Megan Read received a BFA in interior design with a focus on green design from Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design in Denver, Colorado. After graduating, she gained experience working at top architecture and interior design firms in Denver, Colorado, and San Diego, California. She has worked on a range of project types from new custom homes and kitchen + bath remodels to multi-family housing and commercial offices. Her business, M. Read Design, is based in San Diego, California. She took time out from her schedule to answer a few questions from home.
A! Magazine for the Arts: How did growing up in the Tri-Cities affect your artistic efforts?
Megan Read: Looking back, there are three things that stand out in particular. It’s hard to ignore the influence of living in a historic town like Abingdon when you grow up with a curiosity for the built environment. There is such a strong sense of time and place, and architecture plays a key role in that. Southern Appalachia also has rich history of artisans and craftsman that I always gravitated towards. Today, one of my favorite aspects of interior design is getting to collaborate with local carpenters, metalsmiths and the like. My appreciation for these art forms, and my passion to keep them alive and thrive is rooted in where I was raised. Lastly, the region’s sustainable agriculture community played a big role in shaping my career path. One summer, I had a job harvesting produce on an organic farm and was learning more about living with the land, rather than off it. Around that time a light bulb went off and I realized there was an opportunity to bring my passion for design and sustainability together.
A!: Would you explain what green design means to you?
Read: There is a saying I heard once and love: “Green design is good design.” Ultimately, I believe good design should support productivity, well-being and the way people interact with each other and their environment. Good design should be intentional about the use of resources and look to both the immediate environment and modern technology to maximize efficiency. There are also so many beautiful products and materials out there that are sustainably made and support local businesses – the way these things can add soul to a space is hard to put into words.
A!: Tell us about the shelter you designed at Alvarado, please.
Read: The shelter was designed and built in memory of my brother, Taylor, who passed several years ago. Taylor was most in his element being active outdoors, whether it was snowboarding, golfing, hunting or biking. Naturally, the Creeper Trail was one of his favorite places which is why our family chose to give to the Creeper Trail Conservancy in Taylor’s memory. With an incredible outpouring of generosity from our friends, family and community, we had an opportunity to build something special. I knew a proper tribute to Taylor would have to be unique and give reason for pause but should also reflect and be informed by the surrounding area. I looked to the patterns created by the mountains, the movement of the adjacent river and the Creeper Trail’s origins as a railroad route. The shelter was originally designed to be painted green and white like the other trail landmarks but once it was pointed out that it would distract from the view of the river, we pivoted. I think the end result is much better than I originally intended.
A!: Does what you learned here still affect your life?
Read: Absolutely. Both personally and professionally, I tend to be of the mindset of investing in things that last, quality over quantity and that it takes less time to do things right the first time than it does to fix things later. I attribute much of this to both how I was raised and where I was raised.
A!: How were you involved in the arts when you were growing up here? How did you get started? Who influenced your artistic efforts?
Read: Ironically, I was actually much more involved in sports growing up and spent most of my time outside of school training and traveling for swimming. Despite that, I always enjoyed the tactile aspect of creating, and I knew from seventh grade on that I wanted to be an interior designer. I grew up seeing my great grandmother’s paintings on the walls of our home, and my grandmothers on both sides of my family are very artistic. They told me growing up that I inherited the “creative gene” and always encouraged my artistic endeavors.
A!: When and why did you leave?
Read: I left in 2005 when I went to college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. However, the move that had the greater impact on my career came three years later when I transferred to a small art and design school in Denver called Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design. It was there that everything started to click. They had a reputable interior design program that offered a minor in sustainable design and for the first time, I loved school. I haven’t looked back since.
A!: What are you working on now, and what do you have planned for the future?
Read: I am currently living in San Diego, California, and recently took a leap of faith to start my own interior design business. While that means a lot of what I am working on is marketing and a website, one of my favorite projects right now is an addition to a 1950s bungalow style home. As for the future, I would love to have a little storefront where I can feature my collection of re-imagined vintage furnishings as well as the work of other local artists and makers.
A!: What or who inspires you?
Read: Georgia O’Keefe and Francois Gilot have always inspired me — not just for their art but for how they paved their own paths as independent, creative women decades before paths like that existed. Anybody who lives with that kind of intention and authenticity is inspiring.
A!: What else are you doing other than working on your art?
Read: Living in San Diego, I am fortunate to spend a lot of time outdoors and at the beach. We also love taking road trips and camping as much as possible – nature provides the best inspiration and is also the best place to re-charge.
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