Interview with Janet Caponi

December 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Photo by Brian Slevar

Photo by Brian Slevar

How did you arrive at your current position?  What is something that stands out from that path?

I began college pursuing a degree in elementary education. Simultaneously I had a job working with an interior designer who had a retail shop. I realized shortly that I enjoyed my job much more than school, so I switched majors and never looked back. During college I focused primarily on residential design so when I graduated I worked for a firm designing high end custom homes in Florida for 2 years (Montanna & Associates), then decided to cut my teeth in the profession in New York City. Finding a job in the city shortly after 9/11 was grueling and near impossible. I finally landed a job with a commercial furniture dealer and within 2 months met my future boss at a commercial interior design firm, MKDA. I was lucky to work for them for 2 years and get introduced to the world of contract design. My experience in NYC made it easier to get my next job at LS3P when I moved to Charlotte and I have been here for 8 years. My career has exposed me to interesting places, opportunities, and has given me insights into other businesses that I can’t imagine attaining in another line of work.

What type of projects do you work on most often?

Corporate Interiors

How would you describe your design style and approach?  Who or what inspires you?

My approach to design is something I call ‘informed reactionary’. I seek first to fully understand a project’s objectives, saturate myself in the client’s culture, and react with a clever solution that exceeds their expectations. I am inspired by beautiful projects showcased in industry magazines (Interior Design and Contract magazine), by travelling, my wonderfully talented colleagues and friends, and by other design industries (graphic, textile, industrial to name a few).

Any particular struggle that altered your design philosophy? How do you feel you have evolved?

I have and continue to struggle with keeping my original specifications on a project. Sometimes there is a disconnect between the products’ original quote and the contractors price, or there are issues with availability. Multiple reselections can cause an excess of our time spent that is not reimbursable, not to mention compromising the original design intent.

I have also struggled in the past to correctly convey my design intent and guide our clients to the right decisions. Both of these issues has made me evolve to present ideas with solid purpose, other than “well it looks good doesn’t it?!”. I have been taught to develop a project’s ‘big idea’ and to continue to make and support design decisions based on this objective. In the end this helps a client make informed decisions and defend specifications when they are up for possible reselection.

When do you stand firm on something that is questioned by a client or contractor?  What helps define which battles you fight?

I stand firm when I have done my own research and have evidence to support my direction. Thankfully I have a group of experienced professionals to consult with. I fight battles that have a serious impact on the design and/ or would compromise the integrity of the job. That being said, our contractors and subcontractors know their products very well, so if I am fortunate enough to be working with a good team a lot of the time they bring viable solutions and alternatives to the table.

What impact, if any, has the economy had on your approach to design?

The recession has made me much more aware of value, not only in products and techniques but in my own time and how much I spend on a project. I have had to work more efficiently – not only because our own rates have decreased but also the projects have shorter timelines (due to heavier competition, no ones wants to tell a perspective client “no”). Additionally our product suppliers are stocking less; more items are manufactured to order which puts an even greater strain on deadlines. This has made it necessary for me to keep manufactures up to date on pending orders, placing reserves on items to expedite the process and checking in to make sure orders were placed on time.

Where do you see the future of architectural education going?

I think more of the business aspect of architecture and design needs to be incorporated.  That will help our profession morph to the marketplace’s needs.

What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work?  What do you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered as a trusted adviser, a reasonable team player, and someone whose designs are appreciated and admired by the end users.

Provided by Brian Slevar

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