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Meet Trailblazer Beth Katz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Beth Katz.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Fifteen years ago, I took the leap and started KatzDesignGroup. We had just moved to Phoenix from Boston, where I worked for an incredible Interiors firm and were starting a new life in the desert. Many of my previous clients had a national presence and insisted that I start my own firm so we could continue to work together. I went all in. I set up my company with the model of hiring consultants that matched the project type. So, if I was working at a restaurant, I would hire my licensed mechanical, electrical, and plumbing engineers as well as a partner architect with expertise in restaurant design. I decided to follow the sectors that interest me most vs. what I had most of my experience in, commercial office interiors. What I found is that what I really love is design. The fact I could take my client’s culture, philosophies, and branding and translate that into an incredible interior environment. This passion was perfect for innovation of restaurants, retail space, medical offices, and commercial office space.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
My biggest struggle has been that I can’t duplicate myself. People always ask, “why don’t you hire some people, grow the business, take more of a managerial role.” The bottom line is that I am hired on specialty design projects because people want to work with me and I truly want to design for them. I take on projects with people I like and respect. I pour my energy into every project regardless of size. I want them to be individual and equally outstanding. I have recently hired an outside rendering firm to help me with my 3D challenges. We have developed a 24hr. team as I send information to their China office at the end of the day, and when I wake up in the morning, I have an email with their latest drawings. My advice to women starting in commercial interiors is to be the best listener and don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is so much to learn and it took me 15 years to feel confident to go off on my own. Use that time to learn the business, make connections, and find mentors to help you succeed.

We’d love to hear more about KatzDesignGroup.
On each of my projects, I start by meeting with the client and develop a “program.” It is a manuscript for the requirements of the project. It also serves a check-list to make sure we don’t forget a requirement or special request. I start developing the plans from schematic design to the design development stage bringing concepts to life in the form of elevations, renderings, and material concepts. I then start the construction documents or drawings. This includes the demolition plan, floor plan, furniture plan, electrical and telephone location plan, reflected ceiling and lighting plans, elevations, door schedules, and details and sections of walls and millwork. Yes, I draw everything myself. (I do have an extensive cad detail library from the past 27 years to pull from.) Each project has the same process of what I just described but the scope is different. Some of my favorite projects are my favorite because they were new to me, and I learned a lot from them. I love working on The Gladly because we didn’t know what we would find when we demoed the previous steakhouse. There were no plans. We had to add bathrooms and a staircase to the main level and had to resolve these major items after demo. I loved working on Territory, a medical marijuana facility in Chandler. My favorite comment from their Yelp page was from an enthusiastic client that said: “the space was so cool as if an Apple Store had a baby with a juice bar.” I recently designed the Irish Hare Pub in Ahwatukee. Many of the items we used on the interior were from Etsy. For example, the “hare” wallpaper in the bathrooms was from a hand-printed wallpaper Etsy site.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to a young woman just starting her career?
I may have mentioned this on a page before… listen and learn. There are so many people in our industry who know much more than you do. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, you just have to be the most capable of finding solutions. I learn so much about detailing from my superintendents and millworkers. They love to share, they want the project to be as successful as you do.

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Image Credit:
Photos by KDG

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