Incollect 10-18
Building big: Barclay Butera on creating a large design firm
Aug 26, 2015

Fifty staff including twenty-plus designers work for Barclay Butera’s eponymous, Los-Angeles based firm. Founding his first showroom in 1994 in Newport Beach, California, the designer has since expanded to build showrooms in Hollywood and Park City, Utah. He shares with EAL about how he evolved his business, from flipping homes in the self-described “early days” to developing noteworthy home design for residences throughout the West… and beyond.   

Building big: Barclay Butera on creating a large design firm
Butera outside his Los Angeles showroom

Tell us a bit about your firm. How many designers do you employ?
We are a full-scale high-end residential and commercial design firm that employs around 20 additional designers who work in teams. I am very blessed to have my partner Ray Langhammer who serves as my right hand and has been with me from the beginning. Fortunately, we have clients around the world who are delighted to work with my staff, who all report to Ray and myself.

Our system is flawless and it is always driven by client needs. If a client wants me, then that’s exactly what they get! Right now we have projects going in Hawaii, Park City, Sun Valley, Miami… you name it. But, make no mistake, I oversee them all. When it’s your name on the door, you bet that’s personal.

Building big: Barclay Butera on creating a large design firm
Langhammer and Butera

Describe the management structure.
Management structure depends on what part of the country we are in. We have showrooms in Newport Beach, West Hollywood and Park City. I like to give my experienced senior staff a bit of autonomy so they can crate beautiful environments for our approval here at corporate, then just go do it. We touch each and every project, and I am thrilled, honored and very proud to put my name on anything that is done out of our three showrooms.

From time to time, we do work in teams. I always have at least one or two full-time assistants who work tirelessly to coordinate my personal vision for each client project I am working on.

Your firm has a solid presence in Utah. How did you establish yourself in that market?
I went to school in Utah, so naturally I had very strong ties there. In the early days, my partner Ray and I purchased numerous properties and flipped them. We had such an incredible, overwhelmingly positive reaction to our interiors that opening a showroom and retail space there was a natural fit. I am honored to say we have had the opportunity to design many spectacular homes out West, and consider that a very important part of our business.

Building big: Barclay Butera on creating a large design firm
A recent Butera project in California

How did the firm grow? Did certain projects particularly provoke the growth?
We grew solely from word of mouth and client satisfaction and referral. In the early days it was Ray and me, and today I can say we are working on second, third, fourth and sometimes seventh homes for clients; that’s very rewarding. If there were one or two projects that put us on the map, I would have to say, in the early days, a celebrity showhouse in Bel Air really started the national press recognition. And the last Showhouse I did in the Hamptons, in 2006, paved the way for many New York projects and incredible editorials. They are still talking about that grand, blue and white beachy foyer!

Building big: Barclay Butera on creating a large design firm
A recent Butera project in Pasadena, California

What are the particular challenges of running a large firm?   
The biggest challenge has always been surrounding yourself with the best people, the brightest, most talented and most dedicated to client satisfaction are a perfect fit. If you are not interested in building our brand and a solid reputation with clients, keep walking!  

How do you decide who will make a good hire? What do you ask designers during the interview process?
I think the most important thing about a new hire, an interview, a first impression, is someone who can sell themselves. We are in a very high-stress, highly competitive business. I want to surround myself with people who are capable, competent, and self-assured. I know then I can trust them to represent me and my firm in the best possible light. I almost always ask, “Why should we hire you?” [That question] can be a deal breaker!

Building big: Barclay Butera on creating a large design firm
A recent Butera project in Park City, Utah

What are some of your current projects that are challenging?
Honestly, all projects have challenges. We are working now from Miami to Sun Valley to Hawaii and everywhere in-between. Sometimes the craziest things get in the way: old original architectural flaws, zonings, you name it.  

What does your own home look like?
A very timely question! I just recently finished a full-blown makeover of my own home and I am ecstatic with the results. As of late I have been focusing on a fresh modern approach to design; unfettered and uncluttered and very chic and clean. It’s still a very warm and comfortable environment, just with a sleeker, more tailored vibe.

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