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Meet Barbara Elza Hirsch of Elza B. Design in Concord

Today we’d like to introduce you to Barbara Elza Hirsch.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I spent my childhood in Europe and Washington D.C., and remember being put to sleep by the rhythmic sound of my mother’s sewing machine, the sound of scissors cutting traced patterns on the hardwood floors, and later, picking up the colorful discarded fabric cuttings to create my own projects. As a child I dreamt of writing and illustrating books, and later, as a teenager, becoming a psychologist or designing chic designer clothes.

I moved to Paris as a young adult, where I studied Graphic Design at the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Graphiques (E.S.A.G- Atelier Met de Penninghen) and obtained my diploma as a Fashion Designer and illustrator at the renowned Studio Berçot in Paris, France. In addition, I took classes with the Parson’s School of Design branch in Paris. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy working for the fashion industry, finding it very catty, and ended up going to the Sorbonne Nouvelle for a Comparative Literature BA degree. I was searching myself, and wanted to blend a strong art background with a passion for books, possibly working as a publisher. Fast forward a few years, and after a few stints as a translator, marketing director and VP for a small French book distribution in Washington DC, my family and I moved to Boston. I knew no one and with 2 young children in tow, was feeling the pull for something creative. Friends and family always counted on my sense of style and color for their interior dilemmas, so I figured what better way to start a business with a baby at home? In 2007, I sent out a mass email to folks in my community, offering them dirt cheap “beginner” design services. The rest is history. Quickly I realized I had a knack for this and became very successful. How did I get there? Working very hard and in a passionate and driven manner, allowed me to grow, while I made sure to learn everything I could on the topic. I learned the hard way to use professional photography only, taught myself CAD in a hand wringing 18 hour session (tears were poured), build my own website, and hired professionals to surround me as soon as I could. The approach could be described in this great quote by Teddy Roosevelt: keep your feet firmly on the ground and your eyes on the stars!

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Getting established with no connections, learning everything from scratch, and learning to deal with difficult situations are some of the struggles I encountered. It can be exhausting to juggle a business with no experience in its industry. I surrounded myself with very talented craftspeople, good babysitters along the way and held on tight for the ride. My husband fully supported my desire to succeed and I am grateful for that.

One of the struggles I encountered was that moment where you have numerous clients, are working day and night, juggling loads of orders and paperwork and have no funds yet to hire staff! First thing I did when I could was to hire a bookkeeper, best decision I ever made!

Another struggle was feeling very isolated in the design community. Being a newcomer to the New England culture and the world of interior design was difficult. I started blogging and traveling and found friendship and support in fellow designers through that medium. It is important to support each other in this industry as it can be exhausting work.

I learned the hard way not to sell myself short, or give out ideas to potential clients without being paid for them.

I learned to invest in excellent photography as photographing interiors is an art and I was highly untrained in that department.

What kept me going was my passion in creating beautiful environments for my clients, and the fact that I enjoyed research tremendously as well as reinventing myself.

Please tell us about Elza B. Design.
I am an interior designer and Principal at a small Interior Design Studio, and our goal is to interface directly with the clients. Working with an interior designer is a very intimate, long term process, and it is important to build trust with your clients. I specialize in Residential Interiors, and am known for a great sense of color and elegant simplicity. I am most proud I built my company on my own, launching at a terrible time in the American financial history, and always seeing my firm as a work in progress. We always strive to learn from our mistakes and our goal is HAPPY clients!

What sets me apart is my multicultural background, and the conviction that different pieces can coexist in harmony. In France, we are not afraid to mix old with new, and I enjoy that. I like to build my interiors like a painting, each layer adding to the grand picture, and am a huge proponent of using art to personalize your space. I am very good at sourcing art and enjoy collaborating with local galleries or artists.

Recently I had a fabulous opportunity to collaborate with Dowel Furniture to create a furniture line “the Barbara Elza Hirsch Collection” for Dowel Furniture. I embraced my heritage to create timeless, unique and colorful pieces, using interesting fabrics with eye-catching patterns and whimsical trims. Creating a collection was very similar to creating a clothing collection, and I thoroughly enjoyed the process.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
I would have become an interior designer much younger! But I’m not sure I would have had the tenacity and wisdom that came with starting later in life. Designing is a complex business: creative, yes, but one also has to use psychology, communication, business, organizational and research skills. I learned so much in past positions and feel all of them contributed to making me who I am now.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Rosemary Fletcher, Jared Kuzia, Ben Gebo, Greg Premru

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