Meet the Entrepreneurial Interior Designer
Kevin O’Gara (Design and Environmental Analysis 20’) is the brain behind ‘Thou Swell,’ an Atlanta lifestyle blog which has accrued thirteen thousand followers on Instagram in approximately four years. O’Gara describes the blog as a place for those with an eye for design and ‘entertaining enthusiasts.’ O’Gara’s interests lie in forming a world where social and environmental impact overlap. The Cornell sophomore has worked with national companies such as Fab.com, Home Depot, Target, Trulia, and Jonathan Alder. With O’Gara’s sophisticated eye, many of his followers have been surprised to learn that he is only a college student.
E@D had the pleasure of interviewing the interior designer:
How did you discover your passion for interior design?
I can’t trace my passion for interior design back to a specific moment, but once I really started focusing on it, I realized that it had been an interest of mine my whole life! I loved moving the furniture, watching my mom unroll a new rug, even setting up my childhood tree house with pillows and lights for a sleepover with my little sister. I also think in terms of space – I often recall memories or scenes from movies with their setting.
How has Thou Swell changed over time and where do you see the blog going?
Thou Swell has definitely evolved since its conception over four years ago. I started with a loose ‘lifestyle’ focus but focused my posts on home and entertaining content. I’m currently working on an exclusive line of rugs and, rather than expand Thou Swell’s brand, I’m working on encompassing the media portion of my brand under a design company and expanding my interior and product design practices. After that, I’m interested in expanding my designs from the interior focus to developing residential housing concepts.
Who/what do you believe had an influence on the growth of Thou Swell?
Social media has had a huge impact on the growth of my blog. Social media marketing is quickly becoming the most relevant channel for promotion, and as a digital influencer, I’ve seen both the front and back-ends of the new influencer marketing industry. People are often surprised at how young I am when they meet me, but being part of a more digitally-integrated generation has equipped me with the toolset to naturally integrate social media into my brand. It also has provided me with a more personal relationship with my followers!
How are Thou Swell’s partnerships initiated?
Most partnerships are managed through influencer networks/agencies, or directly from the marketing departments of these companies, but once I’ve worked with a brand once, I can often pitch them projects later once that relationship is initiated.
What is your favorite thing about blogging?
It would be hard to pinpoint one thing, but just being able to create a platform for myself has been incredible. Running my blog has allowed me to practice my writing and photography, and develop my style – while growing a network of contacts within the home design industry! Being able to get this head start on practicing my passion is incredibly rewarding.
How has your Cornell experience impacted Thou Swell?
Cornell’s Design & Environmental Analysis program has definitely informed my learning beyond interiors with classes like Environmental Psychology and Making a Difference by Design. Developing a broader understanding of the impact of design (beyond just interiors) has been fantastic.