Career Spotlight: Furniture Designer Reagan Hayes
There are countless fascinating careers out there to be had, but being so focused on our own work, it can be difficult to learn about other industries and roles and eschew our sometimes narrow-minded perspectives. With that in mind, we thought we’d spotlight some successful businessmen and women we admire and learn a little bit about what led them to their chosen career paths and the greatest challenges and thrills of their positions.
To kick things off, we sat down with Los Angeles–based furniture designer Reagan Hayes, whose masterful cocktail tables, sofas, lounge chairs, and other pieces captivate us with their luxe finishes and gorgeous details. Read on to learn a little more about this design star.
MYDOMAINE: How did you find yourself in the field of furniture design?
REAGAN HAYES: It's really been a happy accident, since I never imagined that I would ever end up designing products while I was in design school. I started my career as an interior designer in Chicago and was looking for ways to stay engaged in design as we were starting our family here in L.A. I gravitated toward product design once I realized that taking a break from design clients would give me more flexibility to spend time with my three little boys while they were young. Plus L.A. has such amazing craftsmen; it made it easy to do a lot of experimenting through the course of product development.
MD: How and when did you launch your own firm?
RH: I started with a very small offering of upholstered products—there were only 14 pieces in my first collection!—and made those available to designers in 2010. The line got picked up for representation by David Sutherland early on, and it really went a long way to putting my name on the map in high-end furniture. Our strategy has evolved really naturally since there, and we're now focused on showcasing our products in our own showrooms in New York and L.A.
MD: What's your favorite element of your job?
RH: Definitely the design! I still love developing new products, especially since we've expanded our manufacturing capabilities to include integrate cast metal, fabricated metal, really intricate wood-grain direction detail, etc. And designing our showrooms has brought me full circle to my first love of interior design. It's been fun for me to showcase my personal design style in a way that I never could before developing all of these products.
MD: What's the biggest challenge?
RH: One of the things I really struggle with is letting go of certain parts of the business as we grow. I love having my hands all over everything aesthetic—our website, catalogs, tear sheets, lookbooks, emails that we send out—and am just barely coming to terms with the idea that doing graphic layouts is not the best use of my time. I'm sure a lot of designers face the same challenge when you're trying to train someone else to mimic your own completely subjective design preferences.
MD: Why did you choose furniture design over interiors?
RH: Interior design will always be my first love, and I plan to take on a project or two now that our new New York showroom is set up and once our boys get settled back in with school this fall. Product design has been a great way for me to project my creativity and to see design from an entirely new perspective.
MD: What's your best advice for someone looking to get started in a creative field?
RH: Take time to learn from the best! I have had great mentors and sources of inspiration in my career. Even if it means taking the unpaid internship and working like crazy to earn a spot at the table, try to spend time with a firm or artist whose work you really admire, and then pay attention to how she goes about her work.
MD: What's your best advice for those interested in starting their own business?
RH: Realize that there is a lot of non-design activity that goes into building a successful design business. Be honest with yourself with what your weaknesses are, and then find ways to bring in other people that can address those areas. You will also be taking on a lot more risk than a more conservative career path, so be sure to enjoy all of the great things that come with taking that kind of leap!
MD: You work with your husband. How do you two balance your professional and personal lives?
RH: We have definitely had to set boundaries, especially since my husband, Luke, has been spending so much of his time working with me over the past year. Sundays and Monday nights are set aside for family time—no work discussions allowed—and we take time to go out without the kids on Friday nights (again, no work talk allowed!). I think it works for us because we have such different skill sets and different responsibilities: I lead all of the design and creative work while he handles the super-boring business stuff.
MD: What's next for you? What are you working on?
RH: Well, we dragged our boys with us out to Manhattan for the summer to get the New York showroom set up at 200 Lex! The space opened in July, and we're going to have a big opening party as part of What's New, What's Next on September 17. I'm also starting to sketch out some new products. We just introduced a few new tables (finished edge slab dining table or sleek hexagonal cocktail table, anyone?), and I'll be diving into the workroom this fall to start iterating the new designs.