“What do you do?”

Ok. I’ll be the first to admit it: I use my kids for my own amusement.

One night at dinner I whispered to my 5 year old, “Ask dad where his train is.” See, my husband is a mechanical engineer who works for a German bearing company. My husband doesn’t think the joke is funny and tells our daughter, “Mommy builds buildings.” So both of us are way off, but we chuckle.

It is no easier to explain to an adult than it is to a child what I do. When I say I’m a commercial interior designer, the first comment I get is, “I always wanted to do that”, usually followed by “I just redecorated my (insert room in house here)”.

When they ask what I do the interior design of, I usually go through the litany of projects that can include schools, jails, coffee shops and an airport. They usually looked shocked and ask, “What does a jail need interior design for?” To which I reply, “Schools and jails can be similar with concrete block walls and VCT floors”. They stare blankly.

Every building has interiors; whether it is a stadium,  a classroom, or an office building. Once you open the doors and step inside, everything the eye sees had to be determined by someone. The floor you walk on, the ceiling above you, or lack thereof, was thought of very carefully. The walls, the glass, the color of the door knobs even, have been taken into consideration to the whole of the building. A polished concrete floor has the same level of thought as an 8 color VCT floor pattern.

Google image search the words ‘Interior Designer’ and you will get lots of pictures of chairs, kitchens and living rooms. Contrary to current perception, we are more than furniture and “color pickers”. We know about the psychology of color, space planning, programming, ergonomics, workplace strategies, educational pedagogies, sustainable products, millwork construction, wall construction, lighting and yes, even life safety and minor structural understanding. We are well versed in building codes, accessibility codes and mechanical/electrical codes (the new ones are harsh!).

My kids still don’t understand what I do every day. They see me on the computer at home and they have been to the office, but the easiest way for them to share with others what I do is when their class goes on a field trip to the Discovery Place science museum and they say, “My mom did that!” What “that” means is still unclear, but they are proud of their mom and that’s all that matters to me.

Discovery Place, Charlotte, NC

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