Designer Spotlight – Audra Hughes
Q: Tell us a little bit about how you got started in interior design.
It all started a long, long, long time ago, in high school, when we all had to go to the Career Office and look through “occupation” cards to try and figure out what we wanted to do for a living. When I came across the interior design card, something clicked. You create a home for people. A space that makes them happy, one that not only functions practically so that it can aid them in their everyday lives, but one that feels like an expression of their personalities and what they care about the most. It’s actually very fulfilling. Running into clients years later and having them tell you that they still absolutely love their home is the most wonderful feeling.
Q: How long have you been a part of the Decorators Unlimited family?
I started at Decorators Unlimited in 1997, actually. While I did take some time away when my daughter was born, I came back to the family (say that last bit with a Godfather voice, it’s fun).
Q: What is the biggest thing you have learned since being at the Decorators Unlimited?
To always turn in your receipts on time…kidding……sort of. No, actually, the most important thing that I’ve learned is to really listen to and learn to read your clients. Very often, you have to read between the lines, and capture nuances in order to effectively figure out what they are really drawn to. It’s less about me imposing my will on the project and more of crafting their narrative and turning it into a 3-D world for them to live in.
I enjoy creating transitional, elegant designs the most. I like the echoes of traditional grace reinvented in a clean, modern way. As a plus, any project that allows me to feed my custom woodwork and moldings obsession makes me very happy!
Q: What is your favorite stage of the design process, and why?
That’s a toss-up. I enjoy planning stage, where the puzzle pieces are being put together, and also the construction/building phase, where the bones and structure of the project is being assembled. Both are critical phases that can make or break the finished job.
Q: What is your favorite project that you have done, and why?
Impossible… that’s like trying to pick a favorite ice cream flavor, why stop at one?! In terms of the view, and pure, clean design lines, I like the penthouse model that I worked on at Waterclub. For the quintessential casual, indoor-outdoor Florida lifestyle, I love the Callahan Model that I designed on at Royal Palm Polo, by Toll Bros. Another model, since sold, that also captured the Florida indoor-outdoor life, but in a clean and elegant design style, was the Orchid Model in Gardenia Isles by Kolter Home.
Q: What project has been the most challenging and how did you overcome it?
I would say one of my projects in Colorado. It was a private residence, but still finishing up with the interior trades when we arrived to install furniture, so we had to do a bit of a dance routine around each other. There had also been weeks of heavy rain prior, and our tractor trailer of furniture got stuck trying to maneuver up the steep, curved driveway. Adding insult to injury, some of the tool bags that our installers shipped out there never arrived, and we were scrambling to get replacements locally. We persevered! We have a great team and the project turned out fantastic, and I have to say that the views from the deck of that home were absolutely spectacular. I’m a happy Florida girl, but I can admit that Colorado is the one place that I’ve worked in, where I was sad to leave.
Q: What advice do you tell your clients when you work with them on a project?
I let them know that there is a human element throughout the entire process, and to expect the unexpected. Shipment delays, missing parts, damaged items, wrong fabric or finish applied to items, and etc., are all things that we’ve had to work around from time to time. We’ve even seen overturned furniture shipment trucks, flooded factories, winter storm electrical outages. This really isn’t a television design show where you can edit the footage. No matter what the issue is, we make sure that it is temporary and as short lived as possible. Honesty is really the best policy. We’re upfront with our clients, but do let them know what our plan of action is, and assure them that we will make the situation right. The quality of our dedication and work is paramount.
Q: If you designed your dream home, what is the one thing you couldn’t live without, and why?
A drop dead gorgeous, top of the line, professional worthy, kitchen, with a huge walk-in pantry. With the Italian side of my family, everything revolved around food… holidays, visits, special occasions, haven’t seen you in a week, who brought the Entenmanns and Sanka… lol. I grew up loving to cook, and have shared that with my daughter. Ever since she could sit up on her own, we’ve been cooking together in the kitchen. I have pictures of her, small enough to sit on the counter, stirring cupcake batter and scooping out Halloween pumpkins. She is older now and quite the accomplished baker. Her crumb cake can rival Entenmanns. Life comes full circle- lol. Food is life, and the kitchen is the heart of my home.
Q: What do you like to do when you aren’t designing homes?
Quelle horreur!! I live, eat, and breathe design- all day, every day. (I think I’m getting a raise now.) I’m a bit of a nature geek. I love being outdoors, walking in a park, photographing wildlife, fussing with my wall hung herb garden, and I’m currently planting a butterfly garden. I enjoy reading and learning, and have about a dozen books in my “next up” stack. I really need to stay out of Barnes and Noble- note to self. I very much enjoy going to museums and special exhibits, and can’t wait to see what the revamped Norton Museum looks like! I’m also on my third year of participating with Adopt A US Soldier. It’s a fantastic organization that links up volunteers with our active military service members who are serving outside of our country, to help support them with email/mail correspondence and care packages.