Kristen Siefkin and Stephanie Plymale first met while volunteering as personal shoppers for Dress for Success of Oregon, an organization that helps underprivileged women get the tools they need to help them enter or reenter the workforce. “I loved Stephanie from the minute I met her. She was super fun, always positive and like me, willing to push these women outside of their fashion comfort zones in order to see themselves a little differently,” Kristen stated.
Kristen was always passionate about beautiful things and ensuring her surroundings “felt right”. Most of her adult life she collected Asian art, Japanese tansus and Danish modern furniture. It wasn’t until one of her best friends, Sara, bought a new house that she considered a career in interior design. “Sara asked me to help her decorate a few of her spaces and in the process, she told me she’d never seen me light up the way I did when I designed. The classes and curriculum at Heritage confirmed for me that not only did I have a passion for design, but I had the skill, too.”
Prior to her coursework at Heritage, Kristen was in marketing and PR. Her career began at McMenamins Hotels, Pubs and Breweries – first as the director of marketing for the Crystal Ballroom, and later as the PR and marketing coordinator for the entire company. She left McMenamins due to a desire to experience agency life. She worked for a mid-sized agency with offices in Portland and NY where as the vice president, she led the food and beverage department. “It was hard work, but I traveled the world meeting interesting people and getting to do things most people never have the opportunity to do.”
In 2011, Kristen and her ex opened a restaurant in Portland. She thought she could do both but quickly realized burning the candle at both ends wasn’t benefiting anyone, particularly herself. She left the agency to take a break from the grind, but quickly found herself back in the PR game again, this time as a consultant.
“I thought doing PR on my own terms would make me happy, but I was sorely mistaken.”
When she decided to leave PR officially, she was ready. “As a type A personality, I was definitely fearful of failure, but I have come to the point in my life where I’d rather try and fail than not try at all.” The biggest thing she had to tell herself repeatedly is, “that just because I am good at PR, it doesn’t mean I have to do it for a living. I was good at it for 20 years, but it’s okay to make a change. I may not be as good at designing as I was at PR straight out of the gates, but I will get there in time.”
Kristen chose Heritage because, as someone who already has an undergraduate degree, 20 years of work experience and two restaurants, she didn’t have the time or the interest in spending a few years of her life and a good chunk of change on a second degree. The Fundamentals curriculum at Heritage was fast, thorough, intensive and affordable. “I also liked that it is taught by designers as opposed to academia, which was important to me.”
After graduating, Kristen launched her own practice, Interior Design Alchemy and has taken on a handful of residential clients. In addition, she will be working two days a week at Nest Showroom in NW Portland.
“I am excited to apply and extend my education in a hands-on environment.”