Lesley Hughes Wyman, Principal and Co-Founder of MatchLine Design Group, shares her recipe for great spaces, good business, and personal networking.
Principal, RID, ASID, IIDA, NEWH
MatchLine Design Group
As a registered interior designer, Lesley brings over 20 years of industry experience to her role as a co-founding principal of MatchLine Design Group. Prior to joining forces with her long-time friend and business partner, Tamara Ainsworth in 2009, she held various design roles at renowned firms, which allowed her to refine her craft.
Lesley has overseen the completion of a number of notable projects including numerous Embassy Suites, DoubleTree and other Hilton and Marriott properties, the current historic conversion of San Antonio’s El Tropicano – a Tapestry by Hilton Collection, Federal Reserve Bank Building in Kansas City for Hilton, The Lodge of Four Seasons at Lake Ozark and Taj Blue Diamond Resort. She holds a degree in interior design from Texas State University and her professional affiliations include IIDA, ASID and NEWH for which she has served in various leadership and committee roles.
I’m Lesley Wyman of Matchline Design Group, my business partner, Tamara Ainsworth and I started the firm about 10 years ago. We had been friends and worked in the same places before we started the company. We work in hospitality, a little multi-family, and even independent senior living.
We like to say it was the best, worst time. Obviously we didn’t plan for everything to go downhill, basically right after we said, “Yes we can do this.” I was working in a large firm, doing international work, and I missed working with my old partners and being in a small, tight-knit firm.
We called each other over Christmas and we said, "Let’s just do this." We can work harder and smarter and get it done. We got back in touch with our old contacts and clients and it seemed to work. We had all been through cycles before so that provided some perspective, but it was still worse than anyone expected. We didn’t expect our clients, like hotels, to take so long to get loans but once they did come back online, we were ready. It gave us a chance to work on our business and fine tune things.
Oh, absolutely, I don't know what it is about it, but hospitality is just so different than residential or other commercial work. Maybe because it's a blend of all of those spaces.
You get to design places where a lot of different people interact and where they want to be for vacations or even work. That's the fun part of it, the design can have such a strong personality.
You know, it's kind of a little bit of everything. We like to design well-curated, but eclectic spaces that give context to where you are without being too fussy or too formal. You want people to feel comfortable doing their work there and vacationing there too. Obviously, people are traveling a lot, so you have to find a way to blend both of those feelings into the same space.
What makes a great space is when everything is at hand and flows easily. It's not difficult to navigate and you don't have to sit on the edge of your chair. It’s a comfortable space when you can lounge around in the lobby, have a drink, or read a book. Making spaces all things to all kinds of people is really the key.
Right now, we are doing a historical conversion for an Embassy Suites in downtown Kansas City. It was an old federal building that’s over 100 years old and it’s really cool to get both the historical and modern aspects in the same space. I love history, so the research that has gone into it has been a lot of fun for me. It's exciting to bring in the history and pair it to a modern taste while still appreciating what was originally there.
It’s a great resource for us to connect with other like-minded individuals and firms that are also women-owned. That networking with other companies is valuable as we draw on experience from one another and collaborate on projects. I personally think it’s kind of neat when that happens. There are some projects where almost everyone involved is part of the WBENC.
It is also helpful with government work, perhaps more on the architecture side instead of design, but it nonetheless plays a roll. There is a point system within the certification for whether a business is women-owned or minority-owned and we’ve had experiences where a city or specific developer is looking for that component in their project.
We are at seven people right now. Tamara and I have spoken about where things are headed and we never want to get over ten people. Sometimes it’s tempting to think that the sky’s the limit, but we like a small firm for a reason. It keeps us just as equally involved as our junior designers; clients really like this too.
They like that they can call in and get me or Tamara on the phone. They don’t have to go through some whole voicemail system. They know we’re there and it’s just more personable. We want to keep things from getting a little too "red tape" and having it become more about business than design and personal relationships with our clients and their work.
Yes, I think it's all about relationships and how you treat people. As silly as this sounds, it's not always about design. Our industry is very small and I run into people that I met or worked with 15 plus years ago and it's great, we pick up where we left off. There's no reason to burn bridges or have a poor attitude.
You can teach always teach someone how to draw, but personality is just up to you. Remember that we're all on the same team, working together to help things get done, and I’m glad when we are talking and collaborating.
Pretty much every client we have is a repeat client. They keep calling us for a reason and we're proud of that and we hope that relationships stay part of the foundation of what we love and believe in.