Heritage Alumni Aleta Fouks recently completed the Fundamentals of Interior Design Program at Heritage and launched her design business, Aleta Interiors! We interviewed her to learn more about the journey that led her to Heritage and her new career as an Interior Designer.
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 own 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 60’s.
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 it was 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 8 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 fist spas that was operated like a co-op but we all owned our own businesses underneath the LLC umbrella.
During my 18 years as a practicing aesthetician, I remodeled 4 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 a number of 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?
With my past experience and education from Heritage I want to design residential and commercial spaces with a focus on spa/wellness spaces and resorts all over the world. I want to have an agency that not only provides design services but also guides spa owners with everything they need; from designing the space to maintaining client loyalty, ensuring that the space functions in a way that makes it possible for employees to provide clients with a seamless experience, and an option to display and sell products.
4. 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.
5. 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.”
6. What’s next for you?
I launched my business in October called Aleta Interiors. I am currently working with a client here in their Portland home, furnishing 4 rooms and doing a full kitchen remodel. I am slated to work on their newly purchased home in Ashland. I am also working on a full bath remodel for another client and am looking forward to future projects!
Thank you for sharing your story with us Aleta! To learn more about Aleta, visit her website aletainteriors.com.