A Design Career That Was Meant to Be


This Design Wednesday Wisdom is a not much about design but a lot about my career in interior design.

I write this on the cusp of a new beginning for Mary Sherwood Lake Living.  As of Friday, May 15, the business will change ownership.  Charlotte Smith plans to keep the MSLL traditions alive as she takes over as the new owner.  I am sure the business will evolve over time, but for now look forward to a re-stocked showroom, a new special events calendar and other great things.  We will keep you updated over the next few weeks as the changes occur.  I will remain here during the transition and to complete existing design projects, so don’t say your goodbyes just yet!

Many of you have read about my background on the bio page of our blog, so I am not going to bore you with all those details.  Let’s talk about some of the steps that lead me to where I am today.

As early as age six or seven, I was cutting room images and pasting design ideas together from my mother’s McCall’s and Better Homes and Gardens magazines.  These became my first color boards or “mood” boards.  I still have the scrapbook and would love to share some of it with you, but I don’t know where it is stashed.  I didn’t know then but I know now that I was destined to be an interior designer.

After exploring a nursing career and later starting a small folk art mail order craft business, I decided to get serious about exploring design.  I took one course and I was hooked.  Never did I dream it would turn into this wonderful life experience.

Here is a picture of the model, built to scale, I created as a budding design student in 1985.  We fabricated every piece that went into the room.  Actually, for that stage of my career, it doesn’t look too bad.



In 1987, I opened a small design studio over “The Shop”, a hair salon in Roanoke Rapids.  Murphy Doyle, the owner, was my best form of advertising.  She sent all her customers upstairs to my studio.  What a blessing in disguise!  When I started this venture I bargained with my husband, Paul. I asked that he not pursue relocation for his career for at least two years to give me time to spread my “design” wings.  He never asked me to move.  He has supported me all the way!



We quickly outgrew our 400 square foot studio.   So I made the big move to the “very quiet” Lake Gaston in 1991.  My Roanoke Rapids customers felt like I was moving out to the “Wild, Wild West” of the lake county.  It was the best move we ever made.



I also became a contributor to the Cruisin’ Round Lake Gaston published by C-Line Graphics in 1991.  That was truly my first endeavor as a writer.



That inspired me to start our monthly newsletter which was sent out by “snail” mail.   Some of you may remember this, The Best of Lake Living.  It contained design tips, special event details and company happenings such as the birth of the first baby amongst our staff family.  This newsletter was published for many years until it became too costly to print and stamp for distribution.



Then we entered the digital age!  We progressed on with the Mary Sherwood Lake Living website.  Just a few years ago Design Wisdom Wednesday (DWW) was born.  DWW is opened regularly every week by many loyal followers.   I am so touched by your loyalty.

I have been very fortunate to be a contributing columnist to the monthly The Lake Magazine.  Each month it is a challenge to find a topic and photos to make it an “enjoyable” read.  Thanks to The Lake Magazine, published by the Daily Herald, for the opportunity!

So technology has changed our world but not our approach to our customers and friends.  There has never been a time when I haven’t welcomed seeing you walk through our door.  (Well “almost” never…except when deadlines were looming.)  We have remained small in numbers but big in heart and soul.

After opening the first design studio in 1987, we have moved, expanded and grown in so many ways.  Some of you have seen us through all the changes since the very beginning.  It is all of you that have made this such an incredible journey!  Thanks cannot express my appreciation enough!

So, look for exciting new beginnings for Mary Sherwood Lake Living and for Paul and I as we embark on new adventures.

Love to all of you!!!


Categories : Design, Mary's Raves


  1. […] Several months ago I shared my blog about A Design Career that Was Meant to Be.  If you missed it here it is. […]

  2. […] Several months ago I shared my blog about A Design Career that Was Meant to Be.  If you missed it here it is. […]

  3. Mary says:

    Thanks, Verian. We will happy to add you to our email list. Thanks for your interest!

  4. Mary says:

    Thanks, Nancy! We too are very glad that MSLL will live on. Hope to see you again before we head West.

  5. Mary says:

    Hi Kay- so good to hear from you. So many years have passed since you and your family sat at my desk to plan the construction of your lake home. I have missed seeing you since you sold the house. I will be around for a few months. Let’s have lunch when you visit.
    Hope to see you soon!

  6. Mary says:

    Thanks, Melinda. Glad you could join us for the brunch and be there for the exciting new era at MSLL. Hope you will continue your great support of MSLL.

  7. Mary says:

    Teresa: Thanks so much for all the wishes. It certainly will be different in the Southwest but we are ready to explore new territory. I will still be here a few more months. Maybe we can squeeze in a lunch or you and Jim are welcome to visit at the lake. Thanks again, Mary

  8. Mary says:

    Thanks, Caroline. I have also enjoyed working with you over the years. When I was cleaning out I found the Cruisin’ mags and just had to mention them. Yes, mentoring Cherise was a real pleasure. Having her continue to pursue a design career really touched my heart. Knowing her family has just been an added benefit. Good luck to you and Charles in any of your future endeavors. Best regards, Mary

  9. Caroline Watkins says:

    Hi Mary
    Congratulations and I wish you the best on your new venture. You will be missed!
    I remember meeting you for the first time at your studio in Roanoke Rapids.
    A lot has happened since then.
    Thanks so much for everything that you asked me to do for you through the years and for remembering my Cruisin’ ‘Round Lake Gaston! I did not know anyone still had a copy!
    And a big thank you for hiring Cherece and giving her an opportunity to learn what she loves to do and being a good friend to her!

  10. Verian Jackson says:

    Please add me to your email list

    Verian Jackson

  11. Melinda Harris says:

    Always enjoy your DWW. Thanks for all you have done to help make LG a wonderful place. Thanks for the Mother’s Day brunch. Very tasty and fun. Best wishes for you and Paul as the adventure continues.

  12. Dear Mary:

    As I was saying (!)…I would open up my Mary Sherwood Lake Living email before any others most mornings. It made me very sad that you were leaving the area, but happy and excited for you as well. Jim and I have been out west and the southwest is very beautiful and appealing. We hope you really enjoy your retirement there. Lake Gaston will not ever be the same without you both! Hope you and Paul find an exciting new life ahead. Love to you, Teresa

  13. Kay Rice says:


    Thanks for sharing your life’s progression ~ what a story! I wish you and Paul only the best in your years ahead. I only wish I could have afforded to buy your shop, but deep down I know I don’t have the the aptitude to do this type of work. Hopefully writing is in my future! Still working part time at CHS until 5/15. Hope to see you sometime this summer!



  14. Nancy Work says:

    DWW is the first thing I open on my e-mail list every Wednesday. I am sure that a lot of people look forward to reading your comments and seeing just what is in store for us that day!

    Mary, you and your Lake Living family have been a great inspiration to many of us here on the lake. We will all miss you and wish you and Paul well on your new adventure! And are so happy that MLL will still be here for us all to get advice. from.

    Enjoy your new life and know that you will be missed by many!

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