Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hello! Let’s start with the easy part: my name is Maria Papailiadis. I was born and raised in Toronto, but currently reside in Vaughan, Ontario. I’ve been married for almost 17 years and have two amazing children. I love to travel with my family (especially on cruise ships). I’m also a HUGE basketball fan and spend a lot of time in the bleachers, watching my kids play for their respective teams. Life is always hectic and never boring – but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
How did you get into the world of professional design?
My journey began in the world of graphic design. Initially, I went to college for advertising, but once I graduated, I was pulled towards event planning. I started a small business 12 years ago and loved it.
Then COVID-19 hit and the event industry changed dramatically. After several months of trying to stay optimistic, I knew I needed to reinvent myself. When thinking about my passions, one thought kept popping up: I just want to make everything around me beautiful.
I was completing renovations around my own home when I started seriously thinking about taking an interior decorating course.
Why did you decide to pursue your design certifications online, rather than in-person?
The decision to pursue an online education was an easy one for me. With the uncertainty of the pandemic, as well as not knowing if my children would be returning to in-class schooling come September, online learning made the most sense for me.
I am a firm believer that you can never be too educated! It was very important for me to have proper certifications. However, I also needed the flexibility to work at my own pace so that I was still available for my children. The Interior Decorating Course at QC Design School was a perfect fit!
Ultimately, why did you enroll with QC Design School (compared to the other schools out there)?
I looked at A LOT of options. When first researching into professional training, I did look into local brick-and-mortar schools, as well as online options from all around the world. Ultimately, I was the most impressed with the transparency of QC Design School’s website.
The course outlines gave an excellent overview of what I could expect to learn. Furthermore, I wanted a school that had been around for long enough to build a great reputation. Their A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and 21-Day Guarantee put me at ease. The courses were priced fairly, and I even took advantage of a promotional offer they were offering that gave me additional courses at no extra cost!
You’ve recently joined QC’s team of Student Ambassadors. As an Ambassador, what is the #1 reason you would recommend QC Design School to aspiring designers?
My biggest surprise has been how QC Design School goes above and beyond to build a student community. There is always a friendly face to assist you! From my first (embarrassing) phone call where I needed help logging into my Online Student Center, to the voice recordings I receive from my tutor at the end of each unit, to the Virtual Classroom on Facebook where students can ask questions and share experiences… There are so many ways to connect with your fellow QC community!
I thought I would feel isolated without being on a physical campus. But QC Design School does an excellent job of personalizing my student experience!
You’re currently working through QC Design School’s Interior Decorating Course. How has your experience in this course been so far? What are the most important lessons you’ve been learning?
I’m about halfway through my Interior Decorating Course and I’ve really enjoyed it so far! The course materials arrived at my home very quickly. Although I’m great with graphic design, I’m not very tech-savvy otherwise. So, I was nervous about navigating the online classrooms.
However, it has been surprisingly easy to upload assignments and submit my units for grading! The whole platform is incredibly user-friendly. I’ve learned so much about creating floorplans, mixing patterns and colors, and the pros and cons of working with a variety of materials. My tutor has also given me amazing insight and encouragement along the way (thanks, Patrizia)!
You’re also enrolled in QC Design School’s Staging for Designers and Virtual Design courses. Why do you feel these additional qualifications will be so valuable for your business and overall career?
Initially, I was only interested in the Interior Decorating Course. But QC Design School was offering a great deal on additional courses, and I’ve always loved online shopping… so, I filled my cart!
My entrepreneurial mind kicked into high gear as I read through the course descriptions. I started to solidify what I wanted to offer my clients and how I could differentiate myself from others if I had those additional certifications. In fact, I already have a Wish List for a few other courses I would like to take once I’ve finished these ones!
Your business is located in Woodbridge, Ontario – a city with well over 105,000 people. In such a competitive market, how do you feel you stand out from other designers in your area?
Standing out in the crowd has never been a problem for me (I blame my crazy hair color). All kidding aside, I have built a lot of amazing relationships with my event planning clients over the years. Many of them are excited for the launch of my new design business, and I hope they will trust me with their homes the same way they have with their special events.
I think my own personal style will help attract clients that want something different, functional, and beautiful. It will take time, but I have confidence that if I stay true to myself, I will be successful.
Speaking of your new business… Simple + Styled will target both homeowners and real estate professionals. Tell us a bit more about the kinds of services you plan to offer your clientele!
My event business was successful because I took a multi-faceted approach to helping my clients. I’m applying those same principles to Simple + Styled.
I will offer personalized Design Concierge Services to clients who might think they could never afford a designer. Packages will start from simpler services (i.e. color selection), all the way to full design and installation of rooms. For real estate agents, I will offer Home Staging Services. In addition, I also intend to design and print marketing materials for each home.
Simplifying and bundling together a variety of services will help homeowners and agents alike achieve their needs within a budget!
You’ve chosen to switch careers and launch your design business during COVID-19. What sorts of challenges have you faced in light of the pandemic, and how have you been overcoming them?
When my busy event schedule was reduced to zero, I found it very demoralizing. Plus, I spent most of those first few months helping my children navigate their online schooling. The biggest challenge was that I lost my creative mojo. That mental hurdle was the hardest.
So, I threw myself into home renovations. This turned out to be the very spark I needed to get my act together! It has been scary to start a new venture in the current climate. But in a lot of ways, it’s also helped me get over everything I lost and look toward the future with hope.
What’s in store for Simple + Styled in 2021 and beyond?
The immediate future includes finishing my Interior Decorating Course, as well as my Staging for Designers and Virtual Design courses. I’m also in the process of building my website and posting frequently on my new social media pages.
Additionally, I’m looking to continue strengthening my network of tradespeople, furniture designers, and local companies. Beyond that, I have taken on a few design projects to start building my portfolio, which is exciting! I had forgotten how many moving pieces go into starting a new venture, but I have done it before and I know I can successfully do it again!
Finally: what is YOUR definition of “success” as a professional designer?
For me, success is measured in smiles! I have come to learn that if I can make people truly happy with my work, then material success will follow.
We can sometimes get too wrapped up in how many followers we have, or how many likes we collect on every post. Making real connections, and having a client base that trusts me and will recommend me, is more important than an arbitrary number of followers.
Eventually, I want people to know me so well that they can say, “That looks like a Simple + Styled space!”