Joanie Moved from Virginia to Portland to Attend Heritage and to Follow
Her Passion for Becoming an Interior Designer
I was born in Maryland and grew up in a town called Takoma Park. It was an amazing place to grow up and to this day I feel lucky to have spent my childhood there. Looking back, I know that the homes there – which ranged from grand Victorian houses in the historic district to funky bungalows painted every color of the rainbow – instilled in me an appreciation for beautiful and unique spaces.
Prior to moving to Portland to attend Heritage, I was working as an Artistic Director and faculty member of a belly dance school called Saffron Dance in Arlington, VA. I’ve also worked as a belly dance performer since 2012, and often have shows on the weekends. After teaching and performing dance for the past 6 years, I began to feel a creative drain. I felt that so much of my energy was going towards creating material for my classes that I didn’t have anything left for myself. Dance was becoming more exhausting than rejuvenating, and I thought that it was time to reconsider the role it takes in my life. I knew I didn’t want to teach dance for my whole life, nor was I interested in opening my own studio, so I started looking at my other interests. I love that design demands both creative and practical skills, and I find the physical manipulation of space and objects to be much more satisfying than working on a computer all day.
I didn’t seriously consider attending a design program until I was 26, but if I look back I can see the signs of my interest from a much younger age. I have been surrounded by people in the building industry my whole life – my father was in construction, my best friend’s father was an architect and my current boyfriend works in kitchen and bath design. Additionally, my first belly dance teacher was an interior designer and her home is like a magical haven, and it’s always been an inspiration to me. Despite all these influential figures, I never considered the industry for myself and was honestly somewhat intimidated by it. Even when I finally started researching different design schools, I had a hard time finding programs with missions that echoed my personal feelings around design and the importance of our environments. It wasn’t until I found Heritage’s website and mission statement that I thought, “Yes – this is how I feel, and this is where I want to learn.”
Moving to Portland to attend Heritage was spectacular. Because I wanted to complete the Masters Program within one three-month semester, I knew I needed to be completely focused. Leaving my job and my social circle behind in DC allowed me to dive into my studies whole-heartedly. I’m returning to DC with a stronger sense of identity and direction, and I’m going to treasure the time I spent in Portland so much – I met so many special people, and learned a lot about myself and what I want to manifest for my future. Portland is going to have a very special place in my heart now.
My immediate plans to launch my design career are to team up with my boyfriend to start working in kitchen and bath, and to spend my free time getting to know all the design resources here in the DC area. I am fascinated by the way that our spaces both reflect and affect our mental states, and would love to delve into a practice that helps people bring balance to their lives through thoughtful design. When I “think big”, I dream about a few different projects. The idea of “home” is very important to me, so one day I would like to organize a non-profit group of designers working pro-bono jobs for those who may not have homes – assisting homeless shelters, safe homes for victims of domestic abuse, and refugee resettlement programs. The idea is at a very early stage of development, but I hope I can bring it to life one day. I am also interested in learning more about green and sustainable design. Knowing how much waste the building industry creates, I feel it is my responsibility to become educated enough to conduct my work with as much consideration for the future of the planet as possible. I hope to be able to integrate that knowledge into my future career.
Thank you to everyone on the Heritage team for making this such a wonderful experience. I also have to thank my fellow students – our class was filled with genuinely kind and superbly talented women, with wonderful attitudes who really supported each other through the process. I feel so much joy when I think of the friendships I made, and I can’t wait to see where we all end up!