Home Design Tips and an Exclusive Peek Into Tabitha Evans’ “Becoming a Designer of Distinction”
Tabitha Evans is many things: an Arizona local, mom, two-tour Army veteran, businesswoman and award-winning interior designer. Inspired by her travels, she seeks to use her colorful interior design as a way to transform lives. In her new book, “Becoming a Designer of Distinction: What Design School Won’t Teach You”, Evans lays out essential lessons for budding interior designers looking for a leg up in their career, or even just folks at home tempted to launch a renovation project.
Phoenix Home & Garden: How did you make the transition from Army signals intelligence to interior design?
Tabitha Evans: I was in the army for just under seven years. When I got out, I took a little hiatus and traveled. I had the opportunity to go to Europe, and I lived in Italy for a couple of years. I saw so much architecture and design and I just loved it. I decided then, “I’m going to be an interior designer.” With it, I can still make a difference in people’s lives. I can help people. I worked in senior living for the last four years, for example. We’ve done high-end senior living communities all over the United States, and it’s been so rewarding.
PHG: What inspired you to write “Becoming a Designer of Distinction”?
TE: I was inspired because when I got out of school, I was lucky enough to find an incredible mentor and had the experience of learning so much by working with her. And a lot of people don’t get that opportunity. I always had girlfriends calling me to ask, “Hey, how do you do this or that?” or “Wow, you know, you’re so successful, what are you doing?” So I felt like it was a really good way to give people who are getting started a leg up. The book is just really easy to read, bullet-pointed tips, tricks and ideas that worked for me that I collected to of give them a leap ahead.
PHG: What can folks take away from your book when looking to implement design in their own home?
TE: Authenticity is a big one. When doing their home, a lot of people forget that it’s their home, it needs to be special for the user. So what can they do to make it authentically theirs? What’s important to them? What’s special to them? What makes them different from their friends? They want some special things that make them feel good in their space and make them happy when they see them. I think identifying those things and using them in the house would be awesome.
Honestly, hone in on yourself, the people who live in your home with you, and decide what’s important to discard. There’s so much stuff that’s trendy, but just because it’s trendy, that doesn’t mean it’s always good, right? Trends go out all the time. Find things that are timeless and that can age well. What’s important to you and things that you can relate to will really stand the test of time with you.
PHG: You have a family and several pets yourself. What design elements do you find most important in a family- and pet-friendly home?
TE: We prefer hard-surface floors where the pets and the kids are. Do fabrics that are pretty much bomb-proof, such as Crypton fabrics, leathers or there’s even some really nice vinyls out there that can be easily cleaned. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. We have metal barstools in our kitchen, for example, and the kids can do whatever they want to them. We just swab the stools down with Clorox wipes. It’s no big deal.
PHG: What qualities are important for aspiring interior designers, professional or amateur?
I always say positivity, just because I’m a positive person. I know not everybody is, but it’s so important because it’s infectious. People love to be around other positive people. It really can change somebody’s day, and I think it also builds trust with your client. If you believe in yourself, and you feel good, they’re going to pick up on that and in turn, feel good, too.
Not sugarcoating things or lying about things, that’s a big tip that I put in the book. Always be honest. No matter what it is, you have to set expectations, but you show them the bright side, too. You’ve got to be creative, too. Push the limits, show them things that they couldn’t come up with on their own. Don’t be afraid to try something; go for it!
PHG: What are the main challenges for folks trying to do design at home?
TE: The biggest challenge to understand is: it’s always going to take longer than you expect. Unfortunately, as much as people promise when they’re going to have things done, I’ve never ever had it timed out perfectly. Some people just don’t follow through. It’s horrible, but it’s truthful. Also, the design process is really messy. My mentor always said, “Interior design is like the sausage-making business. You do not want to know how the sausage is being made.” But really, it’s about setting those expectations and being prepared for the worst. You never know when you’ll open up a wall and find mold. You just never know what you might find.
PHG: ‘Tis the season to deck the halls. What advice do you have for holiday decor?
TE: That’s another area you can personalize so much. Think of your five senses: What do you see? What do you touch? Are there some luxurious textures? Maybe you put some really fluffy furs because it’s winter and you just want to be cozy this time of year. Maybe it’s time to pull out the Douglas fir-scented candles, but you can always make your own scents. A lot of times, we’ll put apples with some cloves, orange slices and cinnamon sticks in water and boil it on the stove. It makes your house just smell amazing, especially when having people over.