Interview by Fred Schmidt
Sharon Richardson, ASID, Senior Interior Designer, is a certified interior designer with FSB and has been leading the interiors effort on the Chickasaw Visitor Center.
Sharon, tell the Blog followers about your role on the project.
Sharon: Interior designer. Choosing finishes and furniture for the project. Helping the architects with some of the exterior finishes as well. Getting the furniture and finishes to function appropriately and work with the clients’ needs and desires for the spaces. And it’s fun. It’s a fun process for me. I love doing this.
You have been a main stay on Chickasaw projects but when you found out you were going to be a part of this project, what were your thoughts?
Sharon: I was excited about it. I wanted to be on this project and be the interior designer on this project. I think I even asked to be on it. It’s a beautiful building. Not only on the outside but also there was making it beautiful on the inside as well. The Chickasaw Nation folks are great to work with. I’ve enjoyed it, I really have.
Sharon wants to pose for every shot, so I’m having a challenge getting candid shots. We crack up about my efforts of using my selfie grip on my smart phone.
There have been a lot of challenges for the team members on the project. What have been some of the challenging things on this project from an interiors point of view; either early on or later?
Sharon: I think early on it was some of the finishes that I felt very strongly would be really beautiful; like the slate. The large scale slate. Then I think working with our industry partners that were providing the slate and finding out the good solutions that would make this a stable project. How to have the underlayment beneath the slate so that it wouldn’t crack after it was installed. Just feeling very strongly that that slate would be just beautiful in this building.
That concern about the integrity of the slate actually spilled over into another discipline; our structural engineers. They took it to heart and made sure that the elevated structural floor slab would also be very stable and not flex and cause problems with the slate. So dealing with large format slate is a different thing. What are all the challenges?
Sharon: I think making sure that it doesn’t crack, that you have the right professionals install it and lay it; that’s critical. It’s not something that anyone can do; you have to have someone that’s knowledgeable. Making sure that its level, that the grout joints are minimal. So I think those are some big challenges. But I think it looks really gorgeous.
I remember reading the specifications and I recall that the grout joints were really small but you confirmed that it is actually the right approach.
Sharon: It is. And I think the smaller the joints are also easier to clean.
So what about challenges as the project moved forward? Were there other challenges along the way?
Sharon: Just making sure that the client was happy with all the selections and durability; talking to users; making sure that these finishes would last over time. Not just look pretty for a couple months.
I think that’s something the whole team has paid attention to on this project. We wanted the materials to last for 50 years so the selections and quality were important; whether they were the floor finishes or furniture. So what were some of the challenges on the furnishings side?
Sharon: The systems furniture downstairs is centered in the open space. So making sure the floor boxes were in the right place and the furniture was at the right height so that the users could coordinate and communicate as needed. Finding out more about the people that would occupy those spaces and their work nature being in the field a lot and returning to the office. The furniture had to be more durable, so using wood looking plastic laminate instead of wood laminate was more appropriate; reducing the cost and adding durability.
So tell us about how you decided that interior design was the professional career track that you wanted to take.
Sharon: I didn’t realize until I started school in the interior design program with interior designers and architects what all interior design really entailed. The more I found out about it the more I loved it and knew that this is what I wanted to do. Every project is different and its fun; I love doing this. I love seeing the finished results, from concept to the final design. I think it’s great to see the client’s faces and see that they love their new spaces as well. That’s the gratitude in it for me.
Tell us about your approach to interior design. And in reality this project had 2 distinct parts to it; the finishes and the furnishings. Two different considerations but they had to work together. How do you approach each one of those from a design standpoint?
Sharon: Well it’s trying to find out what the clients’ vision is. How do they want to see the finished results? What do they want to have as a finished product; contemporary, traditional, transitional? What are the needs of the people who will actually work in the spaces? I think with the Chickasaw Nation it seems right to have things that were more on the natural side; slate, stone, leather looking furniture. There is also the durability. But also responding to the architectural design and style. So making the interior work with the exterior. And then showing the client options and directing them in a manner that works with what they want to do with the spaces.
I’m going to go off project here. You have had an interesting life. You have had some opportunities to travel that I think are pretty special that not just everyone has. Where all have you been around the globe?
Sharon: Well, we lived in Germany for 3 years. We lived in Turkey for 2. We’ve been to Australia, Austria, Scotland, France, Italy, Switzerland, England, and Egypt. I think the more we traveled, the more we wanted to see more. There is so much out there. You would be surprised, actually I was surprised to see the architecture in Australia; it’s contemporary, it’s beautiful. We’ve been to 30 something countries. We loved living in Turkey as much as we loved living in Germany; 2 very different cultures.
So you have almost been to as many places as the FSB Blog.
Sharon: Yes, that’s very true. we’re getting a good laugh
It is interesting when you get to know the cultures of the countries and the people. Regardless of whether the people are affluent or not, they are still beautiful.
Sharon: They are, they are. And as poor as they can be, they would give you the shirt off their back.
So all this traveling probably got in the way of you finishing your interior design pursuit.
Sharon: It did. My husband was in the military active duty for 20 years, on reserve for 5. We traveled and moved every 2 to 4 years. So it took me a number years to get my degree and several different colleges. But you never give up on your goals.
Good for you.
Sharon: Like I said, I love what I do.
Well I think is shows and we hear that from the clients too, that they have really enjoyed working with you.
So, you are familiar with the FSB Blog.
Sharon: I am, I am.
What do you think about the FSB Blog and using this project as a showcase?
Sharon: I think great, I have learned things from the Blog that I didn’t know about the process. I think it’s great to inform the public about a process that most people are not familiar with. Most people don’t understand what we do as interior designers, architects and engineers. I know it’s time consuming to pull of each week. I think it’s a great learning tool.
Well I’ve had some good people and good material to work with and draw from.
Sharon, thanks for taking time to share.