I am so excited to bring you today’s Style Talk interview with Marcia Prentice. You’re likely to recognize her name, as Marcia is a writer for Apartment Therapy and a member of the cast on HGTV Design School. Not a licensed interior designer just yet (but you wouldn’t know that from her incredible portfolio), Marcia shares with us her journey from business school to interior design; the exciting projects she’s worked on for her reality TV series; and what’s on the horizon as she prepares to graduate and put her own mark on the world of interior design.
Why interior design?
Although interior design is a second career path for me, my love for form, materials, color, and overall interior aesthetics began before the age of 10. My father worked in the construction industry and we moved a few times whenever he found inspiration to build a new home. Working in finance and investing served me well, but interior design is my next conquest.
What elements define your design style?
In my designs you are almost certain to find elements of color, clean lines, and an industrial or worn quality. I am most drawn to historic buildings or homes with the original architecture still in tact. Give me a 1920’s Spanish colonial home and I will find a way to retain its character, individuality, and history, while updating it for a modern lifestyle. I love a great story behind a historic home, but I draw the line at haunted houses.
You came to design school with a background in business. Was it always your intention to put your business studies to use in the design field? Has that experience been helpful in your work as a designer?
I am fortunate to be able to operate on an analytical and creative level and switch gears when necessary. As with interior design, I was introduced to business, and in particular investing, at a very young age. I was on track to the beginning of a career at a large financial brokerage firm, when I started to evaluate if finance was my true passion. Moving to California resurrected my need for self-expression.
Being in the accompaniment of friends who were investing in real estate, I decided to make a similar investment and travel back to Wisconsin to work with my father on a house flip. Did my business and financial background help me in managing the budget, hiring contracts, and overseeing the project – absolutely! I am able to develop a beautiful design while maintaining a logical and realistic outlook.
You’re in design school and decided to take the ultimate test – filming a reality TV series. Can you tell us about the HGTV Design School experience?
Designing for a reality TV show wasn’t in the plans just yet. Although I will admit, it was my goal to apply for a design show after I graduated school. The show found me and I kept returning to casting meetings and just had fun with the process, while not being overly focused on the outcome.
Being a cast member on a television show brought a new set of challenges and gave sleep deprivation a whole new meaning. Just when you finished one assignment, you were on to the next, with no breaks. Yes, it was the ultimate endurance test. However, still being a student you really can’t pass up the opportunity to design the rooftop of the historic Los Angeles Athletic Club one week and the next week design and manufacture a custom chair for Los Angeles Lakers player Ron Artest.
While the other design students found a new love in furniture design, one of my favorite challenges was designing an event suite for the Staples Center. Could I be the next luxury suite designer? I would love that!
What are the unique challenges to life as both a student and reality TV star?
How about dashing past the large cast poster and 84” television screens broadcasting “Design School” 24 hours a day without any student stopping me and making me late for class? All kidding aside, I had a hard time returning to life as a regular student and focusing in class after being catered to and accomplishing some of the most difficult design challenges. In our minds, many of us had felt that we already graduated, but in reality we had to finish our core design classes.
You’ll be finished with design school pretty soon. What new perspectives are you hoping to bring to the world of interior design after you complete your degree?
I have gained a diverse range of design experiences: house flipping, furniture design, hospitality design, window vignette composition, and now blogging for Apartment Therapy. Each experience added to my knowledge base and changed my design perspective just a bit.
My unique perspective on design consists of incorporating differing design styles and closely examining each décor item for its design quality versus its popularity or status. For example, if I can show you how to successfully mix Italian architecture, vintage found objects, vibrant modern furnishings, and industrial accents and lighting, then I have broken the rules of designing for a particular style. As many of my close friends know, I hate to follow rules and live by the status quo.
As a writer for Apartment Therapy you have to be up on the latest design trends and the changing nature of interior design. How has that experience been?
Writing for Apartment Therapy has definitely soared past any of my expectations. Even though blogging isn’t the highest paying job, making new connections with like-minded designers and design enthusiasts is the most rewarding part of my day. Apartment Therapy has a very loyal, passionate, and educated reader base that makes writing each post an open-ended conversation.
Before I started my position at Apartment Therapy, I was interested only in the most expensive, modern furnishings, without faltering or considering other design aesthetics. When I opened my world to a greater design community, I realized how narrow minded and unadvanced my prior design perspective was compared to the most successful designs.
With so many different projects in the works, what’s next for you?
I entered design school with the intention of advancing my technical design skills to continue flipping homes. I don’t think I have to state the obvious, but the house flipping mentality has become pretty undesirable in the last few years.
Now, I am focusing on building my own design blog and continuing to build relationships with magazine editors, publicists, and prominent designers and architects. In the back of my mind New York is calling me to take a job at a décor magazine, but my logic holds me back from living through winter storms and icy roads. I haven’t lived away from Wisconsin that long that I have forgotten what real winters are like.
Marcia, I hear what you’re saying about winters, but I’m definitely rooting for this possible move to New York. We need knowledgable writers like you in the shelter magazine world. Good luck on all of your endeavors! We’ll follow your work no matter where you land.
I will be taking the rest of this week off for Thanksgiving vacation. If you’re looking for some design inspiration while I’m gone, please take a look at my latest post on HGTV Design Happens – Dine in Color. There are some great tabletop decor tips for your Thanksgiving table.
The past few months here at AphroChic have been absolutely amazing. I am truly thankful for all of you who have sent comments, written posts, tweeted, and just thought good thoughts for both me and my hsuband as we launched our new collection. Thank you all for supporting AphroChic. Have a wonderful holiday!