

Yeah. Which is really nice. But even with all the donations, it’s going to cost you a lot of money. For instance, you’re required to use the house electrician and the house plumber, and they are not donating their services there right? So we had to renovate our bathroom and we are also putting in this Lutron system. And so we had to use the house electrician and the house plumber. And we sadly lost power three weeks before the Showhouse was opening. We had to channel from our next door neighbor who was so kind and allowed us to channel through his room and get power from his room all the way back. 

Michael Boodro  31:32  

Are we talking about extension cords?

Young Huh  31:33  

No, we are not sadly. I mean, I thought about that but that was not allowed. Just did that channeling bill alone was $17,000.

Michael Boodro  31:47  


Neal Beckstedt  31:49  

I remember the electrician bill was like, whoa, what!

Christina Juarez  31:56  

Is there a way you can preempt that surprise by somehow getting someone in and working these things out?

Young Huh  32:05  

You just don’t know. Because there’s no time for probing. There’s no time to do a logistics walk. You’ve got five weeks to get this room and make it look state of the art. I remember my neighbor Robert had plaster molding. It was the most exquisite room. Please check out pictures of his room for that. It was unbelievable. But he was putting in plaster moldings, which is like, crazy, custom made to the space and then someone broke the molding. So if you know plaster mold, you have to go back and make it again. I mean, I was crying for him. So you can’t anticipate things like that and you just don’t know. 

Michael Boodro  32:49  

It does sound like incredibly high pressure. But it also sounds like a real bonding thing with the others running through the house. So I’m it’s memorable as well as expensive.

Young Huh  33:00  

Yeah. I mean, you end up making really good friends because it’s a mutual hazing experience.

Neal Beckstedt  33:06  

Exactly. You get really close to them.

Michael Boodro  33:10  

Now I know in terms of Kips Bay, it could be anywhere from the five figures to six figures. I know some designers spent six figures on their rooms, well known designers with big spaces. But for smaller Showhouses like Holiday House or Ronald McDonald, what do you think designers should expect to invest in terms of that? Because you know, not everybody starts out at Kips Bay. Even you guys didn’t start out at Kips Bay, per se, although you both got there pretty quickly, which is impressive. But to do other things, what do you think is a reasonable budget in terms of stuff that you can’t get donated?

Young Huh  33:44  

I’m really not sure. I don’t want to speak for all Showhouses but just to be safe, if you’re doing a Kips Bay and a Kips Bay level Showhouse then I think it’d be safe to say that you should have $50,000 ready to go because there’s insurance and there’s other expenditures and you also want to have some wiggle room to spend on press, on printed materials and on signage. There’s stuff you don’t even think about.

Michael Boodro  34:17  

Right, right until the end. And I have to say, I always find it annoying or not annoying but disappointing when you go into a room and there’s not a list of the sponsors that you can check because maybe I’m crazy, but I like to know where are you get things from or what gallery is borrowed from or who did the tile in the bathroom? 

Neal Beckstedt  34:38  

I mean, I still have the saved Kips Bay directories of what did Robert Stilin use for his wall treatment? It’s a good go-to archive.

Michael Boodro  34:50  

But when you did other Showhouses, was it half as expensive and half as stressful or double as stressful because Kips Bay is the highest level?

Neal Beckstedt  35:00  

I think Kips Bay is more stressful. I feel there’s more pressure and there’s a tighter time frame for some reason.

Young Huh  35:09  

And would you say it’s more expensive than others? Because I was talking to another designer, and I told her yeah, you should have about 50k. And she said, that’s it?

Neal Beckstedt  35:24  

My reaction to Young’s numbers is high. We didn’t spend much. On Vasquez Bay, the shipper said they’ll do it all for free. So I think shipping was the biggest cost on the first one, and for the second one, the shipper really wanted our business. Like, I’m going to do this for you for free. So we work with them. And we still do now.

Young Huh  35:48  

Can we have his name?

