In the five short years since her graduation from Yorkville University’s Bachelor of Interior Design program, Tiffany Piotrowski has already accomplished what many young designers only dream of achieving.
Not only did the Class of 2015 alumnus land a full-time job working for HGTV star Sarah Richardson straight out of school, but she’s since parlayed that experience into the successful launch of her own up-and-coming design firm.
“I think I always knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted to do design,” said the Toronto-based interior designer, whose full-service residential firm, Tiffany Leigh Design, has already been profiled in the pages of House & Home magazine numerous times, despite having just launched in February 2019.
“We’re just a year-and-a-half old now, but it’s been going really well and it’s been so rewarding. I’m really grateful to (Yorkville) for setting me up with the tools I needed to be successful in this industry.”
Growing up in Waterloo, Piotrowski said she was initially sidetracked from pursuing her passion for design by a high school Careers class that skewed towards the more traditional vocations. But after graduating with an English degree with the intention of becoming a teacher, she decided to make a drastic turn in her career path.
“I just knew that I wasn’t really following my true passion or my heart, so I started to look into designs schools,” she explained.
“(Yorkville) was very appealing, because I could complete the degree faster with the transfer credits I had from my existing university degree. And while I did a lot of my courses in-class, I was also able to take some of my classes online, which allowed me to work, too…It was nice to have that flexible option.”
It was also during her studies at Yorkville that Piotrowski decided to launch a blog to chronicle her adventures in design – the very same blog that, coupled with her social media accounts, helped her secure a part-time job at Sarah Richardson Design while she was still a student.
“Then, when I graduated, they offered me a full-time position, which was excellent,” she said, noting that she worked for the firm for four-and-a-half years.
“What was awesome about working there is that is they had an amazing array of clients, really good projects, and it gave me the opportunity to sort of wear all hats. I learned about project management, I learned about ordering, I learned about the business side of things, I learned about all the great places to source.”
Armed with all that experience, Piotrowski decided to take a leap of faith – and in February 2019, she branched out on her own and Tiffany Leigh Design was born.
Based out of her downtown condo, the firm offers its full-service residential interior design expertise to clients in Toronto and the surrounding areas – from Milton and Mississauga, all the way up to cottage country in the Muskokas and beyond.
With its team of four – including a current Yorkville student who’s working alongside Piotrowski as a junior designer – Tiffany Leigh Design now offers two legs of services:
– Full-service design for renovations and new builds
“For clients with maybe a lower budget or who just want some help sprucing up their space, we will come in for a consultation, offer advice, make suggestions and answer all their questions so that they can implement changes on their own,” Piotrowski explained.
“The other service we offer, which is our specialty, is our full-service design, where we work with the client’s chosen trades and contractor and oversee the entire design process. We order everything, store everything, and then we go in for a couple of days and load everything into the house. Then at the end, we do the big TV reveal when the client comes home and sees it. It’s a lot of fun.”
Piotrowski’s work through Tiffany Leigh Design has caught the eye of numerous editors at notable design magazines, including House & Home, Adore Home Magazine, Apartment Therapy and Domino,as well as HGTV and Style Me Pretty.
“I think there’s still something so magical about seeing your project in print, especially in really well-known Canadian magazine like House & Home,” she said.
“It’s a bit of a reputation builder in that it solidifies you in the design industry as being reputable and acknowledged by these professional editors as legitimate and worthy of praise.”
Moving forward, Piotrowski hopes to build on the impressive foundation she’s already built in Tiffany Leigh Design to move the firm into larger, full-home renovation projects.
“My passion is most fulfilled when I can have my hand in every aspect of the design of a home – so that’s sort of where I’d love to be,” she said.
Another of Piotrowski’s big aims is to expand her newly launched online vintage shop, TLD Curated, into new merchandise in order to reach a wider audience and help bring the Tiffany Leigh aesthetic into everybody’s homes, regardless of price point.
Since the shop’s June launch, Piotrowski said she’s done two big drops of about 100 vintage items each, and both times they’ve sold out 90 per cent of their stock in the first four hours.
“It’s been really great. Now, we’re looking to expand into re-stockable merchandise, as well – lighting and furniture and other larger pieces, in addition to the small homewares we’re doing right now,” she explained.
“It’s a lot of work, but I’d really like (TLD Curated) to be a really big component of our business, so we can accessorize our clients’ home using a lot of its inventory.”
For those Yorkville University interior design students aspiring to follow in her post-graduation footsteps, Piotrowski has a number of pieces of advice on offer.
First and foremost, to develop a clear idea of what type of project sparks the most passion – be it residential design, or in the commercial or hospitality sectors – and then apply, apply, apply for any and all positions that fit that bill.
Secondly, Piotrowski suggests that anyone hoping to one day go out on their own might want to first consider getting some solid firm experience first – which, for her, proved an “invaluable” experience.
And lastly, she strongly encourages all aspiring designers to never underestimate the value of establishing a strong social media presence.
“Social media is essentially a free marketing tool to show a really wide audience what you do and what you can offer. It takes a long time to build, so the sooner you can start, the better.”