When you were 17, what did you want to be?
I think I've always known that I wanted to be an interior designer. I distinctly remember going on a tour of George Mason [University] my senior year, and I asked them if they had an interior design program, and they didn't. They only had an architectural program.
How did you decide to attend University of Maryland, College Park?
It was five minutes away from my house, and my parents said no to me moving to Virginia to go to George Mason. It just made sense for me to go to Maryland. It was cheaper and I could drive to school. Literally, it was a five-minute drive down the street from my house.
It was an amazing four years. It's beautiful. But I don't think I got the full college experience because I was a commuter and I lived at home. I think my senior year, when I joined my sorority, I got more involved and I got more of the college life aspect. I wish I had done that my freshman year. The first couple of years, it was literally just going to my classes and then going straight home. I had zero school spirit. I didn't go to any football games. I didn't do any of that stuff.
How did you choose your major?
When you're a freshman, your counselor tells you you don't have to choose a career right now; you can go in undecided and figure out what you want to do for the first two years. I went in undecided my freshman year, and I just took a whole bunch of random classes. Then at the end of that year, I still didn't know what I wanted to do. I ran into a friend from high school, and she told me that she was trying to get into the architecture program. And I thought, “Okay, that sounds like something I would like to do. I'll do architecture.” I've always liked floor plans, and it's very creative.
I wish I had gone in to college with the intention of doing architecture, because by my sophomore year, I was trying to fit in all of these prerequisite classes that I needed to apply to the program. That fall semester was really hard. I didn't pass all the classes I needed, because they were all super hard classes: History of Architecture, Drawing, Physics, a math course.
I ended up having to drop one of my classes, and then I didn’t pass another class, so I couldn't apply to the architecture program. The next best thing that a lot of people who were trying to pursue architecture suggested was art studio. Once you get your degree in art studio, you can transfer into the master's of architecture program.
It's funny because the architecture building is literally across the street from the art building. I just packed my things, and went across the street to the art building, and I felt like I belonged there. I loved all of my classes. I took a lot of painting classes because that was my favorite. I dabbled in a lot of different arts, so I did photography, where we were actually in the darkroom developing pictures. I took graphic design classes. I took sculpture classes with wood, I took a metal sculpture class, I took a mixed media class, I took a screen-printing class.
How did you get from college to where you are now?
So I did my bachelor's in fine art, and I minored in Spanish, and I had no idea what I wanted to do. My friend helped me get a job as a legal assistant. It was the worst two years of my life working for that law firm. It was terrible.
I came from an art background, so to go to a corporate, legal job that I knew nothing about... I was good at being an assistant, but I didn't want to be an assistant. It had no creativity whatsoever. I hated the environment. I hated the structure of it.
Maybe a year into it, my dad was working on a project and he met an interior designer in Washington, DC. My dad told him that his daughter was interested in interior design. And he said, "Tell her to come work for me. She can intern for me, and I'll teach her everything she needs to know."
For eight months, I was interning for him, and also working at the law firm. After working with him for a while, I realized that if I was really serious about being an interior designer I needed to go back to school. I started looking into schools, and I knew that if I was going to go to grad school, I wanted to experience college elsewhere, out-of-state. I got accepted to Pratt in New York, Philadelphia University, University of Florida, and Florida State University.
So I went on a road trip. I visited Florida State, and I fell in love with it as soon as I got there. I fell in love with the campus, I fell in love with the architecture. I reached out to my sorority sisters down there, and they were so welcoming. I've always wanted to live in Florida, because I hate the weather in Maryland. So I was super excited.
It was a two-year master’s of interior design program. It's accelerated, so it's fall, spring, summer, then you go straight back into fall, spring summer. It was intense.
One of the first classes I remember taking was drawing. They actually teach you how to draw a floor plan. People don't draw floor plans anymore - everyone uses AutoCAD - but there’s importance in actually learning how to draw. You had to buy the rulers and the different types of pencils with the different leads, and learn about line weights. They teach you how to draw sections and elevations and perspectives and people. They teach you all that stuff, step-by-step.It seemed super scary in the beginning, but by the end of the semester I actually drew a full 24” by 36” floor plan of an office space. It took hours and hours, but I did it.
And I went to a lot of the football games at Florida State, which was fun. I tailgated. Since my sorority had a chapter there, they would invite me to events on campus. They have Market Wednesday at the Union where different organizations table, and they’re selling things, and it's a huge party in the middle of the day. I was part of the student version of the International Interior Design Association. I think just being away from home, I actually got to focus a lot more on school, and it was nice.
After I graduated, I moved back home to Maryland for a couple of months, job hunting. I got an offer at a furniture dealership in Miami, and I've always wanted to move to Miami so I took it.
The company designed corporate offices. A client would come to us, and they’d give the designer the floor plan, and we would pretty much just fill up the space. Depending on their budget, their style, what they wanted, we’d fill up the space with furniture. We’d provide renderings for them, make it look nice and pretty.
I loved it. When I was at Florida State, one of my favorite projects was a studio class where we had to design a corporate space. The theme was transportation, and everyone had a different company. Mine was Peterbilt, the truck company. They gave us the floor plan, and then we had to figure out everything else for ourselves. I loved that project because I think it's really interesting how people work, and how what you do affects what you need in your space. Some people can work in a private office and some people can work in an open space. It affects you. To me, corporate design is interesting. So I worked there for two years before I came on We Roam.
What are you working on now?
I have a brand called Where Art Thou? The idea is I love traveling and I love art. I'm always catching flights, I'm always going somewhere. And one day my friend asked, "Where art thou, Wendz?" I liked the way that sounded. It's a play on words. So I took that and I made a logo design for it. My idea coming on this trip was that this was a perfect opportunity for me to promote my two biggest passions, traveling and art.
My idea is to make it a global thing. Wherever I travel, I like to go see art. Not just in museums, but also street art because you get to learn about the culture, all of that. I'm still in the works of where exactly I want it to go, but right now I'm really enjoying the process because I get excited every single day about all the art that I'm seeing, talking about it with other people. It’s a passion project.
I think long-term I would love to open up my own coworking space based on my experiences. I’ve been to four different countries, and each workspace has been completely different from the next. As a designer, I'm very particular. I notice a lot of things that maybe other people don't notice. So my idea is to open up my own. It would be a combination of a coworking space and also a coffee shop, because I love the community that a coffee shop builds, especially when it's related to artists. I would love to have a coworking space where artists can go and work on their stuff. I remember when I was in undergrad and I had huge painting projects. I would have to go into the studio, or I would be really uncomfortable on the floor of my room, trying to paint on a 24” by 36” canvas. That's my idea. That's where I would like to see myself long-term.
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
I wish I had gone to grad school straight out of college. I'm a first-generation college student, the first ever in my family to go to college. I didn't know what I was doing. I was just testing the waters and figuring stuff out on my own. Just getting a bachelor's degree was a big deal for me. When I graduated from Maryland, I never, ever thought that I'd be getting a master's degree. To me, it seemed unattainable.
But I was so unhappy at that law office, and I thought no, there has to be more to life than this. I can't do this forever. That's when I started looking into grad school. But had I known that I could just go straight into grad school after that, had I had more information, had I done more research, I would've just gone straight to Florida State and not spent two years of my life doing something that I hated, that didn't contribute to my career.
I think the best advice is as soon as you know what you want to do, go for it. I've always known that I wanted to be an interior designer, but I had to go through all these different paths and take all these detours just to get to this point. If you know what your passion is, go for it. Don't doubt yourself.