DiscoverExplore Home - A Podcast from Universal Furniture
Explore Home - A Podcast from Universal Furniture
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Explore Home - A Podcast from Universal Furniture

Author: Neil MacKenzie

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Welcome to the Explore Home podcast brought to you by Universal Furniture. Hosted by Universal’s Marketing Director Neil MacKenzie, Explore Home navigates all of the latest happenings within the furniture industry, from design trends to changing marketing strategies. Featuring a new guest every episode, Neil delves into their unique skillset and knowledge as it relates to furniture in a warm, casual, conversational tone. Expect to hear from a range of top authorities, including furniture business professionals, interior designers, design bloggers and influencers.
33 Episodes
Welcome to the Explore Home Podcast! This week we invite you to Explore Home with Ericka Saurit of Saurit Creative, a digital marketing firm for the home industry. Listen as Neil and Ericka start with a brief history of Ericka’s professional career, including her years spent living and working in China. They then touch on Ericka’s involvement with Airbnb to build their Airbnb Plus division along with Universal Furniture. She then elaborates more on opening her own business and details how she helps her clients with one of their biggest requests: social storytelling. Neil and Ericka then wrap up by talking about their favorite aspects of market opening back up as well as sharing more on how to use social outlets like Instagram to benefit your business.For more on Ericka and Saurit Creative, you can visit herwebsite at or follow them on Instagram at @sauritcreative.
Welcome to the Explore Home Podcast! This week we invite you to Explore Home with Sharon Savage of Lancaster Custom Crafted Upholstery and Don Massenburg of Design Inkredible. Listen as they begin by discussing the various challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 has presented within the design industry in the last year. Then, Neil, Sharon and Don discuss HPxD (High Point by Design) — what it is, what its mission is and how it is a prime and exciting new resource for interior designers all year round. With HPxD, designers now have access to view product and meet with brands outside of the traditional High Point market times. The three then share their favorite parts of this new initiative and how they have already experienced a positive impact from HPxD. For more on Sharon Savage, please visit For more on Don Massenburg, please visit For more on HPxD and to sign up please visit
Welcome to Explore Home Podcast! This week we explore home with Danny Seo,Publisher and Co-Principal of RUE Magazine.Danny is the epitome of a modern-day Renaissance man, he is the author of 14 books, has run a non-profit organization, worked with Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon, and produced and starred on an Emmy award winning lifestyle show. Neil and Danny discuss his unusual and inspiring childhood. On his 12th birthday, which happens to be Earth Day, Danny decided he wanted to start an environmental organization. It became the largest non-profit organization for teenagers for environmental advocacy in the US. Danny then focuses on his desire to combine his passions: the environment, eating well, entertaining, and traveling. This led to writing books on home renovation, entertaining, charities, and philanthropy. 7 years ago, Danny launched the Naturally Danny Seo brand. His magazine, Naturally Danny Seo, hit the shelves and immediately flew off of them. This success launched him into the world of television, including his own show on NBC and countless guest spots on daytime talk shows.Neil and Danny then talk about his latest endeavor, RUE Magazine, now on newsstands. Danny is a firm believer that consumers favor quality, from the paper that the magazine is printed on, to the content, Danny oversees it all. Danny and RUE magazine are bring the publication to life at the Universal showroom during High Point Furniture Market. Designers will have 5 minutes to showcase their work to Kelli Lamb, Editorial Designer of RUE magazine. To learn more about Danny and RUE magazine visit
Welcome to Explore Home Podcast! This week we explore home with Kyla Herbes, creator of the House of Hipsters blog.Neil and Kyla begin by talking about the birth of House of Hipster, which started as a hobby after her second child was born. Kyla knew it was special and was willing to put in the time and effort to turn it into one of the top blogs in the country. Today, House of Hipsters is a consistent award-winning blog and launched Kyla into the limelight.Kyla details how when she featured Pinterest on her blog, the SEO would go through the roof, so she started creating tons of Pinterest content. One day, the call came from Pinterest themselves, asking Kyla to join their “Pin Factory.” Kyla notes that the Pinterest community likes more of an “I can do it look.” She had a knack for following brand standards while knowing how to create an eye-catching graphic.Kyla and Neil finish by noting her favorite Universal pieces and how her perception of a “home” has changed over the past year. To learn more visit Kayla’s blog at
Welcome to Explore Home Podcast! This week we explore home with Sara Serarle with Promoboxx. Neil and Sara discuss her time spent on the account management team at Snapchat.While there, Sara took note of how the platform fostered conversations between friends using Snapchat integrated content, allowing people to interact with brands in a personal way. Out of this experience grew a passion for advertising and social media.Sara then describes the challenges her multi-generational small family business faced when trying to implement social media into their marketing strategy. The time it takes to develop a cohesive social media strategy and the education needed to learn how to implement it, is often not feasible for a small business. This is what drew her to Promoboxx.Promoboxx is a platform that connects brands to retailers and their consumers through organic and paid social media, e-mail marketing and downloadable content. Brands go into the Promoboxx platform and invite their retailer network to join and share their branded content through their social pages. You do not have to be a social expert to set-up this tool, it makes relevant social media content accessible and easy for even the most inexperienced user. Sara notes that because society is obsessed with social media, it is important for brands to have a presence on as many social media outlets as possible to stay relevant. Promoboxx is a tool that can level the playing field for all types, and sizes, of retailers. To learn more about Promoboxx visit and to sign up with PromoBoxx and Universal go here.
