Charlye Gallaher
Influencers 17 years ago No Comments

We’ve been telling you that there are all sorts of niches for interior designers out there, and Charlye Gallaher is a prime example. She has found her niche as a Senior Designer with Wilson Office Interiors, a (according to their website) “full service furniture management company providing the corporate, health care, educational, governmental, and architectural / design communities with the strategic planning, professional expertise and individualized attention designed to meet their objectives.” Whew, that’s a lot of stuff. So how does this Registered Interior Designer fit into the overall scheme of things” Many practicing design professionals don’t even understand the role that Charlye must play working at a furniture dealership, so we asked her to give us the skinny.

First a little background on this Houston, Texas, native so that we understand where she’s coming from… Charlye attended Texas State University – San Marcos (formerly Southwest Texas State) in the lovely town of – you guessed it! – San Marcos. She earned her Bachelor of Science in the FIDER accredited interior design program (then offered through the Home Economics Department), and she minored in Studio Art.

The TSU design curriculum provided Charlye with a solid foundation for a career in design, but not necessarily how you would think: “The Design Studio courses were helpful from a technical perspective. However, the thing that translated the most for me into today’s world would be the time management aspect of the projects. Appropriate scheduling and time allotment are both key in completing a creative, accurate, and successful design project.”

Charlye wishes she could have a few more lessons on practical applications, however: “I also took a few courses that encompassed the business practices of interior design. They dealt with design nomenclature and business processes. Looking back, more courses of that nature would have been beneficial in the real world.” Good advice. Of course PLiNTH & CHiNTZ can help in that department! (Pardon the blatant plug.)

San Marcos’ close proximity to Austin allowed Charlye to intern with Leslie Fossler Interiors. Fortunately, the opportunity evolved into working summers as well and, eventually, a part-time job. As you might imagine, Charlye found the experience extremely valuable: “I learned so much there. Initially, my primary responsibility was the resource library and meeting with manufacturers’ representatives. Being such a newbie, those tasks proved to be a great way to get exposed and indoctrinated into the industry. Since the firm was relatively small, they were nice enough to involve me in many phases of the design process – from staging photo shoots to working on presentation drawings.” Charlye then took her experience on the road when she relocated to Houston. It was while pounding the pavement in her home town that she interviewed for and landed a full-time position at Wilson Business Products (now McCoy Inc.): “I worked in the Design Department of the dealership and was assigned to assist one of the Senior Designers on corporate accounts. JPMorgan Chase became my beloved, and it grew to require a considerable amount of travel to locations throughout the state – mainly Dallas and surrounding towns. I loved it!”

Of course, Charlye is now one of those Senior Designers. She found her current position by making quite an impression: “While in Houston I had been working with one of the account reps at Wilson Office Interiors that purchased the furniture in Dallas for the Chase account. She encouraged me to talk with the owner, Don Hill, and V.P. of Sales at the time about possibly transferring, so I interviewed. I guess they liked me because that was October 1993, and I’ve been here ever since.”

Though she left WOI for a couple of years, she happily returned: “The greatest thing about working at Wilson Office Interiors is the people. The majority of our staff is made up of experienced veterans – they have been here a very long time. The turnover rate is extremely low, and we are like one happy family.”

Many people – even in the industry – often don’t know much about interior designers on the dealer level… expertise, background, job function, etc. PLiNTH & CHiNTZ asked Charlye to explain her usual role in the overall design process (from development to specification to installation), what her relationship normally is with the end-user, the architecture and/or design firm, and any other players on “the team.” Here’s what she had to say:

What many people do not realize about our dealership is that all of our Designers have attended a 4-year Interior Design program. The majority of us are actively registered Interior Designers with the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners by both taking and passing the NCIDQ or attaining the status by grandfathering. We are trained and proficient users of ACAD2004 and CAP software packages and keep up to date with the latest technological advancements.

