Julia Goodwins’s perfectly accessorized San Francisco home compliments her career beautifully. As the owner of an interior design company, she has created an eclectic and inspiring space where color is a staple. As a California State University student she held several internships; she spent one summer in Long Beach with friends where she ultimately scored an internship with a residential design firm. Her bosses threw her right into the action and she was forced to learn quickly.
After graduation, Julia relocated to the Los Angeles area and worked for a design center that allowed her to make some lasting connections—many she now counts as clients. By 2008, she felt ready to make the leap out on her own as a small business owner and Julia Goodwin Design was born. Julia now calls San Francisco home; her one bedroom home also houses her business—we promise you’ll want to see how she set’s up shop in her colorful home office.
Keep reading to hear more about Julia’s approach to design, building her own company, and her advice to others who want to do the same.
Name: Julia Goodwin
Current job/company: Owner and Interior Designer, Julia Goodwin Design
Education: BA in Interior Design from California State University, Chico
During college you held a few amazing design internships—now you have your own design company! Tell us about the process of starting your own company.
Running my own company was not just a goal for me—it was a choice I made long before I ever started the company. I knew when choosing my career that I had to gain not only experience in the field, but experience that would provide access to as much as possible—allowing me to grow as a designer with no time wasted!
Of course I was scared and nervous when the time came to start my own company, but I had a great support system with my family and friends and ultimately knew I was ready. Once I officially set out on my own I networked and networked, but I also had a little bit of luck. I constantly attended events—both those that did and did not have anything to do with interior design. Surrounded by tech professional friends and family, I realized it doesn’t hurt to be the only designer in the room at functions. Often, this is the environment where I’m able to have the memorable conversation that leads to new clients.
What is the best piece of advice you have for young designers wanting to start their own company?
When running your own business (especially in the beginning) approach it as if you know you may never stop working. Do not start a business if you think it will be easier than working for an employer—I hear this way too often. Be prepared for sleepless nights and uneasy thoughts about a lack of steady income. Scary right? It’s true!
All that said, it’s a great ride if it’s your passion. You never know when you will meet your next client or what will inspire you. Keep your eyes open as well as your heart. Too often we don’t ask questions and don’t approach people enough; I encourage you to do so as your business will rely on it!
Start by making a list of all your contacts. You’ll be surprised how many true connections you have that can help you. Reach out and ask to meet for coffee and advice. Make yourself a familiar face with vendors by regularly stopping in both small boutiques as well as big box stores. They will not only help you with selections, but they will also remember to make sure you are on the invite list to events—which may help you connect with clients. These vendors are your lifelines!
Networking requires you to get out of your comfort zone—especially if you have to attend events alone or strike up conversations with strangers. It’s not easy at first, but you will make friends that share your interests and will inspire you along the way. When you work alone, it can get lonely. These friends will be there for you to help on projects, for business advice, and more.
Take us through a typical day.
Every day is different—an environment I both love and thrive in. Typically, I start my mornings at 6 a.m. by responding to emails and following up with pressing questions. Then I head out for a run or a TRX class—this is “me” time before the busy day really gets going. Back at the office I write out a to-do list to make sure I stay on task. After another check of emails and swooning over Instagram and visiting blogs, I hit the road feeling even more inspired.
I swing by job sites for progress checks, meetings with contractors, electricians, plumbers, etc. Many times I have meetings with clients and then do research stops at the design center. I also visit some of my favorite boutiques or galleries in the Bay Area. I also love it when it comes time to visit custom fabricators. There are so many talented artists in the design world and I’m lucky to be able to collaborate with them.
I try to make it back to the office where I review and update timelines, budgets, and quotes; then I’m again sending email and making calls. I aim to finish by 6 or 7 p.m. and either go out to dinner with my boyfriend or cook at home where we enjoy a glass (or two) of wine. If there is a band in town I want to see, I don’t hesitate to go. One of the perks of working for yourself is that you can typically adjust your schedule as needed. Depending on the evening, I revisit emails and try to log off by 9 p.m. I unwind with either a good book or a TV show for a good laugh. On the weekends we love to spend time outside doing something active or occasionally we just relax at the wineries.
What has been your favorite project to date? Why?
That’s a hard one! Each of my clients is different from the next. Typically by the end of the project, we become close friends. I work with busy families as well as bachelor and bachelorette clients. I’m currently working on a home for a bachelorette in San Francisco. She wants to have a space that reflects her busy city life as opposed to the traditional home she owns in Alabama. Her home here will be contemporary, yet warm and inviting and it will be perfect for entertaining her friends. It will be filled with plush yet clean lined furnishings, commissioned artwork, and custom furniture. She is fun to work with and happy to take risks with the design.
Let’s chat about your home! Do you rent or own? How long have you lived there?
I love my home! I’ve been renting my home for almost a year and half. I rent—luckily it’s spacious! I’ve lived here for about a year and a half. Built in 1908, my home is full of charm on the inside—moldings, crystal doorknobs, hardwood floors, and large windows with great views. I even have a great view out of my office!
