How I Became An Interior Designer
My journey to becoming the designer I am today is a long one! I graduated from NYSID IN 1997.
Originally I went to school at FIT for half a semester, studying fashion buying and merchandising and absolutely hated what I was studying. I felt lost and confused and did not know what I wanted to do. So I dropped out of school and hit the pavement, looking for a job in the garment district. My parents were not happy with my decision at all. After getting many job offers, with my parents freaking out, my aunt had recommended I look in to NYSID. My Aunt said, "you always had an eye for interior design", and remembered I always wanted to redecorate my bedroom as a kid. So, I took her up on her advice and setup an interview with NYSID and I was accepted! Once I started school it was like something clicked for me. Everything made sense. I truly found my passion and what I was meant to do. I had such clarity and alignment with myself and my future, I had never had this before. I was so enveloped with every class I took and was able to express my creativity the way it felt it should be expressed. While I was in school I interned for a couple of small design firms in New York City.
Soon after I graduated I started my first interior design job at a firm called Hayden Perowne Associates. It was a mother/daughter duo and I am still close with the talented Alexandra Hayden to this day. They worked on some incredible celebrity projects and they were so nurturing and supportive. While I was working at their firm I had started a small jewelry business on the side. I had gone back-packing through Europe the summer before and had bought a beaded ring while in Paris. When I came back everyone was ooing and ahhing over my ring. A close friend said to me, “I want that ring!, I bet you can make it”! So, I did! That kicked off my jewelry business.
After a short stay at Hayden Perowne, my jewelry business took off! I developed an entire line and Saks Fifth Ave bought over 10k pieces and put it in all their US stores! This was a huge accomplishment because they usually took on new designers on consignment only and they bought mine out right! This was huge! I had to leave my day job for this new exciting venture!
I got to travel the world, I went to trade shows from Milan to NY and had to figure out all my production in NY. This business showed me so many challenges I needed to face. After 2 years of designing and selling my jewelry I started to feel unaligned again. I felt like I was not heading down the path I was meant to be on, I was off. Interior design... that was my passion and I felt lost without it. So I had to make the decision to close shop on my jewelry business and get back in to the interior design world.
That’s when I got a job at the esteemed design firm, Cullman & Kravis where I was exposed to everything! From their very organized and savvy accounting process. Their studio library and working amongst some very talented woman. I learned so much about antiques, upholstery, architecture, construction, photo shoots and truly learned high-end finish work. Ellie Cullman was definitely a role model for me and someone that inspired me, and showed me what I wanted to be one day.
My next move was to the firm Sherill Canet Interiors. Sherill was a talented sophisticated interior designer who trusted me to help run her NY office out of a gorgeous townhouse on the UES. Sherill had me work on co-designing several pieces of furniture for her own line. I had brought a lot of my knowledge and experience from a larger firm to her firm. Her style and decisiveness was inspiring to me as well. She showed me some insights in to marketing and PR. It was another stepping stone for my interior design career.
While I was working at Sherrill Canet, I received a call from my best friend who told me he had recommended me to a friend, to design a house in Miami. This was so exciting! I was enthralled with the idea of taking on this project that I never doubted if I was ready to take this project on or not. I just dove in full force, straight ahead and said I'am doing this! I had asked a friend of mine that I had worked with at Cullman & Kravis, to see if she wanted to be my business partner on this project. She was always telling me how she would love to have her on firm and go off on her own, and I admired her taste and intellect when it came to design. She had come on board and we were off! ZK (Cara Zolot & Elizabeth Kohn) Interiors was born! Working on our first big project in Miami! Miami! Everyone wants a destination project and it was my first one! I was more motivated than ever! My creative juices were flowing and it felt like the dream job! Word spread quickly about our firm and we had so many clients and major projects in such a short amount of time! We had a big staff and grew our company to 15 people at one point!
Then 2008 rolled in and the economy fell apart! All of our clients were pulling back on their budgets and work. It was a terrible time. I was dating my, now husband at the time and he was living in London. I was feeling very run down and not as inspired. I had put my heart and soul in to this business. I was spending most of my time managing employees and felt more disconnected from my creativity and design talents. It felt like it was a good time to take a break. So we parted ways amicably and I was off to live in London with my (now husband) boyfriend at the time! It was so exciting and I loved London! I wanted to work there and really submerge myself there. Only a couple of weeks in to living there I got an inquiry about a big project in NY! NY?!?! I had just moved to London! It sounded so enticing I could not resist! So I traveled back to NY and secured this exciting project! I worked remotely from London and traveled back and forth and relaunched my business as Cara Zolot Interiors (my maiden name). It felt good to have one big project on my plate allowing me to have some free time to travel around Europe and Japan, it was exciting times! Going to auction houses in England and going to the Paris flea market on The Weekends it was the dream, once again!
Soon after my time being in London I got married and was pregnant with my first son, Cash. We felt like it was time to move back to the states. So we moved back and I was still working on some projects, one or two nice sized projects while spending time with my newborn baby.
Soon after that I was asked to partner up on another design company for several years which helped develop and evolve more of my aesthetic today. Modern, colorful and more out of the box designs. I Started Cara Woodhouse Interiors in Oct. 2016 totally on my own. I rebuilt my interior design business and created it to be client focused, taking on projects I knew would allow me to express my talents and designs in the capacity I have always dreamed of!
I am alway growing, evolving and changing. My style and inspiration is always expanding. I am so fortunate I have reached a place in my career where I can be truly happy and proud of what I am putting out in the world. I love all aspects of design and especially helping other emerging designers and colleagues. I am truly blessed to have a dream job, my dream job.