Women's Leadership

Blazing Her Own Trail: CEO Adrienne Faulkner

The renowned designer and avid equestrian shares inspiration, leadership advice, and her passion for mentoring future generations.

Design is in Adrienne Faulkner’s blood. Her grandfather, George L. Dahl, was a visionary architect whose Art Deco work is still revered today. Meanwhile, Faulkner—who is an avid equestrian, specializing in barrel racing, polo, and bareback riding—is blazing her own trail. She launched her namesake firm in 1991 and focuses on interiors for upscale multifamily and senior living properties. Dallas-based apartment developer JPI is among her clients.

Who has been the greatest inspiration in your life?
“My grandfather George L. Dahl was a visionary and a forefather of architecture and design that is still admired and revered today. He designed 22 buildings of the University of Texas at Austin campus masterplan, and served as the chief architect of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition which yielded Fair Park, the largest concentration of public Art Deco buildings in the United States. He also designed the first drive-thru, but did not patent it.”

Why did you go into interior architecture?
“I wrote a paper when I was 12 years old about what I wanted to be when I grew up. It said: ‘Artist, horse trainer, or interior designer.’ I chose the latter.”

Why did you decide to start your own firm?
“It’s a funny story, actually. I was working for an architecture firm, and interior jobs slowly began to drop off. I found myself doing a lot of drafting work, when I got an opportunity to redesign Troy Aikman’s house. I basically took what I was making for a salary at the time—about $18,000—and I put the check in my pocket and quit my job. Nine months later, I was designing office spaces and commercial projects. I’m now certified in 22 states. The rest is history.”

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned?
“To be kind to others. It goes a long way! Also, the power of positive thinking.”

What keeps you up at night worrying?
“Worry is an imagined sense of control, and we are not in control. I don’t tend to worry. I used to, but it is a time sucker. Every minute is a choice of what we think about, and where you let your mind go. Don’t let fear control you.”

What advice would you give an 18-year-old version of yourself?
“Don’t let others define who you are supposed to be. Be who you are. Trust your instincts.”

What advice would you give to a young person starting out in your industry today?
“First and foremost, you have to have determination and perseverance. There is a quote that says, ‘Don’t let your future depend on someone else’s opinion.’ I think that’s the best advice.”

What is the most important skill you look for when you are hiring?
“I don’t know if there is just one thing, but I don’t like to see people who have moved around a lot. Loyalty speaks volumes.”

What has you most excited about the future?
“I am passionate about giving back to future generations. We often have high school interns in the office, and I enjoy getting involved with high schools and colleges to speak and mentor students when possible. Being a part of shaping younger designers, watching them grow, learn, and excel makes my heart sing.”

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