What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
My biggest concerns right now are really the health and wellbeing of the essential industries. My design team at Nicole Gordon Studio and I are doing everything we can to manage projects remotely while still operating efficiently—we insist on video conference calls whenever possible with contractors as well as clients. At the moment, existing projects that are currently under construction are pushing forward but have slowed because of social distancing requirements on job sites. We’ve been fortunate enough to receive a couple of new projects since COVID, but some other projects in early design phases have been put on hold, so it’s been a mixed bag. I have always embraced a very fluid working environment. My staff uses laptops and are used to working remotely, so operationally, our process has not changed much. While we don’t go into the office together now, we do keep in constant contact with each other about projects and have the occasional video-chat-enabled happy hour.
I love to get things done and finish a project for our clients, so it has been hard to just accept we are in limbo right now, however not as difficult at all compared to what our health care workers are enduring so I need to just get over it!
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
Definitely just taking every day as it comes. Last week I was thinking about installing an office we are doing for Bron Studios in Beverly Hills and wanting to get that done for them. I’m trying to schedule that and figure out when that could happen, but it’s still an unknown. We have been told we are about to be at the peak (apex) of the curve in California this week [mid April], and so I have just accepted we cannot have an installation at this time, nor can we plan one right now.
Our team knows it is important to respect that and respect the stay-at-home orders. The most fulfilling part of a project is putting all the pieces together, placing the furniture and styling the space. So, it is challenging to know that while everything is ready to be put in order, we just have to wait. I love to get things done and finish a project for our clients, so it has been hard to just accept we are in limbo right now, however not as difficult at all compared to what our health care workers are enduring so I need to just get over it!
I’ve worked on so many restaurants [such as Spago in Beverly Hills and Bahrain], hotels [including Shutters on the Beach], private clubs [SoHo House West Hollywood], and even a hair salon [Andy LeCompte], and it pains me to see all of those business close right now, even though I know it’s necessary. I saw that Spago was offering baskets filled with their farmers’ produce, and recently ordered some for friends and family, which made great gifts. I’m trying to still support my local business as much as a I can right now.
We have been told to shelter in place until May 15th in California, but I believe, as do many of my friends and colleagues, that this will go on until June 10th. I do think it’s important we do not rush to get back to “normal” as I fear if we do not take the proper time needed to quarantine and let the health care experts and professionals get a handle on COVID-19 we will be right back where we are today in no time.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
I actually think we might be fortunate after this pandemic in that people will see the value of home more than ever as a sanctuary and safe space. I do think that we will have a slowdown for sure, but that we will still have opportunities for projects and small home renovations as more and more people see the importance of home and not running in the rat race many of us are guilty of getting caught up in.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?
I have definitely thought about 9/11 many, many times during that past few weeks, and how we all got through that tragic time. That was just such a blunt, jarring blow to everyone’s sense of safety and everyone felt such a grave loss. This pandemic has been edging into our daily lives, emotional well-being and basic sanity, and what I find most encouraging is the sense of community in our neighborhood people sharing masks, gloves, alcohol wipes. My 14-year-old niece who lives in Victoria, British Colombia learned from her classes on Zoom that after the Spanish flu came in a renaissance period and that everyone during the pandemic turned inward toward their creative and artistic spirit. I do think this will be a reset for many to appreciate our family, time together with friends and to recognize those that are important in our society: the scientists, health care workers, teachers and they should be revered and respected in our culture.
I want to try and not feel anxious and accept and remind myself that the entire world is being affected by this pandemic, and it’s not just about me and the people in my nucleus.
Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
The first week it was truly hard to get out of bed. I have two apartments behind my house that my friends are currently living in, so the second week, we made sure to get up, make coffee, and go for a walk for at least an hour every morning. Now into week four, we are doing more walks separately as we have all developed our own schedules around our work routines. As an interior design studio, our work has not slowed down since the construction industry is still running. We have been doing our site meetings on Zoom, and we have been careful to stagger the trades at our projects. That has been a new challenge making sure that the painter, the termite inspector, and curtain installer do not show up at the same time. We have just become more patient, and the constant sense of urgency has stopped. Everyone accepts there will be delays, and its most important to keep everyone safe and distanced.
I have been watching a Canadian television show by the CBC called Mr. D. It’s on Hulu and is about a high school teacher at a private school who is just completely unaware of how awkward he is. Its light and funny and a good escape.
We have created a virtual book club with 12 friends and my mother and will be doing that on Zoom tomorrow. The book selection is American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. I have been looking at BBC news, CNN and Google news a couple times a day, but otherwise I just try to keep busy with work or cooking meals. Master class has been the best for being able to still feel that I’m learning and exercising my brain. I’m trying to help myself stay mindful and inspired by seeing how so many leaders and successful entrepreneurs have achieved so much.
What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
We have been playing games like Scattergories and Rummikube, cooking new recipes a lot, and trying to eat healthy—although I have been baking, which I am not that good at, so I am trying to be patient and follow the instructions carefully. I roasted a prime rib for Easter Sunday and decorated the table using my nice linens and silver. There are only three of us at the house, so it was the smallest Easter dinner I have hosted in 20 years, but we had a nice time and made sure to say thanks and shared three things we were each grateful for at this time.
What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
I try to take my dog for a four-mile walk around the neighborhood every day. That is my goal, but sometimes it is just two miles, especially with all of the recent rain. Today my Peloton is being delivered that was ordered on March 26th, so I am looking forward to that.
We have been making masks with fabric samples in my sample library. We printed templates online, and I was lucky to have elastic in my sewing kit. My friend has a sewing machine, and we have made about 60 masks so far, which we have been mailing to our friends and family.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
I can’t wait to take my dog for a hike at Will Rogers national park in Pacific Palisades. We used to go three times a week, and it is my favorite place. I can’t wait to go to Soho Malibu and take my dog to the beach there too. I can’t wait to play Rummikube in the lobby at Shutters in Santa Monica—I worked on the interiors at the hotel when I worked for Michael S. Smith, and the owners and all the staff are always so welcoming, so it feels like a second home. I also can’t wait to have a drink at the rooftop at the Proper Hotel in Santa Monica. The design by my friend Kelly Wearstler is incredible and the staff are so friendly like family.