Even the name “Dynasty Design” conjures up opulent visuals, vaulted ceilings, metallic finishes and elegant accessories. Owner, Nancy Lusk, understands the importance of creating a look, an ambience and a distinctive signature in a home or business.
In addition to catering to dozens of upscale residential clients each year, Lusk has also served as a designer for a number of medical and professional offices. She first came to Colorado Springs from Texas in 1980, and works with clients often even after they leave the Pikes Peak region. Recently, she was called to Las Vegas where she handled “build-up” design work for a residential client – often shipping items directly from the manufacturer to enable her customers to see potential purchases in their home.
“That’s one of the things that sets me apart from many other designers,” Lusk says. “We ship out so much merchandise on spec – and encourage the owner to make decisions based on the way a dresser or mirror looks in the home. I never force my ideas on my clients (who Lusk admits often become good friends),” she says. Testimony to that philosophy comes from one Broadmoor Resort Community client who recently built a 14,000-square-foot home that Lusk was asked to decorate. “We took over as much as $200,000 worth of art objects, chandeliers and fixtures for them to review – including Swarkowski crystal door knobs and bathroom appointments. The client basically accepted all my recommendations. Of course, we both come from Texas.”
Currently, Dynasty Design is responsible for work on ten projects – at least half of which involve new construction. “My temptation is to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity, but then I can’t do a good job for my customers,” she said. Lusk recently had to turn down design work for a 24,000-square-foot residence. The owner is a homebuilder. “I hated to do it,” admitted Lusk, “but my time was already committed to other jobs.”
Fortunately, the high-energy designer continues to attract upscale clients who can appreciate her busy schedule. Over the past three years, Dynasty Design has won three MAME awards, presented by the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs. Not only does Lusk work with new home and remodel clients in Kissing Camels, Monument, the Broadmoor Resort Community and Gleneagle – but she exports her talents to Texas, Phoenix and Las Vegas as well.
The business of interior decorating includes keeping a stable of highly-skilled artisans, painters and delivery folks that can be called upon as needed. A former furniture sales representative for Homestead House and freelancer for American Furniture Galleries for more than twenty years, Nancy Lusk has also developed broad furniture industry contacts that enable her to access just the right piece for each client’s needs. Ginny George, a Dynasty Design retail employee for the past four years says her employer also makes buying trips to markets in Dallas, Atlanta, High Point, North Carolina, and even Denver on behalf of her clients.
Lusk’s most frequent request is for window coverings and for color schemes and paint recommendations. Even for out-of-state clients, Lusk will fly in with her drapery installer, take measurements, and then return later for installation. The operation is full-service – and Lusk keeps her own schedule. As George says, “She understands all the moving parts of the business like no one else.”
The Colorado Springs businesswoman has operated a retail accessory store on 8th Street for more than four years. Recent health problems require that she sell all inventory and transition back to full-time consulting. “My customers have asked me not to give up the retail business – and I will miss it,” says Lusk, noting that last year her 3,200-square-foot store generated more than $800,000 in revenues. She also operated a retail store in Phoenix but closed it in order to focus her energies closer to home.
While in Phoenix, Lusk did budget $80,000 to $90,000 for advertising annually – but says she has spent far less in Colorado Springs. “Word of mouth referrals and a good store location have done my marketing for me,” she said. “The recession really hasn’t affected our business yet this year. It could be that our clients started with us before the economy turned.” Whatever the case, Lusk’s design plate is full.
So how did this enterprising woman first enter the highly competitive field of interior design? Interestingly, the business seems to have found Lusk. “My family was very poor – so poor that other poor folks called us ‘poor’,” she recalls. By sixteen years of age, she had discovered her passion for creating visually-interesting environments and was asked by members of her church to help with their home decorating projects. “Even though we had an outhouse when I was growing up,” she said, “I insisted that it be white-washed and have a window.” Eventually, Lusk attended and graduated from interior design school in Richardson, Texas, and was soon on her way to a lifetime career.
As far as future plans, Lusk hasn’t had time to reflect on next steps. In the process of closing her retail shop and consolidating her efforts to focus on design clients, she looks forward to streamlining her operation. Rent on the store and additional warehouse space and payroll have been her biggest business expenses – and those will be cut back with her shift back to design consulting. With her daughter, Dana, working as general manager, Lusk feels confident that she has the support she needs to move on.
When asked about advice she’d give to new designers trying to break into the market, Lusk suggests that they spend time in retail sales. “You’ll find out if you like the business or not – and you’ll learn the importance of customer service,” she says. “I’d also suggest that you try to finance your business as you go. I never borrowed from the bank and started out with a $50,000 investment.” Considering that this dynamic woman grossed more than one million dollars last year, her advice might be worth taking.