From Physical Therapist to Interior Designer…huh?

A sweet friend once told me I’m a rarity in that I have a balanced left and right brain, one doesn’t seem to dominate. I’m interested in science and (generally) more logical than emotional, but I’m creatively inclined, and up until I was old enough to be led to believe that the arts didn’t provide “real” careers, I wanted to be an artist. I can’t say specifically what made me think the arts weren’t a legitimate career, but I definitely recall feeling like I had no direction with my creativity and it was only appropriate as a hobby. If I wanted a career, job security, and the ability to support myself (and hopefully a family), then I better get my butt into grad school and get some letters behind my name. My parents were in the medical field, a dentist and dental hygienist, so something medical felt like the right thing to do. My mom told me she wanted to be a PT, but chose dental hygiene because my dad was going to dental school, so I decided I’d fulfill her dream since I couldn’t seem to figure out my own. In choosing Physical Therapy I knew I could be proud of a career helping people in need. After 7 years of education, I earned my Doctorate Degree.

Throughout college and my decade plus of being a therapist, I was always dabbling in artsy things on the side. I loved to decorate for parties, arrange bookshelves, paint furniture (Thank goodness distressed/chalk painted furniture is out. I admit, I drank the kool-aid on that one), and find inexpensive ways to decorate my house (because student loans). As I got further into my healthcare career, I began working in home health. You know what I loved most (and sometimes least) about it? Going into people’s homes. I loved looking at all their things, hearing their stories of the items that carried cherished memories, and seeing their vintage pieces and kitchens that hadn’t been touched since the 50s. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was beginning a mental bank of unique and vintage design elements that influence my style today. It also made me love and appreciate Memphis homes. I got to see so many different styles of homes, in every price range, old and new, in just about every neighborhood in the city. I would get so excited when I’d pull up to a midtown bungalow or a mid-century A-frame home, hoping there would be plenty of original elements still in tact. If I walked in and saw metal kitchen cabinets, I lost it. You better believe they were doing exercises in the kitchen on that visit! One of my favorite homes that stands out prominently in my mind was on East Cherry Circle. The patient was not the kindest, but I was glad to treat them because it meant I got to go in their little gingerbread house. That’s what I called it. It was the most adorable house, plucked right out of a fairy tale. It had original built-ins, a mostly original kitchen, beautiful woodwork. If it ever goes for sale, I hope I win the lottery at the same time because I love that house SO much! (In the interest of full disclosure, there were some very unsavory homes I went into that made me want to run away screaming, but I’ll leave those stories for when we meet in person. Your hint is, bugs. lots of them.)

Five years into my career, I went through a difficult divorce, and PT gave me much needed security. I knew, no matter what, I had a job somewhere and a way to take care of my daughter. But, the greatest thing it provided me, especially during that time, was friendships. To this day, most of my close friends are a result of PT school or working as a therapist. All of this is just to say, I don’t regret a single career decision I have made, because I know I wouldn’t be where I am without where I was before (and I really love where I am).

A few years after my divorce, a good friend (another therapist I met while working at Baptist Hospital) set me up on a blind date. She told me he was a great guy, successful, driven, and good-looking. Her “but” statement was, he needed an equal, someone with a strong personality that could “put him in his place” (that was said with a chuckle, she had seen more soft-spoken girls come and go). Ding Ding! Sign me up! So, she did. And it was great. He adored my daughter, Molly, and she loved him. I was smitten. It was just… easy. We got married, traveled, and started building a house. Life was good, but I was miserable at work. I felt stuck and burnt out. I’ve always wanted a strong career, but I knew what I was doing wasn’t the right thing for me anymore.

Josh, my husband, had been telling me for years, “You are meant for something else, you just have to figure out what.” He is my biggest cheerleader, the one that sees potential I didn’t know I had, and challenges me through encouragement. Throughout our home building process, when I would come up with a unique idea, solve a design problem or show him my amateur design boards, he would tell me I was great, that no one had seen anything like that before (certainly an exaggeration, but again, my cheerleader) and that I should make design a career. I laughed it off, but wished it could be true. Then, our house was done, and pictures were taken. People noticed, and liked it, and started asking me for help. So, despite my insecurities, I started decorating on the side. One client led to another, friends were hiring me (to my sweet, supportive friends, THANK YOU!), people were referring me to their friends (what?! The ultimate compliment. If you were one of those people, THANK YOU!) and I got busy. So busy, I was working 70 hours a week, juggling two jobs (drinking a lot of wine) and trying to see my family every once in a while and occasionally wash my hair. Finally, I realized, in a mental breakdown moment of stress, it was time. I needed to quit my PT job if I wanted the design thing to work. Josh told me, speaking from his own experience of building an independent financial planning business, “It’s supposed to get worse before it gets better, and you are there. It’s time for the better.” So, I quit. And I was terrified.

But here I am, writing my first blog post on my website (I still can’t believe I have a website!), at 11PM because I have been working all day and I have clients! It’s not lost on me how lucky I am that people choose me. There are so many talented designers in Memphis, and the fact that my style and method resonates with enough people to keep me working is incredible to me. I am so thankful. I sincerely love meeting new clients, working with them on a unique design plan, and making their house the home they want it to be. So, thank you – to my husband, who pushed me to do this and never doubted my abilities, to friends and family who have given me encouragement and confidence, to the strangers who have complimented my work, to those who have hired me, and to those in the design and construction world who have mentored me and been a resource of knowledge – you all are making my dream possible and I am so grateful.