From designing beautiful interiors to spending countless hours researching trends and ideas, Amanda Cooper is a busy lady. She would humbly tell you that a large part of her success is by chance, but the proof is in her stunning portfolio. This twenty-something entrepreneur has a crazy amount of talent and after admiring her gorgeous work-in-progress home from stalking her Instagram photos, I was thrilled when she accepted my invitation for a Thirty-Seventh Avenue chat.
Amanda and I first met through school. Unfortunately, I didn’t go through classes with her, but her work was always present. I fell in love with her style early on and I’ve been amazed at the success she’s had with her own business. Amanda started Terra Interiors, a full-service residential interior design firm based in Birmingham, Alabama, and has already been featured in Alabama Homebuilder magazine. If you recall, I did a post about the amazing Dunbar kitchen reno Amanda designed a few weeks back. You can read about it here.
So today I’m taking a step into Amanda’s life as a residential designer. Her world is a lot different that mine, so I’m excited to see how she got there and what advice she has for creative entrepreneurs. You can join, too. Meet Amanda Cooper!
WHAT’S IN YOUR COFFEE MUG THIS MORNING?
Hot chocolate actually. I’m not much of a coffee drinker.
WHAT DOES A NORMAL DAY-IN-THE-LIFE OF AMANDA COOPER LOOK LIKE?
My day is mostly filled with countless hours of scouring the Internet for design inspiration. It’s amazing what the power of the Internet holds nowadays with the infinite access to designers and décor professionals alike, photographs of inspirational homes and access to beautiful home furnishings stores the world over. The rest of my day is spent developing floor plans, studying trends in architecture and developing a greater social media presence, which is the best way to grow your business in this day and age.
IN DESIGN SCHOOL, I STRUGGLED TO EMBRACE MY OWN DESIGN STYLE. HAVE YOU HAD A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE? WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER CREATIVE LADIES ABOUT EMBRACING YOUR OWN INDIVIDUAL DESIGN AESTHETIC?
When I first made the decision to go back to school for a second Bachelor’s degree it was really on a whim. I already had a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Samford University and my career wasn’t going the way I had envisioned it. I have always been creatively inclined and had a love of residential interiors and thought I’d give it a shot. I had no idea the amount of work involved in interior design. It was mind blowing when I stepped into my first drafting class. Having not given a design degree a lot of thought to begin with, I of course had no idea what my design style even was. I knew what I liked if I saw it, but no way to define it.
My first internship was with a local designer who had previously worked under the incredible Betsy Brown. I remember walking into this designer’s home and thinking “now this is a home”. One of the questions she asked me during my interview was – who were some of my favorite designers. This is when HGTV shows were really popular and so my response was Candice Olson. Now don’t get me wrong – she is a FANTASTIC designer, but my knowledge of the greats in the design world was limited. I credit that internship as my initiation into all the fantastic names in this design industry. I made it my mission to discover all the history and influential names in our business and study what made them and their styles unique.
My style has changed evolved many times over since that internship and it will continue to do so as the years go on, but that’s exactly what makes design so great. The ability to constantly adapt to trends, adhere to the classics and constantly reinvent yourself and the industry we are in; to always provide that unique sense of home that every client is looking to grasp for themselves.
YOU’VE BEEN QUITE SUCCESSFUL WITH TERRA INTERIORS. WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE MOST TO YOUR SUCCESS AND WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER YOUNG, CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS?
To me success is still something I am striving to earn and I find it is a concept I struggle with daily as I feel I am constantly trying to out do myself with every project I tackle. It’s become especially hard to even stop for a moment and pat yourself on the back for a job well done when there is this phenomenon that exists in social media to always compare our own work to others.
However, when I do take the time to look back at past projects and see what was accomplished it’s never to credit my own success, but the success that a client loved the final result and that it augmented their own life in some way whether it be through functionality or just to have an inviting and beautiful room to come home and relax in.
My advice to other young, creative entrepreneurs is to stay true to you. It’s easy to see design inspiration everywhere you look, but it’s hard to force a design concept that doesn’t feel like you and try to make it work. You’ll sense it when your design or your business is going in a direction that doesn’t project who you are as a person and what makes you happy. Take the time to get to know yourself and stick to what is beautiful in your eyes and what makes you want to get up in the morning.
IF YOU COULD COME UP WITH THREE RULES FOR A SUCCESSFUL INTERIOR SPACE, WHAT WOULD THEY BE?
My three rules for a successful interior space are create an inviting environment, keep the large items neutral and stay true to what you know and love.
To me it’s important to create an inviting environment whether the room is in your own home or in a client’s home. A home is your own personal space – it’s the one place of solace everyone has to escape from stress at work and the bustle of the world around us. It’s as much a reflection of you as what clothes you choose to wear and how you present yourself to others. Let others see you through your home by collecting items that matter most to you.
I believe it’s important to keep the large items neutral because to me design is a fickle industry. Each year there is a new color trend; each year there is a new popular finish or a particular item. Design is meant to evolve, to shift, and to be explored. It’s not feasible for everyone to refurnish a room from top to bottom, year after year so if you keep the large items neutral it will allow you to alter your room through accessories, artwork and lighting and allow you to create a new space without breaking the bank.
Lastly, stay true to what you know and love because the room will never feel right if you don’t. Trust me, I know from experience in creating spaces in my own home – it’s easy to love a room someone else did and to want the same concept for yourself, but sometimes other people’s work is just meant to be admired and not copied. Not copied in the sense that you are trying to recreate someone else’s concept, but the idea they are presenting. The rooms you see as design inspiration were created with another person’s aesthetic in mind. I have hundreds of rooms that I absolutely love done by dozens of great designers, but not once have I personally loved every single item in those rooms. It’s okay to use others’ designs as a jumping off point, but go with your gut when making the call on an item that feels like your style versus choosing an item that is not something you would normally pick for yourself. It’s great to go out of your comfort zone and I always push for that even for myself, but it can get to the point where you don’t love a room because it doesn’t feel like you.
JUST FOR FUN, WHAT IS ONE THING PEOPLE MIGHT NEVER GUESS ABOUT YOU?
I’ve moved around a lot over the years and have never stayed somewhere quite long enough for anyone to know me during all the times in my life. It’s really hard to narrow it down to one thing so I’m going to have to give you the three things that have really defined my life up to this point. My three things are I used to be a figure skater, I was a musician for twelve years and I spent a year traveling with indie bands around the country on tour. Those experiences and memories brought a lot of inspiration to my life and have really helped me define who I am today and what defines design for me in a personal way.
FOLLOW ALONG WITH AMANDA: