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The Designer’s Guide to Building a Business

 

Katrina Hernandez and Joshua Greene

The modern, textile-focused aesthetic of NYC designer, Katrina Hernandez, sets her apart from her competition. So in her latest venture, design partnership Hernandez Greene, she seeks the same success by focusing not only on the creative, but also the relationship side of the business.

 

It’s Wednesday morning. Katrina Hernandez makes her way across Union Square to her office just four blocks down from the New York City landmark. This morning’s agenda includes an unexpected meeting with a project manager for one of her uptown clients. The custom couch they ordered has just arrived with a spot on the upholstery. The decision needs to be made if the couch can be cleaned or if reupholstery is in order. Cleaning it is. Now the decorative painter arrives at the site so that Hernandez and her business partner, Joshua Greene, can inspect the silver leaf details on the ceiling that have been completed in the space. After approving the painter’s work, the duo heads out to find fringe trim for a pair of chairs one of their clients in California has recently approved. The early afternoon is spent in the office answering e-mails from clients and vendors. The team reviews accounts, assesses projects and schedules appointments. And this is all before lunch.

In early 2014, the interior designer and creative visionary, Hernandez along with her business partner Joshua Greene, opened New York City based interior design firm, Hernandez Greene. In less than one year, the team has completely redesigned nine upscale residential spaces throughout Manhattan and the Hamptons, renovated a high-end fashion retailer’s stores on the West coast and built a comprehensive portfolio of work that truly conveys the Hernandez Greene design aesthetic.

Nearly four years ago, while at Sawyer | Berson, Hernandez met Joshua Greene on his first day at the AD100 architecture firm. Greene had spent a few years writing for Women’s Wear Daily, the trade publication for the fashion industry, before beginning his work at Sawyer | Berson in the Interiors department. The two were paired on projects in Manhattan and Long Island, each of which helped show them what a strong team they are. “I always thought I’d only open a business with girlfriends, but the first day he started we just hit it off,” Hernandez explains. Within the next few months their relationship grew and Hernandez saw that Greene had the talent and vision to make a new venture possible. The passion they share for their business is unequivocal, and it’s clear that they’ve found the right fit in their partnership. “First we’re business partners, then we’re friends. I feel really blessed that I’ve found the right guy to start this business with.” One day they anticipate taking on a team, but for now they want to let the business grow and see how it goes.

The pair first gained recognition for designing the interiors of a Sawyer | Berson home in the Village of Southampton on Long Island. The year and a half long project graced the pages of the July 2014 issue of Architectural Digest and put the design pair on the map. “This project proved to Josh and I that we could do it. That was the house that pushed us to know that we could do it on our own.” A party was planned to show off the seven-bedroom house and celebrate the designers’ 18 months of hard work, but even the morning of the event they were tying on pool chair cushions and rearranging accessories. “We worked out butts off. We were running around like crazy! Every floral arrangement. The lighting. The candles. We really poured our hearts and souls in it and it turned out really, really great.” The Southampton home was like the final piece in the design puzzle for the pair–truly convincing them they could work on their own. They completed the entire home’s interiors–start to finish–and received one interior design’s highest accolades when their project was featured in AD. “It makes you more confident when you’ve had many more experiences so that when you’re on your own you’re more prepared. It’s nice to have gotten that pedigree.” After finishing their work on the Southampton home the pair was ready to take on their next project, this time without a safety net, and start their own firm.

The reality of starting a business is not lost on Hernandez, however fun the rest of the process may be. She understands that Hernandez Greene is a risky endeavor. Given the team’s success in the past eight months, it’s hard to imagine that the business would not survive to its first anniversary, but the owners are realistic in their aspirations for the future. Referrals and word of mouth have kept the team busy with projects so far, but they’re open to hiring a PR firm to secure even more new clients and an assistant to help manage their projects. “We keep getting new projects, but you never know what your first year is going to be like. You don’t know who you’ll get to work with. So far it’s been great,” Hernandez says with a smile. “You have to build that safety net for yourself, but the risk has never scared us or made us weary, it’s only driven us.”

While the Southampton home showed Hernandez and Greene their potential as business partners, what truly brought them together was building the Hernandez Greene website. Like artists building a portfolio of paintings, the design team had to bring together their aesthetics, separate projects and individual bodies of work so that they could display it all online. The Hernandez Greene website showcases not only the interiors they’ve designed, but also gives a glimpse into the interests of both designers. From event design to prop styling, the designers have brought their creative capacities together in one space for potential clients to see. “It’s hard to figure out what you want to be known by. Building your own brand–it’s your body of work. You know it will be judged.” By presenting the Hernandez Greene aesthetic as an eclectic mix of traditional and modern, while still irresistibly glamorous, the two designers melded their personal styles and put a face to the brand

After finishing her BA in Fashion Merchandising from the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising, or LIM in Manhattan, Hernandez worked in multiple design arenas: first as a design assistant at Gap, then a fabric buyer at Ralph Lauren, before making the transition to interior design by overseeing the interiors department for New York City’s highly acclaimed Sawyer | Berson architecture firm. With an impressive portfolio, along with her desire to create, design and inspire, she’s built a strong foundation for her newest project.

Now working as a pair, both designers bring their own interests and aesthetic to the team’s projects, which in the past year have included summer homes in the Hamptons, apartments in Chelsea, Central Park West, Midtown, and the Upper West Side along with multiple high-end fashion retail spaces in California. During the design process, Hernandez’s passion for textiles is unrivaled. “Honestly my inspiration always comes from textiles. I remember sitting in my textile history class in college and loving it.” Hernandez takes considerable time selecting the appropriate patterns and materials for each space. As soon as the color palette has been determined, Hernandez scopes out the best options for upholstery, drapes, rugs, and accent pieces. “There are incredible things that are offered–even horse hair! Fabrics truly make the room evolve. It determines the hardware–brushed nickel, gold, bronze.” She layers patterns, textures and materials so elegantly to align with the direction of a room’s design and meet each client’s needs.

The style Hernandez conveys in their designs is unique. She pairs metallic vessels with handcrafted ceramics and luxurious textiles. Hernandez uses her discerning eye to select only the best pieces for each of her clients–a skill she dreams of using in the future to open her own retail space. “If I wasn’t working as an interior designer I would be opening my own store. I would have a furniture and decor store for sure,” Hernandez says. “It’s on my list of things to do, one of my wants and dreams.”

Although the day may be coming to a close, Katrina’s work never really ends. She constantly creates, designs and explores, seeking inspiration for her latest projects. She retraces her steps from her morning commute across Union Square, back onto the subway,          and heads home to Williamsburg. Still looking crisp, she readjusts her earth tone statement necklace–with its jade colored stone atop her burnt umber blouse. After a long day of site visits, meetings and client shopping, she settles in for the ride thinking about what the next day has in store. Tomorrow won’t be the same as today, but that’s the way she likes it. There will be new adventures to be had, new challenges to face and new spaces to design.

 

 

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