Dallas native and founder of The Design Quad, Nikki Giovanni Watson, has built an impressive home design, staging and construction empire in Dallas and Atlanta. Originally from Pleasant Grove, Nikki’s astounding story of how she transitioned from scratching the surface of the design industry to exponentially expanding her passion, is truly inspirational. From the 2022 Best Interior Designer in Dallas award to features on HGTV, one of hottest home improvement and real estate television networks, The Design Quad is the leading home design destination for your creative needs.
SDM – You are dominating the home staging, interior decorating and design industries with your talents and gifts! How did this start, take us back to the beginning?
Nikki – I started as a flooring salesperson in the real estate industry and then I met a home stager and was amazed at what he did. He took me to his warehouse and I was impressed. Aisles of pillows and artwork, it looked like a retail store. Shortly after this, he packed his business up and moved out of state for religious reasons and the realtors in the area needed a home stager. I volunteered to help, with no formal experience other than helping my family and friends decorate their homes. I figured it couldn’t be much harder. The creator of staging, Barb Schwarz, had a book on Amazon for $20. I ordered the used version for $4 and started advertising. Shortly after, I got my first call to give an estimate for an investor eight miles away from my house. My ex-husband had control of our finances at the time, so I asked him for $10 for gas money to get to the appointment. He said “No” and “this would be a waste of time and it wouldn’t be successful”. I called my mom and she wired me the $10 via Western Union. I was hired by that investor and that is how my company started.
SDM – Thankfully your mom supported you and your opportunities aligned perfectly! Fast forwarding to today, how did you become the largest home staging business in the nation and what differentiates you from the others?
Nikki – My business model is much different than other companies like mine. When I started my company my twin girls were in college. I didn’t need to make a lot of money on each job. My pricing is a flat rate until the property sells because I own all 325 pieces of furniture in my inventory. We are popular with investors because they don’t like to be bothered with monthly rental fees. We became the largest company in the nation because of the way I market my company and our business model.
SDM – You landed a role with HGTV network, one of my absolute favorite television networks! How did this occur and how has this impacted your business?
Nikki – The hosts of the show “Buy It or Build It”, Chris and Calvin Lamont, are my clients. They called me and said they were going to be on an HGTV show and they wanted me to be on the show. At first, I thought it was a joke because they are jokesters. The network called about a week later to send me contracts and I almost screamed. We did the entire season of “Buy It or Build It”, and during the same summer we were on two episodes of another show on HGTV called “Flip to a Million”. We get calls all the time from clients saying they saw us on TV. Business has increased for us because of the visibility on the show.
SDM – You are walking in your purpose, mastered the home staging and interior decorating game and now you are building houses. How did you venture into new construction?
Nikki – When I started making a few dollars more than bill money, I started looking for ways to invest. I wasn’t interested in doing renovations because I have heard horror stories about investors losing money with unexpected costs, so I have always been afraid of that. My cousin Ryan has been a builder for over 20 years and he wanted to partner with me on some new builds. He taught me how to build my first two properties and then I went on to build a couple more alone. I love new construction and I believe it will be my next career.
SDM – Labor and materials were a major factor in the production of homes when the pandemic hit. Have you encountered any challenges finding labor or materials? If so, how are you dealing with this?
Nikki – There were so many price hikes during the pandemic because it was hard to get materials to their destinations. I started building my first house in March 2020. We completed it the last week of May. I learned that if you know an item will take longer to get because of shipping delays, get an alternative product up front. For example, windows take 6 – 8 weeks to order and sometimes those estimates aren’t accurate. So, I will have my architect include regular sized windows that I can get from anywhere. Home Depot, Lowes or any construction supply. This keeps delays at a minimum. Fortunately, most materials are leveling out in price and availability.
SDM – You have a dynamic project underway with Blair Underwood in Greenville, Texas. Can you tell us more about the project?
Nikki – I am building a community in Greenville called Legacy Estates. Thirteen one-acre properties starting at $699,000. Blair Underwood has a luxury kitchen and bath line called BU Home Design, and my community will be the model for his line. We are excited to be a part of this kickoff and a few other partnerships are in the works. He’s not only and amazing actor, but a savvy businessman.
SDM – There are a large number of new home construction sites underway in DFW, which is reflective of the metroplex’s growth. As a homebuilder, in your opinion, why is DFW a hot real estate market?
Nikki – DFW is the absolute best market to invest in, in any capacity! We have continuous growth, and our area leaders are intentional about attracting large companies to move here. New companies result in their employees needing to purchase homes. DFW has always been a place to travel to for business, but now we are also becoming a place where people travel for attractions. With PGA headquarters and Universal Studios coming to the area, we are going to see even more growth in our area, and I don’t see it slowing down.
SDM – The Design Quad not only builds community homes, but also specializes in custom homes for clients, flooring and remodeling. Can you tell us more about this?
Our flooring department started when I left the flooring company and my realtor clients continued to call me about floors. At first, I would try to redirect them, but they didn’t trust anyone with their clients.
Nikki – So, I started a flooring sales and installation department with the same financing options as Home Depot and Lowes.
Then it expanded to full remodeling services with the same options. We did work on two client’s personal homes, and they started businesses primarily to buy houses and let us do the remodeling to put the houses on the market.
In our new construction business, clients can customize their home as much or as little as they feel comfortable. Our group of architects can create anything from scratch, which makes creating that dream home conceivable.
SDM – What is the one thing about you that people might not know?
Nikki – I am a serial entrepreneur. Along with my staging and flooring company, building houses and communities, I also own a traveling murder mystery company, Trap Murder Mystery, with my sister. We also have a record label called The Turntable.
SDM – This is incredible! With all of your experience, what advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are afraid to take the leap in advancing their ideas or business plans with limited experience or resources?
Nikki – Just do it! There will never be a perfect time and there are five people with the same business idea right now. Do it scared, do it unprepared and do it now.
SDM – That is awesome advice. Are there any other projects on the horizon?
Nikki – There are five shows that I’m featured on next year on networks including, The Magnolia Network, OWN and A&E. If you would have told me when I borrowed the $10 from my mom that this was going to happen, I would not have ever believed it. In October 2017, I stopped working for the flooring company. The growth of my company and the opportunities we’ve had in this short amount of time have been overwhelming. I am excited about what is ahead for all of us!
Thank you Nikki for sharing your phenomenal story, which is such an inspiration to anyone who has the desire to be an entrepreneur. Southern Dallas Magazine wishes you continued success and we look forward to your future projects!