We often talk about living life by your own design, but Caitlin Murray takes that idea literally. After evaluating her goals and aspirations, she made the big decision to leave a great job with a PR firm in Los Angeles to head back to school and devote herself to her true passion: interior design. Find out how she overcame her fears about risk and the future and started her own company, Caitlin & Caitlin, and her words of wisdom for aspiring interior designers.
Name: Caitlin Murray
Location: Los Angeles, California
Occupation: Co-founder of interior design firm, Caitlin & Caitlin
School: Indiana University, B.A. in journalism & art history and FIDM, A.A. in interior design
Secretly Obsessed With: Stalking the Instagrams of favorite bloggers
On My Nightstand: Lavender sheet spray and design books
Last Thing You Read: #GIRLBOSS
How did you get started?
Days after graduating from college, I moved to LA from Indianapolis and started working as a beauty and fashion publicist at a boutique PR firm. It was a fabulous experience, but I quickly learned it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t quell this desire to design, so with the support of my friends and family, I dropped everything and enrolled in design school at age 23…when I thought I was done being a student forever.
After graduating, I worked for some really stellar firms, including House of Honey, where I became the first project manager and learned firsthand how to operate a design company. Two years later, I felt ready to try it for myself. I quit my job, supplemented my income with random set design gigs, and launched Caitlin & Caitlin with my friend and partner, Caitlin McCarthy. It was a trying, scary time leading up to it all, but once we got our first client, we never looked back and it’s been a flourishing business ever since.
Tell us about your daily routine.
Every day is a bit different, but there’s the typical read-and-respond to all emails that have come in since I last looked, followed by checking off a to-do list for the day. I could be speed-shopping at vintage boutiques, creating mock-ups of spaces in Photoshop, shooting for our YouTube show #PrettyLittleProjects, or just following up with clients from the comfort of our downtown LA office (or my sofa in Beverly Hills). Gotta love switching it up.
What key elements played into your success?
I truly believe that I (and we) manifested this business out of blind faith. There was magic in the moments when we were launching Caitlin & Caitlin because we knew to our core we had to succeed…there was no other way. Even though I was broke, I didn’t allow myself a backup plan, and I think that’s the way it has to be. If you want something, you have to pretend it’s already yours, and then the universe pulls it to you.
What’s the best piece of advice you received?
Beyond the new-age stuff, I think it’s crucial to know how to implement, and I’ve heard this repeatedly from people I admire. I love the saying “don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” Just get it done and do even better next time, because it’s all about building and growing. Plus, perfect is subjective, and if you’re even caring about it in the first place, you’re probably the only one who’s going to notice.
What struggles did you face getting to this point?
I think I was my own worst enemy with toxic feelings of doubt and fear. When I was able to let those go, good things started happening.
Who was the biggest influence in your professional life?
My two biggest influences were my early bosses, each owners of firms I worked for. One is Bernard Brucha of MASHstudios and the other is Tamara Kaye-Honey of House of Honey. Bernard encouraged me to dream big and has always been available for happy hour or dinner mentor sessions, which I’m so grateful for. Tamara has an incredible eye and killer taste that I admire endlessly. Working for her was like interior design bootcamp, and I could never be where I am without the opportunity she gave me.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? When do you feel most successful?
I’m proud that we’ve been able to accomplish almost every wild goal we’ve set for our firm to some degree. When we first started, I just wanted to make enough money to live comfortably and fly around the country for my friends’ weddings (silly, I know!), while working for myself and doing what I loved. It once seemed impossible, but it wasn’t! Still, the biggest feeling of success comes when a client tells us they love the home or office we designed for them. Ultimately, my goal is to create beautiful spaces that make people happy just by being there.
What advice would you give to girls looking to enter your industry/space?
If you want to work independently, do not be deterred by anyone who tells you that you have to design a certain way. Create your own unique brand and pour your passion into it, because that’s how you’ll build something complete and sustainable. But first, work for someone else and soak up all of the experience you can quietly at your desk, in a position where you don’t yet have to answer to clients or figure out how to pay overhead!