Sharran Parkinson experienced her "ah-ha" moment at age 14, when an antique armoire spoke to her desire for function and style. Parkinson, chair and professor of Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Interior Design, convinced her dad to buy the piece and reconfigure it to hold her most important belongings. "I felt like I had to have my bedroom organized, that I've got to keep my books in order," said Parkinson, who grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. Father and daughter painted the armoire white and redesigned its interior with shelves, drawers, wiring holes and a rollout shelf. A career path was taking shape.
Parkinson's choice was reinforced by family friend David Harrison, a graduate of Parsons design school who became head of the School of Interior Design at Boston Architectural College. "He showed me how to look at things and understand proportion and scale, to have an eye for things," she said. In addition to guidance and inspiration during her formative years, Harrison gave her an original Parsons T-square table that serves as her home office desk to this day.
Parkinson earned a bachelor's degree in graphic art, a master's in interior design and a doctorate in comparative arts, leading to a career in academia that brought her to VCU nine years ago. She commutes to the city from a Goochland transitional filled with her own art and the works of others. The design is casual and comfortable. "I don't like anything that looks like it's been planned," she said. "You need to have things you love around you."