Designer Showcase: Debbie O Connor, Interior Design Expert & Beauty Consultant

Meet Debbie
She isn’t just your ordinary interior designer. Her plethora of skills include Cosmetics, Marketing, Social Media, Sales, Retail, Hospitality, Writing/Blogging etc. while also being proficient with computer programs such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Design Suite, AutoCAD, SketchUp, Revit, and 3DS Max. Get to know more about Debbie better through her Behance profile.

Her vast range of skills and creative designs caught our team’s eye and we decided to pick her brain on how it all began and what keeps her ticking.

Enter Debbie…..

What determined your passion for design? Tell us about the moment when you decided this is the way to go.

I think I was always drawn to creative outlets growing up, but my passion for design became obvious in college when it was the only subject matter that could really hold my attention without boredom.

Can you remember your first design project? Describe it a bit, whether it is a gizmo you worked at as a little kid or something that was sold at a large scale.

My first exciting design project, where I really got to be creative and think outside the box to come up with something from scratch was a college assignment. It was an introductory interior design class and we had to come up with a retail outpost design. I would like to work as a commercial interior designer like Elvin Shirinov one day!

My company was Sony. I really enjoyed branding the space and my design was somewhat original at the time, in 2008, with its color palette and an introduction of curves into the electronic retail space. I was only 22!

Debbie's College Project

Debbie’s College Project

What field of design are you most interested in? Do your works have anything to do with it? (We are asking this because not many designers do what they actually want)

Fashion, interior design, and technology interest me the most.

However, I grew up around housing renovations and I think the first-hand experience made interior design a more comfortable choice for me. I was always been around technology so its use in interior design was very appealing and came naturally to me.

My interest in fashion wasn’t really fostered in my early education or upbringing, so I accidentally got an education in it by working retail while in school, and getting a visual merchandising job out of college when the economy wasn’t doing great.

I had to wear a uniform during most of my school years, so the focus was definitely not on fashion, although that is so important to most teenagers. Shoe choice became a source of freedom and self-expression as well as skirt hemline lengths and hair color/style/accessories.

Chronologically describe what you are going through (feeling and thoughts) on your way to work.

The first step is always meeting the client and figuring out how I can help them. This part is new, fresh, and exciting. After the initial meeting, I begin developing preliminary design ideas. This stage usually involves research, looking at photos, and spaces other’s have designed to get ideas.

There is a little anxiety during this stage because I typically have “x” amount of time to make something out of nothing so the pressure is on.

Out of this collage of ideas and after some thought and reworking, there is usually one design that stands out or sometimes it’s a combination of a few ideas to get the best concept.

I then present my concept(s) to the client, and their feedback pushes the project into the next stage of development and so forth until we have a final product.

House Renovation in Florida, U.S.A. Completed in 2017.

House Renovation in Florida, U.S.A. Completed in 2017.

What is your favorite book/magazine on design? How about your favorite site?

I read all types of magazines on design and do not have a favorite. It just depends on timing and what strikes my interest at that point in time. The magazines usually carry over into fashion as well.

For a while, I had Vogue, Interior Design Magazine, Dwell, Hospitality Design, Boutique Design, and VMSD all on my coffee table each month.

However, nature really inspires me the most. Studying its existence helps me come up with original ideas. I’ve recently subscribed to Natural Geographic.

As far as a favorite site, Modular always keeps me informed on what’s happening around the world in design. Some others include Co.Design, Inhabitat, Core77, Architizer, Design Milk, etc. I don’t always have the time or energy for all of these like I wish I did! 🙂

What is the most frustrating aspect of your job as a designer? And the most rewarding one?

Well, it’s often working with clients.

With differing schedules and understandings, getting a project completed to satisfaction can, at times, be challenging.

A lot of the time clients want to create the latest trends they see, when as a Designer I want to push progress and create a space that is up to date while also designing for space itself, rather than continually recreating what’s popular at the moment.

