I had been looking for months to get my interior design itch scratched here in DC. And it finally happened, at the Apartment Therapy Meetup in DC. I have been stalking the Apartment Therapy site starting when I was trying to update my pre-war apartment in Queens while living with Christina. It never happened, but it wasn’t for lack of ideas. It was my 60+ hour a week job. (Gotta love NYC…) The site was amazing for decor inspiration, recipes and eco-friendly ideas. In addition to their site, across the country, ambassadors for the site organize meetups which are usually panels with design experts.

I have to be honest — I wasn’t sure what type of design experts were in DC, with its government and politics-centric scene. But I was pleasantly surprised. The featured guest was Supon Phornirunlet. He runs Naked Decor, a home decor business he started after closing his design firm.

Naked Decor Clock

Naked Decor Pillows

Naked Decor Queen Pillows

He had an amazing story. Supon is a Thai immigrant, who started a creative design firm with a few employees shortly after moving to the country. He did a lot of design work for the government, designing logos for national parks and the FDA and stuff like that. He grew that firm until it was purchased by a larger company. He said he was working so much, traveling all over the world, and the company became so structured that he became far removed from the work he loved to do.

After being diverted to Hawaii on 9/11, and having time to think about his life, he decided to quit his own firm and start fresh. He redesigned his apartment based on his travels around the world and was featured several times in Metropolitan Home, for his design work. The magazine had so many calls for his homemade pillows that he decided to start his own line. He was funny and left us with several words of widsom:

  1. Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you fail, you’re not going to drop dead.
  2. Use common sense. Calculated risk is really just common sense.
  3. Self promote. The way he got into Metropolitan Home? He sent in photos.
  4. Make yourself seem better/smarter/bigger than you are. First impressions are key. Do whatever you need to do.
  5. Be proud of your differences. His name is Supon, which is hard to pronounce. He once designed a campaign to get prospective clients, scanning all of the misspelled junk mail he got to his address. He had labels saying “coupon, soup, super…” you name it. Prospective clients loved it. They remembered his name.

I’ll leave you with this great story, which I thought was brilliant:

Supon wanted to work on the FIFA campaign (that’s World Cup Soccer for all of you who don’t know…) when it was coming to the USA in 1994. He sent a letter to Switzerland (FIFA Headquarters) with his portfolio (self-promotion). At the time, he was working out of an apartment in a so-so area of town with 5 employees.

He got a letter a year later (patience), saying he was on the short list for design firms they were considering. The FIFA folks said they wanted to come inspect the offices before they made a decision. He almost crapped his pants. Within a few weeks, he signed a 5-year lease on a new, beautiful, fancy office building (risk-taking). The day FIFA came to visit, he hired 20 temps to fill all of the cubicles (make yourself seem bigger than you are). He said when the temp agency asked what they should be doing, he said for them to “look busy”. He got the job and designed the pieces for the World Cup games, an amazing feat for a tiny company.

Loved it!

~ Dana