Aubrey Pate (B.I.D. ’02) is the owner of Smart Interiors in Fayetteville. In this conversation, Pate talks about owning her own studio and reflects on her time teaching interior design at the University of Arkansas. 

When did you become interested in interior design and why?  

I became interested in creative fields from both my mom and dad. My dad is an amazing designer of cabinetry and custom homes. He started his own cabinet business, Woodunique, in Mountain Pine, Arkansas, in the 1970s, and he left after 20 years to begin designing and building custom homes. He is still working in his wood shop, hand drafting and designing homes for people today. He produces beautiful hand-drawn details and drawings for clients in and around Hot Springs, Arkansas. My mom is an artist. She is an expert seamstress, a knitter, upholsterer and crafter. They both exposed me to the creative process.

What has been the most challenging project you’ve worked on? 

Historical buildings always offer challenges such as uneven floors, out of plumb walls and existing conditions that sometimes limit but always influence and enhance the design. In the past few years, I have been involved in really exciting but complex projects that involve adaptive reuse of historical buildings. One project transformed a truck shop into an open office space. Another project was repurposing a downtown grocery store into residential lofts. I have helped clients remodel a traditional, century-old home in updating the spaces to reflect their modern lifestyle. All of these projects have been completed in the last two years and all have had their challenges but they have also been my favorite.

What are your interests and involvements outside of interior design? 

I love living in Fayetteville, Arkansas, because of the many opportunities it provides for outdoor activities with my friends and family. I enjoy running and biking on the Razorback Greenway. Kessler Mountain and the nearby Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area provide beautiful hiking, canoeing and camping adventures. I’m also very active at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, where I enjoy enriching classes and a loving community. 

What was your favorite part of teaching interior design at the University of Arkansas? 

I was offered the opportunity to be an adjunct instructor teaching all levels of studio courses shortly after the recession. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I truly believe I got just as much out of the long studio hours as my students, if not more. The in-depth discussions about concepts, research of precedents and the reviewing and refining of design ideas helped make me a better designer.

Who have been your biggest supporters?  

Dr. Jennifer Webb has always challenged and encouraged me, both as a student and later as a colleague teaching studio together. My former boss, Julie Fryauf, mentored me in professional practice and enabled me to start my own studio. Fellow interior designers and industry partners that I have met through our local ASID chapter have been invaluable. I lean on them when I have questions. Jeremy Pate [Aubrey Pate’s husband] has been an exceptional supporter of my most recent leap to creating Smart Interiors. He is always helping me to think big picture.

What unique experiences or perspectives do you have that make you stand out as an interior designer?   

I like solving problems and giving people what they need. I like helping people articulate their own inspirations and dreams and transforming those into a reality. Another one of the reasons I love my job is that I’m able to work across a variety of building types. Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to create spaces for various companies and residences. I’ve designed for healthcare, education, corporate offices and assisted living facilities. My work experience is versatile enough to allow me to take on simple or complex projects. I have had valuable opportunities to collaborate with other design professionals over the last 16 and a half years.  

What is the best part of having your own studio, Smart Interiors? 

Flexibility and freedom to choose the projects that I want to work on is the best part. I’m in a busy season of life right now, raising two children (ages 7 and 9) alongside my husband, Jeremy. I am a firm believer in work-life balance, and while it’s difficult to achieve sometimes, having my own studio makes it possible.