Husband And Wife Use Score Advice To Build Their Design Business

Sean Solley and his wife and business partner, Katrin Boening-Solley design space. Their company, Solleydesign, specializes in what they call "user centered" solutions to existing environments. The Solleys say residential architecture need not be about making homes larger and more luxurious. Solleydesign focuses on adapting existing space to reflect the needs of the user within a client's budget.

The user - or human-centered design is widely used in Europe and Japan where space is more limited.

The couple trained as designers in Europe and have approximately twenty years of experience as design consultants. Before coming to the United States in 1999, Katrin and Sean worked for architectural practices in London, Berlin and Singapore. She is a native of Germany and he is from England. They moved to Barrington in 2000 and with help from SCORE: Counselors to America's Small Business, restructured their business as Solleydesign in 2005. Prior to this time both partners provided consultancy as sole proprietors while Sean served as an assistant professor of interior architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2005, Sean was invited to join the full time faculty of Suffolk University's New England School of Art and Design in Boston. This engagement gave the company's practice exposure to Boston's design and academic communities.

Katrin and Sean worked with SCORE counselor Paul White who helped them identify the niche market for their services in Rhode Island. He directed them toward the marine industry and suggested they use their skills in space design on boats. Solleydesign took Paul's advice and was able to obtain a contract to renovate a 34-foot Luhrs motor yacht in West Barrington. Research by the Solleys indicates many boat owners are taking a closer look at their existing vessels as opposed to buying newer models. Sean said with the motor yacht project, they looked for materials that would revive the boat's interior and also work well in the marine environment. They consider the boat project one of their most challenging to date, but are seeking additional marine work.

When they arrived in the United States, Katrin and Sean observed that, like Europe, much of the building "inventory" in Rhode Island was made up of older, pre-owned properties rather than new construction. Buyers and investors were often looking at a space for its potential, with an eye to immediate renovation, for upgrades, or expansions.

This prospect is often daunting to many homebuyers, especially when they are unfamiliar with the design process and unsure of a resource that will help them through the decision making "minefield."

Katrin and Sean set out to create a more transparent, client-centered approach. Their strategy is to eliminate guess work and economize on labor and material costs.

Their design process defines the client's goals and translates these into action steps. This means that contractors or consultants can accurately define the scope and cost of their own services. By eliminating the guess work associated with these transactions clients can make decisions faster and ultimately invest more wisely in their projects. This methodology enables Solleydesign's clients to do it once and do it well.

The Solleys believe the current volatile economic climate will place great value on smarter, solutions-oriented design. Solleydesign has sought to maintain slow but steady growth in order to provide a design resource for property and business owners seeking to optimize the space they use.

The U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE: Counselors to America's Small Business presented the 2009 Joseph G.E. Knight Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence to Katrin and Sean Solley, owners of Solleydesign in Barrington.