Career Profiles

Interior Designer Kaylan Kane


Kaylan Kane knows a thing or two about testing the waters before finding the right career fit post-college. From real estate staging to design consulting to managing a showroom, Kaylan has had experience in a wide array of jobs. And it’s this experience that Kaylan partially attributes to her success as an interior designer now. As Kaylan told us, “I think architecture, design, construction, and real estate all go hand and hand. I am so lucky to know a bit about all parts of the process. I think it really helps me understand and communicate to everyone involved.”

In 2008 Kaylan created and founded Olive Juice as a creative outlet for interior design, food, clothing, and lifestyle. Since its original inception, her company has grown into a full service interiors studio offering design consultation, E-design, and furniture refinishing. Kaylan strives to create fresh spaces for her clients with unexpected accessories, and her refurbished furniture adds a certain spice into the mix. She has even been able to check off a life dream: Kaylan did a live interview about Olive Juice with tips on how to refurbish furniture on Fox News!

Kaylan had us at, “This is when I realized everything is possible if you just ask for it and make sure you take advantage of all opportunities offered to you.” Kaylan is living proof that embracing change, taking chances, and saying yes can get you everywhere. Read on to find out how this designer went from working sales floors to becoming her own boss, and the advice Kaylan has for those who want to start their own business. You’ll be inspired, just as we were! 

Full name: Kaylan Malleen Kane
Age: 30
Current title/company: Interior Designer at Olive Juice
Educational background: Bachelors Degree in Fine Arts & Interior Design with a minor in Textiles

What was your first job out of college and how did you land it?
The summer after college I worked for a small interior design firm and retail shop in Lakeside, Michigan (a beach community an hour away from Chicago). The firm was called “It’s A Breeze,” and it truly was a breeze! The laid back atmosphere of the shop was so much fun for a summer. We sold everything from Rachel Ashwell down stuffed sofas with slipcovers to Michael Aram accessories and everything in between. While working there I realized interior design was exactly what I wanted to do, but on a bigger scale and in the windy city. I worked there for a summer before I moved from Michigan to Chicago.

After moving to Chicago you first worked at Hinson & Company and then with Osborne & Little, a leading name in fabric and wallpaper design. What lessons did you learn from these two jobs?
When I moved to Chicago an acquaintance of mine helped me get a job in Merchandise Mart where I worked at Hinson and then Osborne & Little. These textile lines are amazing companies to work for! I learned so much about the industry and fabric. I think in the beginning I was shocked how much everything cost! Leading textile lines have the freshest designs and the best fabrics, but everything comes at a price. I think most people react when they hear silk velvet costs $300 a yard at the trade price, but then after working in the industry for a bit that seems like a standard price point. It takes a lot of education and experience with fabrics to know how they will perform, and how to use them in application. In addition to getting accustomed to high price points I also learned about color schemes, what a rub count is, and fabric contents. Before I worked at the mart I thought a Martindale Test was something lawyers took.

As a result of the relationships you developed in the design community, you landed a position as a design associate with Et Anleer Designs. What did you learn? Anything that you continue to use as an interior designer today?
I left my secure Mart job to work for two interior designers (each part time). I think working as an independent contractor I learned the most. I learned how to hustle, think on my feet, problem solve, manage my time, keep a daily log, and I had to become a self-starter. I think design assisting is harder than running your own practice because you make no money, have to do all the leg work, and have to be one step ahead of your boss. One of the designers I worked for taught me how to make lists and keep dated notes for projects. I still make prioritized lists the same exact way with little check boxes.

In December 2008, while working at Et Anleer Designs, you created Olive Juice, a Chicago-based interior design business. What inspired you to open your own business?
During 2008 the economy and the housing industry took a turn for the worst. I started doing staging for a small real estate company and local banks, started blogging, and giving interior style tips to friends. Slowly I had a few design consultation jobs and needed a license to grow the business I had. That’s when Olive Juice started to become an official business. I wanted to start something that had my own voice and vision.

Today Olive Juice specializes in selling refurbished finds as well as interior services such as design consultation, full service interior design, and E-Design. How has the business grown over the past five years?
I started this business as my passion, hobby, and really an outlet for creativity. I started with a small Etsy shop where I sold antiques, reupholstered chairs, and anything brass. I slowly started selling quite a bit of furniture all over the country. I also started lending design advice to friends and family, and then that too slowly started to take off. Friends started referring me to their friends and news traveled fast. In the past five years I have grown the web presence, brought the E-commerce to my site, and have started doing large design projects. I went from having one or two small design consulting jobs to gaining entire homes and apartment gut jobs from top to bottom. 

I work with a lot of clients who are in their mid thirties to early forties (people just like me). I try to think about what I would want to buy and why, then I work on educating the clients and weighing all the options with them such as quality, price, and lead times. Today people are into doing DIY and shopping online. I believe our design industry is moving in a new direction with younger consumers who see things on home improvement shows and One Kings Lane. It’s important to work with clients using these new tools and expect people want a deal, instead of trying to fight it. I know a lot of designers despise HGTV, but I think it has made people much more aware of how important it is to make our home environments as wonderful as possible. I love it when a client already knows what bead board is because they saw it on a show like Property Brothers.

