Ideal Design

Young College of Human Sciences alumnae on starting your own business and partnering for success

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Caroline Mathews Campbell, a 2017 Auburn University graduate, stands in the newly built “2023 Ideal Home” in the Grantham neighborhood in Montgomery, Alabama. A design consultant for Montgomery Homebuilders Association, she was a part of the process from the floor plans to the finishes and worked closely with the builders to create the home showcasing new trends in luxury home building. With the construction finished, Campbell’s next step was to stage the home for showing — and she knew just who to call.

“I immediately called Grace and asked her to work with me,” Campbell said. “She has great relationships with furniture designers and such an amazing eye for staging spaces.”

Grace Stearns, a 2022 Auburn graduate and owner of Grace Catherine Designs (est. January 2023), specializes in staging new construction homes.

Family friends and both graduates of the College of Human Sciences’ highly ranked Interior Design program, the two women took advantage of their Council for Interior Design Accreditation-accredited Interior Design program to start their own design businesses soon after graduating.

Following positions in design with the state of Tennessee and SS&A in Montgomery, Campbell started C. Mathews Design where she currently focuses on designing functional spaces from the ground up while she works toward earning her builders license. 

“My company was hired to consult on the big scale decisions: schematic design, brick paint colors, the lighting and function of the spaces,” Campbell explains. “I brought in Grace to help make the spaces pop with furniture and look complete for individuals on the tour.”

Stearns, with a background in event design with Southern Posies, has an eye for filling those spaces with beautiful furnishings that make it cozy and appealing to her clients.

“I am so grateful Caroline gave me the opportunity,” Stearns says. “She knew I had just started my company and that it was huge for me to partner with her to furnish the Ideal Home. We did it together and everyone was so excited with how it turned out.”

The results speak for themselves in the half-million dollar house in Montgomery.

Both designers credit their experiences at Auburn in the College of Human Sciences with helping them have the confidence and ambition to start their businesses.

“I grew up an Auburn fan, but Auburn University is the only CIDA-accredited design program in the state of Alabama,” Stearns says.

Consistently ranked as one of the best interior design programs in the country, the College of Human Sciences’ undergraduate degree program is competitive with up-and-comers to the industry. Once accepted, students are part of a close cohort between 30 and 60 people who complete the program.

“The professors, all the staff in the College of Human Sciences are our biggest advocates,” Stearns says. “We’re like a family. I love to see how we’re all taking it in different directions: hospitality, commercial work, residential work. I’m so proud of everyone. Six months after graduating, I called Professor Lindsay Tan feeling so lost and she literally made me write out a plan for what I wanted to do and then helped me figure out how I was going to get there. ”

“If your heart is set on interior design, Auburn is the place for you,” Campbell agrees. “It’s not going to be easy, but it’s completely worth it. It really is a family that supports and encourages you.”

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