Whitney McMakin, Director of Design
Education: BFA with a concentration in interior design, Winthrop University
Professional societies: International Interior Design Association (IIDA)
Whitney was recently promoted to Director of Design after working as an interior designer at McWaters since 2011. She loves travel, cooking, and her two shih tzus, who are are more like children than dogs.
What drew you to McWaters originally?
There are a couple of big-name furniture designers and manufactures in the commercial interiors industry and Steelcase is one of the leaders. I worked with them in school and the company is very innovative and has great research behind their products. I've always loved their products so the fact that McWaters is a Steelcase dealership was a huge plus.
How has McWaters helped your career development?
I've been able to participate a lot in outside industry events with the IIDA, the professional association for commercial interior design. McWaters doesn't just pay for our membership, they really encourage us to get involved, go to events, and be members of the steering committee. McWaters also encourages us to take regular training so we can stay up to date on industry trends and the products we sell. .
How have you seen McWaters change over the years?
When I started working at McWaters, the space had traditional high cubicles, which made the office and showroom seem very dark and divided. Soon after, we began the process of upgrading the showroom to incorporate the current office trends of lower panels, and open collaboration areas. Now we're really living what we're selling! Since we've made the changes I've seen our internal structure really morph around those concepts and our culture blossom because of it. Now we're much more collaborative and it's been nice to be able to tell clients that what I'm designing for them is what I work in every day and why it works for me. The collaborative and consultative nature of our company has also allowed us to expand our service lines over the years. In addition to our furniture, commercial flooring, and relocation services we are now known for our Audiovisual expertise. As a designer, this is exciting because we have the ability to work with clients on all aspects of their project.
What do you do in your current role?
My new position is interesting because I'm still designing but I also get to help other designers with their workloads. For example, if one of our designers is swamped I might jump in and pull fabrics for them or take on another small aspect of the project that lets me lend a hand without taking over the project. In addition, as the Director of Design, I am responsible for overseeing and managing the workflow, workload, and output of the design team. I ensure that our designers are well-rounded and have the opportunity to work on a variety of projects from all of our vertical markets.
What's been your most memorable project?
Koyo in Blythewood has been my most memorable project to date. The concept behind the building design, and the relationship we had with the client made it very memorable. The company is Japanese-owned so some of their cultural influences carried through in the designs. Using Steelcase Privacy wall, we were able to create spaces that were reminisce of Shoji Screens. One of the spaces they were most excited about was their Manual library. We created an open collaborative space to store all their manufacturing manuals that reflected their newer, modern look. One of my favorite spaces was the board room, which included three conference tables and integrated technology. This project was completed about three years ago; however, we are still engaged with the client and have continued to assist them with new projects.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
On the design side, I love making people's spaces work. So to have the opportunity to be the lead designer on projects and completely submerge myself in design is great. But McWaters also has a really great family atmosphere that makes the job rewarding. It's one of the few places I've worked where we genuinely care about each other and have each other's backs. It's a very family-oriented place to work.
What is most challenging about your job?
It sounds really cliché, but I struggle with work-life balance. We preach it all day long, but it's one of those things when you love what you do it's hard to put it down.
We're always looking for talented designers, sales people, and A/V specialists to join our team in Columbia, Savannah, and Augusta. Interested? Contact us.