This year marks a special milestone for us here at Blakely — the conclusion of our 10th year in business! As I reflect on the journey this design firm has taken, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for our team, clients, partners, and community.
While Blakely Interior Design has humble origins (which I’ll share below), we have spent the last decade evolving as a team, fine-tuning our processes, tackling bigger projects with poise, and discovering our full potential. Along the way, I’ve learned countless lessons about business and life, such as the power of a team, the value of being agile and adapting to challenges, and the fact that business and life are intertwined.
I can say with confidence that we are a team well-aligned with our talents and passions. From a solo outfit in 2012 to a 12-person firm in 2022, our 10-year history is one steeped in self-discovery, growth, and the courage to dream big.
Color Certification, Fresh Nest & Design School
In 2012, I started Fresh Nest Color & Design, the first iteration of what would become Blakely Interior Design. As you guessed, I was a one-woman show. I had a Color Expert certification and worked out of the basement of my home. To gain more formal training on the technical aspects of design, I enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in summer 2012.
First Design Project & Studio Space
In 2013, I was hired by my first client for a design and renovation project. It was my first experience feeling completely in my element professionally, and I loved it. I was more than ready for a dedicated workspace, so I eagerly moved out of my basement and into a one-room office at The Hive in North Kingstown.
The Design Library is Born
In 2014, I moved into a more spacious office on Main Street in Wakefield, RI, where I established my first design library. As I continued to wear all the hats, I became busier with projects — and realized I shouldn’t be wearing all the hats. I hired my first team member, part-time administrative support, to help me get out of the business details and spend more time on design.
Our Main Street office in 2014.
Team Growth & Blakely’s Beginnings
By 2015, demand had grown again. To meet it, I hired a part-time designer and our first full-time employee, a project coordinator. With support from these two new team members and our administrative assistant, I was really able to dig into the design of each project.
With my increased capacity to be involved, projects became larger and more multi-faceted. At this point, Fresh Nest Color felt a bit too “cutesy” and didn’t feel aligned with the higher-end direction we were going. We rebranded to the more mature and elevated Blakely Interior Design. (Blakely is my middle name.)
The first Blakely logo in 2015
New Studio Lease & Business Education
In 2016, we officially outgrew our Main Street office. We found the perfect location to accommodate increased growth, signed a contract, and began renovations that would be completed in 2017. In the meantime, to further my education as a business owner and leader I participated in the 10,000 Small Businesses Program through Goldman Sachs.
RISD Degree & North Kingstown Studio Opening
In 2017, I officially received my degree from RISD. With no assignments to complete or classes to attend, my availability increased, and we saw another phase of rapid growth.
Our part-time designer transitioned to full-time, and we added interns for marketing and design. Before I knew it, we had a small design team. Along with full-service design, we added other services around styling, conceptual design, and design consultations.
To cap off the year, our North Kingstown office — which we still use — had its grand opening. The result was breathtaking and still makes coming into work fun, inspiring, and uplifting.
Though it looks a bit different now, this is our office space in North Kingstown, RI.
Rapid Expansion, Systems & Philanthropy
In 2018, we grew to a team of 6 and began taking on even more sizable, complex, full-scale projects, including our first out-of-state project, located in New Jersey. This expansion required us to get very strategic about our processes, team responsibilities, and communication. We established our comprehensive design process, which we still use today.
We also began the Rhode Island chapter of Savvy Giving by Design, a national nonprofit composed of professional designers who donate design services to families with a child facing a medical crisis.
Rebranding Blakely & The Jersey Palm Project
By 2019, we were ready for another rebrand for a new look that was inspired by the entire team, our aesthetic, and our clients. We worked with brand professionals to design a new website, logo and tagline that would capture our heartfelt mission: Live Vibrantly.
Amongst other projects throughout this year, we were working on our biggest project to date – the Jersey Palm Project in Mantoloking, NJ. This fully custom vacation home boasts 10 bathrooms, 7 bedrooms, and plenty of space for the entire family and their guests. The installation alone took 3 days to complete, and it’s still one of our most memorable projects as a team.
Remote Work, Studio Expansion, & a Prestigious Honor
In 2020, we expanded into the unit next to our current office to create more designated workspaces, warehouse storage, and to grow our design library. Around the same time — and like many other businesses that year — we transitioned out of the office and into remote work for a few months.
This was a challenging time and made us extra grateful for buttoned-up processes that kept our projects in line, even with massive shortages and delays. We completed several homes for our clients this year; being able to give them safe, beautiful places to live was truly worth the extra effort. To top off the year, we were awarded the 2020 Woman-Owned Business of the Year Award by the Rhode Island Small Business Association.
The design library in our North Kingstown studio.
Adding a COO & 4-Day Work Week
In 2021, Kristian Photopoulos joined our team as Chief Operating Officer. With over 20 years of experience in executive management and a focus on operational success and growth, we knew he would be the perfect fit for Blakely. We shifted our business model to accommodate only full-service design for multi-room or whole home design and furnishing projects.
Then, just before the summer months, we introduced a 4-day work week into our studio, and we haven’t looked back since.
Team Growth & Whole-Home Specialization
Now, at the end of 2022, our team includes 12 talented individuals, with specialists in every area: design, operations, project management, procurement, expediting, and marketing. We have two distinct teams, each with a lead designer, project manager, associate designers and procurement coordinator.
Our project focus has also narrowed yet again, with a specialization in large-scale renovations, new construction, and whole-home furnishing projects. This has allowed us to produce our best work: providing complete, cohesive, and intentionally designed homes for our clients.
A Toast to the Next Decade
If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that Blakely is constantly evolving, and that is sure to be true for our next decade, too. We have several exciting design projects — and some business updates — in progress right now that we’re excited to share in the near future.
Until then, we wish you the happiest of holidays and a beautiful year to come.