I am not attempting to be a renaissance women – I don’t think I have the time.
Long ago, before any talk about college or careers (we’re talking 14 years old here), I used to draw floor plans in a spiral bound notebook. That was my thing…I would spend a few hours a week cryptically diagramming out how a person would move through a space. I would close my eyes and imagine how natural light might affect a space, what changes in level would do and how activities should dictate the shape of a room. My mother saw my intense interest in this and suggested I take ‘drafting’ classes – and so I did. In high school, my drafting teacher and guidance counselor both suggested majoring in architecture.
Upon graduating high school, I was accepted into Auburn University’s College of Architecture, Design & Constructions’ Summer Option program. Summer Option was an intense 8 or 9 week program for freshmen students interested in architecture, interior design and building construction. It gave accepted Auburn students the “boot camp” version of what each major was about. Before we were “placed” into the discipline we thought we might want to pursue, a selected professor gave a description of each career. I remember liking the description of interior design and that is how I was classified in Summer Option. In 1997, I graduated with a Bachelor of Interior Design and went to work for a prestigious firm in Atlanta, Georgia.
After a few years of working professionally, I developed an interest in how the interior could ‘shape’ the exterior. Not only that, I was interested in the three-dimensional relationships that could be expressed architecturally – while meeting the functional needs of the inhabitants. This lead me to pursue my graduate studies in architecture. In 2004, I graduated with a Master of Architecture from Georgia Tech.
As I sit nearly at the close of 2013 with education and experience in two disciplines that are often thought of as separate, I am now attempting to build a practice that somehow allows me to marry them. In my research I have found endless examples of architects doing architecture, architects doing interior design and interior designers doing interior design – but I am at a loss to find a modern, female designer who is working in a practice that allows her to actively engage both disciplines as if they were never separated (I do realize that the discipline of architecture was once all encompassing in terms of the attention to architecture and interior design). Hear me out, I am not interested in working on large scale projects that would require a team of professionals (skyscrapers, convention centers or university campuses) – I have worked in this area and honestly prefer smaller scale projects. Maybe I should look (again) at Frank Lloyd Wright – I just want a more modern example.
A few years ago, Ann Fougeron of Fougeron Architecture talked about women in architecture and all of the real life issues they have to overcome being a female in a still male dominated field. I could even understand her reluctance at ever being thought of as an interior designer, and let’s not even bring up the topic of a female architect being thought of as an interior decoration – which I know happens! There is nothing wrong with architects (female or male) wanting to practice within their discipline. Honestly, it has always been fun for me to join a firm or go to marketing events and have people guess which side I’m on. I do not correct people when they call me a decorator. I do not correct people when they call me an interior designer or an architect. To be honest with you – I happen to love the disciplines of interior design, architecture and interior decorating (these are not bad words to me). (see my About Me page).
My original intent for starting this blog was to find a way to seamlessly join the disciplines of interior design, interior decorating and architecture in a way that still presents a rigor and relevance to the profession and to the end user. I do understand that there is a certain scale that this must be practiced at (small) and I am more than fine with this.
With the birth of each child, I seem to get more focused and driven in how I want to provide for them and at the same time reach my personal career goals. My last huge hurdle is to take the ARE (Architectural Registration Exam) and to continue to build a practice that allows me to seamlessly work in the areas that I love. I know that each project I work on will not speak equally to my love for each area nor will it be the perfect blend…but I’m hoping to be clear about my design desires and define this specific path of practice.
Let me know your thoughts on this – and if you know of an example I could look to (male or female), please forward that information!