Monday, February 15, 2016

Susan Ferrier - A passion for design

For anyone who’s spent much time in central New York it’s no surprise that Susan Ferrier would move to Atlanta almost as soon as she could walk… or run, or ski… as they get LOTS of snow in the winter!

Susan grew up in the burgeoning metropolis of Vestel, a small, wonderful town in southern New York, halfway between Ithaca and Scranton, PA. With its art galleries, planetarium, and immigrants from across Europe, the town was a cacophony of culture. From Russian kielbasa to fresh made Italian pasta to Latin Mass to a spectrum of Slavic languages, growing up in Vestel was like a field trip of one sort of another almost every day.

As great as that was, the not so snow challenged south beckoned and at 21 Susan decamped for Atlanta with the plan of going to school to be a chiropractor. It didn’t take long to figure out that the chiropractor part of her plan didn’t stick. But the Atlanta part did…

Next she decided to become an interior designer… Well, next, if you don’t count the decade in between. Actually, her journey from wannabe chiropractor to celebrated interior designer was, one might say, less than direct.

There was the waiting tables and bartending. There was the temp agency where she went to apply for a job and was hired at the agency itself. There was the fertility clinic where she was hired as the receptionist and was managing the place within a year. Somewhere along the way she found herself working part time at the Midtown Mellow Mushroom where she met her Kiwi husband Adrian, who was working part time there as he studied for his PhD.

Finally, when she was asking herself if any of this was making her happy she realized… no! So she decided to do something she had secretly dreamed of since she was a child… interior design. Having grown up in a family headed by two teachers, the only acceptable career paths as she grew up were a lawyer, doctor or an engineer… Nonetheless, she secretly pined for interior, and of all the jobs she had done, interior design was probably the farthest from her parent’s ideal. But sometimes you just have to follow your heart, even if it sometimes takes you a little while to summon up the courage to do so.

And so she enrolled at Georgia State University and two years later graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Interior Design, Suma Cum Laude to boot!

Then it was off to the design world. Having interned at a local design shop while still in school, upon graduation they offered her a job and she took it. After spending three years there a friend told her architect Bobby McAlpine was interested in having her join his team. As a great house looks even better with a great interiors, he wanted Susan to put the proverbial cherry on top of his homes. She demurred as the notion of leaving Atlanta was just not that appealing.

Undeterred, McAlpine tried again, enlisting a mutual friend to plan a dinner for Susan. It was there that Bobby was able to make his successful pitch and Mc Alpine Booth & Ferrier – or MBF as it was known – was born. Great architecture and great design rolled up into one company that stretched from New York to Atlanta and did work all around the country.

And the rest, as they say, is history, or at least her little slice of it. Aside from the design work itself, about which she’s passionate, it has given her 17 years of great joy. She’s on a plane about once a week and has pretty much crisscrossed the country. And when not traveling for work she loves to travel, her favorite destination being anyplace that sits on the Mediterranean… particularly Istanbul. She’s worked with architects in the firm and without. Homes of course are her bread and butter. When you design a home, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with knowing you’ve created an environment where a family and friends can feel comfortable and, well… at home. But, sometimes the dessert is a public space. It’s a particular joy for Susan when a client whose home she has designed asks her to do the design their workplace, something that’s happened a number of times. That means that they’ve recognized something Susan likes to say about interior design: “It isn’t about decorating, it’s more about capturing a mood”. Working in social spaces such as restaurants or offices present a particular challenge because you’re not focusing on what’s going to make one family or one client happy, but rather on your client’s customers… which is a whole different ballgame, but it’s extraordinarily satisfying when you get it right. And of course there are the showhouses, where you get a blank slate and get to pretty much do whatever you want. She's done showhouses in Atlanta for years and numerous other places as well.

Alas… after 17 years MBF is no longer… it’s been replaced by the shiny new moniker, McAlpine. Not only do they have a new name, a spectacular new website, but new digs as well, having just moved into a spacious new office in the East building of the ADAC. They're the last office on the right in the main hall of the entrance level, in case their sign isn't up yet! So stop by and check them out the next time you’re in that part of town!

Below are a number of Susan's designs.  Click on the image to read more about each.  

Susan and part of the McAlpine team: left to right Greg Tankersley, Susan, Bobby McAlpine and Ray Booth