I met Phil several years ago and have always been struck by his ability to listen with sincerity and to distill ideas into very straightforward and intelligent pieces. When you look at his design it captures these skills. His homes are places where it is easy to imagine life going on, lives that are enhanced by his backgrounds, not restricted. I hope you enjoy his essay as much as I did.
I am very glad Mark asked me to do this because it feels healthy to spill my thoughts and reassess why I am an interior designer . I became a designer against odds, I grew up in Iowa, I did not re-arrange my bedroom furniture when I was young, I was all boy growing up in a very small town in Iowa- the kind that when you hit a home run in baseball it went over the fence and into a cornfield. So how the heck did I become an Interior Designer in Los Angeles ?
My Mom and Grandma were great influences on me. Both collected antiques and my Mom took me to estate sales and purchased furniture, refinished them, and then decorated our home. I really admired how she transformed these unsightly pieces into beautiful works of art. The before and after was something I could understand and get excited about. My Grandma, well, those Towne and Country magazine she got , somehow always kept alive the desire to learn more about the world as a young boy.
In High School I decided to take a visual arts class. With a gruff old guy-Mr. Myers, I could barely make eye contact with this guy in the hall . He had all the kids in his class that were not in sports and wore black to school! Well, project after project; he kept giving me very good grades. One day he leaned down and told me privately “hey Phil, its Ok to be really good at art and design.” I think I just needed permission from someone to venture down that path. And so I did…….
I am a designer because I am passionate about the end results. Because I can say “ I created this, this was not here before!” No one is more worried than me to have the end result as near to perfect as it can be. To get a fresh set of prints in my office from the architect after we get hired is one of the most exciting experiences for me . I look at those plans and ideas run through my head so fast , my writing cannot keep up with my thoughts.
Craftsmanship, colors, lighting fixtures, furniture , fabrics, textures, all the cool products I get to see, tile, stone, woods, paint techniques, challenging clients, getting creatively pushed by clients, the talented design staff I get to work with every day, creative challenges, the “what if we did this” questions discussed in our studio dailey. I know I am in the right profession because, when I go to my job sites and see progress from drawings to implementation, I get incredible feelings of accomplishment. It’s a creative “high” for me and it occurs daily. The bad days are few compared to all the great creative ones I seem to enjoy.
I can not imagine doing anything else and I can not imagine retiring . I feel like I have so much more to do and learn and deisgn. I am lucky that I do not feel (ever) that I “work” each day. I am a designer because I see potential in everything I get to be involved with, it’s just up to me on how to creatively solve the problems.
Thanks Mark for asking me , that felt great to dump those thoughts on paper!
Phil Norman ASID, CID
Norman Design Group, Inc.