Jennifer Lynn Weisberg, known in the design world as JLW Interiors is an upscale luxury residential interior designer based in New York. Knowing from a young age that this would be her calling, she graduated from the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago. A Detroit born, Chicago built and New York made interior designer, Jennifer has a passion for the arts, discovering the world, and everything in between. She is vivacious and has an uncanny joie-de-vivre. Her story inspires, reminding us to stay true to ourselves and keep our curiosity for life.
Tell me about how it all began. How did you start your career in interior design?
I’ve always been attracted to beautiful things and putting things together. I used to browse multi-million homes in Italy on Sotheby’s for fun when I was a teenager. I’m fairly certain my mom still has a voicemail from when I was a child, describing a toy that I found as “asparagus green” — early clues I was going to be an interior designer. I mostly worked for high-end, residential design firms in Chicago and a firm in New York prior to starting JLW interiors in 2017.
Floral designs by JLW
Why and when did you decide to launch JLW?
I worked for another interior design firm prior to starting my own company, but this was different in that, instead of working under the principal designer and having all the designers work on the same project, each designer had their own clients. That gave me the confidence to branch out and say, “I think I’m ready to do this on my own.” I also wanted to maintain the creative freedom that I had acquired.
How did you work at building your business?
You have to be involved in every aspect of your business and get comfortable selling yourself. Networking has always been something that I found to be an imperative part of business, and I work very hard at building and maintaining relationships with professionals in all different industries. The relationship with the client is really the glue that holds everything together. My business is almost entirely referral-based.
Where do you think the design industry is headed?
I think people are going to focus more on the psychology of design. This is something I’ve always been interested in; but I think because people have been stuck at home for the past year, they are realizing that interior design is not frivolous. A person’s environment really does influence mood and mental health. I think we are already seeing a lot about the influence of colors that are soothing or increase productivity, etc.
What have you noticed your clients are gearing towards more in the last year in terms of if it’s home offices or the colors or tones they are choosing?
There’s more of a division and separation of space. I think people are stepping away from open-concept floor plans because the need for individual space was painfully realized over the last year. It can be challenging to maintain sanity in a shared space!
Where do you see JLW going in the next five years?
I’d really like to grow and maintain a small staff and focus almost exclusively on high-end residential projects. That is my passion. I would also love to travel with clients at a future time. I actually have a design and travel blog, Destination: Design.
I feel like design is a form of living art. I like to find ways to take clients’ individual identities and needs and turn them into something luxurious and sophisticated. It’s not art if I’m repurposing the same thing over again, so I’d like to have the freedom to continue to create and do so with all different aesthetics.
If you want to describe your brand in two words, what would you choose?
Sophisticated and passionate. I’d say that my passion comes through in my work. And I aim to create a sense of sophistication in each of my designs that will endure.
What advice would you give, even to yourself when you first started and went off on your own, or to other interior designers that are wanting to start their own company?
You have to have passion, drive and, I think, a sense of humor. Passion drives me, but if I weren’t able to laugh at myself and the things that happen, I would never make it through the day! It’s important to set boundaries as well, which is something that I am still working on.
What is advice you can give on that for entrepreneurs?
It’s okay to turn your phone off at a certain point. Unless it’s really urgent, I can feel okay about replying to business messages during normal business hours.
How do you find that balance? What do you do to take time for yourself in the day, or if it’s a weekly thing?
I do Zumba and I meditate. I make sure to take time for myself. Unless I have an enormous presentation, I try very hard to keep my weekend to myself and to maintain space. I take a few trips internationally each year to reset. There’s not only so much design inspiration but I find that it’s reinvigorating for me so I don’t get burnt out. Again, this year has been quite unique and challenging in that sense.
What is a challenge that you have surmounted recently?
I’m sure that a lot of women executives face being treated as less than equal professionals. Unfortunately we have all experienced this many times. I aim to set very clear but tactful boundaries on how I’m valued as an authority in my field.
I started a project a couple of years ago where I had other members of the team who were initially skeptical of my abilities because I was a young woman. I was really able to turn that around. Now there is a mutual respect and professional camaraderie where they are even sending me referrals.
What inspires you?
So many different things. Certainly travel, as I mentioned. I would say the arts in general inspire me. I love going to see musical theatre performances. I actually performed at the Detroit Opera House many years ago — I used to sing. We’ve all picked up some sort of quarantine habit I would say, and what started for me as a quarantine hobby has become integrated into my business. I started taking floral design classes from the New York Botanical Garden and I just fell in love with it. I’m very passionate about flowers. My grandma always used to know the names of the different flowers. And I was born on Valentine’s Day, so I think I’m obligated to love flowers!
A lot of my clients are the type who have art consultants or floral designers, so I thought, “why not be able to do that myself?” You need to aspire to being a bit of a Renaissance man or woman in interior design as you’re dabbling in so many different industries. Any type of design is art, and I’ve had clients tell me that they would hire me to do some of their floral designs for parties and photoshoots; so I decided that this is something that I can offer as part of my services.
Do you work with furniture designers and stores that are New York-based, or do you also try to diversify?
I have thousands of trade-only sources that I work with all over the country and the world. It is also part of the reason I love to travel. The last time I was in Paris I went to the Marche Aux Puces, a famous flea market, and I ended up finding a vendor whose beautiful antique floor lamp I utilized in a recent project. There are few greater joys than finding that perfect piece!
Who is someone you would like to collaborate with? It could be another designer or an architect or someone who you really admire in the art and design world.
Jean-Louis Deniot. There’s nothing like French design, right?
Cover Photo Credit – Nathan Schroder
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