“You can’t get all in a twist. You have to roll with it”

A hands-on Caledon interior designer gets it done from a distance.

June 25, 2020 | | Pandemic Journals

Lori McNeil-Chong quickly reimagined her interior design business as a virtual entity.

Lori McNeil-Chong quickly reimagined her interior design business as a virtual entity.

In early February, I was listening to the news and said to my assistant, “We need to get on this right away.” I knew we weren’t going to get out of this unscathed. How could we?

Even before talk of self-isolation, two women who work with me at McNeil Design Group Interiors got sick – not with Covid-19, but with the flu. Right then, we started divvying up the computers and equipment and preparing to work apart. Some have chosen not to work, and some hours have changed. You can’t get all in a twist. You have to roll with it. And we’ve rolled with it pretty well.

But thank heavens for Zoom.

We told clients we were still moving forward, but in a virtual manner. We laid out how it would work and uploaded to the website a gallery showing what our inspiration boards and renderings look like.

Typically we would have an initial meeting with the clients to hear about the project. That’s now done over Zoom. At the next meeting, we talk them through a “check measure” of the room to make sure the design fits. While they’re doing this, we’re inputting the data.

Once the concept is approved, we present it virtually with a 3D walkthrough. Ahead of time, we will have sent the client boxed samples – of tiles and countertops, fixtures and fabrics – which we’ve always done.

Zooming with clients has actually been fun. With one couple, the husband was there in the kitchen with his wife’s pink measuring tape, ready to check and measure above the window, below the window. He was so happy to do it because he was otherwise totally bored!

But it has been busy. Time chunking my calendar is important for me to get everything done. I write in prep time for videos, Zoom calls, design time, personal time. Even dinner prep and dinner time is on there. It’s a bing in the background that says it’s time to pivot.

The most challenging part of this is what I’ve put on myself. Early on I pledged daily social media updates, thinking I would be less busy. On Wednesdays I host live chats with fellow designers, and on Thursdays it’s product-knowledge sessions with suppliers.

The feedback has been wonderful. It has made people feel a little bit normal and more connected. I’m a big lover of community, and with everything going on, we’ve all got to make the best of it.


As told to Elaine Anselmi. This interview was condensed and edited.

About the Author More by Lori McNeil-Chong

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