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Being a Designer Takes Guts & Vision

By 10/27/2013July 25th, 201849 Comments

One of my readers sent me these photos from their new place in cottage country, which is located 2 1/2 hours from downtown Toronto.

Being a Designer Takes Guts



See this spiral chandelier (above)? I couldn’t find the big one on-line but this one is 6 feet long and 4 ft wide. To get it inside their cottage, the sliding glass doors had to be removed. To get it installed, four men and a scissor lift. To go through that to get a chandelier installed? You need to know beyond a doubt that it will look amazing! Hopefully I’ll get some updated pictures later!

Being a Designer Takes Guts

The fireplace stone was recently installed and after many rounds of testing colours and moving them around on big samples, they will paint all the pine panelling (except the wood trim and the window wall) HC-105 Rockport Gray.

The couple (one of whom is a designer) said it currently feels like they are in a coffin, because there’s way too much pine.

I love that they are leaving the window wall untouched and all the rest of the wood trim to keep the cottage feel.

Being A Designer Takes Guts

Here’s a view from their boat.

Being a Designer Takes Guts

The view from inside the cottage.

Being a Designer Takes Guts

What a stunning, picture post card setting!

So then I got to thinking, what have I done as a designer that took guts and vision?

Here’s a few on my list:

1. I was 30 years old and decided I had to be creative or die. So I went to work at a paint store tinting paint, selling and conducting colour consultations.

Over and over and over, until I got really good at it.

Working in a paint store is NOT glamorous. When you’re 20, it’s fine, late 30’s? That took guts.

2. Got myself fired a lot until out of pure survival, I created a colour blog. Then much to my surprise and delight, got really successful doing it!

3. Patricia Kramer recommended me to the Dean at Vancouver Community College as a colour theory instructor to teach a 10 week course as part of their interior design program.

I was advised that I could write the entire curriculum. So I did. And taught it for 3 years until I left to teach my own three day colour training.

4. Custom furniture and drapery. I do 99% of my OWN check measures on all hard window coverings and drapery for my clients. I had a designer show me how to do it years ago with one client and I’ve done it myself ever since. Considering how expensive custom window coverings are, that’s gutsy.

5. Ordering a sunflower yellow sofa for my living room. Whenever I see a space where strong colour has been used to great effect, I think that takes guts.

Now over to you, my lovelies, what’s the gutsiest thing you’ve ever done?

Related posts:

Do you Have Good Taste?

Who Says You’re not Creative?

A Bad Day in the Life of a Colour Designer

If you would like your home to fill you with happiness every time you walk up to the front door, become a client. On-line or In-person.

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

If you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert. 

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  • Very gutsy, indeed! Here’s mine: chucking a career requiring two graduate degrees in order to pursue my passion for interior design and color. Never looked back – best decision I ever made!

  • You have to be gutsy to follow your heart and passion! Mine is quitting a very comfortable art director position at an agency to start my own design studio. It hasn’t been easy but it was the best decision I ever made. I absolutely love what I do and my clients are wonderful!

  • Farha Syed says:

    My gutsy move would be to go ahead and finish a course my mom had ordered for me in Interior Design, from a correspondence course, from Sheffield School of Interior Design based in New York City.
    And despite people (my dad included), telling me that I couldn’t do it and that I don’t have what it takes to be an interior designer, completed my course, had an established designer tell me that I don’t have what it takes to be a designer – to starting my own company, and getting my first project which was fairly large, in that I had four rooms to decorate. (you can take a look at my website)
    My client gave the reigns completely in my hands to create the space, which today is the talk of the town amongst all she knows.
    I made a gutsy move on painting two horizontal stripes in her formal living room, and arranging her furniture, bringing in accessories, lighting and accent chairs to work with her existing sofa, and coffee table and end tables.
    She was very nervous when the stripes were being painted. Once done, she absolutely loves the room and she treats it like her prized possession, which to me says, I think I’ve got what it takes. The very people who said I don’t have what it takes now recognize that I do have what it takes. Its been a learning process and still will be, but I’m pretty darn proud that I started my own company.
    Even at home, I’m the one who has taken decisions, when it came to colors; despite my husbands protests that it won’t look good or that its very strong, and I always told him that the house should be a true representation of the lady of the house, at the different stages of her life. Somehow things come together to make the room that people admire and love. Funny thing is that when people say that the decor is really beautiful and many people say the same thing, he’s at ease that I did a great job with – forget him ever admitting that. 🙂 – but I know that he’s proud of me too which makes me even more confident in what I inherited from my mom. Thanks to her my dream of becoming a designer has come to fruition.
    Love You mom and miss you very much.

    • Susan says:

      This is an amazing story…you do have guts…way to go!

    • Lisa says:

      That was such an inspiring story. I am just on my last unit with Sheffield and am so scared to finish. I think I’m not trusting my abilities. You are so brave to keep going despite the lack of support you were getting!

