“I earned my BBA from UT-Austin in international business and accounting but had no idea that my grandfather, George L. Dahl, FAIA, was the architect of the campus until I saw a sign on a building one day. He also designed much of Fair Park.
“When I graduated from college, I went to visit friends in California. I just got in a rental car and showed up at Long Beach State University, where I saw a design board on the wall, and I said, “That’s what I want to do!” I called my parents, and my dad said, ‘Good luck because we’re not paying for that.’ Someone told me about El Centro, and I drove back to Dallas and went to find out about classes on a Friday, then started summer school that Monday. I was an intern with Trisha Wilson and Associates the whole time in I was in the three-year program at El Centro.
“I love to draw, and my architectural drafting classes at El Centro were invaluable. We learned to draft by hand and just had CAD software at the end of my program. Now there’s Revit software, which is a smart program that makes living, breathing designs. It takes some work up front to learn, but it saves lots of money in change orders. Our firm was one of the first design firms in the country to adopt it – we’ve been using it for about 10 years now.
“The most valuable thing I learned at El Centro was the basic philosophy of design: balance, proportion, scale and contrast. There’s a book called ‘A Whole New Mind’ by Daniel Pink, that talks about our society moving from agricultural to industrial to technical – and now we’re in the conceptual design era where people will advance who have the ability to put together seemingly unrelated things into a whole new concept. If a computer can do your job, watch out! What’s great about this career is that people will always need design.
“What do I love about what I do? I love teaching people and watching young people grow. The hardest thing is keeping employees happy; we have more than 50 on staff, with offices in Dallas, Phoenix and Portland. Our company byline is ‘designing environments that transform life.’ That says it all: creating spaces that elevate the spirit. You can really see that in senior living spaces. I love everything about design: architecture, color sense, scale, creating beautiful spaces, and affecting people emotionally and viscerally.
“I taught one of the first interior design summer school courses for seventh-grade girls. If I weren’t running this company, I’d be working on education support to tap into young talent early.
“My advice to prospective students searching for their career path? Follow your passion. My father said I was never going to make any money in art. I said, ‘Watch me.’ If you follow your passion and love what you do, it makes it all worthwhile.
“Each project I work on is like a unique child – I love that part about what I do.”
Adrienne Faulkner is founder and CEO of the
Faulkner Design Group, designing interiors for multi- and single-family, senior living, sales centers, hospitality and government. She has received numerous awards for her work, including “best conversion” and “multifamily community of the year” by the 2013 Pillars of Industry; and a 2013 Dallas 100 award from the SMU Cox School of Business Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship.
Adrienne’s grandfather, George L. Dahl, FAIA, studied architecture throughout Europe and the Mediterranean while on a Harvard Fellowship Grant from 1920-1923, and became known for his work as chief architect of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, the University of Texas at Austin campus master plan and many landmark buildings throughout the country.