The Designer’s role varies depending on each individual project. Typically, we work closely with a designated WOI team to implement a project. Our team usually consists of the Sales Account Manager, Sales Assistant, Project Manager, and Designer. We meet regularly with end users to discover programming needs, existing conditions, budgets, and expected timelines. Although our main focus is furniture, we also provide a wide range of comprehensive design services such as space planning, furniture and building finish selection, corporate standards development, art and accessories selection, presentation boards and renderings, personnel audits, and ergonomic analysis. Our Designers are extremely hands on and are involved in every stage of the project. The best part about our position is the variety of things we are involved in from day to day – never a dull moment.

We encourage and foster partnerships with Architectural and Design Firms. We strive to be a knowledgeable resource for individual designers and architects, thus enabling both the dealer and the A&D firm to maximize their respective talents. We respect the opportunities and are grateful for the success we have achieved through these partnerships. A good example of how this relationship can thrive would be the recent collaboration with HKS on the RadioShack Corporate Headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. Working together with very defined roles has proven to be a very successful endeavor. We (me in particular) loved working with and assisting the HKS team on that project!

Despite her hectic life, Charlye stays current with what is going on in the design industry by reading many design publications and attending seminars while keeping up with CEU credits. Wilson also has regular meetings and training sessions with manufacturer representatives and industry professionals to view new product introductions and design trends.

And her biggest pet peeve about how our industry is perceived” The same old story: “Oh, so you’re an interior decorator” I am certain we have all heard it at some time or another. I can understand how the general public must perceive our profession by watching some of today’s popular television shows about home decorating. What they do not realize is the education and professional requirements that go into being an interior designer.”

She shares a popular opinion about how we should dispel the myths: “I think we should continue to try and educate. I am also a big supporter of implementing a practice law that would enforce stricter, more regulated requirements for practicing Interior Design.”

Like many of the professionals featured in PLiNTH & CHiNTZ, Charlye sees the value of professional organizations: “When I was single with no children I was more involved. Wilson is a Gold Member Sponsor with IIDA, so I attend meetings and functions, and I definitely plan on getting more connected in the near future. I have never held an officer position but think it would be a very beneficial to one’s career.”

So what advice does this designer have for current students” Technical competency is high on the list: “I would strongly encourage students today to take any and all computer related classes that would demonstrate the use of computers… how to generate renderings, three dimensional images, and computer ‘fly-throughs.’” We agree. Take advantage of your accessibility to classes while you can and you’ll be ahead of the competition.

However, Charlye cautions students to be patient – there are just some things you can learn only over time: “The thing I think is gained only by experience is how to streamline the design process by appropriately ‘reading’ your client/customer needs. After doing it enough times you finally figure out how to help guide and navigate them through the process efficiently by asking the right questions leading to a successful outcome!”

Listen to Charlye. She knows a thing or two about successful outcomes.


Now for the frivolous information…

P&C: What was your first job ever (not in the design industry)”
CG: My first job ever was working in the accessory department at Palais Royal Department Store (I was 16). I accidentally charged customer 50 cents for a $50 purse. The job was very short lived. I then switched to being a lifeguard at the YMCA in the summers.

P&C: What’s your favorite movie of all time”
CG: Can’t decide between Good Will Hunting and Legends of the Fall. Both are so good.

P&C: How many times have you been a bridesmaid”
CG: Six times, and I still have the funky dresses to prove it!

P&C: What do you do for fun”
CG: I love to travel and experience places I’ve never been. We often just take weekend trips to different Texas towns. This State is so beautiful, and it temporarily satisfies the travel bug. I also go to art museums and home tours, and I love movies, eating great cuisine (lucky that my husband is a wonderful cook and always experimenting with different food combinations – not so easy on the waistline). Most of all I treasure hanging out with family and friends!

P&C: Any other links that you would like to include for our readers”
CG: www.360steelcase.com, www.positivepress.com, www.heifer.org 

When asked if she minded if we listed her email address so that readers could contact her with questions, Charlye exclaimed: “Not at all!” That’s the spirit. cgallaher@wilsonoi.com