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Million Dollar Decorating: Podcast Interview with James Swan


I was recently interviewed by James Swan from Million Dollar Decorating. Together we explored some principles of Feng Shui, talked about overcoming obstacles, and reflected upon our design processes. Check out the transcript below, or click here to listen to the podcast.

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Swan: She’s a graduate of the prestigious NY School for Interior Design. Color and its uses to create mood and harmony are hallmarks of her style; a passion from her years in clothing design. Prior to working on interiors, she had a successful career as a buyer for fashion merchandise. Her years in the retail business, as well as a Bachelor’s Degree in Business perfectly prepared her for her design career. Her interior design experience and business acumen, combined with her training in the Eastern Art of Feng Shui distinguish her and her work. Her holistic approach will allow you to adjust your surroundings to stimulate your life. This process allows her clients to realize their life visions and create spaces that enhance these dreams. She also uses her abilities to give back to her community. As a breast cancer survivor, she’s worked as project manager at Holiday House, the Holiday House Design Themed Show-house in NYC. She designs, she creates, she cares deeply, and all the while, she’s busy making the world more beautiful. Julie Schuster, welcome to Million Dollar Decorating!

Schuster: Thank you, James. Wow. That was a lovely introduction, I appreciate it.

Swan: Well, it wouldn’t have been possible without you, so it’s my pleasure. You’ve certainly had quite a journey in life, and I hope you’re going to tell us all about it. Take us back to what it was like transitioning from a career in fashion to a career in design.

Schuster: That’s an interesting question, no-one has every really asked it to me that way. I have to tell you, it felt a pretty seamless progression. I didn’t go directly from one to the other, I took a few years off to launch a couple of children, and had the privilege to spend a bit of time thinking and researching about what I would like to do. The New York School for Design was a great fit for me.

Swan: They are a wonderful group of people aren’t they?

Schuster: Absolutely!

Swan: You brought a lot of experience from the business world to your education experience. What was that like? How did you fit into the student body at that point?

Schuster: That had a lot to do with why I selected the NY School for Interior Design. There were more than a few career changers like myself there, and the interesting thing about design, and I’m sure you find this as you talk to us in our community, is we come from a lot of different places – there is no one path to this type of work. This is for most of us a passion that we discover somewhere along the line.

Swan: Interesting! You were certainly in a creative / business environment weren’t you? Schuster: Oh absolutely, no doubt about it. I think we can benefit from having a little bit of business in our backgrounds. It’s sort of like the things you learn on your mother’s knee –somewhere along the line you will find a place for it all.

Swan: Exactly. Now there’s another facet to your current career that I’m fascinated by but, I have to admit, I know very little about, so will you educate me? Please tell me about Feng Shui! First, how you discovered it, then, your decision to implement it and make it part of your design business. What was that like?

Schuster: The two stories kind if flow together. Taking you back a few years, I had just come out of my design program at NY School, was looking around on the school’s job board for something to do next. One thing my business background had shown me clearly was that while I knew how to be a designer, I didn’t really know how to run a small design business. So my first thought was to work for someone else. There was an interesting post on the jobs board for project management of an interior design showcase. It was a short-term job, as most of these showcases are, and it sounded like a great opportunity to meet people in my new industry. So I took the position. It was a wonderful experience for me – I learned that my favorite place is the job site. Being where the creative process is being implemented is the best. About 3 weeks after I took that job, which was a charity project for the breast cancer research foundation, I was diagnosed with breast cancer myself. It was one of those moments in your life where you realize something guided your steps to be in the place that you’re standing in. I knew the universe was looking after me. I was on site with other survivors, I had access to their doctors, their advice, right from the get-go. In hindsight I feel very, very lucky to be where I was at that time.

At that same point, while I was working, making some decisions about my treatment, I heard the words “Feng Shui” for the first time. I knew that I wanted to know more about this. That was sort of a gift to myself for getting through my treatment and getting healthy: this was going to be another road for me to walk down. So I started doing some research, and found that the program that fit me best wasn’t in California or Europe, or in China – it was right here in New York on Long Island! I ended up taking my program of study at the Metropolitan Institute for Interior Design. The program helped me think about the parallels between good design and good Feng Shui.

Swan: Wow! I’m reflecting back on my life and the times when I have had that experience of realizing that I’m in the right place at the right time. And it sounds like you had a series of those experiences?

Schuster: Absolutely. It’s not the last one that I’ll have, hopefully there will be more. I think that if we pay attention, James, life is full of these – they’re all out there for us.

Swan: The key is paying attention isn’t it?

Schuster: Absolutely. Absolutely.