      • Farha Syed says:

        Hello Lisa

        The only person who really saw my potential was my late mom, who actually signed me up and paid for the entire course for me to finish and achieve my dream. She saw it in me like moms do. They know you more than you know yourself. And so what I am doing is a dedication to her and I feel like I am fulfilling her dream too. I’ve inherited this from her and so would like to do it and be happy about it and make her proud.
        I’m sure you’re going to be a brilliant designer, don’t worry and keep in touch with me. I like to keep in touch with fellow Sheffield students.

  • Denise says:

    What’s the gutsiest thing I’ve ever done? Moved halfway across the country to be where I knew I belonged, even though I had no friends, no job and no prospects.

  • Anne K. says:

    My husband & I moved to Moscow Russia because of his job and lived there for two years. At the time it was the largest city in the world and the most expensive for an expat. It was a great experience and even though I missed my family and friends I’m glad we did it.

  • My most gutsy move was deciding to become a working artist in my early sixties. I picked up my first fine art paintbrush and began to learn and hone my craft. Difficult? Yes, but I paint everyday and am becoming known in my town. The hardest and most rewarding thing I have done in my life. I cannot imagine my life now without “making art.”

  • Gilda says:

    Dining room papered in red colourway Country Life, as well as window coverings and furniture…

  • megeranski says:

    never thought of it, but have done a lot of gutsy things.

    what comes to mind now is, when living in a ‘cave’, had the guts to paint a wall bright bright canary mcdonald’s yellow. i that room, it mellowed to the warmest, gentle, inviting yellow that made coming home a treat. this was in Taipei, another gutsy story. 🙂

    great post, as always!!! it is fun to remind ourselves of our gutsiness, our courage.

  • A simple thing but many people don’t do it…admit you are wrong and take ownership of it.

    • Karen says:

      Yes, it is courageous to admit you are wrong and ask for forgiveness but it leads to healing and reconcilation.

  • Bonnie says:

    I drove across Canada by myself at the age of 58. Something my late husband and I were always going to do.. He passed before we could make the trip, so I went by myself. If you have a dream, pursue it.

    • Rosemarie Clair says:

      Very gutsy indeed Bonnie. Good for you – what a wonderful accomplishment and legacy.

    • Karen says:

      Bonnie, that was a wonderful way to honor your late husband. He would have wanted you to make that trip which was a dream come true. But I imagine that it was a bitter-sweet trip for you and difficult in many ways.

  • franki says:

    GOOD FOR ALL OF YOU!! Wear “it” like a badge of courage… Bonnie, even though I don’t know you…I am PROUD of you!! franki

  • Ivy Lane says:

    After 27 years of pulling tear sheets for inspiration to change my master bedroom… I am finally doing it! TODAY! ordering the custom headboard and the furnishings… I spent countless hours online… and decided to go to a showroom. The people that work there are decorators and their services are FREE if you purchase through the showroom. The furnishings were very reasonable. The decorator who is helping me is going to come over and help the movers place the furniture and help me with my art collection that sadly has never been hung…. So excited!

  • Cherie says:

    I taught middle school Language Arts for 32 years and I was good at it. That took a lot of nerve, as I was essentially a shy person, and still am. In the last few years of my teaching career, I was asked to teach other teachers some of my “best practices” in the classroom. I did it, and received acclaim. I still look back on those sessions as gutsy, for me! So glad I did it, though!

  • Susan says:

    The photos of this cottage are very similar to our chalet-style home. I love all the natural cedar woodwork in ours and imagine it would seem too depressing if we painted most of it gray. People who visit our house for the first time always comment on how well they like the woodwork and how rare that is in most homes today.

    Of course, our large window wall also gets full southern exposure (and passive solar heating) which bathes the open living area in natural light, so that does help to keep it from feeling dark. Ours is also a much smaller home (900 sq ft above ground) so keeping it all one color lets one’s eye focus on the outdoor scene through the windows and complementary colors inside.

    It’s always interesting to me to see photos and ideas of other homes and designs. Love that spiral chandelier! I’d love to find a smaller version of it to replace our outdated one.

  • Katy says:

    this isn’t gutsy but I find it interesting that you got your experience mixing paint — I got mine mixing dye and painting satin heels for a shoe store. Bridal parties would bring in a fabric swatch (this was back in the 90’s, natch) – and I would have to mix a dye to match the fabric exactly and then paint their shoes. It was crazy experience, but once you get really good at it – I could mix any color using the 16 base dyes.
    Nobody needs that sort of skill now though. ha ha

    • Fay says:

      Hi Katy…I can understand why you might think color matching fabrics was not “gutsy” it is, however incredibly difficult and certainly takes the “knowing eye” to get the color right. As a design student I’ve spent many hours attempting to match gouache paint to fabric. It’s not easy to do,

  • Left a medical laboratory career of 36 years as chemicals changed my personal health. Now as an Interior Designer and energy worker, finally studying Feng Shui to marry the two passions. Time to pay it forward for those that need balance and healthy interiors in their life. Stepping off the cliff is freeing pure fear. It’s never to late. Beautiful country cottage, metal chandelier ballances beautifully with the wood. Adding more fire, water, metal would save the painting. Sorry to see one cover a beautiful natural element.

