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Cool jobs: Terry Pittenger

Terry Pittenger thought she wouldn’t be able to use her design skills around here, till she opened a storefront and found eager customers.

By Gail Elber, The World

Terry Pittenger, interior designer

Owner, Your Space Designs, 2082 Sherman Ave., North Bend

Education: Some architecture coursework; 2 years design school, Bellevue College; 1 year online study, Art Institute of Pittsburgh; B.A. English.

“I have been designing and building since I was 5 on my dad’s job sites,” said Terry Pittenger. She started college far from her Alaska home, intending to major in architecture, but didn’t have her family’s support and ended up coming home.

“I was lost,  but I had an artistic eye. I taught myself CAD and started designing houses for my dad. He built them and they were the best-selling homes he had.”

After a stint at design school, Pittenger went to work for an interior designer, which didn’t pay well. Designing tenant improvements for a commercial development company paid better but was “just kind of a job, it wasn’t the love,” she said.

When Pittenger and her physician husband moved to Coos Bay eight years ago, she assumed she wouldn’t be able to put her skills to work. “I am going to be a housewife the rest of my life, even though I have a business mind and skills that would be marketable anywhere else in the world,” she told herself.

Still, she set up a design office in her home. After designing her husband’s medical office, she met the husband of one of his patients: Gary Rifkin, longtime owner of the gift shop Fiddlesticks and a mentor to dozens of local business people. Rifkin told her, “You need to represent yourself as a business, because people won’t pay a hobbyist the way they will pay a business.”

Pittenger took the plunge and set up a storefront on a highly visible corner in North Bend last year, reasoning that it would be seen by more people than any advertisement would. Her gamble has paid off. “Being able to love your home, it feeds  your soul,” she said. “There’s a lot of people in this town willing to spend money on what I have to offer. They want the colors, they want help hanging pictures, they want their environment to be a sanctuary. One person with a really well paying job will see a $399 chair and say it’s too much. Then a bus driver will come in and buy it on the spot.”

An interior designer needs some professional education. “So many people say they have the talent, but they can only do the decorating part,” she explained. “Decorating is colors, fabric, the placement of the sofa. Design is tearing down walls and building kitchens.”

Pittenger relishes the fact that she’s helping local artisans connect with customers, keeping dollars in town that were formerly spent online.

“You get to do so much shopping and go to markets, you meet so many wonderful people and support local craftsmen,” she said. “Some of them don’t have a clue what people are wanting. You work with them and create something absolutely beautiful that you couldn’t get  in any magazine.”

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