Design Divas Do Dallas

James Swan and designing women Michelle Nussbaumer, Nancy Price, and Robin Baron

James Swan and designing women Michelle Nussbaumer, Nancy Price, and Robin Baron

Last week at the Dallas Market, I attended the “Three Divas of Design” panel. Set in the Interior Home + Design Center, the newest wing of the Dallas Market Center, the stylish and very talented interior designers — Michelle Nussbaumer, Nancy Price, and Robin Baron — were perched on bar stools set on a white shag platform. James Swan, the Million Dollar Decorating podcast host, was off to their left, seated at ground-level which forced him to gaze up at them. There was something sweetly reverent about this setting.  

In this 45 minute seminar, James asked the trio basic and thoughtful questions to which (I felt) he received authentic responses. Here is my edit of the Q&A stream peppered with a few additional thoughts. Quotes may not be spot-on verbatim, but they represent each designer’s sentiments as I scribbled them down.

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JS: What’s your elevator pitch?

MN: More is More

NP: It’s all about design - home, body, life.

RB: Confidence begins at home — it’s modern, glamorous and empowering.

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JS: Can you 'have it all?'

Price, Baron and Nussbaumer all said, “No.”

HOLD UP.

My treasured and signed copy of  Having It All .

My treasured and signed copy of Having It All.

Their answers actually surprised me... and conversely they didn’t. They surprised me because I looked upon these accomplished creatives as successful and strong women who had so much to show for themselves. Not only did they talk the talk, but they had layers of physical proof — product, press accolades, books — of their passion and design success PLUS, in addition to the work, they had all raised families. From one perspective, they appeared to "have it all."

And then I was not surprised, figuring that there's got to be a lot of backstory that we don’t see and don’t know. There must have been struggles, both personal and business, and trade-offs, and difficult or bad decisions made along the road to what appears to be nearly enviable success. Nussbaumer alluded to feelings of letting people down and warned, “Don’t be too ambitious.” As they spoke, I also wondered about the current relevance of Having it All?— that lingering phrase that first appeared in the late 70's, and that a New York Times article called “a burden and a cliche.” Was ALL limited to a prescribed time period? And wasn't HAVING ENOUGH also a good enough place to be?  This is the kind of topic that goes well with a few more entrepreneur girlfriends and either a lot of coffee or several bottles of wine.

One of Swan's last questions was this:

JS: Looking back, what would you tell your 20 year-old self?

MN: Work for someone you admire and respect. Make relationships; this business is all about relationships.

NP: Stay in your own lane. Do what you do and honor that.

RB: You are loved and don’t have to prove anything to anybody.

True dat, Baroness! That took me a loooooong time to learn.

There was one moment in the discussion when Nussbaumer spoke about a very recent trip to Mexico that she took with a group of designing girlfriends. Stressing the importance of collaboration, she was adamant about the importance of sharing. "We've got to stop thinking we're competing with each other! We are not in competition; we all have something different to give." This was one of the most inspiring takeaways from the panel. It just kind of sets you straight.

Jane Dagmi