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D Home Best Designers Look Back at Their First Projects

Our winners remember the early days of their careers—and the lessons they learned along the way.
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Our 2020 Best Designers in Dallas weren’t always acclaimed industry leaders–they worked their way up. Here’s how a few of our winners got their start in the world of interior design.

Amy Gibbs

“I remember rearranging my room on a regular basis as a child and teenager. I would have my door closed and hang things on my walls. Then I would go get my dad, open the door for the ‘big reveal,’ and every time, he would say, ‘Oh baby, this is the best! It looks so amazing! Nice work!’ He passed away a few years ago, but I can still hear him say those words when I complete a room.”

Philip Thomas Vanderford

“Our first major job we actually drove two Enterprise box trucks to Aspen, Colorado, in ice and snow ourselves. Never again!”

Marilyn Rolnick Tonkon

“Everything for the space was selected and ordered and was sent directly to the client to avoid receiving and delivery charges. The client’s dad was opening the box when—oops—he cut right through the box and sliced the back of the chair fabric in half. Cutting costs can be very expensive. That never happened again.”

Susan Bednar Long

“My first project was designing a masculine power office for one of Britney Spears’ talent agents in New York City. I sat next to him on an airplane and we shared a cab, and he offered me the opportunity along the way.”

Michelle Nussbaumer

“My first project I didn’t have a signed contract. It was a bad idea. I would never do it again! P.S. It was for a lawyer.”

Jan Showers

My very first design project was for our very first home. I actually loved what I did—It was very Billy Baldwin. I thought his interiors were so chic, so I basically just copied what he did.

Robyn Menter

“I was commissioned to make quilts for a family. When the project was completed, the client asked if I would be available to design/furnish their home. I learned then and there that small things can lead to bigger opportunities, so my career took off.”

Janet Gridley

“A friend of mine hired me to renovate and furnish a lake house. The client wanted a really fun space for entertaining. At that time he was an unapologetically confirmed bachelor. That house has seen 20 years of revelry and dancing on the sofas, and the place still looks good. A few years ago my client tied the knot.”

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