Q & A With Celia Friedman: Interior Designer & Entreprenuer
Celia and I were both part of the 2nd co-hort of Creative Enterprise, a program for creative entrepreneurs here in Spokane (which happens to be run by the amazing Ginger Ewing, a friend of The Woodsy). Throughout the fall of 2017, I saw Celia on a regular basis, learned about her business, and secretly wondered if I could hire her to overhaul my entire house (a girl can dream, right?). And, now that spring is here, and we’re opening our windows and freshening things up, the timing seemed right to check back in with Celia, hear what’s new, and see if we could glean a few tips for organizing and decorating…
Name: Celia Friedman
Where did you grow up?: Baltimore, Maryland
Where do you live now?: West Central, Spokane
Tell us about your career path: I’ve always been an interior designer! From a young age I remember having an awareness and appreciation for the space around me, especially when I was outside. I lived in trees; I even took a small glass table up into the branches so I could eat snacks up there. I used to make “rooms” in different parts of the forest in our backyard. I drew floor plans on the back of place-mats for my Bubbys dream house when we would go out to restaurants. I rearranged and redecorated my room countless times growing up, exploring different styles and colors throughout the years. I have a journal from middle school that documents my hopes of becoming an interior designer and I never had a question about what I was going to major in in college. I went to Moore College of Art & Design, a small women’s art college in Philadelphia and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design. After graduation I followed my heart west and moved across the country to Spokane. After living here for a year, I fell into my first design project helping a couple remodel a bathroom suite in their Craftsman home. A few months after that first client I got my business license and officially started Celia Friedman Interior Design.
What other passions do you have?: My biggest passion right now is incrementally trying to be more like a river and less like a rock. For me, this means accepting that I can’t control everything and learning to trust myself and my decisions. I’m pretty type-A, future-focused, controlling and a perfectionist. I’m learning how to let go of the aspects that harm me or cause anxiety and figure out how to live my days and accomplish goals in a fluid way that and fits with how I work. I’m passionate about getting outside and moving my body for at least an hour everyday. I love preparing food and eating! I try new recipes regularly and have fun cooking and experimenting without them too. I climb and do flips on aerial silks once a week at Coil Studio in downtown Spokane. It is the closest thing to flying and I love how it fuses art and sport, and builds muscle and confidence in my body. I’m an avid hiker, camper, road-tripper and traveller. And, obviously I love to care for my home. When everything is put away, I have a cup of tea and mindfully look around my home while appreciating its beauty and the shelter it provides.
What’s a normal day like for you?: My days are pretty varied because I have different meetings and activities I rotate through. My morning ritual is always drinking water and a spoonful of apple cider vinegar. I usually enjoy a cup of tea in the mornings. I always make the bed! I read somewhere that accomplishing a small task in the morning such as making your bed can help motivate you for the rest of the day. I view it more as a ritual and a way of waking up. Plus the room looks so much better with the bed made. Most days I nanny the cutest baby girl, I’ve been watching her since September and have fallen in love. After nannying, I’ll cook at home, work, go hiking, have a meeting, or occasionally run an errand. I’ll make dinner and usually have an evening activity or meeting.
Favorite thing about the PNW?: That bright green fluffy lichen! The trees, the mountains, the fresh air, how many places there are to get out into the wild, all the hiking and camping, how close it is to Glacier National Park (I’ve been there!) and Banff (can’t wait to get there), Seattle and Portland, both cities I love visiting, and the Oregon coast!
Favorite season in the PNW?: Spring! For sure spring is my favorite season. I especially love hiking around during spring and witnessing how everything is slowly waking up after the winter slumber.
How do you take your coffee (or other preferred morning beverage)?: I stopped coffee a couple years ago (see my thoughts on that in the Woodsy piece on new years resolutions). Tea is an obsession. Some days I have two or three cups. Favorite tea drink to make in the morning is probably a London fog. I add a tiny bit of vanilla extract and half a spoonful of honey to the mug along with a bag of earl grey tea. Fill the mug with boiling water and after it steeps for a couple minutes, add some half and half and enjoy.
When you’re out, how do you protect yourself from the rain?: Raincoat and double pair of leggings and socks. If it is super nasty, I protect myself by staying in bed cuddled under the covers.
What are some of the most frequent ideas/lessons you find yourself sharing with clients?: For interior design: Color isn’t something to be scared of! Color is wonderful and it won’t make your space look smaller. I try to help clients not worry so much about getting it “right” or making everything matchy-matchy. For decluttering: Start with the space that is weighing on your mind the most, and start small. Decluttering is like a muscle, the more you do it the easier it gets. For the items we come across that they have kept out of guilt or obligation, I remind clients that it served its purpose already and it is okay to let it go now. Really, it is about giving them permission and helping them take control by reorganizing items in a way that fits with how they use the space.
