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Meet Emily Mackie of Inspired Interiors in River North

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Mackie.

Growing up in Texas, Emily Mackie had a passion for design that came from two influential women in her life. Her mother had begun flipping houses as a way to put herself through college, and at just the age of 12, Mackie was her only assistance. Meanwhile, Mackie’s step-mother lived a life of luxury, jet-setting off to Europe to collect antiques for her shop in Dallas. Together, both women served as creative role models for Mackie, ultimately motivating her to build her career and found her own luxury interior design firm.

Mackie first moved to Chicago to work as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, and soon after enrolled in the Illinois Institute of Art Chicago. Driven like her hard-working mother, Mackie attended school during the week and worked as a flight attendant on the weekends, becoming well known as the flight attendant with the T-square hanging out of her bag. In 2000 Mackie graduated with her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design and accepted a position at Gensler. In her first year at Gensler, Mackie designed and specified $12 million in commercial furnishings. In the years that followed, she continued to work on the large-scale commercial interior design and assisted in the development and design of several nationally marketed furniture products.

After a few years with Gensler, Mackie felt it was time to make a change. She wanted to get her hands dirty – see how a house was built and watch that progress every day until the design that she envisioned was sitting right in front of her. In 2003, Mackie accepted a position with Kitchen & Bath Creations. It was there that she experienced what it was like to work directly with homeowners and control the process from start to finish. After a year of doing residential design, Mackie knew she had found her niche. She received her National Council for Interiors Design Qualification (NCIDQ) and license in the State of Illinois, and became a professional member of the American Society of Interiors Designers (ASID.) Mackie began doing work on her own, and in 2004, she founded her own luxury design firm, Inspired Interiors.

Fourteen years later, Inspired Interiors is one of the most sought-after luxury design firms in Chicago, working on everything from sleek city condos and stately suburban homes to trendy corporate offices and boutique hospitality spaces. A truly full-service design firm, Inspired Interiors is accountable for the entire design process, handling projects from pre-acquisition to “magazine ready”. Mackie believes in taking a personalized approach to design – spending time understanding a client’s needs and then blending in best practice. Ultimately, Inspired Interiors’ mission is to create an environment that enhances how clients live, love, work, and function.

Inspired Interiors has been consistently recognized by the design community, receiving awards such as the ASID Design Excellence Award in the kitchen category and contract space under 3,000 square feet. Also, for the past five years in a row, the firm has received Best of Houzz badges, both in design and in service. However, none of that has stopped Mackie’s relentless ambition to continue improving, and she recently completed Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Business Program. In 2015, Mackie was honored with the Professional Remodeler Magazine’s 40 under 40 awards and in 2016 Crain’s top 15 coolest offices. In 2017 she received another first place ASID Design Excellence award for outdoor space as well as a residence under 3,000 square feet.

When she isn’t working, Mackie can be found at an auction or take her three children on a road trip.

Has it been a smooth road?
Work-life balance is probably the biggest challenge because it’s not easy simultaneously running a family and company. Being able to balance all the challenges of motherhood and not just pregnancy, including flexible work hours and access to childcare in order to participate in and show up for school events/parent-teacher conferences was extremely difficult. I don’t have the advantages that a single male in this industry has because of the dual responsibilities I have that he doesn’t. It slows you down and a lot of personal sacrifices are made but finding ways to devote time to both is the key to achieving that elusive work-life balance. I continue to do just that every single day.

Another challenge faced was understanding the whole business side of things and all of the unwritten rules that need to be memorized. You’re educated for a part of the interior design but understanding the whole business part is a whole other thing. Training yourself to understand balancing sheets and generating revenue was difficult but not impossible. As long as you work hard and put your best efforts forward, learning and achieving are endless.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Inspired Interiors curates spaces that embolden you to enjoy life in new, empowering ways. Imagine … a refreshing bathroom that invigorates you to tackle a new day; an innovative office that unlocks your creativity; a welcoming family room that enhances your time together; a sensual bedroom that spices up your love life. At Inspired Interiors, we use design to transform the way you live, love, work, and function.

Comprised of accomplished and creative professionals, each with a unique skill set ranging from highly technical knowledge to astute project management, the Inspired Interiors team has completed projects ranging from sleek city penthouses and stately suburban estates to high-powered corporate offices and boutique hospitality spaces. The firm has been featured in an array of prominent national and regional publications including Modern Luxury Interiors, Modern Luxury CS, Men’s Book Chicago, Crain’s Chicago Business, SPLASH Chicago, Professional Remodeler and more.

I am most proud of our team and our growth in the marketplace. Making sure we capture monuments of life in client’s homes is what sets us apart from everyone else.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I do feel like our city is a good city place for interior designers because it almost has a small-town feel but with the benefits of a big city. Chicago is the third largest metropolitan area with about 2.7 million people it houses. I feel like Chicago welcomes entrepreneurs in almost any industry which only helps the city’s economy. This city provides so much opportunities and support. I would recommend someone just starting out to start a business here. They just have to take action and believe in their dream.

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