Networking Comes to the Field of Design

Mix & Match Design Company uses the power of the Internet to bring professional design services within reach of just about everyone.

Mix & Match Design worked with a Malvern couple to turn an empty apartment bedroom into a charming rustic space. By doing the furniture-buying themselves based on Charney Widmer's list of items, they saved a bundle. | Photo: Mix & Match Design

Mix & Match Design worked with a Newtown Square couple to turn an empty apartment bedroom into a charming rustic space. By doing the furniture-buying themselves based on Chaney Widmer’s list of items, they saved a bundle. | Photo: Mix & Match Design

One of the great blessings networked computing brings us is the ability to do our work from just about anywhere.

Medical professional Chaney Widmer realized that early on when she decided to give her interest in interior design room to roam on the side. Then, as friends began asking her if she could help answer their design questions, she realized something else: networked computing makes it possible to work with just about anyone, no matter where they might be.

Put the two insights together and you get the business Widmer left the healthcare field to launch, Mix & Match Design Company.

Her firm’s product: Affordable interior design for the rest of us.

Widmer refers to her concept as “e-design,” and it differs from traditional interior design services in two significant ways. First, thanks to that networking technology, she and her clients never meet in person; everything’s handled electronically, from the first photos of the room in need of design to her recommendations. Second, and equally important, is that her services come bundled for a single low price.

“What I do is charge a flat fee per room, so you know up front what the fees are,” she said. (That fee is a modest $300.) “You send me floor plans, pictures of your space and pictures of any pieces you plan on keeping.”

Then comes a process akin to online dating, in which clients answer a bunch of questions that help Widmer understand what sort of result they desire and their budget constraints.

“Then we work together through consultation and conversation to come up with design plans, and I come up with a list of pieces they can buy,” she said. “They can then buy the items as their budget allows.

“I go hands-off at the end — I give them the floor plans and the tools they need to put everything together.”

And that’s what makes Mix & Match’s e-design service affordable. It also makes it modular, which means potential repeat business for her. After finishing one room, a client can come back for another as their circumstances allow.

What makes e-design work is its combination of professional know-how and do-it-yourself initiative, and it’s partly a response to the explosion of design-oriented media. “I think that with the rise of Pinterest and HGTV and Medium and places where people can see all these pretty things, [some people] may not go to interior designers because they think they’re too expensive,” Widmer said.

Widmer first got the idea that she might be good at running an interior design business when she and her husband were living in her native Arlington, Va.

“Prior to starting my business, I’d been writing a design blog for about four years, pursuing it as a side gig,” she said. “Then friends and family started asking me if I could help design their own homes, so I did, and I did so on the side while working my day job as a genetic counselor.”

Then her husband enrolled in a graduate degree program in Philadelphia. With the move, she gave herself permission to break free from her former line of work.

“I wasn’t leaving a job I hated,” she said. “It was more of a push-pull. I decided I’d see if I could do this full-time for a while.”

That was in July of last year. Since then, she said, “it’s been great. I’ve been busy working with clients all over the country.”

So far, she has worked with 30 clients to help them live more beautifully for less. “I’m going for the ‘everyman,’ letting them know they can make their homes into something they love without spending a lot of money.”

For more information about Mix & Match and its services, visit the company website.

Follow Sandy Smith on Twitter.

Updated Jan. 17, 11:36 a.m., to correct the location of the apartment in the photo.