Friday Focus – Interview with Maria Killam

I first met Maria Killam when I traveled to Vancouver to take her Color Expert Class.  I was so excited, since I have long been a follower of her delicious blog Color me Happy.

Maria Killam & Jennifer Duchene in Vancouver at Colour Expert Class

Color is a passion of mine. No life can be lived in black and white entirely.

So meeting Maria in the flesh and getting to learn her color secrets was a dream come true.

Maria is as colorful in person as her blog indicates.  Jewel toned clothes, vibrant personality, genuinely charming, and a total hostess, she provided tasty snacks & amusing bon mots to keep us laughing and learning.

A girlfriend I could easily shop with & talk trend and food.

Listening to Maria shares some of her passions & insights I could picture us in a cool restaurant where we actually did hang out one night:

Favorite element of design?

When a house becomes a home, which really only happens once the accessories and lighting have been placed effectively.

Name a well thumbed book

The book is called Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.  EQ is the other side of IQ. Our emotional intelligence is arguably more important because it gives us the ability to relate to others, listen well, be calm, and have empathy for others. As Daniel says “People who possess high emotional intelligence are the people who truly succeed in work as well as play, building flourishing careers and lasting, meaningful relationships.

Emotional Intelligence isn’t fixed at birth it can be altered, different from IQ. The higher you go in an organization the higher your EQ needs to be.

What tickles Maria’s funny bone is witty, comedic exchanges that are playful, and not sarcastic.  Nothing better than laughing with delight, I say.

What is Maria’s secret to connecting people, sharing and getting so many points across with such lucidity and charm?

It’s no secret  (but thanks for the nice compliment) I’m a Gemini and I love communication, I love listening to good stories and I love telling stories.  I’m riveted and fascinated by what makes people tick.

Have you modified any business strategies in the past 12 months?

I’ve taken my workshops on the road, I’m designing a webinar and I’ve worked out the best way to conduct on-line colour & design consultations. I know this is true since I learned some of Maria’s secrets in her class.

What key strategy have you implemented to help keep you focused, on track and motivated?

Actually, it starts with analyzing my analytics, keywords, which posts people like..

I’m always thinking about my blog and looking for an angle in any given situation that

happens, and working out how it would make a good story for people to read.

I also read lots of blogs unrelated to design that help me tweak and grow my ‘voice’ and how to market myself on my blog.

I asked  Maria to share a memorable moment when disaster struck:

I am very detail oriented, I do all my own check measures for drapery (for example) because I’m a control freak (plus I like to be able to give quotes on the spot without having to wait for an installer to come over)plus I’m quick to see where I’m responsible, where communication was missing (from my side), where I did not manage expectations, so I have never had a ‘disaster’ because I think mistakes turn into disasters when a designer doesn’t take responsibility for what they did to cause the breakdown in the first place.

I wrote about  a huge silk custom drapery job that I had installed and the client emailed me a few weeks later to say they couldn’t live with how wrinkled the fabric looked.  When I arrived with a cutting to show them that it was inherently going to be that way and I acknowledged that I should have told them that from the beginning (doesn’t matter that I didn’t know they would look exactly like that, it’s still my job in the end to fix the mistake even if its me learning along the way) and told them I would replace the drapery so that they would be happy. They immediately relaxed, said they were sure it was because it was 1 inch too long and probably would work for them if they were hemmed.  Which in the end, was all it took for the client to be happy.


Truly I would say start a blog.  If you are new and thinking you don’t have enough to share then don’t start off with the goal that you need to be in the top 20 rankings tomorrow. Blogging will keep you really current and on the pulse of what’s happening in design trends, which is very important in your business.

I have to agree with Maria on this point (and many others, natch.) knowing the latest design trends makes you a better designer ergo increases business.

What has been your biggest challenge or roadblock with regard to starting maintaining & growing your business?

Not giving up and getting a day job when I didn’t have enough business to own a home (which has always bothered me)  You have to have faith in your abilities keep working even when it looks bleak.

Who is the quintessential you, when you are not working,

I would lead programs in transformation and self-awareness if I wasn’t a designer. Relationships and what make them happy and what makes them work, endlessly fascinate me and I have even thought of starting another blog to talk about them, (until I read the advice that having a second blog splits your time so it’s not a good idea).

I would be the quiet person at a party sitting in the corner reading a magazine (if I could do that and have it be socially acceptable). I love to read.  No Maria don’t sit in the corner! You are too much fun.

What is a well-loved way you celebrate your life?

This is such a good question because I don’t think I do this enough.  I’m always looking at what needs to be done and I truly do need to just look around right NOW and be thankful for everything I have accomplished.   And boy when I look at what Maria has done I am gobsmacked.

What is something you could not live without?

I cannot live without authentic communication from anyone who I’m in a relationship with, friends or family. Everyone knows where they stand when they are with me because I say what other people are thinking and am honest to a fault (most of the time) and I prefer to be around the same kind of person.  (I say rock on  girl, truth is wealth)

Maria Killam’s favorite painting and dining chair, she is creating her dream room

I wondered what Maria’s dream vacation was?

I Dream of going to Italy – anyone reading this want to help Maria make her dream come true?   I would love to tag along.

Whats next for you & how can we help you?

Buy my ebook when it comes out this year.

Personally I cant wait, to see it & read it.

I have so enjoyed hanging out with Maria, hope you did too.

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