An Interview with Interior Designer Amanda Larson
By Steve Rudd
Currently residing in Scottsdale, a suburb of Phoenix in Arizona, Amanda is a hard-working and highly-respected interior designer who has been actively involved in the industry for an illustrious decade. Eager to channel her overactive imagination, Amanda seemed destined to be involved with art and design in the wake of graduating, and she openly admits that she feels most at home wherever she is able to 'create or express a vision'.
Here, in an exclusive interview with Steve, Amanda reveals all about how she has managed to advance her career in interior design, how she triumphantly juggles the demanding cosmetic needs of her own home with the 'needs' of other people's homes, and how she has always nurtured a soft spot for horizon-broadening travel, home and away.
Hey Amanda, how are you?
I am good, thank you.
You are an interior designer and artist currently resident in the state of Arizona in the USA. How many years have you worked as an interior designer and was it your love for such work that brought you to Phoenix?
I moved to Arizona many years ago with my family as my father took a position here in town. I have moved around a few times since then but I chose to return to the Phoenix area where I have remained for some time now. I have been involved in interior design almost ten years. My vast love for art and design slowly evolved into an interior design career.
Did you nurture an interest in interior design and art in general from a young age and what do you find so appealing and rewarding about your career in design?
I was highly interested in fine art and all areas of design since I can remember. Anywhere that I can create or express a vision is where I am most at home. I have always had an active imagination, so I have experimented in all sorts of media and projects.
I had a long fascination with architecture, and it seemed these elements naturally found their way together. It started as friends I knew would ask for design advice or someone would hire me to work on a project for them. This advanced into many areas of interior design in regards to space planning, remodels, finish work, furniture design etc.
While I was working, I finished my degree in interior design to further allow myself to continue in my field and yet be up-to-date with today's technology needs.
You are currently in the throes of remodeling your bathroom in your house in Phoenix. What did you find easiest, designing rooms for your own home, or designing rooms for other peoples homes?
Well that depends. I find both challenging and rewarding! However I know I work harder and get things done on time and in the best form possible when it is for a client. At home, I work hard to make things the way that I want them. However, I often have projects all over the home in various states of progress.
I currently have a bathroom gutted right now. While I wait for materials on order I am working on a few other areas of my home. My laundry room is going through a remodel while an outdoor fireplace is finally going through the last bits of construction. Odds and ends still exist all over the house as well. When I have a client we move quickly through all the design phases and I have an end date in sight.
If somebody comes to you with only a very vague idea of what they want a specific room or an entire house to look like, how do you go about transforming their mental image into a tangible reality?
I have had many different types of clients over the years: some with a few ideas, and some clients who had no idea what they wanted. I have had clients who had a ton of ideas initially and then later we went in a totally different direction altogether.
So I make a very valid effort to really make sure we are all on the same page before we begin a project. I meet with my prospective clients and I can gather a sense of their style and color preferences right away. I will discuss their ideas, thoughts, and concerns further. I will then give my prospective clients some ideas, images, finishes, material choices, and address any concerns that may arise.
When we work out these details, the final plan will then emerge. I can then work towards making this a reality for them.
Are you ever worried that a client might not approve of your ideas?
I think most creative people are also sensitive people. We all worry. However, I go to great lengths to communicate with my clients before, during, and after a project is done. This helps to prevent errors or taste-issues.
I also want to make sure my client is happy. So if something needs adjusting then I do it! I like to be proud of my work and I want my clients to enjoy their spaces! In the end we are all happy!
Are there any particular rooms that you like working on the most?
Good question. I like designing and working on the spaces people live in most. Kitchens, great rooms, and master bedrooms are probably my favorites. Although I have done a few speciality rooms such as children's rooms and home offices that were a lot fun.
I mostly work in residential design, but I have done a few commercial design projects as well. I enjoyed working on boutiques as they allowed me to be very creative.
I think restaurants and club interiors would be fun and challenging to design but I have not worked in that area. For now I love working in homes where people live and share their lives.
Spaces that I am most proud of are ones that best suit its intended form and function, are unique in style, and use Green and environmentally friendly materials. I think respecting the architecture and the environment is a key element to a successful room or space.
If you begin from scratch with a design, how long a process is it, roughly, from such initial stages of design to actually submitting a design for approval from the clients and contractors?
This highly varies. I have had projects done in two weeks and other projects go on for months. Sometimes there are phases for various projects that need to be done within a structure. So we may work on a kitchen and then a bedroom and so on.
I have also had projects where the structure did not need to be changed but perhaps the surfaces and finishes did. This could be done in a week or two. A lot of this depends on the client's needs, how much work needs to be done, and materials and labor availability.
Your work as an interior designer aside, you a re also an artist. What kind of are are you involved with and are there plenty of opportunities to pursue such an interest in Phoenix?
I love to sketch, illustrate, paint, sculpt. I like to try all different types of art, design, and crafts. I have a few new areas of interest right now that I want to get into. I think Phoenix has a lot of opportunity as it is still a growing city.
I think it comes down to the person and what their goals are and how bad they want something if they are going to succeed or not. We are facing a tough economy and it affects everything. I paint more for fun and fulfilment than anything.
To live as a full time artist and to pay all of your bills that way has never been an easy task even for the greats! I think if you are a well rounded artist or designer then you have the best chances to truly succeed. If you can imagine, draft and create by hand, and also create with the aid of computers and new technology, then you have a leg up on other artists.
If you have a degree in a specific area or a lot of experience and talent you will also be noticed first when competing for a job.
Travel is another interest of yours. Do you travel mainly for work or for fun, and where are your favourite places in the States and the wider world at large?
I have travelled for work and for pleasure. I love to travel and I hope to continue to do so. I have been all over the U.S.A. My favourite places here are in New England, Washington State near Seattle, Sedona in Arizona, Carmel and San Fran in California, and Chicago to name a few.
Out of the States, my favourites would be Ireland, Switzerland, Canada, Italy, London, and Paris. I would love to see the South of France, Greece, Scotland... the list is too long. There are so many places I would love to see or go back to and see more of.
If there are any aspiring interior designers reading this, what advice would you give them should they be unsure about how best to make a mark in the industry?
I would first ask them: 'What do you want to do?' 'Do you want to be an interior designer, or do you want to concentrate on decorating homes and interiors?' There is a huge difference in many cases, and how you might plan for each of these areas varies.
Make sure you are clear on what you want so that you can make a clear plan for yourself! Do you want to stage homes? Do you want to remodel or restore homes or commercial structures? Do you want to be a space planner? Do you want to be a kitchen or bathroom designer? Do you want to work in residential design or commercial design? Do you want to be able to do it all? Are you going to work for a firm or yourself? T
These are questions all interior design students and professionals need to ask themselves at some point. The sooner the better to find your highway to success. I would suggest any designer make themselves diverse and up-to-date in interior design trends. I would recommend some sort of training either in school or by a mentor in a business where you learn the tools needed.
I would get magazine subscriptions in your field of interest to be on top of trends, resources, and the latest materials available. I would network with professional and student groups. Build up your resume and portfolio early and keep it up-to-date. You never know when you might really need it. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Finally, what will set you apart? What is unique or important to you that might appeal to a client?
For those folk who are interested in Amanda and her work, she is poised to set up her own website in the near future. In the meantime, she can be found on 'Facebook' should anybody wish to get in touch with her. Alternatively, she can be contacted via her e-mail address which is firstname.lastname@example.org
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