Welcome to the Explore Home Podcast! This week explore home with Benno Duenkelsbuehler, (re)ALIGN CEO and Chief Growth Sherpa. Neil and Benno discuss his background as a buyer and a seller. First, a buyer for Ikea and Pottery Barn for over a decade. He then changed careers to sell to exhibitors in High Point and Atlanta. This background inspired him to start his own company to help others start and grow their brands. His company, (re)ALIGN, lives at the intersection of growth and execution. Benno can help new brands grow and take their products to market. He guides his clients on how to create an experience that makes people fall in love with, and purchase, their products.Benno details how “disruptive” brands like rh (Restoration Hardware) and Apple have changed how people think about shopping. They make consumers fall in love with their products and remain loyal to their brand. This is the goal he hopes to achieve when working with a client. Benno and Neil talk about how furniture consumers often struggle with confidence in their style choices. Companies need to help them envision how the product will fit into their home and boldly claim “this is what we love and you will too.”Benno shares his favorite quote from Thomas Edison, “Vision without execution is hallucination” and discusses how if a person or company doesn’t have the resources to execute an idea at a consistently high level, that idea may not be a good fit. He relishes helping clients discover their perfect fit.Benno finishes with speaking about his podcast that he started during Covid-19, “The Third Growth Option.” It has provided him the opportunity to re-connect with friends and colleagues to share growth experiences. Learning from others has provided tremendous insight and inspiration for Benno to use in his personal and professional life.To discover more about Benno and (re)ALIGN, visit
Welcome to the Explore Home Podcast! This week explore home with Scott O’Neil, VP of Global Sales for Cylindo. Neil and Scott discuss how Cylindo’s focus on 3D product visualization platforms allow manufacturers and retailers the ability to provide customers the power to visualize products while shopping from home.  You can preview the work that Universal and Cylindo have worked on here.Scott comments on how 3D technology is now front and center. With more people shopping online before stepping foot in a retail store, it is important that consumers “experience” the product online. Scott talks about how manufacturers and retailers have had to rethink how they present their products, the buyer journey has changed forever. Buyers now insist on narrowing down their product choices before going to the store or purchasing online. Scott details how Cylindo can help, it can be a challenge to show product online when it comes with options and customization. Consumers must be able to visualize the product online in the exact configuration that they are interested in purchasing. Neil and Scott then discus how visualization tools support the buyer journey. High quality content on a website has become mandatory as consumers do high level research online instead of in the retail store.Scott finishes with stating that augmented reality (AR) is the next big thing. This conversion tool can show how an item will fit and look in your home. This technology is getting better and better and becoming more accessible. To discover more about the power of product visualization visit
Welcome to Explore Home Podcast! Today we explore home with Lori Paranjape, owner of her own design firm based in Nashville, TN which focuses on luxury homes and new construction. Lori's work has been featured in publications like Domino, Architectural Digest, House Beautiful and Traditional Home.  Discover how an English Literature major and former TV reporter turned her beloved hobby into a powerhouse interior design firm. Lori discusses how the tempo and style of interior design has changed over the last year with the arrival of Covid-19. From directing installations via Zoom calls to finding your groove when apart from your team. We also discuss how Lori uses Instagram, the impact it has on her business and some tips that could help you. To learn more about Lori and her firm we encourage you to visit   and follow her on Instagram at @mrsparanjape.
