Designed in Durham: The Woman Behind the Look of Many Bull City...

Designed in Durham: The Woman Behind the Look of Many Bull City Homes & Businesses

Heather Garrett experimented with many forms of visual art before deciding to pursue interior design as a career.

Photographed at her Bullington Warehouse Loft with her son, Walker.
Photographed at her Bullington Warehouse Loft with her son, Walker. Photo by Briana Brough.

Born in St. Louis to an entrepreneur father and visually gifted mother, the art history major spent her early career in New York City discovering just what form of art she’d like to pursue. Finally landing on interior design, Heather started her own business and moved to Durham 14 years ago. She now lives in a Liggett & Myers Bullington Warehouse loft with her kids, Walker, 14, and Blaire, 12, who attend Durham School of the Arts and Montessori Community School, respectively.

Heather has been an artistic person all her life; after earning a degree in art history from Wheaton College, she moved to the Big Apple and tried her hand at many art-related trades, from art administration to writing about art.

“None of it was right,” Heather says. “I felt a certain failure for a while.”

Eventually, she found her niche with interior design. Heather surrounded herself with volumes of design books, binge watched TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” wrote to designer after designer to intern, and finally landed a gig with architect Robert Couturier, who agreed to let Heather file and copy for his staff.

“I hardly remember speaking while I had that job,” Heather says. “I was so terrified.” But during that time she was also able to attend Parsons School of Design. Slowly but surely, her design career gained traction and finally found its sweet spot when Heather moved to Durham.

During the onset of the move, Heather bought the domain for Heather Garrett Interior Design and started networking with the only person she knew thus far in the area: her realtor. It was after designing a Forest Hills show house for the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties that her business really hit its stride. Heather attributes her success to Durham’s host of transplants who find themselves attracted to her sophisticated, modern Southern aesthetic. “I was something different,” Heather says. In Durham, some of her projects include Magpie Boutique‘s remodel, Mateo‘s upstairs dining, Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Associates‘ Durham office and Croasdaile Dental Arts, among others, as well as residential work in Forest Hills, Trinity Park, Old West Durham, Croasdaile, Hope Valley, Oval Park and downtown in West Village and the Bullington Warehouse. (She’s collaborating with Trinity Design on its common space remodel.)

Today, Heather cherishes her Durham life, residing in a warehouse loft with her children. She finds camaraderie with the many other Durham women – such as Po-Ming Wong of Magpie Boutique, Jennings Brody of Parker & Otis and Dr. Lindy McHutchison of Carolina Vein Center – who have used their savvy to grow businesses in market shifts and amid an energetic community.

“We love what we do,” Heather says on behalf of the group, “and do what we love!”