Michael Boodro  35:51  

He’s investing. Well, I mean, the good thing is that the kind of stress and expense that you guys are going through now, many more designers can because there’s so many Showhouses and even Kips Bay with Palm Beach. And I learned today that they’re thinking of doing one in Dallas. So they’re spreading the stress and spreading the word, which I think is a great thing for local designers. But there’s so much regional talent in this country that I think it’s great that there’s going to be an outlet for them. That brings us to another point of which we touched on before with Christina is how do you get the word out? What’s your favorite way of doing that or your most important way? We were talking about Instagram.

Christina Juarez  36:37  

Instagram, but every Showhouse does have a press date.

Michael Boodro  36:40  

Absolutely. Well, they’re the least they could do for all of the designers.

Neal Beckstedt  36:45  

That is another amazing aspect of the Kips Bay Showhouse or other Showhouses as well. It’s not only the heads of press magazines, but it’s all the bloggers. They’re all chatting about your room and that’s an amazing opportunity in itself.

Michael Boodro  37:04  

But here’s another question that occurred to me. You know, you have a five week deadline to get these amazing rooms done or seven weeks if you’re lucky. Do you ever have clients come to you and say, well, this is an amazing room, you did this in seven weeks? How come my renovation is taking two years? Do you ever get that kind of response?

Young Huh  37:24  

Well, I actually haven’t had a client ask that. But the reason why it happens is because, for instance, the Fromental wallpaper that we had in our artists loft, they shut their studio down to do this. So that paid off for them and it’s a big risk for these studios. Fromental had to basically dedicate weeks of painting just my wallpaper, to deliver it on time. I mean, typically something like that could take 20 weeks so it’s a big expense. It’s a big leap of faith for them so they can’t operate businesses as quickly.

Michael Boodro  38:11  

Right. And what would you say was the biggest surprise of doing a Showhouse, Kips Bay or any other Showhouse that you’ve ever done? What was the biggest surprise, something that you learned or the payoff that keeps coming?

Neal Beckstedt  38:24  

I still have clients who still remember my room and say, I remembered your room.The payoff keeps going. That’s the biggest surprise.

Michael Boodro  38:35  

That’s good.

Neal Beckstedt  38:38  

I mean, even a few weeks ago, we got a new client and that guy was like, I still remember your room and I finally bought a house. And so it really pays off. It’s fantastic. 

Christina Juarez  38:46  

Amazing. That’s great.

Michael Boodro  38:48  

And Young, what would you say your biggest surprise was?

Young Huh  38:51  

I think, because we really did this, what I thought would be or potentially received as a wild and crazy room, it was incredibly colorful and really layered. And I thought people might be afraid of it. And I was really surprised by how many people have really said that they felt it was very livable, very warm, that they could live in the space. And we also got quite a few calls.

Michael Boodro  39:25  

Did you get an actual client from them?

Young Huh  39:26  

Yes, we did. We got clients. And as Neal said, we’re still getting calls from all over about it and that’s made me happy because, you know, it was a risk, but people related to it. And that was really nice.

Michael Boodro  39:48  

Well, I guess it goes back to what we were saying about giving people what they don’t know they want. If you have an actual client there who doesn’t know what they want, then how do you convince them if you can’t do it under the auspices of Kips Bay or any other Showhouse?

Neal Beckstedt  40:01  

A lot of it also is, it’s an actual 3d space. We do so much for private clients, and we get to take a photograph and then people see your photography. When you show someone an actual home or actual 3d space, it’s like a living, breathing environment and it’s so much more powerful.

Michael Boodro  40:19  

And that’s why people go, yeah, pay the $40. Or, I mean, it’s for charity. We all want to support the charity on Kips Bay. 

Neal Beckstedt  40:29  

It is printing a two dimensional portfolio and making it 3d for people to see it.

Michael Boodro  40:34  

Right. Because, yes, you can look at every angle of the room. I mean, I love them. I think they’re really fantastic. But I know they’re a major commitment of time and resources on everybody’s part. When you were doing yours early on, did you feel like oh, I don’t have a big enough staff or my staff is not experienced enough to take this on or you just went with it?

