*Editor’s Note: We’ve been wanting Nancy to contribute to The Garret since the start because her varied background – graphic design, interior design and architecture – is so interesting in how it compliments and builds upon each other. We hope you enjoy the story of her professional and educational journey as much as we do.
Growing up in southeastern Arkansas I didn’t have an immediate cultural and geographical exposure to the fine arts, but I had a cousin that worked as a graphic designer and I couldn’t help but notice how the profession combined all of my strong areas in school (art, computers and English). I entered Henderson State University as a graphic design major and became the first person in my immediate family to study anything creative in college. The idea of studying a subject that didn’t have an obvious and direct path to financial stability was unheard of. It could be said that I made myself even more of a collegiate black sheep when I realized the graphic design profession wasn’t quite where I wanted to be shortly after graduating.
Looking back, I can see how I didn’t realize at that time that the eye we develop as designers is often based on what our eyes have actually seen–especially in a pre-Internet world. Luckily, my family understood my dissatisfaction with the graphic design profession and my mother wasn’t at all surprised when I told her I wanted to continue my education and study interior design. While other children (including my sister) were perfectly content with their bedroom being consistent and familiar, I wanted to completely redecorate my bedroom every single year. My father had also supported my early interior design aspirations throughout my childhood as well by regularly providing me with new bedroom furniture from the store he worked at.
I entered University of Arkansas–Fayetteville and ended up working in a store with home décor while studying interior design. Ironically, I couldn’t afford to redecorate my room every year while studying interior design because I was a typical, broke college student. But, I promise you, I still managed to make my place look cool.
With my graphic design studies I had the disadvantage of an untrained and underexposed eye, but with my interior design studies I had a strong advantage. Although graphic design is 2D and interior is 3D, it’s the same principal. Also, the design elements (proportion, scale, etc.) work the same. I proudly graduated and received my second degree, and got a job that specialized in senior living FF&E (furniture, fixtures and equipment). Also, I finally started traveling and exposed myself to sights, art, and locations that helped me develop my eye as a designer.
There were places in the U.S. I had never seen (such as Chicago and New York) that have incredible art museums and I made it a point to visit as many as possible. I also went to Europe where I worked on various housing projects and made it a point to absorb as much as art as possible while in Europe. I should have been in an ideal place, but as I approached the seven year mark in interior design I found myself fighting this voice in my head that said “Go study architecture.” It was, perhaps, the professional “seven-year itch.”
As fate (or rather business and the economy) would have it, I was laid off at my company along with numerous other people. It seemed like a good time to listen to that voice telling me to study architecture, so I entered the architecture program at Louisiana State University. I found my previous two degrees helped me immensely and it felt like a natural progression. I went from 2D to 3D and then architecture opened it up even wider. My exposure, my eye and my level of maturity had all grown at this point. The only thing I found lacking in architecture was color.
Upon graduating (with my third degree for any readers losing track), I started searching for a job and deliberately looked at firms close to my family. I found KSQ Architects and started in the architecture design department, but like a moth to the flame I was moved to the interiors department. There, I’ve found myself closer to my goal of not only designing something, but building something; and working with color, because life and learning has taught me I’ve got to have color.