I do understand that from the client’s perspective, as someone who doesn’t regularly focus on design or even necessarily have time for it, what’s trending must look new and fresh to them.

The most rewarding aspect is the finished project that both you and the client are proud of.

House Renovation in Florida, U.S.A. Completed in 2017

House Renovation in Florida, U.S.A. Completed in 2017

From your point of view, is design an art or a science?

The design is the convergence of art and science.

There is definitely an emotional element to design, but it is also methodological. One of the reasons I enjoy it so much is that there is room for freedom of expression.

Space says something about a person, culture, or company, but there is also a reason why things came together with the way they did. Interior Design affects people in ways they might not fully realize.  If space isn’t organized nicely and adjacencies are properly assigned, people can’t function very easily, which creates frustration.

Color is another example of how design affects people. An all red room affects people’s mood differently than an all white one. If space’s acoustics are not addressed, noise is out of control and everyone leaves with a headache.

If furniture needs are not properly met, no one can comfortably relax in the space. Interior Design is important in so many small ways that make up the whole living experience.

Lotus Playhouse. Completed in 2017

Lotus Playhouse. Completed in 2017.

Tell us something unusual that happened in your career.

It’s got to be the roller coaster ride it has been….

I thought I would go on a few interviews out of college, get a job, and work my way up within an Interior Design company or an Interior Design Dept. of an Architecture firm, gaining skills and fair pay along the way.

However, the bad job market in 2010 made getting hired extremely tough and I had to really fight and work unfairly hard to accomplish anything. My career has been a collection of little opportunities here and there that I hope will all come together in the future.

My opportunities and experiences produced a love for fashion as I felt more respected there and a lack of respect for the interior designing field and how it treated me, as somewhat disposable.

Many Architecture and Interior Design companies were and still only hire for contracted temporary positions, sometimes not even offering compensation.

It has been somewhat of a disheartening experience for me. It sends the subtle message that what you do isn’t important and makes young impressionable designers feel unvalued.

IIDA Unravel Fashion Show, St. Louis, Missouri. Completed in 2014

IIDA Unravel Fashion Show, St. Louis, Missouri. Completed in 2014

Let’s say you entered a contest. You have to come up with a design for the first house on the Moon built for extra-terrestrial living. How would your project look like?

A project on the moon would require a lot of research.

It’s a completely different atmosphere on the moon- The lighting, the temperature, the gravitational pull, the amount of life there….. I would have to familiarize myself with extra-terrestrial lifestyles.

It would for sure be a challenging design to conquer. I rely on the first-hand experience as much and second and third hand, so I would need to read up on the moon as well as visit myself for a good site analysis.

What materials would be appropriate for the moon? The most pressing question, posed in good humor, might be, is silver a more appropriate metal for the moon, or does the moon need gold?

If you had no limits (money, resources), what would you create?

The no-limit question always gets me because there are always limits. I’m so used to limits that I would feel uncomfortable without them. I use them to push and shape my designs.

Currently, I would probably reshape and design the retail world, from my store concept to the store environment to the business model.

I also do not think there are enough career options that truly peak a young women’s interest where I am located.

Share something you would like the world to know about you or your ideas.

At this point I really roll with the punches, take things as they come, and try to create something original, beautiful, and functional.

IIDA Unravel Fashion Show, St. Louis, Missouri. Completed in 2014

IIDA Unravel Fashion Show, St. Louis, Missouri. Completed in 2014

What advice do you have for young designers or architects reading this interview?

This question baffles me a bit because I still consider myself young with much to learn about design in the “real” world.

But for those just starting out, don’t let the stigma of traditional and what’s easiest for construction and budget dampen your creativity and ability for complex and original thought.

Don’t let others’ limitations intimidate you and don’t be overly generous with your ideas or time. Know your worth.

If our readers had to follow you on or wanted to reach out, what would be the best way to go about it?

You can follow any social media site listed below or email me directly at debbiemoconnor@gmail.com.

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