Anyone who’s ever flipped through a home magazine or curated a few Pinterest boards has probably daydreamed about being an interior designer or an organizer. Can you tell us what some of the surprises have been since you got started? How does it (or doesn’t it?) meet the expectations you once had?: Yes, I’ve definitely had more than a few people tell me they daydream about being an interior designer! I was surprised that I had some intense learning experiences with clients right away. I learned early on to trust my instinct about who to take on as a new client, and if I feel like something is off, I shouldn’t start working with someone just because that means another project. I still get surprised, happy and super excited when someone expresses interest in starting a project with me. The excitement is a nice and sometimes necessary reminder about how much I love what I do.
Share with us how you balance the creative aspects of your work with the logistics of owning a business. What advice would you give someone looking to do something similar?: I’m lucky because I enjoy all the behind-the-scenes work that needs to happen, and not many other creative entrepreneurs I’ve talked to enjoy the business side. I like doing my own taxes and accounting and keeping spreadsheets of all the different things I need to keep track of (e.g. client hours, mileage, blog post schedule, business expenses). I feel such accomplishment after doing things on my own. My advice would be know your strengths and what you want from your business. One of my strengths is research; I know how to find what I need to learn something. For me it works that I take more time to figure something out on my own versus spending money to have a professional do it to save me time.
How does the PNW influence your design work (if at all)?: I don’t know if the PNW directly influences my work but I definitely feel inspired and refreshed after getting outside or traveling to a new place. When I hike, I gawk at all the different textures and colors I see. From the rocks to the pine tree bark to the different foliage, flowers and forest undergrowth, it is all different and fits together so imperfectly perfect. Nature reminds me to be bold and to not worry about matching things too much. Nature doesn’t match and it looks pretty damn good so I remember that when I’m designing and decorating interior spaces.
Do you have one to two pieces of advice we can share with our readers?: The design, decorating, DIY world is pretty big, influential and trendy. It can always feel like you need to buy a new coffee table or new set of dishes or remodel your kitchen or repaint your house. If you approach it from that way, which is more of consumeristic approach, you won’t ever be satisfied and your house and the items you own won’t ever be enough. Trust me this advice is also for me. Your house is your house! Make it what you want. If something isn’t working where it is, move it! If you haven’t worn or used something in over a year, let it go! Try not to compare what you have or how your house looks to other people’s houses or to what you see on Pinterest. Your house is special in its own way and as long as it works for you then it is perfect!
What do you love talking about at parties?: I love getting right into the deep stuff. I’m an introvert and an INFJ, so small talk is usually uncomfortable for us. When I can find that person who also enjoys opening up and having an in-depth conversation I love getting into politics and social issues probably the most. I also love to talk about places people have been and traveling in general. Spokane is also a fun topic to talk about. I like finding out how long people have lived here or why they might have moved away and came back.
What are people surprised to learn about you?: That I go commercial salmon fishing with my family every summer in Ekuk, Alaska and have been going since I was ten months old. We fish from the beach, we are not on a boat like most people assume. The type of fishing we do is called set-netting and we pull in our 300’ net with trucks and a system of steel pegs, line and rotating blocks. We live in a small cabin with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Ekuk is a remote village with one main gravel road and clusters of cabins situated between Bristol Bay (the ocean) and miles and miles of wilderness bluff. People only live there in the summer during the salmon season. My dad built a processing building a quarter mile away from our cabin in 1994. Since then he has grown Friedman Family Fisheries into a business that provides smoked and frozen salmon to a large customer base in Baltimore that extends to other East Coast cities and he sends his smoked salmon all over the country. We process about 10,000 lbs of salmon that my dad sells back in Baltimore throughout the year. The rest of the salmon we catch (last year we caught over 100,000 lbs) gets sold to a processor in Ekuk. There is no internet or cell service and I love disconnecting from society and reconnecting with myself and really slowing down. I’ve come to understand why and how much this experience every summer means to me and I’m building salmon fishing into the story of Celia Friedman Interior Design more and more.
Any big “wish list” or “bucket list” items that you’re focused on/looking forward to accomplishing?: When I studied abroad in Florence, Italy my junior year of college, I traveled around Europe for a few weeks with my friend Chelsea. This past summer we made an agreement to go on a trip back to Europe in 2020. I’ve recently been thinking hmm, what would taking a year off to travel the world look, if I could included that trip with Chelsea? The places I haven’t been and would want to go to are Egypt, Greece, Spain, Ireland, Japan, China, Nepal and Bali. I’m trying to think about it more and not start planning anything. I think the timing in my life is perfect for a long trip like that because it is something I would want to do before having children, if I even have children! Right now it is just a wish but I’m hopeful that it will happen and proud that I’m already saving for it.
What brings you joy?: Life, friends, family, hiking, babies definitely bring me joy, I nanny the cutest, sweetest little baby girl and the amount of joy I feel when I can make her laugh out loud is ridiculous. The moments I remember feeling such joy have been those little unexpected serendipitous moments. Like when I see someone dancing in their car while driving or singing to themselves while biking I feel so happy for them and happy that I got to see someone being totally themselves and in the moment. It reminds me not to care as much about what other people think and just be myself wherever I am.