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Chandler couple created successful interior design business by avoiding this 2-letter word

Arizona Republic 4/7/2022 Georgann Yara

Sometimes, the inability to say “no” is a problem. 

But for D&R Design owners Ronda and Devin Lish, always responding affirmatively was far from an obstacle, especially when getting their Chandler-based interior design firm off the ground in 2017. 

The husband-and-wife business owners started by crafting rolling barn doors and custom wood furniture, with Devin building the pieces and Ronda doing the marketing and selling. 

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It didn’t take long for clients to want more — and ask for it. The project requests included kitchens and bathrooms that required more heavy lifting and custom creations. Recognizing the pattern, the couple got their general contractor license.

“We never said ‘no’ to anything,” Ronda said. “It organically evolved into something we never expected.” 

D&R took on their first kitchen job in 2018. It served as a big leap and learning curve, but they adjusted fast and word of mouth took care of the rest. 

“We were fortunate to have someone who trusted us even though we hadn’t done it before,” Ronda said.

Devin’s talent and skill for carpentry coupled with Ronda’s sales and marketing experience and passion for interior design — which she did as a side gig for 10 years — has resulted in a handy combination in the home space.

“We offer that design element so people don’t have to work with a contractor and a designer. We’re a one-stop-shop, which sets us apart,” Ronda said. 

This has proven successful. During their first year, the Lishes did just one or two projects a month, Ronda said. In 2021, they did 125 for the year. 

The Lishes’ small family business is part of a U.S interior design industry that was worth $40.7 billion in 2020, according to market research firm Reportlinker. It’s also part of a global market that was worth $121 billion in 2021, according to Statista.

Bathroom remodels soar in pandemic 

From their first jobs, the Lishes never slowed down. Like other small companies, D&R was affected by the pandemic. But, fortunately, in a good way.

With people spending more time at home from day to night, many wanted and needed a change of scenery. Primary bathrooms were the top job followed closely by kitchens, Ronda said. Replacing standard tubs that came with the house with freestanding bathtubs and re-gutting of kitchens were among the projects that kept the couple busy. 

Creating a functional home office, however, was also a common request. They were often working with space constraints — like transforming a guest bedroom or transitional space — and Devin built custom pieces like file cabinets, drawers and desks. 

“Everybody was trying to adapt to new surroundings,” Ronda said. 

Kristen Bond first hired the firm five years ago to build the custom table that sits behind her sofa. After a long, fruitless search for just the right table, she met Ronda, who said Devin could build one to suit her needs.

So when Bond wanted to turn the little used formal dining room in her Mesa home into an office with a specialized desk to accommodate her work, she knew who to call. 

Bond needed furnishings that accommodate her hobby and side gig of signage and T-shirt design. Devin built her a wooden custom desk that allows access to while hiding a 32-inch wide vinyl cutter, and areas within it to hold 30-inch rolls of vinyl. He also built a bench that doubles as storage. 

Other pieces include a dog kennel that looks like a piece of luxury furniture. Composed of elegant wood, a special metal grate serves as the front door so her pup can look in and out.

They also were responsible for remodeling their Sedona home so they could turn it into a vacation rental. And this month, they will start remodeling their Mesa master bathroom. 

Bond called Devin’s work “amazing.” She foresees many more projects on the horizon. 

“When it comes down to it, it’s the communication they have with us as we are going through a project,” Bond said. “They have this ability to take my insane ideas and put them into proper use and make them look beautiful.”

A partnership that works

Before they started their firm, Ronda was in sales and Devin was in industrial construction, building power plants across the country.

Devin’s job required a lot of travel, which eventually was overwhelming. They decided they needed a career where he could spend more time at home. D&R was born.

“He has a God-given talent for carpentry,” Ronda said of her husband of five years. 

Even though their company has grown and services expanded, Devin continues to do nearly all the custom pieces himself. Ronda handles much of the behind-the-scenes duties including scheduling, ordering materials and everything else that’s needed. And while some husband-wife business partnerships can create stress, that is far from the case with the Lishes. 

“We work very well together and that’s what makes this work,” she said. 

Ronda’s favorite room is the kitchen. Seeing a complete transformation into a new space and ultra cool elements like a backsplash that soars up to the ceiling, a custom hood and under-cabinet lighting. 

But every project, regardless of room or function, brings special fulfillment. 

“Just helping bring people’s dreams to life, we feel very fortunate that they select us to complete their visions,” Ronda said. “We feel very blessed.” 

What: D&R Design 

Where: 3400 N. Arizona Ave., Suite #109, Chandler

Employees: Four

Factoid: The global interior design industry was worth $121 billion in 2021, according to Statista. 

Details: 480-395-1509, dandrdesignaz.com

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Chandler couple created successful interior design business by avoiding this 2-letter word

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