We first took notice of Johanna’s work at our beloved Fooducopia at 1939 E. Kentucky Ave when they remodeled years ago. We soon found out that interior design is just one of the many talents of this kind neighbor of ours.
What brought you to Wash Park?
My husband, Steven and I grew up outside of Detroit. I moved to NY after college, then to Chicago to go back to school. When we decided to have children of our own, we knew we wanted to be near family. We’d always visited Denver, where Steven had several relatives, and during one visit we decided to make the move. That Thanksgiving (pregnant with my son) we came to scout out neighborhoods. My main requirement was that I be able to walk to get a cup of coffee and take my kids to a beautiful park. We definitely found both (and more) in Wash Park.
You’ve been making the inside of our neighborhood homes beautiful for years. How did you get into the interior design business?
I went to school to become a designer because I wanted to make spaces more aesthetically pleasing. Once in school, I quickly realized that that is what a decorator does–a designer, in contrast, makes a space function in addition to making it look pretty. It’s a field that combines math, science and art. After graduation, I worked in hospitality design for a large firm where I had the opportunity to work on the design of new hotels in the US and Asia (as well as residential projects). After my children were born I began doing freelance work to keep my skill set fresh which, after time, translated into consistent requests from friends and neighbors to help them with design projects. I realized while there is definitely a market for full service interior design, there is a large unmet need for design consulting. More and more the potential clients I’d speak with needed help with either small projects that larger design firms didn’t want to take or just a little “design guidance”—to discuss ideas before committing to a larger project or help making sense of material options. With that, I decided to just go all in and create my own design firm. I take on 1 or 2 full-service projects a year but my bread and butter is my Day of Design Consulting where, for an hourly fee, I help people tackle design projects. I absolutely love being a part of this process and helping clients fall in love with their space. It makes design accessible to people at every price point.
What design trends are you loving and what would you like to see go?
What’s on trend is reflecting my client’s voice. I like reusing something the client has with meaning, like a sideboard or art they got from grandma. I love creating a built-in out of unused space or a custom dining table with a local reclaimed wood. I love wall-covering in powder rooms. I love selecting the right slab of stone (especially quartzite and marble). The natural beauty of stone is under-appreciated. But what can really go away is the idea that bigger is better. It’s not necessary, it’s just bigger. I cringe when I see a pop top trying to maximize square footage that looks like a mobile home squatting on a bungalow or a scrape that is just a suburban track home plopped in this neighborhood.
What is the best part of raising a family in Wash Park?
You know the saying “it takes a village” – well, this is my village. If my neighbor is stuck in traffic coming home from work, she knows she can count on me to grab her kids from the bus stop, and vice versa. Wash park is more than just a bunch of houses situated together, it’s a neighborhood. We are currently planning our 4th annual block party and a group of kids are planning a backyard movie night. Many evenings after dinner you can find a group of kids playing hide-and-seek or eating popsicles while the adults socialize.
When you are not running after your little ones, or remodeling
someone’s home, how do you spend your free time?
I love reading. My favorite is historical fiction. I’m also trying to learn to speak Czech.
You obviously have a passion for politics and philanthropy. Can
you tell us a bit about this and what lit that fire within?
I guess I just don’t feel right sitting on the sidelines in this current political environment. There is an idea called Tikun Olum that is a guiding principal for me. There are many interpretations but the literal Hebrew translation is to repair the world. It’s certainly not a task I can do on my own, but maybe when we all do a little it can add up to something larger. And if this is the lesson I can pass along to my kids, then I’m sharing with them a piece of the legacy my grandmother left for me, and we connect to something larger than ourselves.
You can see some of Johanna’s recent work by visiting her site at www.johannawoodrowdesigns.com or support local and visit Fooducopia, where she is helping them with their latest kitchen expansion project!