Interior Design has changed significantly in the last 30 years.

After I graduated from Arizona State University in 1985, my first job in Austin was for the architecture firm Golemon and Rolfe Associates. This was one of the largest firms in Houston who had opened a small satellite office in Austin. We provided space planning for all of the new buildings coming on line. There were only a handful of firms that provided those services – so we had a lion’s share of the work. Interior Design was not recognized as a true profession – it was housed under architecture.


We drafted with ink and mylar on a pin bar system. There was a base plan with overlay sheets that represented each page in an architectural set. My first task was to erase lines with an electric eraser – YES, we did have electricity! I was taught the fundamentals of space planning – adjacency, hierarchy, typical sizes and flow. Within the first month on the job I got thrown to the dogs with my first solo client meeting. Typically the building broker would join in on the Tenant meetings. I knew exactly what I wanted to ask and in what order to ask. The client had a different idea. He just rambled about this and that. He would not follow my format. My first lesson learned was, “Your Client Wants To Be Heard – LISTEN.” Let them tell their story and then circle back to your agenda. You can try to direct and redirect but honestly, until they feel like they have had their say – you will get nowhere. In the end both parties are satisfied.

Part of the programming process is drawing a bubble diagram. A bubble is drawn representing each room or position in the office. The size of the bubble is consistent with the size of the room. Lines are drawn “connecting” the bubbles to show adjacency. I would start mine from the front door – Reception – working back through the space. ie: If the CEO wanted to be at the back – he was located at the end of the diagram. We had a cheat sheet showing standard office and conference room sizes based on needs and hierarchy.

If we needed to measure a space it was done with a measuring tape. Area calculations were done long hand. We drafted left to right, top to bottom to allow the ink to dry. There were different pen weights to signify walls, doors and millwork. We had circle templates, triangles and T Bars as our tools. We listened to music from our walkmans. The work was very repetitive. The color palate was mauve, teal and gray. The choices were limited. Our clients were not limited – it was a rich array of movers and shakers – Dell Computer (or PC’s Unlimited as it was first known). Every day would bring new clients of all backgrounds and business types. I have personally worked on everything from corporate offices, radio stations, dental offices, veterinarian offices, retail, restaurants, bowling alleys, night clubs, government, residential and now multi-family.

I joined the Institute of Business Designers as a way to network with other professionals in the industry. This is where I found out that I was pretty good at fundraising. I served on almost every board position and then ultimately became President of the Central Texas Chapter of IBD. I was also the Board Chair of the Austin ASID Design Community.

The mid-eighties was a bit of a glory day for Austin. I remember when the book Mega Trends was published. It listed Austin as a city to watch. WOW did they get that right. There were so many parties when a building was completed there were opulent events to celebrate. We were on top of the world – and then we weren’t. In 1989 we suffered a “bust”. There was no work, no tenants. People were fleeing Austin for greener pastures. The banks came in and took over.

At this time I had gone to work for Leslie Fossler Interiors. I was taught how to integrate interiors into space planning. That was a game changer for me. Materials were – in the past – selected for planes ie: flooring and walls. We had limited decorative lighting and God knows the furniture was corporate with a capitol “C”. At LFI we designed restaurants (Patrick Terry’s first endeavor Rizzolo’s), radio stations (KKMJ & KGSR) and offices for people who wanted something different, unique. It was very eye opening. The fax machine was invented.

Interior Designers had to show credentials by passing the NCIDQ exam and then becoming a registered professional with the state. We were competing with the architects for work.

Boom Bust Boom

I left LFI in February 1989 and continued to do space planning for CB Richard Ellis, Yancy Hausman, Norwood Tower and a variety of other building owners. My largest client was the Southfield and Colonade office buildings. They had signed a lease with TNRCC and TWC. Autocad was just coming on line. We were asked to complete one floor a day in construction documents. It was an accelerated schedule. We drafted all night to meet the deadline. After that project I decided to invest into Autocad. I took my entire staff to learn this new method. It became a competition to see who could draw the fastest. There was no server so each project was saved on a 3 ½” disc. Email was just coming on line. The world wide web was this mystical thing that we were not sure if we could trust.

In 1993 Texas passed the Interior Design Title Act. Designers who met the grandfathering requirements or passed the NCIDQ Exam were qualified to register. Our construction drawings were now stamped by an Interior Designer! In 1995 three design professional organizations merged (Institute of Business Designers, International Society of Interior Designers and Council of Federal Interior Designers) into the International Interior Design Association. I served as President of the Texas Chapter and over time, held the position of Regional Director and Residential Forum Advisor. I think it is important to mentor and lead.

Boom Bust Boom

The tech boom came to Austin. There was crazy money. Tenants wanted unique environments with offices by integrating kitchens and game rooms. Spaces were industrial – exposed ceilings and concrete floors (for scooters, skates and bikes). If you could design it – they would build it – problem was we didn’t yet have interiors down …. yet. Our largest clients were Siemens, Cybercorp and Franklin Bank. In 1999, I gave birth to my son Nicholas. There was no three months off for maternity leave. He gave me perspective on what I wanted to do. I got off the commercial space planning hamster wheel. National firms were moving into Austin so the home grown product (Me) became fewer and farther in numbers. I wanted to work with people who appreciated good design and valued experience. Spin forward to 2019. Design has evolved into feature walls, evolutionary forward thinking, planning, lighting, plumbing, furniture, art and accessories … the full package. Interior Design is a recognized specialty. A necessity for a successful space. We juggle multiple tasks to keep everything moving forward. We are brought into the equation at the beginning to brain storm the programming of a project. We research trends in office, residential and hospitality, melding it all into a final product: space planning, design concept, construction documentation, specification writing, construction administration, furniture selections, procurement, art, accessories and final installation. We work with Architects, MEP Engineers, Landscape Architects, Owners, Investors, Management and End Users. It is a total package – full spectrum. PPDS has work in all of the major cities in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico.

It doesn’t get any better than this!!

Consumers may not totally understand the depth of what we do but finally the Development Community does. I am proud to be an Interior Designer, a leader and a Texan. Thank you all for your support during these years. As I get older I wonder about my legacy – what keeps me ticking. I love transforming spaces. Creating the wow, awe and excitement of interiors.

Picture of Janna Paulson, RID, IIDA, LEED AP

Janna Paulson, RID, IIDA, LEED AP

President and Founder of PPDS since 1989, Janna directs and oversees company activities and personnel.