I had never won anything in my life—no school award, no athletic award, not even a participation trophy for just showing up. So when C&G Media Group Editorial Director D.J. Carey asked me to submit a project for the Innovation in Design Awards, my immediate reaction was absolutely not. Why subject myself to the stress of competition and inevitable disappointment? I was an unknown and would probably stay that way. D.J., however, is not one to say no to, and I decided to go through with it if only to please her. That year, Bunny Williams was to be awarded Innovator of the Year and Matthew Patrick Smyth, Anthony Baratta, Frances Palmer and Philip Gorrivan were to be judges. I crossed my fingers that I would make it as a finalist and be able to meet these design luminaries at the awards dinner.
The night of the dinner, I was so nervous I thought I might get sick right at the table. When my name was called as the winner of the IDA for interior design, I was so shocked I didn’t know what to do with myself. I hadn’t prepared any acceptance remarks because I didn’t think this moment was even possible. Everyone came to speak with me after the awards, and if you had told me at the beginning of the day that these editors and designers would one day become my friends, I wouldn’t have believed you.
But I did make new friends the night of the IDAs, and they became kind and active supporters of my career. I was subsequently invited to do the Ronald McDonald House Showcase with a star roster of designers. This led to my being accepted to the Kips Bay Decorator Show House. The night before press day, Matthew Patrick Smyth knew I was suffering from nerves and called certain scary editors to be particularly nice to me. Frances Palmer created custom terra cotta pots for my most recent Kips Bay room.
I don’t have the space here to list the many wonderful things that have happened in my career that would never have occurred had D.J. not pushed me to submit that first project. It was the turning point in my career. The IDAs taught me the importance of putting myself out there and taking the scary step of not being afraid to fail, because you never know…one day you just might win.