Have You Met Karen Cole Wirrig? “I am so proud to be affiliated with the IFDA” declares Karen C. Wirrig of Phoenix. “We are such a dedicated group of professionals whose members encompass all aspects of the design industry. We include everyone from the manufacturers, to showroom designers, framers, artists, and flooring specialists, everyone who is involved from the ground up to create a home. We offer the most scholarships of any like organization, and we do much good work in the communities we are in. It’s a very important organization for the design industry!” Karen has served on the boards of the national and state International Furnishings and Design Association for many years. Karen herself has not always been involved in design as a career. “I have been a secretary for accounting and business firms, I held a variety of positions for a Tucson international corporation, and I was a legal administrator working with lawyers for ten years. All of these occupations have impacted the way I conduct my own business- it was all good preparation for working with design clients by learning logical thinking and developing good communication skills.” She continues, “When I was young, I lived all over - in Colorado, New York, and Massachusetts. I spent the winter of ‘76 in Boston, the coldest winter on record, and when finally the spring thaw began, I decided that I didn’t want to go through this ever again! So I moved to be near a friend in Tucson.” Karen attended Pima College, where she studied interior design under the renowned Max Gottschalk. “He was a great inspiration, a very talented designer of interiors and furniture. I had the great fortune to study under him.” She herself adheres to no particular period of interior design or style. “ I work with the client to understand their desires, then I provide the direction and cohesiveness to accomplish this design. Clients give me lots of input, and my primary job is to communicate well and openly, get many details from them, help the client separate their wants from their needs, and see what their lifestyle needs are.” Understandably very busy, Karen allocates some of her time for leisure activities. “I love to travel, cook, and walk the mountain preserves in the area. I’ve also been to Europe a number of times, Paris, London, and I especially love Provence. It gives me a wealth of inspiration, a sense of European trends, and how these trends would relate to the US. Paris is no longer the only apparel and furniture fashion arbiter of the world; with the Internet, information flows so quickly back and forth.” As far as Phoenix, Karen loves the area. “You just can’t beat the weather here (except maybe in the summer!), and the terrain offers everything from desert, to mountains and water. I also really love the independent Western spirit we have; people here are self- sufficient, handle their own issues, love action, new ideas, challenges, and rarely stay with the status quo. We have great people in Arizona!” Karen’s other volunteer activities include the Phoenix Art Museum and the Arizona Costume Institute. “The Art Museum is a fabulous resource in Phoenix, I recommend it to all visitors. It has really grown in the last 15 years, and with its collections should rank in the top 10 in the US. The Costume Institute is a wealth of information featuring several hundred years of the historical record of clothing, their social contexts and design styles. How and why we dress are influences upon society.” The Hilltop Guild in Allenspark, CO, is another philanthropic organization of Karen’s. “ My family has summer property in Colorado. This group of women is really a hometown, grassroots affair. They hold an annual bazaar with handcrafts. Our proceeds go to support the local student scholarships for college, a Navajo nation school, and the area fire department, among others.” So Karen Cole Wirrig’s creativity and work ethic are also an asset to the charitable community. What are your volunteer activities? I serve on both the national and state Board of Directors for the International Furnishings and Design Association and I am a member of the Paradise Valley Junior Woman’s Club, Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona Costume Institute, and the Hilltop Guild in Allenspark, Colorado, former Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters in Phoenix. Which social event is your favorite? Any opening at the Phoenix Art Museum. Favorite Restaurant? Jack & Giulio's in San Diego, CA and Catia's Kitchen in Phoenix. ho is your hero and why? My grandmother, Karen Buck Starch, was truly an inspiration to me. She immigrated from Norway to Minnesota when she was eight years old, learned to speak English, translated for her parents, helped her younger sister and brother get an education , became a county health nurse, and after meeting and marrying my grandfather, raised a family and then traveled the world with him as he helped implement the Marshall Plan after World War II. She never lost her sense of curiosity and adventure and also had a whimsical side to her nature. She lived on her own until her death at 92. Who is the most interesting celebrity you have ever met? Robert Redford - I met him at a political fundraiser for Mo Udall in Tucson in the early 1980's. He was every bit as gorgeous as he appeared in the movies but not as tall as I had imagined. f your life were a movie, whom would you want to play your part? Katharine Hepburn because she was independent, intelligent, attractive and thin! (A girl can dream, right?) What gives a woman/man style? Personal confidence, a positive attitude towards life, and a realistic understanding of their body type and what looks good on them regardless of what is currently in fashion. Do you have any Pets? Not at the moment, but I've had cats in the past and we occasionally babysit for a Yorkie! When you move, what will your home tell its next owner, about you? That we respected the home by taking good care of it, that we liked earth tones and open spaces, and that no one should be stuck alone in a kitchen! What words describe you best? Honest, hard working, creative, loving, adventurous, fun, irreverent, generous and grateful. What words would you like others to use to describe you? Sincere, responsible, funny, and a true friend. What was your first job? Babysitting What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Impatience hat is the trait you most deplore in others? Negative attitude What is your greatest indulgence? Travel to Europe What is the greatest gift you have ever given and received? The greatest gift I have ever received was my wedding ring with my husband's pledge of lifelong love. We married when I was 40 and he was 43, both for the first time. I don't know for sure what might be the greatest gift I've given since that is determined by the receiver. However, when a friend needs me, I try to be there no matter what. What or who is the greatest love of your life? My husband, Steve Wirrig. What is your current state of mind? Positive, always looking for the next adventure. What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? I am proud of the work that I do but I do not consider that I have done anything great. I am most proud of being a good wife and a good friend. What is your most treasured possession? My friends and family. What is the quality you most like in people? Sense of humor, intelligence, honesty. Favorite books / Writers? A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman, the Mitford series by Jan Karon, I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson, Jane Austen novels, and murder mysteries by many authors. What is the best advice you have ever received? Make the most of life and what you are given and realize how lucky you are.