Student Success: Mary Plouffe

By Michelle Ecker on August 30th, 2017
Student Success : Mary Plouffe
After working in the museum industry as an exhibition designer and project manager for 18 years, Mary Plouffe became frustrated with the slow production process and limitations of the field. Having always been interested in art and design (plus always wanting to start her own business), she soon enrolled in NYIAD’s online interior design course. Today, she runs her own interior design firm. From redesigning specific rooms or entire homes to providing color, fabric and style consultations, Mary is now able to channel her love of art and design into an independent, rewarding career. We recently had the opportunity to ask Mary about her NYIAD course, her current projects and her plans for the future. Here’s what we learned:

1. When did you realize that interior design was a field you wanted to pursue?

I had worked in the museum industry for over 18 years as an exhibition designer and project manager. As much as I enjoyed working in team environments, I became frustrated with the slow production progress and structural limitations.

Student Success : Mary Plouffe

2. Have you always been interested in art and design?

Yes, I have always been interested in art and design from a very young age. I started with painting lessons when I was 10 years old and still paint to this day. I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in painting and design from York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1989 and continued with Masters Studies in Art History after I moved to the United States.

3. When did you enroll at NYIAD?

I come from a very entrepreneurial family and always wanted to start own my own business. I wanted to do something that was diversely creative and social. Interior Design was an area where I could use my design skills to launch into another visual field. NYIAD seemed like the perfect program where I could hone those skills.

Student Success : Mary Plouffe

4. What was your coursework like?

I was extremely impressed with the organization and scope of the coursework. It was challenging, informative, and (as I mentioned) so well organized!

5. Was your mentor helpful during the process?

Yes. I didn’t need to use my mentor often, but when I had questions, they were promptly answered.

6. After graduation, how did you use this knowledge to help you with a real world career?

The “setting up your own business” and “dealing with clients” portions of the course were key. Also, developing a website was very helpful.

Student Success : Mary Plouffe

7. What did you learn working in the real world that you wish you could’ve learned at NYIAD?

Accounting, accounting and accounting! Lol!

8. Tell us about Mary Plouffe Designs!

I often say that I wished I had started this business years ago. I love being my own boss. We provide a variety of design services from color consultations to major home renovations in the Northwest Ohio area. We have a wonderful, skilled set of tradespeople who work for us. My goal is to always develop a final design space that not only incorporates my vision but is also a reflection of the client’s tastes and personality.

9. How do you find new clients in your area?

Develop your own personal website. Having a feature page on Houzz and using Thumbtack really helps as well.

Student Success : Mary Plouffe

10. If you had to pick one, what was the most memorable design project you’ve ever completed?

Wow. That’s a tough question. It would probably have to be a complete basement renovation with recreation area, bar, movie theatre, and fitness room.

11. Describe a day in your life at work!

I check my schedule and messages every evening and every morning so I’m not forgetting anything. It is very important to respond to clients, vendors and tradespeople as soon as possible. They appreciate it and it moves the project forward. Once I catch up on my communications, I usually will head to whatever work sites are underway to make sure everything is running smoothly. Then, I have a list of items and materials that I need to source from various stores in the area. There is a lot of driving with this job. Purchasing, setting up delivery and installation schedules, troubleshooting problems, and lots of paperwork. I usually work on my accounting at the end of the day.

12. How has social media helped you as a creative professional?

A lot of inspiration comes from the internet. I spend an incredible amount of time constantly checking out various design sites, stores, blogs, pinterest pages, Houzz pages, etc. etc. to stay current.

Student Success : Mary Plouffe

13. What’s the most rewarding part of your career?

Making my clients happy! There is nothing better than seeing the look on the face of a client when a project finally comes together. I’ve been lucky to work with some great people.

14. If you could give one piece of advice to our current and prospective students, what would it be?

Brush up on your math and accounting skills! This is a business and you need to be able to track expenses, provide quotes, invoices, track taxes, and the list goes on. In order for your business to succeed, you need to be very diligent about the paperwork, because there is a lot of it. Keep things filed and organized so that nothing slips through the cracks.


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