Q&A With Interior Designer Tabitha Evans
Tabitha Evans is many things: an Arizona native, mom, 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 or even just individuals at home tempted to launch a renovation project.
How did you make the transition to interior design?
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 just under two 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.
What inspired you to write Becoming a Designer of Distinction?
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. I always had girlfriends calling me to ask, ‘Hey, how do you do this or that?’ So I felt like it was a really good way to give people who are getting started a leg up. So the book is just really easy to read, bullet-pointed tips, tricks and ideas that worked for me that I put into the book to kind of give them a leap ahead.
What can readers take away from your book when looking to implement design in their own home?
Oh gosh, authenticity is a big one. When [decorating] their homes a lot of people forget it needs to be special for them as 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 it. So I think identifying those things and using them in the house is awesome.
Honestly, hone in on yourself and the people that live in the home with you. Decide what’s important to lose. 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 [of style] 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.
You have a family and several pets yourself. What design elements do you find most important in a family- and pet-friendly home?
Well, we prefer hard surface floors and the only white areas are hard surface floors and furniture. Do fabrics that are pretty much bomb-proof that can be easily cleaned, so 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 on it. We have metal barstools in our kitchen, for example, and the kids can do whatever they want to them. We just wipe them down with Clorox wipes. It’s no big deal.
What qualities are important for aspiring interior designers, professional or unprofessional?
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!
What are the main challenges for folks trying to do design at home?
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 the truth. Also, it’s going to be messy. It’s funny, my mentor always said, ‘It’s like the sausage making business, right here. 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.
Do you have any tips for creating a virtual setting for video conferences?
Oh, my gosh, I do so many meetings every day. I had the opportunity to purchase this really cool screen. I put my desk in the corner where I can see people coming from every angle because I have little kids. It’s a beautiful backdrop. It just looks nice. It doesn’t take a lot of room in my space, and it’s always the same. There’s no one walking in the background, nothing distracting. If you can’t do a screen, a drapery would also be really nice, or even just an accent painted wall or some wallpaper. But I would definitely back up to a place where you have a full view of the room.