Vanessa DeLeon Talks VDA Virtual Design

I&S questions this online maven about her new business venture and how she uses social media to establish herself as a tastemaker.

Ask any designer and they will say the same thing: the Internet has changed the game.

Vanessa DeLeon, principal of Vanessa DeLeon Associates (VDA) has decided to face that head on with her new venture: VDA Virtual Design ( This interactive initiative offers design services and solutions to the online marketplace, gathering up all the tools necessary for creating customized interiors into a concise digital package.

VDA Virtual Design allows users to work with the design team and customize their space in six easy steps. To facilitate the process, DeLeon pulled from some of her most recent projects to create a series of lifestyle boards ranging from Mediterranean to modern. Just as she would do in person, she asks the client to think: “Where would you live?”  The next step is a detailed questionnaire, which addresses everything from fabrics and finishes to budget and function. Photography and measurements of the space are required to complete the packet. After a thorough review, DeLeon and her team will provide the client with a virtual presentation board that includes furnishings, flooring, lighting fixtures, wall finishes, accessories and window treatments; a floor plan that shows the location of movable furniture and furnishings; a price worksheet with retail pricing and product links to the manufacturers websites for purchase.

What was your “a-ha” moment when you decided to get started creating this website?

When some of our prospective clients asked for an affordable alternative to our full-fledged service, and I realized we could offer our services to anyone, anywhere with a virtual design website

How did your team plan this transition from purely brick and mortar to an online sales cycle?

Our team is already experienced with developing all aspects of a design project by utilizing digital tools, including CAD drafting, rendering, and cloud services—so the transition was easy.

What criteria did you look at to determine whether this digital process would work? How did you know when you got it right and it was ready to launch?

We had multiple design and fashion professionals review the site to determine if there were any flaws, as well as a few test groups that were inexperienced in design to “road test” the site before the launch.

Where do you see things evolving next?

We would love to link furniture manufacturers directly to the site, to make the process that much more accessible and easy for clients.

Is moving this into a commercial market on the table for you in the future?

Yes. We always look to improve and expand. Many commercial products are available to consumers, just not necessarily at a discounted price. We believe we could still specify products and the client could purchase through a local distributer.

The web process hands a lot of the decision making process over to your clients. How do you make sure you retain the final vision and control of each project?

In all design, the final decision is always in the client’s hands. Our job, virtually or otherwise is to make recommendations on what we believe are the best solutions to their design project. Ultimately, a client has to have the last word.

Will each project completed through the website still have a “VDA” stamp? And if so, what does that look like?

Each project that we encounter will have its own unique aesthetic, but we also aim for a level of quality that will leave potential prospects motivated to see what we can do.

Though we come up with different design choices for each kind of client taste, one of our VDA signatures is our “Glamilistic” approach. We try to achieve “glamorous, sophisticated, elegant, fashionable and bold,” design throughout a diverse range of styles. Glamilistic is also a featured lifestyle board on our VDA Virtual Design platform.

How do you build in that identifiable aesthetic when it’s ultimately your clients who are seeing the project to fruition?

We do that by having the ability to make professional suggestions to greater the outcome of the final design for our clients. Through the various examples we offer them, they get a better idea and develop "the big picture" for themselves. Whatever the project may be, our clients trust us fully with our design decisions.

You have had a lot of success building your brand through social media. What’s your formula?

Social networking is a very important aspect of how we market everything we do. Staying on top of new social networks and what's trending is one way that we can determine what's being seen, and what's popular. Being active with this social community and establishing myself as an opinion leader is what gains a big reach through my social media. Blogging, posting, tweeting, and pinning has no formula other than to keep up with it.

What advice do you have for designers trying to establish a personality online?

Develop a unique style and market that style night and day. Be confident in your style and don’t be scared to put it out there. If you are excited about your ideas the public will be as well.

With the digital world changing so fast, how do you make sure you stay on the cusp of that change?

We are always looking for the newest, latest changes and finding ways to make our design relevant to the change. There are always new social media outlets that come to the surface i.e.: pinterest, instagram, twitter, etc. Anything new that comes out you can bet our name is on it and a part of it.

Where do you see things moving in the future?

We hope to have this site be a starting point for developing a large-scale online design resource for all budgets and projects.