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The Heritage School of Interior Design’s CEO is Obsessed with Fabric

Five Questions For is GRAY’s candid Q&A session with design industry luminaries that delves into all things personal, professional, and occasionally humorous.

The first round of this year’s HOT NEW NEXT competition takes place Monday, April 8, at the Design Within Reach showroom in Portland’s Pearl District. GRAY’s Shark Tank-style live event  offers contestants the chance to present a rapid-fire pitch of a new design-related concept or product to an expert panel of industry veterans, who will select a winner in a final round in September during IDS Vancouver.

Each week leading up to the big night, we check in with one of our judges to learn more about their work, background, and what makes them tick. Up first: Stephanie Plymale, president and CEO of the Heritage School of Interior Design, a program based in Portland (with locations in Denver and Seattle) that equips students for careers in interior design via a mix of hands-on educational and technical courses.

RSVP to the Portland round of this year’s HOT NEW NEXT here, and join us at our Meet Me in the Bathroom after party at The Eleanor, sponsored by Chown Hardware, following the live event.

You’re currently collaborating on your first book, which will be published later this year. What can we expect?

A riveting memoir about my life in foster care and finding home. The volume is called American Daughter.

Prior to taking over the Heritage School of Interior Design, you owned a design firm for nearly two decades. How do you, and encourage others, develop new ideas for clients?

The homes and the clients I serve are my inspiration. I love incorporating an heirloom piece into the design of a space. I’m personally obsessed with fabric, which is another source of my ideas.

As CEO of the Heritage School of Interior Design, you see more than 100 students each year graduate and start their careers. What tools do they receive during their education  to prepare them for their futures?

We have a completely hands-on school. Our students have to present their designs on a daily basis, which elevates their confidence. We teach a robust, intense curriculum, including the fundamentals of design, AutoCAD, Revit building information modeling software, furniture design, and more. Our game-changing class is our business and entrepreneurship course. Every student leaves with a personalized business plan in their back pocket. It’s very empowering.

Name three qualities the Heritage School of Interior Design looks for in prospective interior design students.

Passion. Courage to change course. Open-mindedness.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

My therapist told me to be yourself. It’s enough.

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