Isaac Boroughs (B.I.D. ’16) is an interior designer at Emily Summers Design Associates in Dallas, Texas. In this conversation, Boroughs discussed the challenges and rewards of being a designer, as well as how he uses design technology in his work.

When did you become interested in interior design and why?

When I came to the University of Arkansas, I started as a music education/performance major. I quickly became burned out and pursued different avenues, but I knew I wanted to stay in a creative field. I looked into architecture, art and graphic design. During my initial meeting with Sheri Lynn Tuck, one of my greatest mentors from the Fay Jones School, she looked me in the eye and said, “You don’t look like an architecture student. Have you considered interior design?” I had no idea what interior design entailed other than what I saw on the cover of Architectural Digest, and even then, I didn’t fully grasp the scope of the field. I took a leap of faith, and I couldn’t be more grateful for Sheri Lynn’s honesty and advice. 

Why did you choose to go to the University of Arkansas?

My decision was based mostly in rebellion of my parents’ wishes for me to follow my siblings’ footsteps and attend University of Central Arkansas. That didn’t seem like the right path for me, so I never applied to UCA. I did, however, convince my parents that I applied, was accepted, and that U of A offered me a better scholarship. I also knew I wanted to be at a larger school – close enough to home for convenience, yet far enough that I could discover who I am as a person with little to no inhibitions or pressures aside from school and work life. I don’t regret a single decision in this process and loved every minute of my university experience. I still return to Fayetteville on a regular basis. Northwest Arkansas has a special place in my heart. 

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

I’m not certain I have an absolute favorite yet – my career is just getting started. I have, however, worked on quite a wide range of projects and gathered a lot of useful experience while doing so. I have been fortunate enough to work on projects ranging from the Perot Family Office Campus to a private penthouse in one of the most renowned high rises in New York overlooking Central Park. My largest contributing project has been a full renovation of a 1950s Robert Johnson Perry mid-century two-story home, which was completed around August 2018. For this project, I was the lead designer and project manager. The client is amazing and one of the sweetest, hardest working women I’ve met in my life. And, she just so happened to be my boss’s daughter. No pressure there. 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

When you’re in design school, you really aren’t prepared for the logistical side of interior design: coordinating fabricators, movers, installers, subcontractors, etc. There are so many moving parts and, as a designer, you’re expected to keep up with every single detail that comes across your desk. Creating and visualizing a design is a feat in and of itself, but getting that design built and detailed to an impeccable standard is a monumental task on its own. 

What are your interests or involvements outside of design?

After moving to Dallas, I eventually found a group of weirdos who completely understand me and all of my eccentricities. They are my best friends. A lot of my time is spent having a social life outside of work (something that was extremely hard to do while in school and remaining focused). On top of that, I regularly attend LGBTQ events that serve and better the community. I also am currently pursuing an active role in the Dallas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and its Foundation Board. Mainly, I’m trying to find a nice work/play balance, as I think that’s crucial to not burning out as a designer. 

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

Early on in my collegiate career, I became aware that digital media and design technology was one of my strengths. I used these skills to my advantage in school from developing animations of my senior project to taking on some freelance graphic design work. Translating that into my professional career, I’ve become increasingly responsible for our office’s IT/tech coordination. My interest in design technology wasn’t always fully encouraged in educational practice, but it didn’t discourage me from leaning into my talents and exploring avenues that have become valuable in my career. 

Who have been your biggest supporters?

Of course, I have to say my parents, initially. Although, Dad did look at me in a stern manner and ask, “How much money can you possibly make fluffing pillows?” My three best friends through design school (Kate Thorson, Sierra Peterson-Lawyer and Jasmine Jetton) were there through “it all.” Throughout my career, all my educators were great champions of my success and my willingness to break their rules and step out of boxes (even though they might have not always appreciated it). Carl Matthews, Windy Gay, Kim Furlong, Scott Biehle, Nann Miller, Jennifer Webb, Marie Gentry, Aubrey Pate and Cory Olsen – and all the interior design faculty – pushed me to be my best and become the designer I am today. The fine ladies in the advising center (Sheri Lynn Tuck, Judy Stone, and Melinda Smith) were always three smiling faces I loved to see day in and day out. Dean MacKeith and Associate Dean Goodstein also were always supportive and offered words of wisdom quite often throughout my education and into my professional career. Now that I’m in my next chapter, my parents and family continue to cheer me on, along with my friends and mentors whom I’ve stayed in contact with. I’ve found great mentors in my senior colleagues, as well as other designers in the Dallas area. Of course, nothing would come to fruition if it weren’t for our great clients who put their trust and faith in us as designers to design immaculate spaces that will hopefully hold a special place in their hearts for many years to come. 

What’s the best part of being an interior designer?

The best part of being an interior designer is always being pushed to come up with that “next thing” that is going to make someone say, “Wow!”