  • Susan says:

    Oh Maria…you are gutsy:)

    For me…Leaving my public school teaching job (all that entails…regular paycheck, health benefits, etc…) to open my own music school which was pioneering over 20 years ago. No one did that and I was criticized mightily for it by friends, family and other teaching professionals. I had to be very strong to build it. Last year I closed the school in the height of it’s success.

    Something else was emerging. This year I’m letting my something else emerge and it turns out I’m very good at intuitive work so now I have a new business working as an intuitive life + business coach for women.

    It feels gutsy to do something you feel called to even though there is no guarantee of success.

  • JulieC says:

    Wow, lots of inspirational stories from you all! The gutsy moves I’ve made are 1) quitting a 20 year exec. job before I lost my mind and health; 2) opening two yoga studios and becoming a yoga teacher; 3) giving up yoga teaching entirely; 4) moving to Hawaii, and then back; and 5) probably the gutsiest of all, getting married and becoming a full-time mom to a 10 y.o. boy whose mother had died. Decorating? Not so much gut—I just hired Maria for the hard work! 🙂

  • Loribeth says:

    I painted our small living room a rich dark color, Valspar Colonial Beige. I know that goes against the accepted idea that small rooms should be painted a light color, but our living room gets a LOT of natural sunlight. During the day it doesn’t feel like it’s painted a dark color at all, and at night it is very cozy.

  • Darling Maria, I always have been a big believer in you! And I was lucky enough to have a little influence. I have always tried to use what ever power I have had for the betterment of those who are deserving of a chance. Kind of paying it forward and paying it back. Something we all should do more of!
    All the best!

  • Victoria says:

    Love reading how so many have completely redefined themselves, their careers and decor. I guess the gutsy move I made was getting married again after being divorced with three children for over 20 years and being independent and on my own. But when your heart knows it’s right, it works! Also, giving up a lucrative position in a law firm for staying home and taking care of grandchildren. Then going back to work the airline industry where I always wanted to work, and then going part-time with that. But when your heart knows it’s right, it works! But gutsy decor?

    Probably talking my husband into getting rid of my nice, but tried dark navy sofa and loveseat and going for a white slipcovered sofa and loveseat. And another gusty one for us empty nesters — putting a surfboard on the wall in a guest bedroom that was actually his purchase for me knowing how much I love watching surfing.

  • pve says:

    Guts takes vision. Guts also often means saying NO.
    I have learned that saying No thank-you can be life-changing.

  • Angela Taylor says:

    Hitch-hiking across Europe and the middle east back in the 70’s…made it safely to destination in Beirut.
    Giving up a good position in a teaching hospital in the UK to come to the US 41 years ago.
    Marrying a man with three children.
    Painting an accent wall red, then repainting it back to original colour because it was wrong!

  • What great inspiration these stories are! My most gutsy move was moving to Vancouver BC where I knew no one, and getting my real estate license at 58 years old. I now know lots of folks, and have a thriving real estate practice where I love helping people envision how beautiful their home can be. Oh, and I also started painting big colorful mixed-media paintings – was formerly a potter.

    Thanks Maria for the wonderful and thought-provoking blog.

  • Faye of Nebraska says:

    This is gutsy: Buying a brand new house (the only new house I could find with white woodwork), knowing that I would have to tear out the porcelain tile floor/carpet combo in the great room/kitchen, and tear out the kitchen island. The tile is a bad color (taupe w/pink undertone), the carpet is cheap shag in taupe (the carpet is laid out all wrong) and the kitchen island is huge with odd angles like 25% of a stop sign that encroaches on the dining area. I took a leap of faith and bought it cause I know it can be fixed, and I always dreamed of having white woodwork!

  • Diane says:

    Gutsiest thing was to become a first time Mom at age 36 but have never regretted it and that “baby” is now 25. IN business, I took on the redecorating of public spaces in a 7 story condo building and had to try and please all of the homeowners with paint colors, fabric choices and, hardest of all, artwork and mural designs. Very hard but would do it again!

  • Wendy says:

    Gutsiest move? In my design life, it was starting my design business with a friend even though we had no formal training. Next, advising a client to paint out her ENTIRE house, all woodwork and walls, replacing all tile and countertops, and strip and refinish all floors, to pale neutrals…it is fabulous.

    In my real life, it was entrusting my heart at age 18 to a man who seemed a bit rebellious but has been steady and loving for 40 years.

