Design Crush: My Mastermind Group

Years ago I met Barbara Gilbert at an Interior Design Society conference in Las Vegas. I went to that conference on my own, not knowing anyone, and left there with a friendship that would impact my firm in more ways than I can count. We would talk from time to time on the phone when one of us needed some advice, and during one phone conversation we decided it would be a good idea to start a mastermind group. We immediately knew we wanted Traci Connell, whom I met shortly after meeting Barbara, in the group. Then Barbara told me about a spunky Northeast designer, Donna Hoffman, she had met at one of the other conferences and felt that she would be a great addition to our group. Several months later, Donna suggested adding Valerie Garrett, a designer in Georgia. I’ve included a little bit about each of them below.


Barbara Gilbert HeadshotBarbara Gilbert is the owner and lead designer at Barbara Gilbert Interiors, an award-winning, luxury interior design firm in Dallas, Texas. Barbara translates her expertise in color theory, principles of design, and environmentally friendly renovation into beautiful, functional interiors.

One of Barbara’s primary goals is streamlining the design and collaboration journey for busy professionals. From concept to completion, Barbara and her team endeavor to make the experience enjoyable and stress free. After an initial meeting to discuss wants, needs, and lifestyle, Barbara’s unique back office processes allows clients to approve design elements, see budget reports, and approve spending online.

Barbara Gilbert Interiors

Barbara is known for her dedication to excellence, even to the smallest details. Her passion, talent, and professionalism are evidenced in her many design awards, including 13 ASID awards, four Interior Design Society Designer of the Year awards, six consecutive years as Best of Houzz for Interior Design and Customer Service, and HGTV Pro Network Designer.

A life-long passionate learner, Barbara is a Certified Dewey Color Specialist, and a Regreen Certified interior designer. She serves on the National Board of the Interior Design Society, is the former President of the Interior Design Society, Dallas chapter, served as a presenter for the 2011 Dallas Home and Garden Show, and as a judge for 2011 Habitat for Humanity Design Duels. She is a founder and managing partner of Dallas DesignWorks, a design co-op she created to ensure her clients have access to the most exclusive, custom furniture lines.


Traci Connell Headshot

Traci Connell is an award winning entrepreneur whose business sense and design skills are combined with a passion for delivering interiors that are at the heart of livable style.

With timeless, sophisticated taste, Traci offers classic design with transitional flair and clean lines. Her ability to transform residential interiors by layering color, shape and texture has earned her the respect of her discriminating clientele. Traci’s impeccable eye for space planning and design is combined with her knowledge of project management that differentiates her from other interior designers. From initial planning to final details, each project is outline through a state-of-the-art project management system, streamlining the process and enhancing the client experience.

Known for her sense of humor and gracious manner, Traci guides her clients through each step in the design process. She makes it her goal to understand her clients’ aspirations and learn their stories, developing a rapport while creating the design plan. It is this personal attention that allows Traci to create customized design solutions tailored to reflect each client’s needs, tastes and lifestyle.

Traci Connell Design Project
Traci Connell Interiors

Traci Connell Interiors has been featured in publications and design blogs including, The Dallas Morning News, CultureMap Dallas, House of Turquoise, Apartment Therapy: The Kitchn, Candy’s Dirt, Plano Star Courier, and Ava Living.

A recipient of numerous honors, Traci is recognized as a leader in the Dallas design community. In addition to her impressive portfolio, she is a multiple first place recipient of the 2014 and 2015 ASID Legacy of Design Awards, 2013, 2014, and 2015 ASID Ovation Awards, 2012 and 2013 IDS Designer of the Year Awards. She was recently selected as one of the 15 Best Interior Designers in Dallas by, named one of the Top 5 Dallas Interior Designers to watch in 2015 by and has been awarded Best of Houzz in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Traci has recently been selected as a finalist of the 27th ARTS Awards in the Interior Designer category.


Donna Hoffman relaxed 1500 ppi croppedDonna Hoffman is the Philadelphia region’s only luxury interior designer to be awarded 7 Designer of the Year awards from the International Design Society and American Society of Interior Design. She has also been honored with 4 Best of Houzz awards. Her in-demand interior design company specializes in designing for a busy professional clientele. Their Wise Design approach sets them apart from other design teams. Using wise design strategy, we identify your unique design cravings – your Design Fingerprint – marrying them with an innovative design process that leads to spaces that fit you like a glove.

Donna Hoffman Blue and White Dining Room
Interiors by Donna Hoffman

Donna is a foremost design thought leader and go-to authority for the press. She has appeared in print and TV outlets including Family Circle, Real Simple, Country Accents,, ABC, and has been interviewed by dozens of radio personalities and has appeared in business journals across the U.S.

In 2012 she founded a massively popular and ever-growing 2nd on-line design brand ( to empower DIY Design Lovers who do not hire professional designers. Here Design Lovers get empowered with proven and popular design products and strategies so they can finally connect the dots between their pinboard images and the actual results they can get in their own home.


VGID+Valerie+Garrett-231-2-2843853316-OValerie Garrett is a Macon, Georgia based interior designer whose impeccable level of taste and refined aesthetic shines through in all of her interiors. With her signature modern elegance, Valerie creates surroundings that comfort our bodies, while engaging our minds and reviving our spirits.

Valerie believes that our homes and offices are an extension of who we are and what we value. She expresses that for clients through a seamless blending of traditional and transitional styles. Her rooms are well considered spaces that are more than the sum of their parts: they are sophisticated spaces that come alive through the easy connections that they foster. Stylish and understated, quiet and tasteful, Valerie’s designs make living a gracious life, effortless.

VG05052015-264-Edit JPEG
Valerie Garrett Interior Design

Valerie was named one of Georgia’s Top 100 Designers, and at VGID, Valerie Garrett Interior Design, she is supported by a talented and dedicated team that shares her belief regarding the positive impact that marvelous design can have on our lives. She achieves that in every project, through strong gestures and beautiful details, as well as through a collaborative environment. Working together with clients, architects, contractors and craftspeople, VGID creates homes and offices that support each client’s needs and priorities.

For every project, Valerie’s goal is always the same: to design stunning, tailor made surroundings in which her clients will thrive.

Time flies and I can’t believe that we started this group a little over 3 years ago. The amount of wisdom and encouragement I have received from each of these ladies is so invaluable. I could write a book on how much I have learned from each of them. They are not only creative designers but they are all ethical and savvy business owners.

No matter what industry you are in, I would highly recommend forming your own mastermind group. No one understands your industry as much as someone who’s in your industry. Our group has gone from sharing business ideas to developing strong friendships. I look forward to each and every time we have our monthly brainstorming call or times when we are able to spend time together at business conferences or retreats.

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Designing spaces you love to live in,

Robin's Signature

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