Meet Michelle Thomas, Associate ASID Principal Designer, Thomas Designs – Design with a Conscience

Q: How did you get started as a Designer?
MT: Design and furniture was always my passion and from a young age, I found myself rearranging, re-painting and re-constructing homes of my family and friends. The summer before Senior year in high school I took a job at the medical group my mom worked for and began what became a 2-year career in the customer service/ relations department. Though this was not what I wanted for my end game, I think it helped me understand people and their concerns and that reacting with patience and understanding is key. This job also helped me to solidify that I wanted to be an interior designer sooner than later. I hung a beautiful glossy ad from a local design magazine in my cubicle which I looked at every day and said to myself “that will be me one day”. Soon after I began taking night classes … a year later I devised a plan as to how I’d go back to school full time and get my interior design degree. As soon as I started school, I also balanced a part-time job and searched for an internship at local design firms. These were challenging times, but I found the experiences I had while interning prepared me for my first full-time interior design job. I went on to work for several Bay Area design firms before deciding to open my own business in 2009.

Q: Can you describe to our readers a description of your business?
MT: We are a full-service Interior Design and Interior Architecture firm with an emphasis on Residential and Commercial Design ranging from new construction, additions and remodels to everything else that goes into your home, office or retail space. Being raised in the Rockridge area of Oakland with Berkeley as my playground, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a wonderful diversity of people with a genuine interest in finding ways to help our planet. When I opened my business in 2009, it was with a mission to help my clients understand Green and Eco-friendly product alternatives and dispel the rumors that going green was outrageously expensive. While also realizing the importance of balancing Eco-friendly design with comfort, style, function, and value which I strive to accomplish on every project.

Q: What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?
MT: Listen, Listen and Listen. My clients tell me things all the time in verbal and nonverbal ways. I listen and then follow-up with “I’m hearing you say…”

Q: What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
MT: There are several things I would suggest …

· Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions and ask them frequently.

· Get at least one degree and preferably in the field you want to focus on.

· Intern while in school to ensure focusing on said industry … make sure it’s a good fit for you.

· Surround yourself with intelligent people you can learn from. Join organizations that promote growth and leadership to find a mentor.

· Be kind to yourself and others. Nice people do get ahead!

· Most importantly - Never give up! If you fail at first always try, try again.

Q: What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment thus far?
MT: Repeat clients = happy clients. I’m elated when a past client calls and tells me they’ve moved, and they need help with their remodel or one of my clients has referred me to a friend or collogue. This says to me that they are happy with the design of their home, store or office. Being a self-proclaimed people pleaser, this is my ultimate success.

Q: Can you tell us how you manage your work-life balance?
MT: This is tricky … I am still a work in progress as most entrepreneurs are creative people that never really stop working. I have found that setting boundaries with myself and my clients is very helpful. For example, I do my best to take the weekends off or 1 day off a weekend and 1 day off during the week to recharge. I meditate every day and take a vacation each year. I have found these practices work well to keep me focused, recharged and motivated to give my best while working on projects with my clients.

Q: When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
MT: A Marine Biologist or a Singer. My love for animals remains, but I realized that I had other stronger interests. Now I fulfill this passion with volunteer work. After a career as a young musician, I grew to love buildings, furniture, design, and fabrics even more.

Five Things About Michelle Thomas

1. If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
Frank Lloyd Wright. I’d love to sit and talk design and architecture with him and observe his creative process.

2. What do you like the most about living in the Bay Area?
I love the cultural diversity along with the weather. Having friends and family in other states and countries, I realize how fortunate I am to be born and raised here. We have people from all over the world here bringing their culture and cuisine to share with the rest of us. Also, you can’t beat the weather here, with mild winters and beautiful summers. I have traveled many places in the world but have rarely felt at home the way I do here in the SF Bay Area.

3. What place have you always dreamed of visiting?
I want to visit many places, but Tahiti comes to mind first. I think being in a remote hut on the water without any electronics for a week sounds heavenly. I love exploring, warm tropical environments, anything to do with water, beaches and being outdoors.

4. What’s the best advice anyone’s ever given you?
Patience and persistence pay off. Achieving your goal(s) is not always easy but if you stay focused and move forward you will get there.

5. Is there something else you would like to accomplish?
There are many things I’d like to accomplish, but I narrow it down to my current top two. I’d like to get my Real Estate license by next year and I’ve always wanted to design a Boutique Hotel.

Thomas Designs| Design with a Conscience

925.317.6662 |


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