I want my tenure as President of NCIDQ to stand for something. After long discussions with the other officers and staff, I chose to make it about leadership. As the volunteer leader of this non profit board that certifies interior designers, I want this team to work like a well oiled machine. So at our first board meeting of the year, which was face to face in Washington, DC, I gave out homework. Each board member was required to bring a song that identified who they are. The playlist was very interesting and spread across the generations from Aretha Franklin (since Interior Designers are always seeking “Respect” for our profession) to Kelly Clarkson (“Miss Independent” and “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”). We learned a lot about each other from our music choices.
I chose Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi because I am an environmentalist at heart. The music speaks to my soul. I remember overhearing a cowboy in Wyoming one time lamenting the loss of his personal wilderness: “When I first moved out here there was nothing, and now it is all gone.”
My belief in stewardship led me to buy a Toyota Prius recently. I couldn’t pass up this cream puff vehicle, a 2008 with 21,000 miles on it. My other vehicle is a Chrysler Town and Country van for hauling sofas and antiques. But I never feel myself in a van, as I am definitely not a soccer mom type. I go zipping around in my Prius getting 49 mpg and singing ” you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone”. I notice people are passing me when I am going 92! It feels like I used to feel after one drink too many in college, driving along going 12 with one eye closed, wondering why everyone is leaving me in the dirt. Or is it similar to life which seems to be going faster and faster while I struggle to stay current? Then I realize that I have accidentally hit the kilometer button instead of the trip odometer. It helps to read the manual…
I stayed at a lovely organic lavender farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico a couple weeks ago. NCIDQ held its annual council of delegates meeting at Los Pablanos. The setting was lovely and fit me like an old tennis shoe. Because it is a working farm, I had the feeling that I was back on my Aunt Louzina’s farm where we spent so much time as children. That self sustaining farm in Liberty, North Carolina also had livestock, chickens, and produce. Although I was born a city girl, I always feel more grounded on a farm or in the wild.
My husband and I grow a lot of our own food and subsist off of the deer and fish on our property. We process it ourselves. I find myself increasingly buying the local organic meat for its flavor and safety. We cook with the rosemary and herbs from our landscaping. If it weren’t for the Airedales, I would have chickens and goats.
When anyone asks me what I plan to do when I retire, I tell them that I plan to slow down to 40 hours of design work a week and add a chicken coop and bee hives. Maybe I will become a plein air painter and potter. Maybe I will sit still occasionally, but I seriously doubt it.
I just returned from several days in Tempe, Arizona observing the grading session of the NCIDQ exam. I am always amazed at what makes people leave their jobs and their weekends at home to volunteer their time to a cause.
Not-for-profit organizations operate off of their volunteers. I am approaching a year of serving as President of the Council of Interior Design Qualification. When my husband, who knows how busy my design practice is, asked me why I would want to do that, my answer was that I didn’t know how not to. A friend told me that my clients would not care what was on my resume. That caused me to do some soul searching for the answer of why I would give that amount of time. I know that it will give back to my profession that I still love as much as my first day in it. I will get to travel over the US and Canada, meeting with others leaders and volunteers, eating great food and seeing things I would never see on my own. But I think that mostly I am doing it for myself, for the personal growth. Volunteerism is a low hanging fruit that anyone can pick and profit from. And it looks great in your obit.
Farmers call the time between planting and harvest the “laying by”. This time of year, my husband is busy putting in wildlife food plots and managing the damage to our timber from last February’s ice storm. He is looking forward to laying by. The concept holds true in Interior Design as well. A designer spends most of the time on a job at the front end – interviewing, proposing, designing, space planning, specifying, writing bids or procuring product – and then laying by. When the project begins to be built or renovated, there are meetings, emergency calls, oversight and coordination, but it is nowhere near as intensive as the design stage (assuming things go smoothly, of course). But in order to stay in business, one must plant seeds and prepare for the next harvest.
Come to think of it, I might go fishing instead…
Everyone needs a lime squeezer!
I work 50- 60 hours a week as an Interior Designer and handle estate liquidations on the side. I figure it is better than wasting time watching TV. Besides, if you are having fun, it doesn’t fell like work! Several years ago, I was liquidating a living estate for a widow whose sons had moved her close to them during her beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. The day I met her was a good day, and she was bright and present. Because she was moving certain furniture items to an apartment in North Carolina, the dining room table was full of displaced items. There was a pair of silver and ivory tongs on the table that were particularly intriguing. I called the son and asked if his mother or he remembered anything about this item, because I felt it might be significant. They did not know what I was speaking of and told me it must have been some of her late husbands’ family items. (She loved her things and thought his things were just stuff!) I asked permission to pull them from the sale and do some research when time allowed. After the sale was conducted, I looked up the mark “M. Price S. F.” I found that the item was made by Michael Price, a well known knife-maker during the gold rush in San Francisco. There was a push dagger that had brought $13,000 in 2008, but Price was known for knives, and the economy has crashed in the meantime. I spent months contacting people who knew people in the San Francisco antiques market looking for a potential buyer. After several months of trying to get a call back from Bonhams auction house in San Francisco, they answered and agreed to consign the item into their November armament auction, with an estimate of $3000 to $5000. Having felt that I had done the best for the client, I worked in a nearby town the day of the auction. When I returned to the office, I logged onto the Bonhams website to check the results. Anyone within three miles heard me hoop and holler that day when the “lime squeezer” fetched $29,000! When someone asked me how often this happened to me, I answered “once in a lifetime” and I had my turn. I hope I am wrong. I am out there looking for lightning to strike twice!
I was born a city girl raised by city parents. My mother did not want to live with old furniture or carry a stick of firewood, because she grew up in the depression. My father considered “roughing it” carrying his own golf bag. But we must be born with certain affinities, because I am happiest in the wide open with my critters. When I established my interior design firm, Laurie McRae Interiors, I wanted a timeless brand. I chose a rising whippoorwill as my logo, a symbol of the hope of spring. When I developed a line of clothing embellished with antique and vintage linens, I wanted to continue the brand but with a twist. So I named the venture “Chuck Wills Widow”. The name started as many conversations as the clothing ever did. A chuck will’s widow is a closely related bird to the whippoorwill, both in the family of night hawks. There is a week or two of time in the south when you can hear both birds call their own name. The whippoorwill call is fast and constant, while the chuck is slower and lilting. So listen late next May for the hope of spring and the promise of summer during that short time when their migrations overlap. I think I will name my next company “Goatsucker”.