Young Huh  40:56  

I definitely hired an additional person to help because it really did feel overwhelming. And because of the deadline and because of the pressure and because you don’t know what to expect. And again, the first time we were doing it, we were renovating bathrooms spaces as well so that was definitely daunting. This time was definitely not as stressful the second time. Even though we tackled a larger space, you kind of get a sense for what could be crazy. And even when we lost power, it was just like okay, what else? Bring it on. Bring it on.

Michael Boodro  41:42  

How about you, Neal? Were you totally frightened the first time?

Neal Beckstedt  41:49  

Totally frightened. I was still frightened the second time. It was much easier, of course. But I mean, you are so honored. I’m just like, yes, I need to do this. And you just do it. And you find a way. 

Michael Boodro  42:05  

I meant to ask this before and I forgot but do they tell you who the other designers are in the room or are you basically going in blind?

Neal Beckstedt  42:12  

They tell you nothing!

Michael Boodro  42:16  

They don’t have to. They’re Kips Bay.

Neal Beckstedt  42:17  

I remember Jamie Drake calling me. I remember this moment so clearly. It was Saturday night in 2012 and Jamie Drake just told me you’ve been selected and to get ready. That’s all he said. And I remember him, hearing his voice saying get ready.

Young Huh  42:35  

Sounds like The Hunger Games.

Neal Beckstedt  42:38  

And I still remember that so well. I mean, that’s all you’re given. And you just have to be creative and figure it out yourself and do it.

Michael Boodro  42:46  

So I did want to talk about another aspect. We talked about Instagram as a way to get things out. It used to be that many of the shelter magazines would sponsor Showhouses. I mean, Elle Decor has done it, AD has done it, Traditional Home did it. But now this, first of all, there’s fewer shelter magazines, and there used to be like New York spaces that you were on the cover of on your first project that doesn’t exist anymore. And most media companies have a lot less of a marketing budget than they used to. But there are still media sponsored Showhouses. There’s also real estate, you know. They often work with real estate developers who want to showcase, especially in a slow market. It doesn’t have that hot market, like there was 10 years ago but now it’s a softer market. Is it worth it to create a model apartment or whatever, or something to work with those kinds of things. How do you feel about that?

Neal Beckstedt  43:38  

I am a big believer, and I still do a lot of model apartments for developers. It’s the same reason why I mentioned earlier where when someone walks through the three dimensional space, they love your work. It’s different from seeing it on paper or in print or in your Instagram. I did a model apartment for a developer in Soho a few years ago and the choco building in the penthouse level. I’m still getting clients from that. I mean, it was a $16 million apartment. We decorated it and it’s the target audience who we need and want and they’re looking for $16 million apartments and then they’re going to buy that one. Maybe they’ll buy another and they call you.

Michael Boodro  44:17  

And presumably they have some money left over for you to design!

Neal Beckstedt  44:27  

That’s happened several times for us. So I jump on model apartments. I love them. 

Michael Boodro  44:33  

And are developers easy or hard to work with?

Neal Beckstedt  44:35  

They are easy. I mean, they’re not as attached. Of course it’s not a personal home. They are hiring you because of your look and feel and you also need to go into it. You can’t usually do your full on thing and it needs to be skilled.

Michael Boodro  44:52  

Layered, because everybody who walks in has to be able to imagine themselves. 

Neal Beckstedt  44:57  

Which helps with their budget anyway, so we’ll just have to know what you’re getting into and, and to really scale it back a bit. And not every room has to be amazing. The living, dining and the guest bedrooms can be really edited and simple and maybe even not even furnished. I mean, you really have to have that conversation with them. But I’m a big proponent.

Michael Boodro  45:15  

Okay. And Young, have you ever done a magazine Showhouse?

Young Huh  45:20  

I did a Holiday House with Domino magazine. They sponsored me to do the Fit First kitchen at Holiday House. It was really fun. Again, it was logistically crazy, because we had to haul a huge kitchen up these antique stairs. And guess what, we had another power issue. 

Michael Boodro  45:46  

Maybe it’s you, Young.

