Dreams of starting an interior design business? Then this is one interview you’ll definitely want to pay attention to. Catherine Cornelissen is a busy woman indeed, creating her home decor boutique alongside a master’s degree, and still making time for a healthy work life balance. We chatted to Catherine about starting her business, why sleep is so important after a long day staring at a screen, and why variety is key to her working life.
Hi Catherine! Tell us about Decor A List and why you decided to start the business?
Thanks so much for having me! Decor A List is basically a lovingly curated online boutique for home decor, art and furniture. The catch is that nearly every piece of furniture and decor is made to order, and can be custom-made according to the client’s requirements. I decided to start Decor A List because I wanted to launch a platform which promoted pieces that are not mass produced, like almost everything nowadays, but made-to-order and embodying a variety of styles. I noticed that many online interiors shops primarily focus on one particular style rather than cater to various aesthetics. I think that everyone should be able to access affordable luxury interior pieces that are handmade, with bespoke options, while being able to shop different styles and aesthetics in one place.
What made you decide to focus on an online business rather than brick-and-mortar?
I would actually love to expand to a physical space in the near future which would be an office space for a small team, but also act as a boutique that is designed in a homely, interior manner using pieces from the Decor A List online boutique. I hope to do this in the near future, so won’t give too many details away, but all I can say is watch this space and keep up to date on my social media channels!
What were you doing before Decor A List, and when did you eventually decide to take the leap of starting your own business?
I was actually finishing my master’s degree with Christie’s Education in Art History when I launched Decor A List. At the time, it wasn’t worth waiting until I was in a full-time 9-to-5 job to launch a business as it would just delay the inevitable, and only become more difficult with time restrictions. Currently, I work alongside a Chelsea-based interior designer with residential projects while doing another master’s degree with Sotheby’s Institute of Art, in Art Business. I’m keeping extremely busy at the moment, but it’s really enjoyable and important for me to have variety and to continue learning.
What were your main reservations in the beginning, and how did you overcome these?
My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t get a sale! I actually had multiple IT and technical issues at the very beginning and my developers weren’t honest with me, nor did they have my best interests at heart. I honestly thought I was doomed to fail and that the universe was telling me not to pursue my idea! I overcame these hurdles by dealing with them one at a time and remembering that these things are always learning experiences.
Tell us about your branding process. Did you instantly know what you wanted or was there a lot of research involved?
There was, and still is, a lot of research involved. I actually think that I am always developing the brand but trying to keep it fairly open at the same time. Since there are so many different types of pieces I work with from around the world, it’s difficult to pin down one style for the brand, but I actually don’t want the Decor A List brand to be restricted to one style. I want people to be able to align themselves with the different aesthetics within the boutique.
Do you work from home or someplace else?
I work from home a lot of the time, but I also enjoy bopping around to different cafés in Chelsea, Marylebone and Fitzrovia as well as using my member’s club in Mayfair. I have learned that it is very important to get out of the house and move around; variety is key and I feel that I need to be inspired by my workspace.
How do you keep a healthy work life balance while running a successful company?
Variety! While I have a general routine I like to follow, I also enjoy the concept of waking up each morning and having a different day. I like to clear out my inbox each morning as, for me, inbox clutter equals mind clutter. For the rest of the day, I have between 3-5 chores or jobs that need to be completed, whether this is working on client jobs, recruiting new designers, uploading new pieces or working on a collaboration.
What are your aspirations for Decor A List in the future?
Hopefully to have a small team of people who are equally as passionate about the brand, and perhaps open my own homeware line that embodies the ethos of Decor A List. As I mentioned earlier, it would be a dream of mine to have a physical space that is closely aligned with the Decor A List ethos, encompassing a variety of styles.
What are your top 3 pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
1) Say ‘no’: My biggest piece of advice would be to say ‘no.’ Not always, but within reason. You should be aware of what is really worth your time and energy. Ultimately those who don’t care, don’t matter and those who matter, will care.
2) Know when to switch off: Recently, there have been many studies that are revealing the importance of sleep and how a lack of can lead to some serious illnesses. It is important for me to switch off each night. I now rarely look at my screen (phone, computer or TV) before I go to bed. Getting ready for and into bed is now equally as important as my morning routine. I like to use dim lighting before bed with relaxing music and then once I’m in bed, I sleep in complete darkness and silence. I definitely think it’s important to allow your body to rest, as well as your eyes after staring at screens all day, especially if you’re in e-commerce!
3) Believe in yourself: No one else will. People will doubt you, question you and be nosy about how you ‘think’ you will make a living. Prove them wrong and prove yourself right. As long as you love what you are doing and believe in it, no one should stop you.
Follow Decor A List’s journey
You’ll find Decor A List at decoralist.com, and you can follow along on Instagram @decor.a.list. If you want to follow Catherine as she expands the business (we can’t wait to see what she’s up to next!) you can catch her on Instagram too, @catherine.cornelissen.