The Glass Wall: A Look at Our Design Minds

Janet Ott, JAI’s Design and Office Manager, holds her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota, FL. She is a licensed Florida Interior Designer and a Professional Member of ASID. Janet has worked as a designer in the industry for 35 years and has provided interior design and purchasing services for hotels, restaurants, and a wide array of commercial and residential projects. JAI feels so fortunate to have Janet’s talent, expertise and experience as a vital part of our team.

Here’s a look through The Glass Wall into the design mind of Janet:

When did you know you wanted to be an interior designer?

In my 8th grade home economics class, I was assigned a project to design my dream home and how I would furnish it. I even had to create dream boards, and I was hooked! In high school, my friend Pat and I were the first girls to ever take the drafting class and we were good at it!

When you graduated from college, was the industry what you expected?

Yes! I was so fortunate to get a job working for a hotel company that, at the time, had 66 hotels in the United States and Canada, including the brands Sheraton, Hilton and Holiday Inn. I sent in my resume and, since I had no personal connections, expected it would probably get lost on someone’s desk. As it turned out, the woman who received my resume always wanted to go to Ringling College so she wanted to meet me. I ended up being offered the job on the spot at their West Palm Beach location. I traveled a lot with that job and went from a draftsman to the Director of Design in seven years.

Did you stay in hospitality design your whole career?

In 1990, I was hired by an architect that focused on senior living facilities. It was an easy transition. Senior Living shares a lot of the same amenities as hotels, but I also got to tap into a more residential approach to design. While working there I also obtained excellent experience in furniture procurement which led to successful purchases throughout my career.

Eventually, I stepped out into my own business. I had not given much thought about working for myself, it just sort of happened. Many of my former coworkers were branching out into their own businesses and started calling me to freelance for them. Before I knew it, I was busy designing and purchasing furnishings for my own clients and I loved it!

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry over the last 35 years?

There are two big changes that first come to mind.

One is technology. When I first started as a designer, I rendered everything by hand. It was an art form and I could put all my energy into creativity and then relied on a draftsman to do all the production work. We didn’t have email or quick ways to communicate with each other at the time. Once I finished assembling color and sample boards I would mail them to the client and wait for their response. It was as if I was sending a surprise present to a valued friend.

We still create beautiful, unique work but it is all digital. Although sending our clients emails of our concept and mood boards is more efficient, I do miss the days of hand drawing.

The second big change I’ve noticed is that we are living in a digital DIY world. Influencers such as HGTV and Pinterest position people to have design opinions they didn’t have before. With clients feeling comfortable finding inspiration via online or television, their level of trust in a professional designer’s expertise has shifted. The upside of living in a world of information overload is that we often get collaborative input from clients; but, the downside is that it gives the average person a sense of being their own expert in design.

How did you get connected with JAI?

Jacki and I knew of each other as we were both interior designers in the same area, and although we weren’t competitors, we used many of the same vendors. Through our mutual connections, I had started hearing that Jacki was getting busy and, at the same time, things were slowing down for me. We decided it was time for us to meet, and we immediately had a great connection with each other. Our skills and expertise complemented each other well. She asked me if I would consider coming on staff as JAI’s Design and Office Manager and I couldn’t say no to such a great opportunity. As they say, the rest is history.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?

A movie star! I mean, who wouldn’t? Seriously though, I am so lucky and happy to have a career that I love.

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