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Designer Laura Elliott Connects Art with Interior Design

Learn how this designer found her niche and continues to grow it

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While working at an art gallery in the San Francisco Bay Area, Laura Elliott was inspired to become an Interior Designer. She loved how passionate people were about the artwork they purchased for their homes. "I would spend my day in a beautiful art gallery, falling in love with each piece of art that I sold, and then find myself wanting to follow these people home to make sure that they hung that special piece in the perfect spot!” she says. “I was fascinated by the way that art and our surroundings could make people feel. I realized that it is possible to create different emotions through interior design," she says.

Today, as the owner of Refined Interiors in Berkeley, California, Laura asks her clients to determine how they want to feel when they enter their home. That feeling might be a renewed energy, cheerful, or simply peaceful and calm.  

“For me, the most fulfilling part of my job as an interior designer is the day of the client reveal. The look on my clients’ faces always has a sense of pride, joy, and relief. A weight has been lifted from their shoulders,” she says. “Now they have a functional, beautiful home that is a reflection of them, and they are excited to show it off to friends and family.” 

Here Elliott shares what it was like to open her business in the chaos of the pandemic, how she forged connections between the art and interior design communities, and what she learned about making the business side of her operation as efficient as possible.  

Potrero HillRefined Interiors

Worth the Wait

After earning her design degree in 2010, Elliott spent the next 10 years working for some established designers in San Francisco. “As a Senior Designer and Project Manager, I learned every aspect of the design process,” she says. “I was the primary contact for clients and led projects. After a few years I realized that I could do this on my own,” she says. 

Elliott launched Refined Interiors in 2020, at the very start of the pandemic. “The timing was perfect. I was ready to work hard and there was a huge demand to update residential homes, so I hit the ground running."

Trust the Process

From the beginning, Elliott knew that having a solid design process was the key to a smooth project. In this time of uncertainty, just coming out of the pandemic, and on the verge of a recession, people are price-sensitive. “What Interior Designers do is still a mystery to many,” she says, “First timers need to trust me and my design process.”  Elliott employs a foolproof 10-step design process that she applies to every project, no matter how big or small. “The client knows what to expect which keeps the process easy to follow and moving forward. And I’ve made the process fun, not stressful.”

Tame Your Workflow

Elliott recommends refining workflows wherever possible to make it easier to effectively juggle multiple projects. And because the first month of the project is often the most design heavy, Elliott avoids beginning several projects simultaneously. “I try to stagger projects so that we don't have too many starting at the same time.” 

She creates invoices with Houzz Pro  to simplify the payment process. “It's very easy to use. I'm able to see all of my proposals and invoices in one place. Clients can also go to the Client Dashboard to review their current and past proposals. I use it every day,” she says. 

When other interior designers ask about Houzz Pro, Elliott has this to say, "Houzz Pro is an easy to use, all-inclusive interior design tool that helps manage essentially all aspects of the business and design process. If you are in need of support using the platform, the Houzz Pro team is responsive but there are also very helpful video tutorials."

Find Balance

Like many new business owners following their passion, Elliott spent countless hours and many long nights turning her vision into reality. “Keeping a work life balance is really important in order to not get burned out,” she says. 

These days she tries to keep a more balanced schedule. “I've started to incorporate going to the gym in the mornings and it feels great to get my blood flowing. It’s a mood booster and keeps my energy high.  Having a job you love is helpful, too!”

Grow Through Art

Harkening back to her days at the gallery, Elliott finds innovative ways to expand her base of clients through the artist community. 

Having recently designed her new office and studio, she fills the walls with the artwork of Bay Area artists. “Next month we will have our first art opening. I know that there are so many artists out there looking for space to show their amazing artwork,” she says. 

It’s an arrangement that will help both her and local artists. “I've always wanted to incorporate the art community in my business in some way. I think that it will be really rewarding to have unique, distinctive artwork featured in some of my clients' homes.” 

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