Light and Dwell is a full-service residential design studio with a project portfolio that spans the U.S.
Centered around an intentional and elevated aesthetic, the studio’s tried-and-true process is the product of years of dedicated work.
As the studio’s portfolio has grown, so too has their team and processes. To meet the demands of a nationwide book of business and 100% distributed workforce, Light and Dwell became a Gather customer in 2020. Today, all of the team members use Gather on a daily basis.
“Our business was small, just my business partner and I doing a lot of consultations, light furniture and styling, light renovations. Over time, the scale of responsibilities has rapidly grown. Now we’re juggling more than thirty projects at a time.”
Molly Kidd, Principal Designer, and Aymee Kuhlman, Director / Co-Founder
Though Aymee Kuhlman, CEO of Light and Dwell, and her team now use Gather daily, things were different just a few years ago. “Because we were still a small team, managing a few light projects at a time, a combination of Google spreadsheets and back-and-forth emails was enough,” says Kuhlman. “As we started taking on more projects, in more locations—and as we hired more staff—we needed some kind of a system to help us manage everything.”
By everything, Kuhlman refers to the clients, builders, procurement team, and billing involved with each project. Not to mention all of the samples, selections, and budgets. “It'd be a lot of emails back and forth, for one thing. A lot of like, okay, send us a list of what you want a replacement for. And then we would go in and replace it and then send a revised product list, scrub the spreadsheet. It was very clunky and mostly handled over email.”
Not only did this process require a lot of manual tinkering, but Kuhlman’s team found it difficult to collaborate with clients. Specifically, they didn’t have a clean way to strike the right balance between all of the project details and what the client actually needed to see. “You just can't really get that on a spreadsheet,” says Kuhlman. “It didn’t lend well to the level of collaboration we wanted for our clients.”
Finally, the Light and Dwell team needed a system capable of supporting their distributed workforce. On a given day, the Light and Dwell team has nearly a dozen team members checking in from all over the country. Likewise, the studio’s projects are nationwide. Without a cloud-based tool—one place for everyone to collaborate on every aspect of each project—they risked burning the team out and degrading the client experience.
Early in this growth phase, the Light and Dwell team got a tip about Gather from their friends at Studio McGee. Now, Kuhlman and her colleagues use Gather for all inter-team communication and project management.
"Gather has had a tremendous impact on our designs,” says Molly Kidd, Principal Designer. “It allows me to review designers' work, give feedback, and ensure we're not missing any crucial elements to the design. It has also helped in how we communicate with clients."
“It’s one place for pretty much everything,” says Kuhlman. “Feedback on designs before they go out to clients. Billing, ops, and management of the install. “We put all of our drawings in there for projects, specs for the plumber and electrician. You name it.”
In thinking of the ways this centralized experience helps the team scale, Kuhlman points to three aspects of Gather in particular.
“We always invite the builder to the projects. With Gather, we’re able to spin up one project for the build, and then one for just the furniture,” says Kuhlman. “We only invite builders to the build project, where we have all of our technical drawings and cabinetry layouts, and then all the materials for the build.”
This way, builders only see what they need to see, verify product standards, and agree to move to the next step. “It helps us reduce liability significantly, because builder due diligence is built right into the process.
With respect to selections, the process has become much more collaborative with Gather. The Light and Dwell team sources everything for each project and then uses Gather to present the proposed items to the client for approval or rejection.
“Once we have all their feedback, then we go and we revise the design and iterate until we’ve got all the selections buttoned up,” says Kuhlman. “It's a really tidy way to collaborate on selections, cover our bases, and reduce liability across the board."
Gather is also the main tool that the team uses for ordering. “If we're going to order 500 items for one project, then we have to have a really dialed system that we can export into a spreadsheet, or export into PO's to work with our vendors,” says Kuhlman.
This is the only way for the team to make sure everything is ordered, tracked, and received across the entire project portfolio. “We do all that in Gather and then our clients can view that and see up to date information about where their items are. And what's delayed? It just cuts down a lot of anxiety and unnecessary communication.”
As it turns out, the timing for finding Gather couldn’t have been better. Since then, the Light and Dwell team has grown from two team members (Kuhlman and her co-founder, Molly Kidd) to eleven. They’re portfolio has mushroomed, too. To date, they’ve collaborated with more than fifty clients using Gather, with 20+ projects active in the system right now. Those projects are spread out across the United States, as is the Light and Dwell team, which uses Gather as its main hub of tracking and communication.
“We’re more organized across the board, from communication and sample approval, to specs for builders and pricing notes,” says Kuhlman. “In short order, we can look at the project, see where we’re at and what’s missing, without having to sort through a drive or sift through a spreadsheet.”
Kuhlman emphasizes the key role that Gather has had in helping Light and Dwell rapidly scale its design business. In her estimate, the tool alone has helped her team quadruple its capacity. Which is great news for a studio that’s gaining some serious steam.
“Our clientele, builders, even the new designers we decide to bring on—they all want to work with somebody who's organized. Somebody who’s not only committed to exceptional service and elevated design, but has a system and a process in place to back it up,” says Kuhlman. “Gather checks all of those boxes and then some.”