Today marks my inaugural letter to you as Chair of your board. It is an honor to serve in this position, and I am grateful to stand on the shoulders of those who led us through and out of tough times – a special thank you to our past Chairs, Carolyn Ames Noble, Kerrie Kelly, and Jennifer Kolstad.
For those who don’t yet know me, I’m “just a small-town girl” from outside Little Rock, Arkansas. For much of my childhood, my mother, brother, and I were downright poor, often relying on family for food out of their gardens (poke salad, anyone?). Needless to say, I did not grow up around expensive design or beautiful architecture. But, my mother was a good decorator and always kept a clean home, however humble. She instilled in me a strong work ethic and an eye for detail. Times later improved for us, and my parents were able to build their own home. In that process, I learned about framing, shoulder joints vs. miter joints, and generally enough to be dangerous in all things construction! The anatomy of a designer was coming together, though it was still several years before it became clear to me.
At Hendrix College, I studied pre-law—I thought I was going to be an attorney. After graduation, I lived in Atlanta and began painting murals as a hobby, which led to a side-business. One day, one of my mural clients asked me to design her whole house. I declined, confessing that I had no idea how to do that. She said, “You know you can go to school for interior design.” That simple conversation inspired me to enroll at Georgia State University – a decision that ultimately changed the trajectory of my career.
Life later brought me back to Little Rock and design jobs were scarce. My mentor, Margo Jones, urged me to connect with my local design community, so I reached out to then ASID Chapter President, Cynthia Hawkins, and Maribeth Frazer. Two weeks later I had my design job, and within a year was recruited to work for another ASID leader, Julie Grisham. This is just a small display of the power of ASID!
I am proud that my background is different from most designers I meet. Architects or designers here in my part of the world “specialize in whatever walks through the door.” In a larger market region, I would have focused on healthcare, education, or workplace design. But because of the unique design landscape in Little Rock, I’ve benefited from working on a huge variety of project types with the most amazing clients. Looking back, I see how meaningful it has been to contribute to improving lives through design right here in my own backyard. We can design anywhere, and we must, because we need good design everywhere. I will always admire my big city friends for their design acumen and project caliber, and I also value the impact of design in our collective hometowns across the country.
Twenty-four years after that conversation in the mural client’s house, here I am designing not just houses, but hospitals, schools and more here in Arkansas. In addition, I am now an Instructor with UCA, and proudly carry the torch as Chair of the Board of the American Society of Interior Designers. I look forward to getting to know you more over the year ahead. To all of us who are creating value and impact in our own communities, I say thank you and keep going!