This week I’m thrilled to be chatting with Liza Hausman, Vice President of Marketing at Houzz, the Internet’s largest source of design and decorating ideas. Houzz has become a go-to for homeowners and designers alike who want to showcase their portfolios, swap tips, and connect with other home design enthusiasts. I absolutely love it! Liza brings to Houzz her diverse marketing and brand-building expertise, which comes from 20 years of experience at companies such as Gigya, QuinStreet, Comedy World, and HomeWarehouse.com.
Robin Baron: What do you love most about what you do?
Liza Hausman: What I love most is interacting with our community and hearing the stories about how Houzz is helping them, and making the home improvement process more fun. On the professional side – that’s the home improvement trade and covers everyone from architects, interior designers and builders to landscapers and showrooms – it’s incredibly rewarding to hear when Houzz helps a small business grow and thrive, particularly in this economy. Professionals use Houzz as a communication tool with clients, and also as a platform to be discovered and hired by people who never would have found them otherwise. We’ve even had professionals discovered by homeowners on Houzz and flown overseas to Dubai and Sydney! I’ve been travelling to cities around the country doing “Houzz Tours” and speaking with building and design professionals in person, and I love the energy in the room everywhere I go. Everyone is so excited to be part of the community and they have great stories for me that I take back to our team in Palo Alto. On the homeowner side, I love to read the reviews of our iPad and iPhone app, and I spend way too much time in the discussions area of our site, where homeowners are posting their design dilemmas, to see what other homeowners as well as trade professionals suggest as a solution to their problems. It’s just great fun and puts a smile on my face every day. The second best part is being exposed to so many beautiful images day in and day out – I’ve already given my fireplace a facelift after discovering some incredible hand-carved limestone tile from Italy.
Robin Baron: How do you stay organized? Do you have any special tips or tricks?
Liza Hausman: I regularly purge clutter – sometimes it spends a bit of time in the garage on its way out but I’ve learned to be pretty ruthless, though it feels like a never-ending battle! If something non-personal hasn’t been used in a year it has to go. I have two young kids so I have set up plenty of bins and other shelving and storage for them in their rooms. I love bins you can label and also those you can easily see into. The family calendar is a must. My closet is organized by type and color, and for my shoes I take a photo of one shoe of each pair I own, and tape it to a shoebox. That way I can easily store and still find the shoes that may be only for a special occasion, or that I put away for a season. At work I love Google Docs – it’s a great way to be able to collaborate with my team and access information I need from anywhere in the world. Houzz has actually turned out to be a great organization tool for me when it comes to home projects – I save the images I love into very specific ideabooks with names like “counters” or “landscapes” but also have one just for “things I love.”
Robin Baron: How would you describe your home décor?
Liza Hausman: That’s hard, I guess I would have to say comfortable contemporary – I like very clean, modern lines, but prefer warmer colors and/or rich textures mixed in with some wood. My living room is very bright with warmer tones; the mix of green, brown, black and white gives me a lot of energy. The bedroom is cooler with tone-on-tone textures, all in a gray/brown hue, and more contemporary and glamorous. I actually saved a number of plexiglass and chrome pieces from my parents home in the 80’s and have mixed them in. It’s a calm and relaxing space. I’ve learned that light and windows are what matters most.
Robin Baron: What design elements in your home have you personalized?
Liza Hausman: I’ve remodeled my home top to bottom over the last ten years – and sure wish I’d had Houzz at the beginning – so really everything is personalized. My grandmother’s piano is in my living room and is played regularly. I chose all the interior design elements myself so the whole thing really reflects my and my husband’s personal style. When we first met we both had some Asian furniture in our apartments, and knew from the beginning our styles meshed well. My uncle is a retired physician turned phenomenal sculptor and having one of his bronzes in my living room is very special.
Robin Baron: What is the one thing in your home everyone comments on?
Liza Hausman: Probably my dining room table and chairs. It’s a 1950s Yokohama piece that I believe was originally designed as upscale patio furniture – I saw another once in a magazine on someone’s patio in Palm Springs but otherwise haven’t seen anything like it. The set is black wrought iron with white upholstery and some intricate work in the chair backs, and it’s very striking yet durable. I’ve had it both powder coated and reupholstered since I bought it from an antique store in San Francisco in 1996 – my first real furniture purchase.
Robin Baron: What do you put on your shelves or on your dresser?
Liza Hausman: Very little that is visible to the world, as I am always fighting clutter. In my living room I have favorite books on the shelves, and some family photographs. I like a simple modern vase or two with flowers from my garden. On my nightstand I have a painting from my six-year-old daughter or some other craft she made me.
Robin Baron: What does fabulous mean to you?
Liza Hausman: Memorable, something you want to see again and again, or where you look forward to seeing what’s next. A person with fabulous style, a fabulous store, fabulous designer, fabulous artist, fabulous friend – all constantly surprise and delight you and keep you wanting more.
Robin Baron: What are your favorite Houzz site or app features? Are there any secrets to share?
Well, everyone loves the ideabook feature, including me, since it is an amazing communication tool. But not everyone realizes that ideabooks you create have collaboration capabilities just like Google docs – you can actually make your ideabook comments private, share your ideabooks with just specific people like your spouse, partner, architect, designer etc, and also give specific people editing rights, so you can really work together. You have a lot of powerful controls.
Another unique feature that I love is the green tags in images that contain information on where to find products, like furniture or light fixtures. Professionals even add helpful notes with paint color, wall covering info, or even the name of the granite. On the iPad app the tags swing when you move your iPhone or iPad.
Also, it’s great to have access to 450,000 amazing images, but you can also directly ask professionals questions about those photos. There is a question box below every image, and if you write your question there – asking for dimensions or sources for example – your question is sent to the professional who uploaded the photo and they answer. It’s a great way to get information but also helps you get to know someone whose work you admire.