Rebecca Cartwright is an interior designer and the owner of R. Cartwright design in Ankeny, IA.
Q: Why did you choose to go into interior design?
A: My father was an architect and I grew up visiting the sites that he was working on at the time and I was really interested in architecture and art. I was encouraged in my home to do a lot of art projects. It was just something that I think was internal but was encouraged by my parents to express it. I do have a degree from Drake in psychology and social work. My senior year at Drake I took art and design classes and one of my professors, my art professor, pulled me aside and met with me and suggested I go into art and design because she saw that I had a talent for that. I was a social worker for several years and then switched careers.
Q: How did you make that switch? Did you go back to school?
A: I didn’t, some people do. I actually bought a franchise and went to their school in Maryland and I did the franchise for a year after going to their school, it was an intensive two-week program in Maryland. I have had my own business for 18 years.
Q: What is your favorite DIY project that anyone can do?
A: I love spray paint so I recently painted a vintage stool and some ’70s tables in some different colors to go in a loft downtown and I sprayed some lamp bases and a mirror frame. But I think my favorite was with some clients that were third generation violinists and they have vintage violin music from their grandparents and parents and they wanted to use them some how in their décor. So I had a huge vintage frame from a courthouse in Iowa and I’d been saving that I didn’t know how I’d use it or when I’d use it but we made a collage in the frame of this music and it had handwritten notes by their parents and grandparents on the music itself and then the framer put it together in the frame under glass and we hung it in their dining room.
Q: What is your advice for someone who wants to redesigning a space by themselves?
A: With all the avenues that we have today for design, in just the last five years, I would look at blogs and I would look at Houzz.com and Pinterest. I love magazines, I get several design magazines a month. I don’t have a lot of time to look at those sites a lot, but if you are looking to do a project on your own I would look at blogs and those sites I mentioned.
Q: How do you describe your own design style?
A: I would say eclectic, clean. I have been drawn to more of a neutral palette in the last five years and then I add in color with pillows and art and pottery, accessories so that there is some longevity to the design. I do like to incorporate personal affects like the music I told you about, any personal pictures, I really like to take into account the people’s interest. I do a lot of design with books so if we are ordering books for a client, a cocktail table or nightstand that are decorative, I always incorporate their interests in those books and we purchase books that relate to them. So I always take into account their lifestyle. Who’s going to be living in that space, who’s going to use it, how are they going to use it? I’ve moved to a more classic design style and incorporate salvaged pieces if clients will let me.
Q: What is the hardest part about being an interior designer?
A: Difficult clients. And running a business. Because I’m artistic, I prefer meeting with clients and designing rather than all of the paperwork and tracking and running a business. All kinds of personalities, there are controllers and there are people who have conflicts within their marriage, it’s sad to see, but there’s all kinds of unpleasant folks out there. I try to identify those folks who will be problematic and limit my time with them and let them go in a diplomatic way because I don’t enjoy spending time with difficult people. It’s a challenge for all business owners.
Q: What is the most rewarding part about being an interior designer?
A: Improving people’s quality of life. The intangibles, their joy, they can have their family function in a space that is enhanced their ability to function in the space is enhanced. Working with wonderful clients is very rewarding. I gain relationships with them. I’m in their home, it’s a very personal space and so we get very personally involved and I get to know them very well. Of course it’s really fun when I have a lot of Leigh way and can actually do it the way I recommend doing it. If people allow me to have more free reign it turns out better. And if they have a nice budget where we can get high quality pieces and really finish the space, not just provide furniture, flooring and paint, and countertops, but we actually can accessorize and do the windows. If we can complete it, it’s very rewarding.