Emily, thank you so much for setting some time aside in your busy life to do this interview with me! Emily is an incredibly talented and accomplished interior designer who studied at CU, took her talents to New York and LA (where she’s from), and has finally come back to Colorado to build her brand, Emily Tucker Design. You may recognize her from the Boulder Lifestyle Magazine feature on her home, her much-followed instagram page and other publications that have used her work in their interior features. Emily and I bonded instantly over some shared experiences, our love of style in all things and the balancing act of finding your voice professionally while trying to balance work with a young family.
Emily, When you were looking at schools to attend, what drew you to CU from California?
I knew I wanted to leave CA, just to get a different flavor, and I applied to all my schools with different majors. I had gotten into CU in their school of Architecture and Planning, and when I came to visit, it just felt like home. I don't even remember if I toured other schools because after I saw CU and Boulder, I was certain I didn't want to be anywhere else.
Was it at CU where you were initially drawn to interior design, or has it been something that you’ve been interested in before school?
So I have a long history of interest in art and design. My father is an architect and my mom is a painter, so we were alway surrounded by art and culture. I definitely thought that I wanted to be an architect but after 4 years of architecture school, I was pretty thrown off by how much your design had to suffer to accommodate building code. I mean trying to find 3 means of egress is not exactly a good time. But I did love the design process, and I loved working on the human scale of rooms rather than whole buildings. So I thought I would just give interiors a try and see how I fit.
How did you get started professionally after school?
I moved back to LA and basically hustled all my parents friends to hook me up with their interior designers so I could get my foot in the door. And when I say hustled, I HUSTLED. I was very persistent and annoying and finally our neighbor got back to me and was like, look, my designer will give you a job for a week, but you have zero experience so you better work really fucking hard or else you’re going to blow it. So work hard I did! The designer was Brad Dunning and he worked out of Tom Ford’s private office so on my first day, I walked in this fancy office and Tom Ford was sitting there. I was hired for the week to help Brad with an install and, if you have ever done an interior install before, its probably the most fun/ most tiring part of my job. I was HOOKED. I worked really hard and after the week was over, I thanked Brad for the opportunity and he was like, “oh no, I’ll see you Monday”, annd that was it. I was forever going to be an interior designer.
Wait, hold on, Tom Ford? Is he as glamorous in person as I’ve imagined?
Yes he’s everything you could imagine. Handsome, cool, smells amazing, impeccable. I was so taken aback to see him standing there that I think all I said was “Hi, I’m Emily” to which he replied, “Hi, I’m TOM”. In my head I was like, “yeah obviously I know who you are”.
I always found that design school gave me a good base in fashion design, but my real education happened on the job. Do you find that to be true or the opposite of your experience?
100% Design school did a great job of teaching me how to communicate my ideas to people but I had no clue how to actually bring those designs to life. I learn 99% of what I know now but working.
Do you have a “style” that you could describe? Where do you find inspiration and how do you push yourself to try new things?
I like to think of my style as rooted in tradition but with a fresh approach and modern twist. As a kid, and looking back on design now, I always loved my grandmother’s classic American homes that also had an English comfort and un-fussiness to them. Don’t get me wrong, they were definitely decorated, but it always felt so true to the home and true to her style. I try to bring that same thing to my work and my client’s homes.
I am always very inspired by the past and great decorators- Billy Baldwin, Sister Parish, Bunny Williams, Miles Redd. I also am fairly obsessed with color and I love the life that color can infuse into peoples homes. If I’m going to try something risky, I will usually do it in my own house first, or really let a client know that what I am proposing is bold and not for the faint of heart. Some will say ‘lets do it!’ and others will be more hesitant.
What made you and your husband (Matt Bernstein, owner of Boulder Movement Collective) decide to leave NYC and move back to Colorado?
Nothing, Really. We just wanted to have a nice life and we were tired of the NYC grind. We picked Boulder for the access to the outdoors and an international airport. We knew people wouldn’t come visit if it wasn't easy to get to!
When you started Emily Tucker Design, what were some of the challenges you faced initially?
Definitely getting my name out there. I started out in this industry working for people who already had made a name for themselves, and I wasn't privy to any of the time and effort it took to get them there, so that was the one piece of experience that I was really lacking. Honestly that still continues to be the biggest challenge in my business.
Now that you have so many really beautiful projects in your portfolio (and some very important clients), where do you see your business going?
Oh man, thank you! I just want to keep doing good work for clients who also love design and are interested in creating beautiful homes. I love love love my job and I get so much joy in seeing people’s homes come to life, so I am just hoping that people keep hiring me, so I can keep doing what I love!
Thank you soooo much for answering my questions. I’m so inspired by your work, your confidence and how you make it all work with your family life as well.
To wrap things up, I love asking my rapid fire questions so we can all learn a little bit more about you!
Favorite Food/ Dish to order: I am a sucker for sushi and pretty much all raw fish!
Favorite Podcast: The Daily
Favorite Swear Word: Fuck
What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
Keep working hard. There is no life hack for experience
To see more of Emily’s work and to see what inspires her, follow along here:
Also, big shout out to John Moore from @collectorofvibes for coming up and taking some photos of Emily for this post! Get in touch with him if you are looking for a photographer, he is new to the area and is working on building his portfolio.