Welcome to the Explore Home Podcast! This week, we invite you to Explore Home with Melissa Galt, a premier interior design business coach. First, Melissa shares a brief history of her professional journey with Neil, detailing what influenced her transformation from being an interior designer into an interior design coach. They then touch on the advantages of digital technology and the rise of e-design and remote working, especially in the age of COVID-19. Next, they discuss how to not only define but attract your ideal client for your business. Plus, they go on to chat about how your own online presence can help get you far in the eyes of potential clients. They conclude with Melissa’s recent move to Scottsdale, Arizona, and a fun childhood story that involves her great grandfather, Frank Lloyd Wright! For more on Melissa, you can visit or follow her on Instagram @melissagalt and discover her new book you can visit
Welcome to the Explore Home Podcast! After a bit of a hiatus, we are back and excited to start the series back up with Michelle Wiebe, President, Founder, and Principal Designer of Studio M based in Clearwater, FL.First, Neil and Michelle start from the beginning, detailing Michelle’s initial launch into the design industry. They then chat about the unique evolution of her business throughout the years, as well as how Michelle and husband Tom have found balance working together at Studio M. Then, they go on to discuss the impact COVID-19 has had on her firm this year, as well as how technology has played an integral role in her day-to-day business operations. They conclude with Michelle detailing some of her favorite Universal pieces as well as the work and dedication that went into planning the Seasonal Living Virtual Show Home Project, which debuts December 3rd.For more on Michelle and Studio M, you can visit or follow her on Instagram @interiorsbystudiom.
This week we invite you to Explore Home with Stephanie Cohen of Stephanie Cohen Home.Listen as Stephanie begins with her professional journey to interior design, one that includes switching from a law student to a full-time design student. After detailing this transition, Stephanie shares more about her business which is comprised of an interior design firm as well as a brick and mortar storefront.  After delving into both the challenges and opportunities associated with owning a retail storefront, Stephanie then shares with Neil the unique impact COVID-19 has had on her business. They then discuss what changes have been made to adjust to 2020’s world, as well as certain design trends that have come about as a result of the pandemic, including an increased need for outdoor living spaces. For more on Stephanie and her business, you can visit or follow her on Instagram @stephaniecohenhome.
This week we invite you to Explore Home with John Hillman, Vice President, and Broker at Crane Island Real Estate, an exclusive Coastal Living community. Crane Island was also the location of Universal’s second Coastal Living photoshoot featuring the Getaway collection.First, John touches on his background in the design industry and what led him to the custom home business. He then touches on the holistic community aspect of his developments and why his clients gravitate towards this kind of living. John also explains why he loves Crane Island and what makes it such a unique place to live and work. Then, Neil and John delve into the effects that COVID-19 has had on not only the developmental side of his business but also in the building and designing of a home remotely. They then touch on the advantages of spec homes and how that can be a beneficial tool for not only selling homes but for promoting furniture,  lifestyle aesthetics and general inspiration. They end their conversation with their thoughts on what the future might look like for homeowners and home designers as we continue to navigate through this year and look forward to the next.For more on Crane Island, you can visit and ollow them on Instagram @craneislandfl. 
This week we invite you to Explore Home with Carla Regina and James Andrew of Regina Andrew, maker of luxury interior products with an emphasis on lighting.Listen as Carla and James take us through a brief summary of their individual professional backgrounds and detail the beginning stages of Regina Andrew. They also touch on the pros and cons of running a business with your significant other as well as some lessons learned along the way. The team then discusses their home base of Detroit and how that particular location affects there unique perspective on design. Then, Neil delves into Regina Andrew’s new lighting venture with Coastal Living and how that project perfectly complements Universal Furniture’s lines with the same brand. Carla and James then speak on how COVID-19 has affected their approach to running a business and some adjustments they have made to remain flexible for all of their employees.For more on Regina Andrew, you can visit or follow them on Instagram at @reginaandrewdetroit. 
