Dunn-Edwards Portraits: Work-Life Balance On a Design Road Less Traveled
12/06/2021 | dunnedwards |
Heidy Lainez glances down at her neon highlighter-yellow nails as she reminisces about the demanding times of finishing her design degree at Cal State Long Beach combined with motherhood. A first-time mom then, Lainez was juggling her thesis project—proposing the concept of an accessible and affordable wedding decor and furnishings line for IKEA—while raising a 1-year-old baby. “I had a toddler, and I had a thesis project. That was bananas. But my daughter remembers my design models, and playing with them afterward,” Lainez remembers fondly.
For Lainez, who spent several years as a Dunn-Edwards Professional Color Advisor (PCA), life is all about finding the balance—whether it be at home with her family or in the workplace with her career. “In life, I’ve learned that there is a difference between things being the same or symmetrical and things being balanced. That was my challenge,” explains Lainez.
Balance is a concept Lainez has worked toward throughout her life because, as she acknowledges, life isn’t always a direct path and circumstances are not always ideal. Born in Honduras, Lainez moved with her parents to South-Central Los Angeles at the age of 3. “I grew up in a rough neighborhood,” she explains, referencing her childhood and its influence on her philosophy as an interior designer. Lainez believes that great design can and should be accessible to everyone in all income levels. A core component of this, she notes, is a focus on furniture having multiple uses, which is both conducive for small-space living and beneficial to consumers working with limited or fixed budgets. I love to go low-budget and show people what can happen if you expand a little. A chair or a stool can end up being something completely different. I really enjoy that part,” says Lainez.
Lainez also expanded beyond the traditional straight and narrow design career path. It was anything but a direct route for her from design school to her career in the design industry. In fact, upon graduating from design school, Lainez found herself working as a stay-at-home mom, then at IKEA, then in the banking world. But as someone who is driven by her love of color, Lainez stuck out in the banking world like a chartreuse dress in a sea of grey suits—literally. She would often use her wardrobe to infuse more personality into the workplace so she knew that, deep down, her true place lay in design.
It was her role as a Dunn-Edward PCA that gave Lainez an entrance to the design industry—and provided a sense of harmony to her life. Not only did the position offer her great industry education and training, it also allowed room for her family commitments. “The PCA role was really able to give me that structure I needed to carry my family forward. The work-life balance was great. Generally, with design, there are no set hours,” explains the designer.
The PCA role provided set hours and allowed Lainez to practice her unique interior design philosophy while embodying the core PCA approach—to bring exceptional and affordable design to individuals of all backgrounds. Lainez offered equitable professional design services regardless of the customers’ budgetary
constraints. “It’s like my own interior design office inside Dunn-Edwards, and that’s how I really
took it. Because it’s a free color-consultation service, I was able to be very welcoming and spend time with people.”
For the woman who organizes her shoes by the Munsell color system, the career transition back into the design world through Dunn-Edwards had a bonus value add. It also enabled her to embrace her love of color. “That’s why I loved the PCA position! I was able to be expressive at work … how much fun is that?” laughs Lainez, whose favorite color is Teal Me No Lies (DE5732).
In fact, one of Lainez’s self-described superpowers is her ability to color match. Out of Dunn-Edwards 2,006 Perfect Palette® colors, Lainez was always able to help customers match their paint to their inspiration. “One of my colleagues used to joke that I had the ability to sniff out color … always able to find the perfect match,” she recalls. She would encourage customers to bring in their pillows and textiles for color pairing and matching. Her strength in color matching often meant she could save them time by avoiding the need to create a custom hue.
Color is complicated, and Lainez’s fluency with color and its behavior is something that shined during her time as a PCA. “People have a hard time understanding how color behaves,” Lainez says, referencing a past customer interaction with a homeowner who had not previously worked with a PCA to select
paint colors. He came into Dunn-Edwards perplexed about why the newly painted exterior of his home appeared green after painting it white with green trim. In talking with him, Lainez discovered that the home had a very green yard, the same verdant shade of green he had chosen for his trim. “When you put green
with green, they get really happy,” Lainez explains. As a result, the green color he had chosen was enhanced by the surrounding nature and overpowered the home’s white exterior—essentially creating a green tint-like appearance. Lainez suggested he repaint the trim a darker green, which immediately resolved the issue.
Lainez has brought this design-solution spirit to her current position as a property manager for a Southern California real estate investment company, managing 255 units across 22 buildings. She was able to leverage her skills and background from design school and her employment at Dunn-Edwards—as well as the bank—to enter a traditionally male-dominated industry, living her purpose of creating unique and affordable design for all.
That background has given her an edge. When an apartment building needs new exterior or interior paint, Lainez creates color schemes and digital renderings to envision the building’s proposed new look. She’s also created a protocol utilizing her background in design that employs a tear sheet outlining the colors and FF&E (furniture, fixtures and equipment) for each apartment unit. When renovating a unit, she provides that tear sheet to all of the property managers, ensuring both a cohesive look throughout her properties and efficient
renovation time lines.
Lainez’s design background and new protocol help save her company time and money by streamlining property renovations, communication with vendors and, ultimately, making the units attractive to potential tenants. “That’s where my Dunn-Edwards training comes into play. A tear sheet is easy to give to all the managers or subcontractors. When we’re turning over a unit, it’s easy for us to go in and reference it and know if the renovation’s been done correctly and to spec.”
Throughout it all, Lainez recognizes her value as a designer and is forging a non-traditional design path while maintaining a work-life balance with her third child on the way. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about your specific interior design journey while in school, but Lainez recalls a key lesson from her interior design school mentor to be shared widely: “Sometimes, as interior designers, while looking to get a start, there can be a willingness to give away our work for free. But remember that you went to school, you know your stuff, you did the work.” And it’s this lesson that has propelled Lainez forward to carve her own design path and be proud of where she has come from and where she is going.
Interested in practicing design while still in school? The 2021 Emerging Professionals Design Competition, sponsored by Dunn-Edwards, will open March 2022 for student designers nationwide! Learn more.
- Inspiring Shades of Pink for Victorian Architecture
- Popular Color Palettes Through The Decades: 1970s—2010s
- Desert Oasis Luxury Show House: Polynesian Culture Meets Mid-Century Design
- This San Diego Artist Gave Her Living Room ‘70s Style Pool Party Makeover
- Dunn-Edwards Portraits: Paris, a Pandemic and the Process of Design