Susan Ferrier Interiors, an Atlanta-based firm, has officially opened its doors as of this morning. Designer Susan Ferrier, formerly of McAlpine, the AD100 architecture and design firm with offices in Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and New York, had been a partner at the firm since 2000, and announced her plans to depart the legacy firm earlier this summer. She shares her insights into the career move with BOH.
How did you decide to strike out on your own?
There's something so wonderful about creative partnerships and collaborations, which is what I had for almost 20 years as a partner at McAlpine, but as their focus changed and became more about architecture, I found myself wanting to do different kinds of projects and work. So it made sense to go out on my own. Having my own firm gives me an opportunity to grow, and it’s exciting—and life should be exciting!
What are some of your current, and upcoming, projects?
One of the benefits of having my own firm is that now I have the opportunity to pursue other creative endeavors that go beyond the scope of a traditional architecture firm. We have the chance to be nimble and creative, which means we get to work on things we are really passionate about.
We are thrilled to be working on projects around the country, everything from primary residences to country houses and beach escapes, each one very different from the last. Some of our newest projects include a gorgeous feminine beachfront escape on the Alys Beach in the Florida Panhandle, a modern home in Dallas for clients that love to entertain, a pristine lakefront property in Wisconsin, a family compound in Naples and serene farm and hunting camp in Alabama, to name a few.
I’m lucky—I adore my clients. I think that’s what makes design work so satisfying. You really get to know people and help them create the lifestyle they want.
What advice would you share with designers seeking to form their own firm? What were some of the steps you took?
It is very satisfying to do things properly, and that takes a good foundation. Confidence comes from knowledge and experience, mixed with good instincts. There’s a reason that so many talented designers don’t launch their own firms right out of school—it’s because oftentimes partnerships and collaborations give you important learning opportunities.
Building your own firm is a big step and you have to enjoy the development of the business side of things, as well as have the ability to adapt quickly since the world changes very quickly these days. You have to invest in building the machine that makes the design happen, not just do the design. And again, one of the biggest keys to success is having confidence in your distinct and recognizable voice. Build the machine and nurture your creativity.
I thought I would stay in my old position forever and was really happy to do so until something shifted inside, something almost unexplainable, and I wanted more opportunity to grow. Being out on your own gives you even more space to master your craft—you have to allow yourself to evolve and become who you need to be. If you do the work, trust your instincts, and give yourself permission to take risks and try new things, you'll know when it’s time to start your own firm.