I live in Lower Pacific Heights and I absolutely love my neighborhood. I’m right by a popular street filled with home furnishing stores and clothing boutiques, not to mention wonderful wine bars and cafes. I even get historic walking tours with 15 or more people stopping in front of my house to take pictures; I don’t blame them, San Francisco is such a beautiful city.
One of the advantages of living in a city with a great music scene is that I’m privileged to have one of the best music venues around the corner. The Fillmore is one of my very favorite music venues! If you get a chance to catch a show there, please go!
What is your design philosophy?
I strive to make every home I design innovative and accessible. I want to give my clients a functional home that’s beautifully designed around their lives and their needs. I love a good mix of both high and low items that cause my clients to forget their preconceptions of a space.
I believe that no space should be unapproachable; spaces should always reflect who lives there and should have great energy. A home should grow with you and you with it!
What are your tips for decorating on a budget?
Do your research and invest in what makes you happy. There are so many places to look for inspiration.
Some of my favorite places to shop for myself and my clients are: Zinc Details, Jonathan Adler (both stores on Fillmore Street, just a block or so away) and HD Buttercup. I work with a number of local artists that help me to create custom furnishings for my clients. Of course, I love to find a great piece at a flea market (Alameda or the Treasure Island Flea Markets) and to use it in a unique way that gives it new life. I’m a big believer in that nothing has to be forever, though I suggest investing in artwork and playing more with accessories or throw pillows.
We love the artwork in your home! Do you have specific place you like to get art?
I simply buy what I love. I keep my eyes open and collect artwork wherever I find it. It doesn’t have to be expensive; I just have to enjoy it. I love to draw and while it’s extremely personal, I’ve only recently started to put my own work on display. I have a few of my drawings of animals framed in the kitchen and some abstract pieces in the hallway. My family and friends have been extremely supportive of all my work.
What is your favorite thing about your space?
Designing a space that is for you and you alone is not something you always get to do in life. I bring in what inspires me and what I’m drawn to. I love the light that filters in through the large bay windows, the molding, and the built-in cabinets. What I think I love the most is my blue sofa—it’s where I sit with friends, host craft nights, and, most of all, relax after a crazy day!
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Ah, I would tell her so much! Most important of all, don’t make excuses and just DO IT! It’s scary to take risks, to move forward but keep reaching and never be afraid to ask for help. Trust your gut and don’t look back.
Julia Goodwin is The Everygirl…
Dream purchase for your home?
Lighting! I would love to have custom lighting throughout. That being said I dream of removing walls and rearranging the kitchen layout.
I love a mint mojito from Philz or an Americano from Saint Frank.
Perfect weekend in San Francisco?
Saturday: Sleep in, run along Crissy Field or embark on an urban hike, take my boyfriend’s dog to the park (I swear he smiles the whole time). I like to end the day by grabbing dinner at the chef’s table at SPQR (my favorite restaurant) followed by visiting a local music venue.
Sunday: Sleep in, pick up fresh produce and flowers at the Ferry Building, grab brunch with friends and relax before the busy week ahead.
I’m British—Masterpiece Theatre. Repeat.
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
If anything was possible, I’d love to be able to sit down with my mother at my age. We would sit across from each other and swap stories. We would have high tea in Oxford and the laughter would flow from there.
Media console, Target
Leather Chair, Alameda Flea Market
Area Rug, Rugs USA
Coffee Table, ZGallerie
Wood Side Table, Alameda Flea Market
Swivel Chair, Alameda Flea Market
Gold Accent Table, Target
Tray, Cost Plus World Market
Table Lamp, Target
Glassware, Homegoods and One Kings Laine, Crate & Barrel
Chanelier, West Elm
Gold Sea Urchin, Target (similar here)
Bird sketch, Julia Goodwin
Black and White Mirror, Target
Horse Shoe, DIY gold
ZZ Ward Poster, The Fillmore
Gold Dot Pillow, Anthropologie
Gold and Blue Pillow, Target
Desk, IKEA Table Top and Legs
Desk Lamp, Target
Wood Speaker, Crate & Barrel
Desk Chair, World Market
Sofa, HD Buttercup
Cow Hide, World Market
Apothecary Cabinet, Target
Tray, West Elm
Artwork Above Sofa, Union Street Fair, SF
Artwork, One Kings Lane
Dresser, childhood dresser as a DIY project
Dresser Hardware, Anthropologie
Headboard, One Kings Lane
Bedding, Pottery Barn
Pillow, West Elm
Chair, World Market
Accent Table, Alameda Flea Market
Dressers, DIY childhood dressers
Hardware, World Market
Horse Art, World Market
Area Rug, Rugs USA
Curtains, IKEA (similar here)
Table Lamps, Home Goods
Blanket, Pottery Barn (similar here)
Stools (gold and purple), Target
Rattan Stool, Thrifted