  • Leaving the security of a teaching career (High School) to follow my creative passion. Love Home Staging, so glad I had my “big girl” pants on and did it! Now to buy a bold coloured sofa 🙂

  • Tricia says:

    I asked my boss to allow me to work 3 days a week so that I could buy a very large two family and convert it to a single family. It was a taxing and stressful balancing act but the end result was gorgeous. It gave me a great sense of accomplishment, was a wonderful creative outlet, and led me take on another whole house rehab just before the bottom fell out of the market. Nothing was easy about either of these projects and I loved every second of working on them both.

  • Janice Waterman says:

    Love this post. Realize I haven’t really done anything gutsy…what a wake up call!

  • deb says:

    When I was a relatively young woman I married a European, after only spending 6 weeks with him during our 7 month courtship… ( he lived in New York and I was in California ). And no, he didn’t need an American wife to attain US citizenship, as he already had his “green card “, and we did not ” have to get married “. Now 45 years later we still scratch our heads over our quick decision to tie the knot… guess we just knew the potential, and we were also very lucky !!!

  • Norine says:

    great question
    greater responses
    I need to discover my inner guts in my teaching career and use them – I am inspired by all of these posts
    thanks for a wonderful read!

  • karen says:

    Maria, great post! as always. I can’t think of anything gutsy I have done just off the top of my head at the moment, but I must say I have really enjoyed reading everyone’s posts. They are all so inspirational and Bonnie…I do not know you but I am also proud of you and I think it was a wonderful tribute to your late husband. Not an easy thing to do either. I truly do feel very inspired. Follow your heart…follow your dreams…for not everything need to be as it seems.

  • Erin says:

    Maria- I loved this post! It reminded me of what an inspiration you have been to me. I am 43, a mother, work full- time, in my current career (social work), work part-time (in a paint store mixing paint and conducting color consultations- because of you!) and started my own design business 3 years ago, which is really starting to take off!
    I found your blog a few years ago and decided to develop a specialty in color, and after learning that you worked in a paint store, I contacted my local paint store/Ben Moore distributor, and they were hiring a color consultant!
    Thank you for constantly inspiring me to follow my passion, push myself, take risks and chances, to be successful at what I love!

  • I’ve had many vivid and intense bedroom colors over the years: coral, turquoise, and fuchsia. People thought I was nuts, but they suited me at the time. I later found out that fuchsia was similar to a color found to raise serotonin levels! No wonder I always felt great in that room. Now I have a sunny bedroom facing east and don’t need the intense colors. I liked what Janice Lindsay said about how light-filled rooms don’t need color to adorn them, we should just appreciate the beauty of the light. My bedroom is now a light creamy butterscotch that reflects the sunlight, and glows in the lamplight at night. But, I admit, I sometimes miss the deep pink wall color I had before!

  • What an inspiring wonderful post with great replies. I loved reading about all the amazing and gutsy accomplishments from Maria’s readers. A gutsy thing for me was going to university at age 40 – we had just moved across the country for my husband’s job – and it was time to get the degree I’d always wanted. An unfocused teen (OK I was a mess!) I had left high school after grade 11 and after working in offices for years & years it was time to achieve my dream of higher education. I was pretty much the oldest person in the class but I did it – with 2 young kids at home – and graduated with a bachelor in social work four years later. Tragedy struck and my husband died just before I graduated but I went to work as a social worker and after a few years (I also completed an MA part time) started developing and providing seminars on helping women who have experienced domestic violence. This is something I am very proud of because I am terrified of public speaking (a true introvert). I started speaking to university classes, groups of professionals etc – my largest audience was 150 people. A year ago I decided to leave that profession and start my own staging & colour consulting company – another dream to fulfill! Maria’s True Colour Expert course is the foundation of everything I know today and the best thing I have done to prepare myself for my new business!!! Marketing yourself is not easy (actually it is quite excruciating!) when you are shy but I am slowly making headway with my new business!

  • Nancy says:

    Wanting a new house but not having the budget for a builder or a tiler ir a stone layer .
    So we built it ourself
    Took some classes
    Laid tile
    Laid stone
    Painted all of it
    Put on siding
    Now that took guts and a year of our lives ,
    But we have done six since and have a request to build some custom homes.

  • cathy says:

    Well, I hitchhiked back and forth from Minnesota to Washington several times in the 80’s, as I was putting myself through school and couldn’t afford the travel….
    Then after a divorce I supported myself for 8 years, at the same time renovated a 100 year old home…..
    Remarried a man whose wife had died of breast cancer, and moved to their small town where everyone had adored her…..
    Became full time mom to 2 grieving teenaged boys……
    Started a home staging and color consulting business despite my strong introvert tendencies! Marketing is so challenging!
    I loved reading and being inspired by all of the gutsy things you have all done!

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