interior design

designis Sue Norman: My Background

I'm a native of West Michigan and have lived in the Grand Rapids area all my life with the exception of one and a half years in Florida. The sunshine state had an appeal in January and February but the humid summers and stark sameness stood in bold contrast to the emergence of spring and the lushness of summer in West Michigan.

My first Bachelor's degree was earned at GVSC (as in Grand Valley State College) before it was an University. I majored in psychology and education. I taught special education for a few years before becoming a full time Mom. As my daughter reached school age, I decided to venture back into the classroom myself and began my interior design degree at Kendall College of Art and Design. I graduated with honors in 1999. Upon graduation, I returned to my roots as a teacher and did some substitute teaching in the Caledonia school district while I began designis, my interior design practice.

My interior design career began with my first large design/build project, Gretchen's House. This was a perfect fit for me with my interest in children and experience as a teacher. Additionally, my senior thesis project was a childcare center. In preparation for that project, I attended the Child Care Institute at Tufts and Harvard University. I learned many invaluable concepts that were directly applicable to my work on Gretchen's House. As it turned out, Gretchen, the owner of Gretchen's House had attended the same Institute in a different year, so we had a shared firm foundation for the collaboration needed for all successful design processes.

Small projects have been a part of my professional interior design experience as well. Sometimes meeting only a few times with a client to select a counter top and back splash for a kitchen remodel or paint colors for a video store chain.One of the smaller residential projects included the update of a master bedroom. My client needed a washable durable duvet cover that would look good and be dog friendly. After looking first at some commercial fabrics that were durable but expensive, I found a fabric on sale that is intended for outdoor furniture but which was aesthetically great, priced right, and met the functional needs as well. This small example showcases the application of my fundamental philosophy: discovering intent and creating solutions.

My most recent large design/build project was the design of Flow-Rite Controls office/manufacturing facility in Byron Center, Michigan. I began working with Dan Campau, President, as he was just starting to think about what he would want from a building. The floor plan was taking shape when the architectural team joined in the process and together with the contractor we all finalized the floor plan. I worked closely with all members of the Flow-Rite staff to understand their working relationships and needs. Team work was critical to creating the building they all enjoy working in today.

designis discovering intent and creating solutions. That's my philosophy in a nutshell. The intent element for me is always grounded in an ethic of sustainability. I am thrilled to be a member of the US Green Building Council and a LEED AP (accredited professional) which means I have the knowledge base to apply sustainable concepts to all my interior design work. Once clients understand the economic benefits and human health advantages, designing "green" becomes the obvious choice. It is something everyone can embrace. As our standards for design evolve we will see that "green" is really simply being responsible and it will become the status quo.

My interest in sustainable design led me to create a web based resource for interior designers to support them in sustainable design practices. The site I researched, designed, and continue to manage is The site is advertisement free and requires a subscription fee for full access. But, feel free to visit and click on the preview page to see examples of the types of pages and information available to subscribers.

Creating Easy to be Green allowed me to learn website design skills. I can now work with clients on any type of site but emphasize Simple Sites without e-commerce or complex behind the scenes technical requirements. If needed, I can partner with experts I know on projects that require skills beyond my capabilities. Website design is another opportunity to be a part of a team where I can blend my creative design skills with my technical skills to meet the intent of my clients.

Please call or e-mail if you're interested in Interior Design or Website Design services. Sue Norman 616-891-0769