When it comes to the world of interior design, styles are forever changing and evolving and one Auburn University alumna continues to make a name for herself two decades after leaving The Plains and settling on the beautiful gulf coast in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.
Erika Powell, a 2003 graduate of Auburn University’s College of Human Sciences Interior Design program with minors in international studies and business, is the owner of Urban Grace Interiors. The full-service design firm was established in 2005 where Powell’s work has become a recognizable and impressive brand as several of her projects have been featured in House Beautiful, Coastal Living, Southern Living, Traditional Home, Vie magazine and more.
But before Powell established her impressive interior design firm, her time was spent on campus at Auburn University within the College of Human Sciences.
“Gosh, I loved my time at Auburn and I loved my time in interior design,” Powell said. “Starting in international business, I had something to compare it to. I knew that those business classes weren't for me and that I was a creative person and that that's where I knew I was supposed to be in interior design. I loved my professors. I think that's one thing that people don't think about when they go into school, is finding something that's going to actually lead to a career. And thankfully, interior design sets you up for that path and I felt fully equipped when I graduated, thankfully.”
As part of the interior design curriculum, Powell also credits her internship as a pivotal moment that helped jumpstart her career. Her internship and formal training was completed in New York where she worked for both famed designer Victoria Hagan and Scalamandre, a world-renowned textile company. That experience is a large reason she expanded her business to launch a textiles line in 2018.
“I think my internship was critical for me,” Powell said. “If I hadn't taken that job at Scalamandre, I don't know if we'd be sitting here having this conversation about a textiles line. That was a really, really pivotal thing for me, being exposed to the artist that was, like I said, recoloring all the prints, but also taking phone calls about sales orders and that sort of thing. I think trying different things within interior design, there's all sorts of different paths you can take. I think about our sales reps that come and call on us at the office with books of fabric and samples and I think about the people working in showrooms at High Point. There's so many different avenues that you can take within this field. I think that just getting out there, putting yourself out there and testing the waters to see what you like is the best way to get on the right track. And thankfully, we're in a field that has lots of different avenues for creativity.”
In 2021, Powell connected with fellow Auburn alumna Teil Duncan to launch the textile line, Teil + EMP Textiles, a beach themed collection that blends both Duncan’s and Powell’s expertise but Powell said the main thing with dipping into the textiles world is that it allows her to use it as a creative outlet.
“The interior design is still very much my bread and butter but the textiles has been a really fun, creative outlet because I think in interior design, you spend a lot of time being creative for someone else and there's a lot of psychology and trying to figure out what somebody else wants, whereas the textiles is just me,” Powell said. “It's my creativity, which I think was, for all those years that I was building Urban Grace, my own creativity was just... It was required to get somebody else what they wanted, but it wasn't on the forefront of what I was doing every day. So the textiles kind of was a fun, creative outlet for me.”
For more information on the collaboration with Teil Duncan click here.
For more information on Urban Grace Interiors, visit urbangrace.com, and to view the Teil + EMP Textiles Collection, visit erikampowell.com.