#25 Interview with an Intern

This past summer H&R Carpets and Angie Schwab Interiors provided a joint internship to Kelsey Nonn. She's a student currently studying interior design at Madison College. As part of the internship, we asked Kelsey to help us out with our blog. She offered some questions for me to answer interview style - things that she was interested in learning and so she thought other folks might be interested in as well. Here's the interview:

1. Was there a defining moment when you knew you wanted to become an interior designer? If so, what was that moment like?

No, there wasn't a defining moment for me. It was a slow process of realizing an interest. Looking back, it was always there. I have always enjoyed color, texture, and pattern. I have always had a heightened awareness of my surroundings and the emotional changes that come with the physical changes in our environment. The ability to affect things has always intrigued me.

Interior design is a second career for me. I worked in information systems at Kraft Foods first. After I moved away from home and later became a home owner in my early 20's - that is when I first considered interior design a career choice

That’s me in 1980!

That’s me in 1980!

2. Where did you study interior design?

I studied interior design at UW-Madison. I received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Textiles and Design in 2007. I also have a Bachelor in Business Administration from UW-Eau Claire. I received that degree in 1998.

The door that would lead me to my new career!

The door that would lead me to my new career!

Classroom in the School of Human Ecology

Classroom in the School of Human Ecology

3. When did you decide to take the leap and start your own business?

I started my interior design business in 2004.

I knew I wanted to be a business owner well before I knew I wanted to be an interior designer. I took marketing courses in high school and continued taking business classes while attending UW-Eau Claire after high school. I read books about entrepreneurship and biographies about entrepreneurs. To this day, I'm still fascinated by people's stories. Being a business owner takes courage, confidence, and a serious work ethic. It demands that you work hard to figure things out even if it's outside of your area of expertise.

4. Why did you decide to start your own business instead of going to work for someone else?

I enjoy having the responsibility to set standards for how our clients are treated. Since most of our projects are residential - I am invited into people's homes. This honor comes with a responsibility to be respectful and empathetic. Listening to my client's needs is the most important thing. I also enjoy having the ability to be flexible and adaptive. The options available for purchasing home furnishings and fixtures has drastically changed since I started the business 14 years ago. I can meet those needs by using trade vendors for a full service experience, local retails for a more personal feel, or online vendors offering convenience and variety. We also offer e-design where we send you a completed plan and all the information you need to implement it without even meeting.

5. Between having a family and 2 businesses to run, how have you gotten through some of the more difficult times?

It hasn't been easy! We've had some serious challenges along the way both personally and professionally. Having a loving and supportive husband helps. We believe in each other and we love each other very much. When the going gets tough, you pick yourself up and do your best to learn from the situation.


6. If there was one thing you learned along the way that you’d want to share with others, what would it be?

Never. Stop. Learning.

Hang out with people smarter than you.
Never assume someone doesn't have something to teach you.
As a designer, always be aware of your surroundings and how you feel in those surroundings. Analyze why.

Some of my favorite books and podcasts for inspiration:

Young House Love

The Chaise Lounge

How I Built This

How to Be Amazing

7. How has your business grown or changed over the years? Have you changed with it?

Each project is different so the depth of knowledge and experience that I have has increased. I also have a wonderful list of resources. I've met a lot of creative and talented folks through the years. Harnessing their talent in a team effort has led to really beautiful work.

Another aspect that has changed is technology. We use digital images to convey our ideas and aid in the design process. The digital images get surprisingly close to reality. This offers clients an added sense of comfort that they're going to love the space when it's completed. Many of the purchases we make for our home are long-term. Making sure you love them is really important.

8. What has inspired you to continue to want to be a designer (and run your own business) every day?

photo by: Beth Skogen

photo by: Beth Skogen

After all of these years, I'm still so aware of how we are affected by our environments and I have an emotional attachment to the word "home". It's such an important place. Living in a home that is filled with things that provide beauty, happiness, comfort, and safety is so important. Being a part of helping our clients achieve that feeling is so rewarding! 

I am also really excited about the unique service that we offer and the unique way we deliver that service. We don't rely on product sales. We make the best design decisions for our clients based on his/her budget and preferences. This leaves our client with a sense of comfort about our motives and excitement about the way we can curate their selections for a unique and interesting look . Our delivery with digital images is really unique.