Family: Brandon Miles (Husband), Margot Miles (2-year-old daughter), Steve and Sara Grawe (Parents).
Education: University of Missouri, Columbia – Bachelor of Science in Human Environmental Sciences, Architectural Studies with an emphasis in Interior Design, Certified Interior Designer from the National Council of Interior Design Qualifications.
Community Involvement: Quincy Service League, QND Fund Drive, St. Peter’s Church, Arts Quincy Board, Quincy Children’s Museum Site Committee.
What is your job, what do you do and what do you like best about it?
I am a commercial interior designer. I design the non-structural aspects of an interior space which typically includes interior floor plan, interior finishes, ceiling and lighting design, case design, graphic and signage design, brand integration, furniture sourcing, and much more. I’ve said in the past, if you can see it, I’m involved.
Interior design, especially the commercial field, is a misunderstood profession. I often hear, “Oh, I love HGTV, can you help me pick paint?” And while I specify interior finishes, there is a lot more complexity and technical problem solving that goes into my role.
What is most interesting to me is the psychological element of interior design. We spend most of our lives indoors, so an indoor environment necessarily has the most impact on our daily lives. We’ve all experienced a bare room of stark white walls, unpleasant lighting and an unwelcoming feeling. Those inner elements have an effect on you and your mental state.
With interior design, my goal is to create a unique space that is not only highly functional and aesthetically pleasing, but also has a positive impact on people. The interior design should set the tone for how you want people to feel about your organization or business. For example, a healthcare client wants their space to feel welcoming, calming and comforting in a technology business that can be energetic, bold and exciting.
What is a typical work week like?
My work week has a lot of variation depending on what projects I’m working on and what design stage they are in. I usually have a few days dedicated to client meetings and site visits and a few days dedicated to head-down design work. The tasks on a dedicated design day can range from three-dimensional modeling to product research and selection to creating detailed drawings. Every day and project is very different which keeps things exciting.
What was your first job, and what do you remember about it?
My first job in the design industry was when I was in college as an intern design intern for Mizzou’s campus facilities design team. The internship was a few days a week, which was the perfect balance with our long design studio classes. Just like so many professions, what you learn in school versus what you experience in the real world can be so different. It was my first opportunity to see the interior design profession in the real world and I was a sponge soaking up every detail I could. I loved being an intern, especially for the university I attended. I was part of new construction and renovation projects of campus buildings. It was exciting to work on the design for a campus space, then turn around and hold a class there. It was the first time I experienced how interior design can really have a positive impact on people by creating a well-designed environment.
How do you balance everything?
This is a loaded question! Trying to find balance is a daily struggle, being a mother of a young child while owning a business and being involved in the community is a lot at times. Having complete ownership and flexibility in my work life has made a world of difference. Technically, I now work more hours to own my own business, but it fits my lifestyle in a different way. Having a balance between work and life is the highest priority for me and I think it is absolutely possible.
I also feel that it is essential to find some small things that bring calmness and joy into your daily routine. For me, it’s having a solid quiet hour alone in the morning, getting in a quick workout and meditation before my busy toddler and schedule starts.
Who has influenced you the most, and why?
I have had wonderful professional mentors in every phase of my career, wonderful friendships in life and the best family, but the constant influence has been my parents and husband. My mother gave me the creative design gene and opened my mind to this career path. She is tough, passionate and magnetic, everything I want to be.
My father was my constant sounding board and always gave me the best personal and professional advice. Whenever I face an obstacle or bump in the road, he is my go-to. He calms my fears, guides me and pushes me (lovingly) to be the best. He never misses a thing, and he never will.
My husband and I have been together since high school, a little over 14 years now. We have been through so many phases, from high school seniors to working professionals to becoming parents. Together we have grown into the people we are today, and he has always been a constant love and support.
Have you ever failed at something? What happened? How did you recover?
Absolutely, but I wouldn’t say there was one big failure per say. Professionally speaking, there were a lot of little mistakes or revisions along the way, but that’s to be expected. I learned from them and am still growing as a designer.
What does success mean to you?
At the end of the day, I want to work on projects that I’m really passionate about, create spaces that matter, have an impact and bring something new to the community. Success for me is not defined by business status or monetary gain, it is doing something that fuels me creatively.
What was your proudest professional moment?
This year when I started my own interior design firm. It’s scary to take the risk, leave your stable path and dive into the unknown. But I knew that if I never tried, I would regret it.
As they say, ‘if it doesn’t scare you, it’s not worth doing’.
What is your favorite stress buster/leisure distraction?
The everyday things include spending time with my daughter and husband, going outside, spending time with friends and family, reading and exercise. Getting away for a little travel is less frequent, but always a favorite.
What is the greatest need in your community?
If I had to focus on one thing, it would be to better support working mothers. I think every parent can agree that parenting is so hard, whether you work in the home or work outside the home, it’s all hard. Returning to work after having my daughter was eye-opening to say the least. Unpaid leave, non-existent postnatal care, and daycare shortages are a real struggle in our community. My husband is very involved in the home, and I would certainly consider us equal partners. But in general, mothers take on a majority of the mental burden at home, on top of their professional roles. If we want to see our community and local businesses thrive, we need to support working mothers more in their recovery and beyond.
What gives you reason for optimism in your community?
I was born and raised in Quincy and moved back in 2016. Like so many people, I didn’t think I would ever move back home. After college I spent 4 years in St. Louis and loved being in a bigger city. At the end of the day, my husband and I loved growing up in Quincy and wanted to raise our family here as well. I think that says a lot about Quincy, it’s a community that you can’t replicate or find anywhere else. And it’s not the same city as when I was in high school, there was so much exciting growth and expansion. I am so optimistic about where we are headed as a community and I am so excited to be here and be a part of it.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice when you were in high school, what would it be?
I would honestly tell myself to relax a little more. I put so much pressure on myself in high school and college to get the very best grades to get the best GPA to get the best job. It’s still important, but not as important as I thought it was. I would tell myself to focus on opportunities and experience, to get out there and be a part of as many organizations and internships as possible.
If you could add a few more hours to the day, how would you spend them?
A few more hours into the day would be a dream. I would divide them; use half of that time to step away from work to relax, recharge and reset. I will spend the other half having quality family time with my daughter and husband.
I will also focus on carving out quality solo time for myself. As a full-time working parent, there is a lot to juggle and manage. It is so important to set boundaries and set aside time for yourself.
Do you live by any mantra or saying?
One of my favorite mantras this year was ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. I remind myself of this often, both personally and professionally. Each person’s path is unique, it is important not to limit your work, children, lifestyle, etc. Don’t compare yourself to others around you, because at the end of the day it takes the joy out of what’s going on in your own life. This feels especially relevant in today’s world where everything is readily available to us on social media with every aspect of people’s lives on display. It also helps to shift your focus to the positive things that are going on in your life versus what is going on with others.
Apart from career aspirations, name one thing you definitely want to achieve in your lifetime.
The only definitive thing for me is family, I want to raise my daughter and our future children to be great people. I want to see them grow up, find love, find a career they’re passionate about, and just be happy.