Young Huh  45:52  

You know what, maybe it’s better to just decorate and not try to do kitchens and baths. I think that’s where all the problems were. It was a lot of fun. It’s great to do something with a magazine, because you have built-in press and there’s definitely going to be a print story, so that’s a wonderful thing. We also did the Ronald McDonald house that was sponsored by Kravet. And Cottages and Gardens magazine. So again, it’s nice to have a sponsor and nice to know that your work is going to get published.

Michael Boodro  46:32  

Right. So I guess the takeaway from all of this is, for all you designers out there listening, and I hope there’s many of you, that if you get an opportunity to do a Showhouse, do it, would you agree with that Young?

Young Huh  46:46  

Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Michael Boodro  46:48  

Okay, both of us are unanimous and Christine?

Christina Juarez  46:51  

Well, I would say do it for the exposure, not the publicity. Just because you do a Showhouse doesn’t mean the New York Times or the local newspaper is going to feature a photograph of your room in their coverage. There’s no guarantee. But you were doing it for the exposure, the opportunity. To Neal’s point of allowing potential clients to walk through your room and get a feel for what it would be. To walk in and live in a Neal Beckstedt room or a Young Huh room.

Michael Boodro  47:24  

Right. And you don’t know if somebody can read the paper and see it there. Or it could be somebody who literally walked in who hasn’t read the paper and has no idea.

Neal Beckstedt  47:33  

It is usually removed. It’s usually someone that sees your room. They know a friend, like oh my god, you should reach out to him or her. So the chances of expecting someone actually went to your room and then hired us, that’s not going to happen. It’s never gonna happen. Like, it’s always removed.

Christina Juarez  47:53  

Did you go into your first room with that headset?

Neal Beckstedt  47:57  

No, you’re doing it for the opportunity to create a space.

Christina Juarez  48:04  

That’s a healthy attitude.

Michael Boodro  48:06  

Yes. I mean, things never happened directly. Very rarely. I know, when I was editor of Elle Decor, designers used to say I’ve never gotten a client from being published in a magazine. Other people said it happened all the time. So I don’t know and it’s like you said, you don’t know who saw. Like you were saying, Neal, that somebody came and saw you roaming three years later and they called you because they remembered it? Right. 

Neal Beckstedt  48:31  

But is that the only reason as well? So it’s all so deluded, you know. I mean the client may just remember after they hired you and saw your picture, too. So like, you never really know, but at least it comes up and it’s in there in the game.

Christina Juarez  48:46  

Yeah. And it used to be, being published for a designer was the be all and end all. And with the shrinking, you know, magazine, world’s shrinking publishing world, you need these other outlets, like Showhouses and Instagram to really get your name and the visuals out there.

Michael Boodro  49:06  

And you get to know your colleagues which I think builds a very supportive industry. I know designers who get offered projects and clients come to them and they can take on the project and they will recommend somebody else. So you know, when your peers see you at work and see what you can come up with in those five to seven weeks, it is kind of miraculous.

Neal Beckstedt  49:26  

No, it’s also great community building within our industry, I mean in our industry, we’re so in your own world every day, so reach out to friends that you make and say, how do you do this, or I need help with this and it becomes a great bouncing board of ideas and help.

Christina Juarez  49:42  

And it needn’t be the Kips Bay Showhouse in New York City. It could be for designers in Connecticut or in little local cities all across the country.

Michael Boodro  49:52  

And local media is more important than ever now and a lot of your local design magazine is doing the Showhouses.

Christina Juarez  50:01  

Especially if you want to work close to where you live, right?

Michael Boodro  50:05  

That’s where you’re looking for your clients. People read their local magazines religiously. I think, you know, you buy a house and in an area, you start reading all those magazines. I know I’ve done that. And I have such respect for local media. It’s really impressive. So, yes, Kips Bay, and you guys are so talented. And, you know, I would say you’re lucky to have been able to do that. But it’s because you’re so talented, that you were able to do that. There’s all sorts of other firms that have amazingly talented designers, and they’re all across the country, and it’s a great outlet now for people so I guess the summation of this podcast would be to say, Showhouses, yes. 

Neal Beckstedt  50:47  

Double yes.

Michael Boodro  50:49  

Okay. Well, I want to thank my guests, Young, Christina and Neal. Thank you so much for being here.

January 30, 2020

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