How long have you been in the Baltimore/DC area? Forever, except the 3 years I lived in Vermont and worked in New Hampshire.
How did you get into design? Well, it was the wish of my high school math teacher who said, “Carol, you love math so much,”—analytic geometry was my favorite class—”you should go into engineering. There are so few women in the field, you would have it made!” And I thought, “I’m not so sure. Engineering sounds a bit boring. But then, what about architecture?” So that thought floated through a year of college. Even architecture sounded dry, and what I found without being able to voice it at the time was that I was drawn to the other side of my interests that I hadn’t explored yet. So I started out as an art major and one day the light bulb went off: Interior Design! I can’t tell you that it was influenced by a mentor or experience, it was just that my analytical side and my artistic side collided and met in the middle and that’s how I ended up here.
How did you first get involved with NDC? What is your history with the organization? Somebody tracked me down. It was Carla, I believe. She was seriously persistent! At the time I was working downtown, I think it was around 1985, and I agreed to not only volunteer, but I think I went on the board. I was very excited because there weren’t any interior designers on the board of NDC—it was mostly architects and landscape architects because the history of NDC had been to rebuild the city. I worked on several projects over the years as a volunteer, and I was on the board for 13, so I have always had such a passion for the organization.
What motivates you to volunteer with NDC? In the words of the Beatles, “All you need is love.” I just want to give away this energy, I don’t know how else to say it. If I am comfortable enough in my life that I have time to volunteer and do things for others who aren’t as lucky as me, NDC is a place to apply that energy.
What do you find most rewarding about your work with NDC? Being able to work on projects I wouldn’t necessarily come across in my everyday work life is one. When I first started, there was also probably a certain degree of getting to know other people and networking in the professional community, but that was not the driver. I like to work on NDC projects because it’s fun. I’ve always done it because it’s fun. Think about it—we suddenly go from being children and life being fun to having to make a living. But volunteering is sort of a willingness to play.
What is inspiring your work now? I think what inspires me now is the next generation. They are my greatest teacher because their values are focused on evolution from the last generation and where our designed world goes from here. I want to see what inspires them because I can only do a little bit of looking forward, but they are the ones carrying the design torch now. Because I am a baby boomer, I want to think beyond my generation’s needs. I always want to learn. I feel like I will always be a design student so that’s what also inspires me—that I can still be a design student every day.
Has working with NDC changed the way you practice design? I feel as though it has taught me to listen to every unique voice in a design process and to always include those voices in design decisions. NDC teaches designers to pay attention, to listen harder to our clients. We can’t possibly know what it is like to be in another person’s built environment or to discern their vision for their future unless we truly and deeply listen.