Creating designs of distinction for more than 35 years, Susan Fredman is one of Chicago’s most prominent residential interior designers. The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Fredman is widely recognized as a leader in the Chicago design community and beyond. This month she is being honored with the Fearless Leader Award by The Ms Foundation for Women. The L Stop had the great pleasure of meeting with Susan recently and talking about her very busy life…..
The L Stop: Tell me a little about yourself – where are you from – what was childhood like?
Susan: I’m from the Chicago area. I had a lovely, easy, suburban childhood full of happy memories.
The L Stop: What influences led you to the world of Design?
Susan: My father was an architect and a painter who loved the arts, so I have had an appreciation since childhood. Then, I studied Fine Arts in college, I was naturally drawn to form and function and creativity. I started out dressing retail windows down Michigan Avenue right out of school, and then it evolved to people asking me to design their interiors. The rest, they say, is history…
The L Stop: What are some of the challenges young designers should expect – advice?
Susan: Design is about others and about service, not about them. It is essentially about making a difference for people – improving or enhancing the quality of peoples’ lives. That is not exactly something that young designers are taught in school, but the service to others is something we try to impress upon our team at every stage.
The L Stop: Tell me about your ties to Michigan….
Susan: I was invited for a weekend visit in Michigan almost thirty years ago and I went back the following weekend to look for a house. Michigan, specifically Harbor Country, is a charming, slow-paced and beautiful area – it is also rich in design, art and architecture.
The L Stop: I have to ask you how you conceived Designs for Dignity….and what is your greatest reward from the work you and your group do?
Susan: A very good friend asked me to assist her in the design of her non-profit facility. I am almost always a “Yes –and-figure-it-out-later” kind of person. So, of course, I said, “Yes!” I designed her space and began the procurement of materials for this facility. I was able to get almost all of the furnishings and specifications donated. What became obvious is the enormous amount of excess in the design industry. We put together a program to combine the excess with donated/pro bono design hours and be available to other non-profit organizations.
Now, almost fifteen years later, we have designed and furnished over 150 facilities impacting 100,000 people or more. This has made a profound difference in people’s lives, including my own.
My greatest reward from this is really seeing the impact that good design has on people – good design makes people feel like they matter to someone else. When that person then goes out into the world with a sense of worth and dignity, they then create new possibilities and have an impact on others, and so on. Creating a world that works for everyone is the ultimate goal and of course, there’s a lot to still be done.
The L Stop: The Ms Foundation is honoring you this month – tell me about that honor and what it means to you.
Susan: The “Fearless Leader Award” is really a beautiful award. I am so honored to be included in this esteemed group of women from the Ms. Foundation. I look at it as an opportunity to represent other fearless women that are invaluable in my life – from my partner and family, to my Susan Fredman Design Group team, to the fearless Designs for Dignity team and so many more.
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About K. Guzman
Kathy grew up all over the US - lots of east coast time. She is a surfer girl with an unabridged curiosity. A woman whose mid life awakening continues to bring her to the place she was meant to be. Her degree in Journalism/Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida is being yanked from the archives and put to good use. Her two kids are grown and rock stars in this wild world – her Harley is ready for some serious summer miles – and her heart remains open to life, women and the possibilities each day brings.