Interior Design Alumni Spotlight with Nathan R. Hughes of Mathis Brothers
Interior Design graduates are doing extraordinary things! Interior Design Alumni Spotlights are a new feature highlighting our talented graduates. These interviews allow you to learn about where our alumni work, the types of projects they do, and how their experiences during their time at UCO helped shape them into the designers they are today.
UCO DES: Where are you from?
Nathan R. Hughes: I grew up in Arkansas and moved to Kansas to complete my Associate of Arts Degree at Wichita State University.
DES: What year did you graduate from UCO?
DES: What got you interested in interior design?
NH: I remember the dawn of HGTV. Almost every show was about Interior Design. I remembered watching programs and thinking to myself, “Wow, they didn’t handle that well, or they should have researched more before diving into a client’s home like they did.” I also loved the look in a client’s eyes and the change to their demeanor when they walked into a perfect space just for them.
DES: Why did you decide to major in interior design?
NH: I was in furniture sales at the time and decided I wanted to move up in my company and actually have the education and experience needed to assist my clientele with their homes properly. I loved the design and relation part of my job, but I wasn’t too much into the sales part. However, design sells itself if you design with your client’s best interest in mind and really listen to their wants and needs.
DES: What other areas of interest did you study while in school?
NH: I took several hours of Psychology. I really think Interior Design and Psychology come together nicely to allow you to communicate with a client and understand their viewpoints.
DES: When you were a student, did you work? If so, where?
NH: Yes, I worked full time for Mathis Brothers, first in Sales and then in Visual Display. It was a true balancing act.
Where did you do your internship? How did that experience shape your future?
NH: I did my internship under the construction team and designers at Mathis Brothers. I wish I would have done this elsewhere just for the experience, but this taught me that there are many different ways to approach a project, and at the end of the day, the path isn’t always as important as the result. Work smart, work hard, and remember to breathe.
DES: How has your degree helped you as a designer?
NH: Tremendously. When it comes to people’s homes, they want someone who is relatable and has an eye, but that also has the educational background to make their homes both beautiful and functional.
DES: What was your first job after graduation?
NH: I was employed at Mathis Brothers as a Display Coordinator. We maintained and set the showroom and other Mathis locations for day to day, holidays, and special occasions.
DES: What are you doing today? What is your title?
NH: I am the top Interior Designer at Mathis Design Studio in Oklahoma City. I recently was promoted to Design Studio Team Lead to help teammates better assist their clients and reach their goals. Altogether, I have been with Mathis Brothers for over 15 years now. We work with residential and commercial clients to plan out their spaces and make the design/ furniture experience more pleasant.
DES: What has been one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on as a professional?
NH: There have been so many! I have had the honor of participating in the Oklahoma City Symphony Show-house since 2012. This is a great organization for our community, and they are like family. I have also done design work on a charter yacht in Italy, worked with several Thunder players on their homes, and helped numerous clients achieve their perfect idea of “home” over the years.
DES: Were you involved in any other campus activities or organizations when you were in school? Were you in a leadership position?
NH: I joined ASID (the American Society of Interior Designers) as a student at the beginning of my senior year and have stayed a part of the organization as of today. I was awarded the Outstanding Senior Design Student Award in my senior year.
DES: Are you a member of a professional organization now as a practicing designer?
NH: I am a member and Past President of the Oklahoma Chapter of ASID. I have served on the board since 2017. This organization really reaches out to the design community. It supplies networking and education opportunities for its members and the design community, so no one has to feel they are in this alone.
DES: What is one of your fondest memories of your time at UCO?
NH: The cram sessions before exams and final portfolios were, of course, my fondest memories… NOT. I had opportunities to meet so many people that I still call my friends. We came together for projects and studying and to help each other advance. We all had our strengths and insights.
DES: What advice can you give our current students?
NH: It is never too late to be who you want or think you should be. Don’t let the hardships of life take away your vision, uniqueness, or artistic outlook on how you approach a project or challenge. Take time to breathe and focus on yourself while always pushing yourself forward. Dig in, stand strong, always be honest and caring, and in times when you just don’t know, reach out. Sometimes in life, it isn’t what you know but who you know.
The photos provided represent a variety of Nathan’s projects.
Mathis Brothers is a family-owned business with five locations in Oklahoma and California. Opening in 1960, they are one of the largest independent furniture retailers in the United States. You can learn more about Mathis Brothers at: https://www.mathisbrothers.com/