20 May Tea with Tara: Meet owner and Design Director Amy
Amy Cuker is the owner and design director of Down2earth Interior Design. Amy decided to start her own firm in order to balance an interior design career with the demands of her family life (d2e started in 2010, when Amy’s younger son was 1 year old). When Amy began adding design consultants to the team a few years later, she recognized that work life balance would be essential to attracting and retaining great people, and would give them a chance to nurture their creative spirits inside and outside the world of interior design. In this interview, Amy discusses how she nurtures her own creative spirit.
Do you have a hobby or passion outside the world of interiors?
Many many many. I built a company that allows for my team members to have time to explore their other interests because that is so important to me personally.
Over the pandemic, I learned to knit, which I find to be both creative and soothing. I love doing Zumba and listening to audiobooks. I also love listening to many types of music and I get to express this passion by singing and performing as half of a duo called The Ghost Experts. Guitarist Elliot Wolf and I play popular standards and peppy rock and pop songs at festivals.
My husband, Adam, and I also are well on our way to walking every street in our township. We bring our dog, Muttilda, along with us and we all enjoy the fresh air, exercise, and admiring the gardens and beautiful stone houses in Cheltenham. My sons and I have been volunteering for years with Forgotten Cats. We love animals and whenever our travels present us with the opportunity to see or interact with them, we jump at the chance, whether it’s an alpaca farm or an animal sanctuary. My dream vacation would be to go on a safari.
How does travel (near or far) influence your lifestyle and/or work?
When I travel, I love to walk and walk and walk. We’re talking like 30,000 steps in a day. Walking is the best way to really see a place. When you’re walking, you can best appreciate patterns, textures, and colors, like this yummy color combo I spied on a facade in Paris.
I also get inspiration from seeing the way people in other cultures live and making time to go to museums, something I rarely do at home. In Finland, I was so inspired to see how masters of their crafts elevate decorative objects to the level of art while in Israel, it was crafts, textiles, and cement tiles that inspired me. See some examples in previous blog posts linked below.
I also love to look for ways that different communities are approaching sustainability.
If you weren’t designing spaces, what else would you be doing?
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be an interior designer AND a broadway star. One of those professions is more attainable than the other. Now that I have my design practice well-established, performing has reentered my life as a hobby. I recently had my first starring role in a musical and got to play Morticia in a production of the Addams Family Musical. Being part of the theater community again has brought me immense joy.
Can you share a few goals for the future?
My #1 goal as a parent is to raise mensches. ‘Mensch’ is a yiddish word that literally means ‘human being’, but the word mensch in the jewish culture connotes a person of integrity and honor, someone who is kind and upright. I picture my husband, Adam, and I doing a giant high five if we can manage to launch our boys into this world knowing they are people of good moral character. I think they’re already on their way.
Professionally, I’d like to find more opportunities to do small-scale commercial interior design work. Here at d2e, we’ve created designs for a coffee shop, a bakery, a deli, a co-op grocery store, a fitness studio, a fashion showroom, a veterinary clinic, a rehabilitation clinic for people with prosthetic limbs, office space for an engineering firm, and a sorority house at University of Pennsylvania.
Speaking of universities, prior to starting d2e, a large percentage of my professional experience was creating interior designs for college and university projects, as well as other design projects in the educational market. I enjoy working with the professional project managers and facilities teams that are my typical counterparts on small commercial projects like these and would like to further grow this side of our business.
I’d also like to see how we can further our commitment to the environment through design. Here at d2e, we focus on common-sense sustainability. But I often feel overwhelmed by how much there is to know and what we can do as interior design professionals to be most impactful while helping our clients meet their goals.