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Another Creative Who Traded in Their Old Job for a Design Career

By 09/01/2021March 11th, 202410 Comments

Thinking about switching careers or taking a leap into design? I’ve been there. Before I discovered my passion for colour and design, I held various positions in the corporate world — but I knew it wasn’t for me.

So, I truly love hearing from others who’ve made similar journeys. This former psychologist-turned-designer attended one of my workshops to help overcome feeling like an imposter.

And now? She’s designing magazine-worthy rooms.

Photographer: Laura Sumrak, Photostylist: Kendra Surface

Today I’m showcasing a recent design project from one of my True Colour Experts! I met Claudia in the spring of 2016 at one of my workshops and am delighted to hear that the three days she spent with me, learning to specify colour with confidence helped launch her second career.

Looking at the photographs from her project and hearing the process Claudia went through to get from the before to the after is such a great validation that the principles I teach in these workshops actually give my students a language for and understanding of how to make the best colour choices that, as Claudia says so well, “..lift[s] your spirits and brighten[s] your moods.”

Meet Claudia from (Claudia Josephine Design) this is her guest post:

I’m honored that Maria asked me to write a guest post on choosing color during the remodeling process for one of my recent projects. However, before I begin, I’d like to thank Maria for her impact on my career. 

Starting a 2nd career as a designer

This past April marked the 5-year anniversary of becoming a Maria Killam True Color Expert and the launching of my second career. Prior to registering for Maria’s Specify Colour with Confidence workshop, I had a conversation with a former psychologist colleague, during which I bemoaned feeling like an “imposter” in my new profession (a feeling so common when starting a new career that it’s been given a name, “Imposter Syndrome”).

My friend replied, “Of course you feel that way. You’re still starting off. Why don’t you get some additional training to boost your confidence?”

Enter Maria’s course, which gave me the confidence to strike out on my own. Five years and dozens of projects later, I am no longer a novice but I still credit Maria’s training as one of the keys to my success as a designer. 

Magazine-worthy design

Since then, I’ve had my work published several times, including in LUX Lifestyle Magazine, where I also serve as their interior design expert. My most recent remodel was just published in Southpark Magazine, a regional magazine based in Charlotte, NC.

My lovely clients, Randy, an IT executive, and Sheryl, a very busy stay-at-home wife, are both active grandparents to eight grandchildren. They entertain their large family frequently and after 20 years, their home was due for an update. The first-floor remodel featured an exciting transformation. Because my clients love color, we were able to make some bold choices and the results are incredibly joyful and fun.

I’m going to outline my design process room by room and share my tips for creating a beautiful and cohesive home.

Photographer: Laura Sumrak, Photostylist: Kendra Surface 

Choosing the right kitchen finishes

There were a few items that Sheryl wanted to keep, including their pretty dining room and family room draperies. These existing items would determine the palette for the kitchen, dining room, and foyer. Since we reconfigured the kitchen layout and opened it up to the family room, we pulled the green kitchen island color straight from their draperies. That cheerful green spurred the rest of the design. 

The next step was to choose our hard finishes (countertops, cabinet colors, and backsplash). Understanding undertones is crucial to this step. When undertones aren’t cohesive, it makes a space feel off, even to the untrained eye.

We knew that we wanted to use Zellige tile in Weathered White for the backsplash. So, I made sure that I had my tile sample handy (along with my large Maria Killam color boards) when I chose the countertop slabs, cabinet colors, and wall paint. The iridescent tile has both warm and cool tones and the veining of the quartz is greige.

Benjamin Moore (BM) Natural Cream, one of my favorites, turned out to be the perfect choice to unify the hard finishes. The cabinet colors were custom through my cabinet maker; however, the white is similar to BM Decorator’s White. 

Creating flow with color

I typically like to choose one color and use it (in varying amounts) throughout a home to unify the palette. I don’t need large doses of the color – just enough to feel intentional. When I began designing the dining room, my initial goal was to find a wallpaper that incorporated green, along with the blue and beige of my client’s draperies. 

Read more: 23 Decorating Secrets (only an interior designer will tell you)

However, when I found the Schumacher wallpaper that we ended up using (below), I knew it was the right one, even though it didn’t contain any green. Since we were redesigning the foyer as well, I decided I would instead use both blue and green in the foyer to unify the palettes of all the other rooms. 

