Life & Business

Life & Business: Young Huh

by Garrett Fleming

Life & Business: Young Huh, Design*Sponge
Named one of Lonny Magazine’s “Next Big Names In Design,” Young Huh is the woman behind many an immaculate home. Designing interiors, however, wasn’t always in the cards for the New York City-based creative. Not long ago, Young was blazing a trail towards becoming a lawyer. She even got so far as to pass the NY and NJ bar exams! But she quickly realized that while her mind was in the courtroom, her heart was somewhere else — somewhere prettier, where textiles and paint swatches beat out testimonials and witnesses. Armed with the confidence of family and friends, Young left the world of law behind and took an internship at a design firm. The rest really is history.

Since setting out on her own in 2007, Young has dealt with her fair share of difficult clients, navigated the ups and downs of being her own boss, and learned one valuable lesson: keep the faith. That’s what I admire most about Young. She embodies the belief that with an eye on the prize, and unwavering positivity, it’ll all be okay in the end. It took stamina, but holding tightly to that ideal has gotten her to where she is today. Click through to read all about Young’s rise to the top. Enjoy! —Garrett

Why did you decide to start your own business, versus work for someone else?

It was by accident, really. I had friends and acquaintances who asked me to help them with their homes and projects from the moment I started my drafting class, and my husband said I should create an LLC to protect my activities. Next thing I knew, I had started a business.

Can you remember when you first learned about your field of work? How did you discover what it was and how did you know it was what you wanted to do?

I started out in law, and after I passed the NY and NJ bar exams, I felt like I had made a total mistake. Thankfully, my husband was supportive and encouraged me to investigate other career paths. I spent lots of time doing personality tests and research. Then one evening, I met a friend of my husband’s at a cocktail party who had just started his own firm. As I listened to him talk about his job, I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do.

Life & Business: Young Huh, Design*Sponge














Image above: An interior shot of Young’s work for the Kips Bay Decorator Show House.

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?

My friend said,”Hire an assistant even if you can’t really afford it, so you’ll operate on a professional level from day one.”

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

Learning how to delegate work to other people and then not have an anxiety attack about it.

Life & Business: Young Huh, Design*Sponge














Image above: Another view of Young’s pattern-filled work for the Show House.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

That there is no one formula for success, but a necessary ingredient is faith.

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences that you learned from or that helped you improve your business or the way you work?

There are so many failures, it’s hard to name one! I really believe that failing teaches you how to succeed. One of the biggest lessons I learned was to listen to my instincts and to trust myself. Every time I try to be a people-pleaser and go against my gut feelings, things do not go well. It was hard to learn how to advocate for that.

If you were magically given 3 more hours per day, what would you do with them?

I would read and study more. I am always trying to study more decorative arts and arts history, but time seems to always run out. Three hours more a day would mean I could make some serious progress!

Life & Business: Young Huh, Design*Sponge














Image above: The bathroom in Young’s Show House installation.

What has been the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting your business?

Never being able to leave work at work.

Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?

I feel my greatest success is finding my [community]. I have a sense of belonging [which] makes each day meaningful.

Life & Business: Young Huh, Design*Sponge














What business books/resources would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?

There is a pretty serious tome called Professional Practice for Interior Designers. I would say that the most helpful thing is having people and mentors you can turn to for guidance and support. I [moved] offices so that I can run on a new design management system called Fuigo. It’s a brand new company, and I am one of the founding members. Within a very large, beautiful, shared environment, Fuigo will run my bookkeeping and order management. In addition, I’ll have business coaching, lectures, a librarian, a concierge and lovely colleagues to share this journey with!

Has failing at something or quitting ever led to success for you? Walk us through that.

Once I had a really mean and toxic client who not only treated me poorly, but constantly challenged bills after bullying me into initiating orders with my own money. I would wait months to get paid by him. One day, I realized I’m not a bank handing out interest-free loans, and I’m not fronting the cash for client orders anymore. If they’re in a hurry to order, then they can find a way to get me the money quickly for the deposit. I also learned that while I can’t teach people how to be good and kind, I can teach people how I want and expect to be treated.

Life & Business: Young Huh, Design*Sponge














Image above: A sampling of Young’s design work for a Southampton summer home.

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?

1. Do you like building structure from nothing?

2. Are you self-motivated and anxious (enough) to drive progress on your own?

3. Does the unknown excite you?

What’s the first app, website or thing you open/do in the morning?

After I check my texts and emails, I open my Instagram while I have my coffee. I am addicted to Instagram.

What’s the hardest thing about being your own boss that isn’t obvious?

Being alone. Because your business is your vision, there are always moments that you feel all alone. Sometimes the loneliness is overpowering. That’s why friendships with other business owners are so important. That’s another reason why I decided to move to a shared work environment. Being a small business owner is so difficult. You have a small voice and smaller negotiating power. Sometimes you feel lost at sea. Having the support of other business owners creates power and support. Let’s see if I manage to get my voice any louder!

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  • This is a great interview! Thanks for the advice. It seems we have a lot in common. I’ve been running my design business since 2007, and have faced many similar challenges. The loneliness is especially difficult in the winter, and I’ve been contemplating other options.

  • Such a great interview! It is so helpful to hear from people who’ve initiated sudden career change and started their own businesses. I love Young’s aesthetic.

  • I’ve really been feeling the urge – for a LONG time – to leave my current career path and train either to be a graphic or interior designer. This, along with the other Life & Business you published yesterday, is so absolutely inspiring. Thank you! x

  • Favorite question: Has failing at something or quitting ever led to success for you? Walk us through that.
    Failure and “mistakes” are gold mines when we can “walk through it” and see the truths within.
    Thank you for sharing this interview.