Heritage Alumni, Aleta Fouks, completed Heritage’s Fundamentals of Interior Design Program and launched her design business, Aleta Interiors! Soon after, she took over Nest Showroom in Portland as the visionary, entrepreneur, and principal designer. Aleta rebranded Nest Showroom to Nest Collective! We interviewed her to learn more about the journey that led her to Heritage and her new career as an Interior Designer and design showroom owner and leader.
1. Tell us about your background
I was born in Chicago, IL, in 1969. I grew up with a family full of artists, so design was all around me at a very early age. My father is an architect, so our weekends were filled with gazing into the sky at buildings, visiting The Art Institute of Chicago and The Museum of Science and Industry. My father also made most of his clothing; leather Maxi coats lined with silk, velvet bell bottoms, and bright paisley-colored button-down shirts, which I inherited and wore in high school. I grew up loving fashion and anything to do with the ’60s.
My mother’s father had a huge influence in my life growing up as well. He was a performer and tumbler in the Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey Circus, which inspired me to enroll in gymnastics. I truly believe it was gymnastics that made me very aware of space and how one moves within that space.
2. What was your career path prior to attending Heritage?
After I graduated high school, I traveled abroad and lived in London for a couple of years. I was exposed to works of art and buildings that would impact me for the rest of my life. When I returned to the US, I visited Minneapolis, MN, and it was there that I walked into my first Urban Outfitters. I quickly moved to Minneapolis and applied to work there. It was the first place I applied and the first job I got. I started as a salesperson but quickly worked my way into merchandising and building for them.
In 1994 I moved to Portland, OR, to help open the first Urban Outfitters on NW 23rd. At the time, Urban Outfitters was not a “cookie-cutter” corporation. The merchandisers sourced all the materials and built the displays used to house the clothing. We would drive around and look for alternative ways to use “found” objects to work with and create visuals for the customer.
After working for Urban Outfitters for eight years, I decided to go to school to become an aesthetician. I opened up one of the very first day spas in Portland with a group of women. It was one of the very first spas operated like a co-op, but we all owned our own businesses under the LLC umbrella.
During my 18 years as a practicing aesthetician, I remodeled four different spa locations, got my BA in Fashion Design, and went through 4 different home remodels. When I left my aesthetician business, I struggled with “what’s next?”. I worked for several years for local businesses, selling furniture, paint, soft goods, and home accessories; ultimately helping people design their homes.
3. Why did you decide to pursue Interior Design as your career?
It occurred to me that interior design was the natural path to take because design has always been a common thread in my life. I had purchased my 5th house in Portland and was going through a complete gut of the kitchen and laundry space. Suddenly it all made sense;
“This is what I am supposed to be doing.”
4. What are your future career goals as an Interior Designer?
Early on, during Covid, my interior design career goals changed over time. Originally while attending Heritage, I wanted to work in commercial design, designing spa and wellness spaces, especially with my experience in the skincare industry. At that time, spa and wellness places were not opening, and that was limiting the direction I wanted to take my design career. I gradually shifted into residential design for the next couple of years. Many of my clients had remodeling projects that had me in and out of interior design showrooms working on the next phase of their projects with furnishings. I worked with Nest Portland Showroom for many of those projects. Mid-2022, when Nest Portland Showroom announced that they might be closing because the owner was moving to another state, I jumped at the chance to save one of the only interior design showrooms in Portland. It was my chance to take all my experience as an interior designer, builder/merchandiser for Urban Outfitters, my love of textiles from apparel design, and culminate it all under one roof. I purchased Nest Showroom in November 2022 and changed the name to Nest Collective. The idea of taking an interior design trade showroom business and, in addition, creating a collaborative environment for independent designers to be able to work out of the showroom came naturally to me.
5. Where do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from the space itself, how the client wants the space to “feel”, and how they want to live in the space. From there, I draw on all my experience, looking for new ways to design the space that may not have been thought of before. I like looking at things from a different perspective.
I am also fascinated by color and how it plays a very important role in our lives, how it makes a person feel, and how it translates into a space. I love seeing odd color combinations, textures, and materials used together.
6. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
My Grandfather said words to me when I was very young, but they have always stayed with me,
“Don’t be afraid to be an individual or be different from anyone else.”
Another piece of advice that rings true for me is,
“Always act with integrity.”
7. What’s next for you?
During the Covid years, while working from home as an interior designer, at times it could feel isolated, especially when interior design is very much a collaborative process. It was why I had the idea to turn the interior design showroom into a collective. That stemmed from being a part of establishing one of Portland’s first co-op salons in the early 2000s. It is there that I worked as an aesthetician, together with five other professionals in the spa industry. We created an environment that was supportive of one another and our individual businesses. I wanted to do the same with Nest Collective in the interior design industry.