ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Joanne MacCallum, ASID, NCIDQ, Certified Interior Designer, Principal, JM Design

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If you are fortunate to have Joanne MacCallum as your Studio 1 instructor, you know just how dedicated and hard working she is. Having gone through this program herself, she knows how to inspire her students to strive for their creative potential, while instilling important guidelines for space planning and codes for commercial projects. While her one-on-one personable and nurturing approach to teaching really is appreciated by all, sometimes as students we can forget that our instructors work and have lives outside of the classroom. Hence, we are thrilled to get to know Joanne a little better this month.

When did you attend UCLA’s Extension ARC-ID progam?


At that time, it was a longer program, maybe 3-1/2 years if you went straight through without a break. I worked while attending the program, plus I took summers off for family vacations, so it took me 7 years to finish! I took the studio classes one at a time, with no other classes, so I could focus 100% on the assignments.

What is your background? How did you get to where you are today?

I have had a number of different careers, but I’ve learned that every job I’ve had prior to entering the interior design field has been helpful in some aspect of the work.

I attended USC and the University of Colorado, graduating with an English Lit degree. My first job out of college was teaching English and Journalism in a middle school. After 5 years, I took a break from teaching and went to work as a newswriter for a CBS television station.

That became a 15-year career in TV news. After working as a newswriter, I was promoted to be an on-air news reporter, and then transitioned to management as an assignment editor, news director, and executive producer. From there, I took my production skills to a job as associate producer for a Disney game show. It involved a great deal of traveling, so after 2 years, I changed careers again.

My interest in interior spaces led me to commercial real estate. I became a licensed real estate agent and worked finding and developing medical office spaces. I needed drafting and drawing skills for this, so I enrolled in the Arc-ID program so I could show my clients what their suites would look like when developed.

Following graduation, I started my firm, JM Design, which specializes in commercial and residential design.

What attracted you to interior design?

I love organization and resonate with anything related to space planning. It’s so funny, but in high school when you take those aptitude tests that ask you to fit a number of objects into a given space, I really excelled! I went for years not knowing how to apply that skill until I discovered the joys of space planning!

What are you currently working on?

Last project completed:

  • Design of a baby’s nursery commissioned by ‘Entertainment Tonight’ for a story on a young couple they were profiling

Commercial projects currently:

  • S.Mark Taper Foundation Offices in Brentwood

  • Northrup Grumman Conference Center in Camarillo

  • Kitchen and bath design for a 70-unit apartment complex in Simi Valley

Residential projects currently:

  • Remodel of a penthouse condominium in West LA

  • Design of a living room & dining room in Agoura Hills

  • Consultation on several smaller design jobs for color palette selection, space planning, and staging.

In the spring and fall, I teach Interior Architecture Studio 1 in the program.

How do you approach new projects?

Cautiously but enthusiastically. Often, I begin with a paid 2-hour consultation so the client and I can see if it’s a good fit. I offer my ideas, ask a lot of questions, and listen very carefully. If hired, I create a detailed Letter of Agreement, with very specific language on my fee schedule and the scope of work indicated, and request a 10 or 20-hour retainer to start the work.

What are 3 qualities that got you to where you are today, professionally?

Having a strong work ethic

Being a good problem solver

Having a sense of humor

What does your typical day look like?

Coffee first! Then answer e-mails and texts and return phone calls. Then on to what has been scheduled. I keep a detailed daily calendar of jobs, meetings and deadlines. I like to have my days planned out as much as possible in advance. With construction jobs, it can be a challenge, as things happen quickly and require immediate action, so I’m careful to leave enough time to make thoughtful decisions. I usually have one or two client meetings a day, often in person, but sometimes in the form of a phone conversation. Time is also spent doing product research, generating invoices, estimates, and budgets, going to design center showrooms, drafting, drawing, selecting color palettes, specifying fixtures or furniture, etc. No two days are alike.

Best career advice you’ve gotten?

Develop a reliable and competent team of trade resources, vendors and contractors who have the same professional dedication to their work as I do.

Be loyal. Be appreciative. Be reasonable.

What is one helpful design resource you can recommend to our students as they enter the field?

Other designers! Keep in touch with friends and associates in the business so you can bounce ideas off of them. Be generous about sharing resources.

What is something you wish you knew when first got started designing?

How physical the job can be!

Where do you go for inspiration?

For my commercial work: Travel is great for seeing how hotels and restaurants are designed in different cities. Absorbing new uses of color, seeing interesting layouts of spaces, studying new ideas in lighting design.

For my residential work: I read trade magazines, visit design center showrooms, and research internet sites

What is your favorite ‘thing’ in your own home?

My yard. I have a large vegetable garden and lots of roses, flowers and trees. Working outside is very therapeutic. I spend time at least once each day. With so many ‘balls in the air’ professionally, this time helps me to balance my life, and the quiet of the outdoors gives me the space to think creatively.

What is something on your bucket list?

I have accomplished several already:

Watching 60’ waves in Hawaii, attending a Puccini opera at La Scala Opera House in Milan, and a Verdi opera at the Metropolitan in New York, seeing ‘Hamilton’.

My next bucket list item is happening soon - - hiking through Yellowstone National Park.