We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Strausbaugh and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, how do you think about risk?
Risk taking is what makes life interesting! Stretching myself and “taking a risk” is never easy, but boredom is so much harder to deal with. When I’m feeling restless, I look around for something new to do. Traveling usually scratches that itch. Traveling to a country where even the alphabet is different, i.e. Japan, Greece, etc. definitely felt risky. Since traveling is not an option right now, I adopted a puppy. Being a single puppy mom is way more than I anticipated, but it sure is fun. Oh, and I’m going to learn to scuba dive this year. Fiji is on the bucket list, and I want to be ready!
My best risks were the ones where I really trusted my gut. For instance, I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania, and for some reason I felt compelled to join an exchange program in France during a summer in high school. Trust me when I say that was a crazy idea in my world. Because of that trip, I met one of my life long best friends – hey Kelly!
In my early 30’s, I decided to search for my career bliss, and landed on interior design. I never even knew that was a job until HGTV! I decided if I was going to go back to school I may as well move to my favorite city – on the other side of the country. People thought I was nuts to 1) start over and 2) move to California. I truly felt like it wasn’t an option to NOT go. Year later, it turns out that was the best risk of my life. I have the best job and work with the coolest people.
Just a couple of examples, but the advice I give to those I’m mentoring is to always, ALWAYS, trust your intuition. It never, ever lies.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I truly feel like I have the best job ever! Well, for me it is. I specialize in kitchen and bath design. I never intended that when I started design school, but I landed a job designing kitchens while in school . Turns out that I loved that it requires right and left brain creativity. Everything in these particular spaces needs to fit perfectly. You can’t shrink a cabinet or a tub if they are too big. Bathrooms are where you start and end your day, and kitchens are the heart of the home. These rooms have to operate smooooothly. I always start the design with the functionality. I spend a lot of time asking questions about how the homeowners use the space, what they love about their existing space, and what is frustrating. Once we have the space planned to accommodate their wish list, then we select the materials to make sure it reflects their style. My goal is for the clients to LOVE their space when it is done, and have no regrets about the decisions they have made.
I get to work with the coolest people, both colleagues and clients. I can design a space all day long in a 3D modeling program, but none of that matters without the craftsmanship of the people installing it. It is a true gift that these men and women have in their trade. I always say I have the best clients. They are interesting, appreciative, and fun. I think that may be because I work with referrals, so if a client and I work well together, most likely I’m going to work well with their friends and family.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There’s so much to do! We would ride bikes along Mission Bay and Pacific Beach, and watch the sunset at La Haina’s. There would be a hike at Torrey Pines and dinner at the Lodge. We would catch a show at the Old Globe theatre after checking out the museums in Balboa Park. We’d take Maxibillion, the puppy, to OB Dog Beach and grab a Hodad’s burger. I live in Hillcrest, so we would check out the ‘hood and grab an Empress 75 at InsideOut (I am obsessed with that purple drink!). Walk along Carlsbad beach. I’ve got season passes to the Zoo, so that’s a given. Brunch at Farmer’s Bottega in Mission Hills followed by a drive up the coast – just because we can.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many influences that contribute to my success. I read a book when I was young called “Jonathon Livingston Seagull” and it changed my life. Sounds crazy, but the idea that we don’t have to do what everyone else does, and we might be even happier because of it, stuck with me. My besties, Sandra and Kelly, have been an incredible support and always encourage me to stretch myself. I belong to two design trade organizations, ASID and NKBA. One of the coolest things about the San Diego design community is how collaborative it its. The other designer members are great about sharing information and helping each other be successful. My hard working parents have been great role models in building a business. There are ups and downs, but what really matters is doing the daily grind work day in and day out. You have to do the work to reap the benefits.
Gail Owens Photography Donna Coleman Photography