What are your interior design responsibilities at Olive Juice?
As an interior designer I think I do a little bit of everything. Small residential designers are responsible for so much these days. People think designers just pick out wonderful things (and we do), but we are also responsible for every little thing that goes on with interiors. I specify hard finishes such as build-outs, lighting, tile, paint, flooring, plumbing, cabinets, built-ins, wall coverings, and everything in between. I also specify soft finishes such as window treatments, rugs, furniture, pillows, and accessories.

This is when I realized everything is possible if you just ask for it and make sure you take advantage of all opportunities offered to you.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my work is making beautiful things and spaces for people. I am always so grateful and happy when people really like something I created. I also really enjoy working with my clients. Most of them feel like friends at the end of our project.

You have quite a diverse career background in design: real estate staging, a design associate and a design consultant, a sales associate, and a showroom manager. How do you think these experiences have shaped you as an interior designer?
There are only so many things to do with a house: design it, build it, decorate it, live in it, and then sell it. I think architecture, design, construction, and real estate all go hand and hand. I am so lucky to know a bit about all parts of the process. I think it really helps me understand and communicate to everyone involved. I am always thinking about resale value, budget, and design.

I think home design is in my blood. My mother was an antiques dealer and my father was a general contractor who built second homes in New Buffalo, MI. I know more about the building and refurbishing process than I care to tell!

It wasn’t until you went on a study abroad trip to London that you discovered your passion for interior design. Tell us about your year abroad! 
I studied abroad in London for a year during my sophomore year of college. I took classes on fashion history, visual merchandising, and textiles. It was definitely the best year of my college career. When I returned to Michigan after studying abroad I was changed. Traveling and living in Europe really opened my eyes to the huge world we live in. A few of my classmates in London would compare European museums to the MOMA in New York and I had no idea what the comparison was because I had never been. So, I wrote a grant to visit MOMA through my art program. I never thought I would get the grant because it seemed like a crazy idea to be awarded money for what I was proposing. However, I was awarded $1,500 to visit MOMA in NYC. This is when I realized everything is possible if you just ask for it and make sure you take advantage of all opportunities offered to you.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome them?
I think when you are a young entrepreneur people tend to not take you seriously, especially if you are young and female. So it’s important to prove yourself! I think it is easy to get discouraged by the naysayers, but if you are talented, work hard, and are a good person you can achieve your goals. As corny as it sounds, one thing to remember is not to give up!

What advice can you give readers who want to start their own businesses?
When you first start your own business I think you have to focus on the end goal and take every opportunity that comes your way, even if it is something as little as answering an email. Some things will seem beneath you or a waste of time, but it all comes back to you, so remember to just say YES and take some risks.

Your home is full of color and personal details that reflect your design aesthetic. Tell us about the decorating process! What are your favorite pieces in your home?
My home is a space that is always changing, evolving, and rotating. I sell antiques to clients and friends so often pieces seem to come home with me for a few weeks then go to the shop or to a client’s home. I have never been afraid of color! I know right now everyone is into grey tones, but I think there will be a point (in the near future) that we will all tire of grey and we will be ready for the next color trend and hopefully that trend is a lot brighter!

My favorite thing about my home is the gallery wall above the fireplace. It was difficult to install on a 13′ high wall so it is one of the pieces that never changes and remains constant in my home. It is also a great blend of art and styles. In fact, my husband snuck a Walter Payton photograph into the mix and we made it work!

This is when I realized everything is possible if you just ask for it and make sure you take advantage of all opportunities offered to you.

What is a typical workday like for you?
I start my day by walking my dog, Coco, and looking at emails on my phone. Large amounts of coffee are consumed, then I spend a few minutes answering emails or making calls. The main chunk of the day is spent running around the city, going to project installs, stone yards, client meetings, the Merchandise Mart, and sometimes making time to pick through a few thrift stores for antiques. I always eat dinner with my husband, Jack, work on the computer for a few more hours, sneak in some Pinterest, and head to bed to do it all again the next day.

Best moment of your career so far?
I recently did a live interview for Olive Juice with Fox News on live television and just loved it! It was an adrenaline rush! It was probably the closest thing to living out my childhood dream of being on Saturday Night Live that I will ever get.

What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self?
Guys are immature! Don’t spend too much time analyzing.
Every Irish bar in Chicago is just like the other, and there is no need to explore them all.
Believe in your vision, and don’t apologize for having an opinion.

Kaylan Kane is The Everygirl…

Favorite way to unwind?
Taking Coco to North Avenue Beach.

Best advice you’ve ever received?
Travel often, and drink good wine!

Morning or night?
I’m a night owl.

If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
Iris Apfel, champagne, and chocolate covered strawberries.

Aidan or Big?
Both 🙂