Wallcovering: Schumacher Katsugi

A zoom-worthy home office

Due to the pandemic, Randy began working from home. Unfortunately, his home office wasn’t serving his needs for storage, nor did it provide the fabulous backdrop he desired for his Zoom meetings.

We completely overhauled his home office, adding custom built-in cabinetry and wall moldings. Then we painted everything a deep blue gray (Sherwin-Williams Grays Harbor) that echoes the blue in the dining room draperies.

My goal was to balance the cool tones of the walls by adding rich cognacs, browns, and brass. New furniture, window treatments, art, and décor brought the space to life. 

Sherwin-Williams Grays Harbor

Photographer: Laura Sumrak, Photostylist: Kendra Surface

Sherwin-Williams Grays Harbor

A neutral family room refresh

Of course, once clients redesign a couple of rooms, they often realize that others need updating as well. My clients decided to add the family room to the redesign.

Taking our cue from the colorful drapery pattern, we used small pops of green to add visual interest to our otherwise serene and neutral furnishing choices. As much as I love color, sometimes your eyes need a place to rest, and neutrals can serve that purpose. 

Walls: Benjamin Moore Clay Beige 

We used BM Clay Beige (a greige) as our wall color for the family room and then carried it through to the two-story foyer.

Walls: Benjamin Moore Clay Beige 

The power of color

When the project was completed, my clients said that this beautiful remodel exceeded their expectations. And, that it “…was a real bright spot during the pandemic.” That is the power of color! When you make good color and design choices for your home (or hire the right expert to help you), it can lift your spirits and brighten your mood.

A cure for Imposter Syndrome

Claudia isn’t the first student who came to one of my workshops looking for a cure for their Imposter Syndrome. Nor is she the first professional to trade in her former job for a design career and as a result needed additional training to build their skills and boost their confidence.

As of this spring, I’ve helped over 1,300 homeowners and professionals to do exactly that.

Claudia included some of the key language I teach in my workshop: 

  1. Existing items determine the [colour] palette.
  2. When undertones aren’t cohesive, it makes a space feel off, even to the untrained eye.
  3. Choose one colour and use it (in varying amounts) throughout a home to unify the palette. It doesn’t need to be in large doses of the colour — just enough to feel intentional.

If these three foundational principles aren’t part of your colour-making decision process, join me this spring for a two-day in-person workshop where you’ll learn the secrets to feeling CONFIDENT when you make the endless colour choices that come with designing or decorating your home.

Read more: Inside My Specify Colour with Confidence Workshop

You’ll learn a helpful language for colour, have a chance to complete hands-on exercises, ask questions and much more. And you too, will walk away with a firm foundation for making good colour and design choices for your or your client’s home.

Every decision is a colour decision.
Learn how to make the right decision every time.

Register here.


Related Posts:

How I became a True Colour Expert

Just Give Me a White Paint Colour, Please!

How Becoming a Certified True Colour Expert™ Changed My Business and My Life


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  • Liz in Oregon says:

    Such a lovely transformation. The office upgrade made me think of the “tongue-in-cheek” Twitter account called “Room Rater” that started in spring 2020 when T.V. news interviews started happening from homes. Some backgrounds were pretty pathetic. It’s been fun to see those who have been negatively critiqued enjoy upping their decor game before their next appearance. This office background would be a 10 for sure! 🙂

  • Kim says:

    Claudia, what a gorgeous job you did with your client’s home! I like the neutrals with a pop of blue or green. I like that you were able to keep their draperies and use that as a jumping off point. Job well done!

  • Mary says:

    Lovely rooms!

    Would you mind sharing the white that was used for trim and ceilings with BM Clay Beige and BM Natural Cream?

  • Nancy says:

    Love this post Maria and Claudia. Very similar experience except my first career was as a chemist. I took Maria’s True Color Expert class five or six years ago and will say it’s one of the best investments I’ve ever made in my design business. I have always seen color differently than most people and it wasn’t until Maria’s class that I realized that it truly is all about the undertones. If you can’t take her in person class, her online classes are terrific as well and her paint sample boards an absolute no brainer….buy them all! You won’t regret it.

  • Janice says:

    This is a beautiful transformation! I’m not sure which room I like best. Can you share what brand/style of cabinet hardware you selected for the kitchen and the office?

  • Linda says:

    Dear Claudia, This project is perfection and SO much more interesting and joyful than the all natural, even the artwork is beigey and blah that I see so often on IG.You are so talented!

  • Lorri says:

    Claudia, as you must know, you are very talented!

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