This week we invite you to Explore Home with Rachel Shingleton of Pencil Shavings Studio.Rachel is a self-described color obsessed interior designer with a background in graphic design. We were able to chat with Rachel about a recent collaboration that we worked on together along with Crypton Home in Oklahoma. This collaboration featured items from the Coastal Living collection, proving that this laid back, relaxed style can work just about anywhere — not just at the coast. Listen as Rachel shares how both her blog and her travels have positively affected her design approach, opening up new perspectives and ideas. Neil ties up the conversation by asking Rachel how the meaning of home as changed for her as we have all weathered COVID-19.For more on Rachel and Pencil Shavings Studio, you can follow her on Instagram @pencilshavings.
This week we invite you to Explore Home with Kaitlin Petersen, Editor-in-Chief of Business of Home magazine.Listen as Kaitlin shares her start to journalism and what eventually led her to Business of Home. She then discusses what’s involved in putting together an issue of the magazine, from longer lead times to incorporating meaningful themes that designers will not only enjoy but benefit from, and more. They then discuss how COVID-19 has affected the design industry and Kaitlin’s personal observations on where things are headed for the future. Before finishing up, Neil and Kaitlin touch on BOH’s Future of Home conference and their plans to pivot to a virtual experience.For more on Business of Home magazine, you can follow them on Instagram at @businessofhome now and get connected with the Future of Home conference by visiting
This week we invite you to Explore Home with Sean O’Connor, Universal Furniture’s Senior Vice President of Sales and chief merchant for our upholstery program. Listen as Sean shares with Neil more about his personal and professional background within the furniture industry as well as how he eventually found his way to Universal Furniture. They then touch on the beginnings of Universal’s upholstery offering and how that has grown the last several years, including the launch into special order upholstery. Sean then elaborates on what the special order program consists of, including approximately 425 fabrics, 50 leathers, nailhead options as well as various leg options and more. Lastly, Sean then shares what he is most excited about with the launch and how he believes it will put Universal Furniture on the map in completely new ways.For more on our new special order upholstery program, you can visit We are now accepting orders
This week, we invite you to Explore Home with Sita Montgomery, interior designer and owner of Sita Montgomery Interiors based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Sita shares with Neil a bit more about her professional history and what eventually led her into the interior design industry while raising her children. They then chat about how COVID-19 has affected the business. They also discuss social media marketing and how Sita approaches Instagram and imagery as well as maintaining authenticity. For more on Sita and her work, you can visit or follow her on Instagram @sitamontgomeryinteriors.
This week we invite you to Explore Home with Jane Dagmi, Editor-in-Chief of Designers Today. Listen as Neil and Jane discuss Jane's vast background in publishing as well as her  love and appreciation for design. Jane also shares more on her unique professional journey that ultimately led her to her current role at Designers Today.Later, Neil and Jane delve into not only the challenges but also the opportunities that designers are facing today as we social distance during quarantine. They also touch more on working from home and how it has impacted designers as they digitally connect with coworkers and clients.To learn more about Jane, Designers Today and their Virtual Design Experience, you can visit now or follow them on Instagram @designerstoday.
This week we invite you to Explore Home with Jack Eger and Elise Gabrielson from Crypton, a leading manufacturer of performance fabric. Listen as Jack and Elise each detail their unique career journeys that ultimately led them both to Crypton. Then, they delve into the importance of performance fabric especially within the furniture industry and how Crypton presents a premium solution, focusing on wear-ability and cleanability. They then discuss the evolution of performance fabrics and all of the many strides and improvements it has made in the last several years. After touching on the importance of brand partnerships, Neil, Jack, and Elise chat on how Crypton plans to grow with the changing state of our world.For more on Crypton, you can visit or @cryptonfabric on Instagram.
This week we invite you to Explore Home with Sackett Wood, president, and CEO of Moore and Giles located in Lynchburg, Virginia.Listen as Sackett shares with Neil more on his professional journey in the industry, starting in the banking business and eventually merging into the world of leather goods. Then, Sackett chats more on the growth of Moore and Giles through the years, elaborating on the company’s forward-thinking tactics to grow into what they are today, especially in regards to the upholstery industry. They then discuss leather as a livable material and its interesting fusion requiring both technique and aesthetic. Neil and Sackett then touch on the exciting ways that Moore and Giles has been able to partner with Universal Furniture to provide leather upholstery options as Universal enters into the special order business. After touching on Sackett’s opinion on how leather trends have changed over time, they finish up with a discussion on ‘home’ and what it means to Sackett. To learn more about Moore and Giles, you can visit or follow them on Instagram at @mooreandgiles and @mooreandgilesleather.
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