Experience Cubed

Three interior design instructors brim with industry know-how and connections

Kathy Huus, Anne Farniok and Coco Early, all topflight instructors in the Interior Design program, are wellsprings of professional experience. Having worked at top firms in their industry, each brings her own unique perspective to the classroom.

Mentors Make Mentors

Kathy Huus (left) believes in giving back to her profession.

A graduate of San José State with a B.S. in interior design, Kathy Huus credits much of her success as an interior designer to the mentoring she received early in her career.

“Right out of college, I went to work at Ehrlich-Rominger, an architectural firm in Silicon Valley,” Kathy said. “I worked in a team environment on both small and large projects. I was fortunate enough to have more than one mentor—an interior designer who is still a close friend and two architects who took the time to answer my many questions.”

After five years, Kathy moved to Minnesota to work for Wheeler Hildebrandt & Associates, a distinguished commercial interior design firm that fit her personal style and work ethic. Again she collaborated on projects as part of a team, a skill she believes is paramount in forming a strong and productive career.

“As an interior designer you work closely with architects, mechanical, structural and electrical engineers, general contractors, and property managers,” she said. “As one piece of the design package, you need to speak the language of these like-minded disciplines.”

Kathy also worked for a number of years at the Minneapolis office of Perkins+Will, one of the world’s leading architectural and design firms, as a senior interior designer and project manager.

Her role as a teacher began with another mentor, Jean Roberts, a former director of the DCTC Interior Design program. Kathy soon saw that teaching was an ideal way to balance a passion for work with her love of family life.

Kathy believes that her program benefits tremendously from having faculty that know and understand the inner workings of the interior design industry. The program’s close connections with firms in the Twin Cities provide students with superb networking resources plus regular field trips and classroom visits from industry speakers.

Green Jackpot

Anne Farniok (right) understands the importance of sustainability.

Anne Farniok (right) understands the importance of sustainability.

At Walsh Bishop, a prestigious architecture and design firm in Minneapolis, Anne Farniok worked as the senior interior designer on theBlack Bear Casino and Resort in Carlton, Minn. The huge project took a year to complete and included a $10 million furniture specification.

“Back then I didn’t know a lot about casinos—I’m not a gambler,” Anne said. “TheBlack Bear project had a very demanding schedule and offered a great range of commercial design opportunities, including a hotel, restaurant, retail store, corporate offices and entertainment facilities.”

With a B.S. in interior design from the University of Minnesota, Anne has accrued more than 20 years of experience in her industry.  She initially worked for Maurices in Duluth, designing interiors for the corporation’s retail stores.

She also worked for five years as a project interior designer at Pope Associates, a well-respected architectural firm in St. Paul. Working on complex projects for the likes of U.S. Bank, Ceridian Corporation and Avecor Cardiovascular, Anne gained experience in all aspects of commercial interior design.

Almost from the start of her career, Anne has been a champion for green design and sustainable building practices. As a LEED Accredited Professional, she understands all facets of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System.

Just recently, Anne was featured on the KARE 11 program, Blueprint for Green,where she participated with 30 other top area designers in a contest to design the interior of a green-concept, LEED Platinum residence in Edina. Anne not only won the Viewer’s Choice Award, she was also chosen as the contest’s winning designer.

The Deep End of Design

Coco Early (right) blends technical skill with artistic sensibility.

Coco Early (right) blends technical skill with artistic sensibility.

Even though Coco Early fathoms the amazing complexity and depth of her chosen field, she also knows that the general public sometimes sees interior design as simply arranging the décor of a room to capture a particular atmosphere.

“What’s really eye opening for our students is finding out that interior design is highly technical,” Coco said. “Because we work directly with architects and engineers, our designs need to be fully integrated with the structure as a whole.”

Another surprise for students comes when they discover that interior design isn’t entirely residential, but features commercial design with an immense range of specializations, including health care, corporate, retail, industrial and academic for starters.

“My background is commercial interior design,” said Coco, who has a B.S. in interior design from the U of M, “which is a very different career path than residential design.”

Also LEED AP, Coco worked at Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle and Architectural Alliance, two top-tier Minneapolis architecture and design firms. Most recently she completed a 300,000-square-foot corporate headquarters for Urban Outfitters inPhiladelphia, a project that was featured in Metropolis, one of the most respected magazine’s covering the interior design industry.

She advises her students to strive continuously to improve their design skills. They should also travel to get a more global outlook.

“Interior design is a dynamic field,” she said. “I tell my students that it’s not so much a creative process as it is problem solving and learning how to integrate the technical side with the aesthetic.”

Interior Design

Graduates of the Interior Design program are fully prepared to enter the interior design profession. Students develop the skills and knowledge to design functional and aesthetically attractive environments that enhance the quality of life while protecting the health, safety and welfare of the occupants.

Using design theories, interior materials, building codes, manual and computer aided drafting, three-dimensional drawings and sustainable design concepts, students develop and prepare design solutions for residential, kitchen and bath, and commercial projects.

  • According to iseek.org, the go-to source for education and employment info in Minnesota, interior designers in the seven-county metro area make an average wage of $25.99/hour. Top earners bring down nearly $40/hour.
  • Salary.com reports that the typical interior designer in the U.S. makes a median salary of $36,374/year. Earners in the 75th percentile make more than $42,500/year.