Designer Beth Van Deusen’s mild manner doesn’t stop her from being fearless in her ideas. Her background experience in the construction industry gives her the edge in marrying creativity with functionality and making her a most sought after designer in space renovation.
Beth was born in Pennsylvania but she would visit her grandparents Norl and Florence Hamilton in Chattanooga and would eventually make the city her home.
“My grandfather ran the Army Ammunition Plant. When I would come here to visit, I was fascinated by Rock City. I have memories of flying into Lovell Field by myself on an airplane when I was just four years old,” Beth says.
“It was different back then,” Beth remembers fondly. “I loved it. They gave me the little wings pin and took me up in the cockpit; they’d give you the magnetic little drawing pads … it was special.”
Her father Frank Calderazzo was an engineer and her mother Janet was a stay at home mom until moving to Chattanooga with her children and obtaining her teaching degree.
“It turns out that she was a great teacher but she did it for her children’s schedule,” Beth insists. “She taught at Allen Elementary in Soddy Daisy and Red Bank Middle.”
Beth attended GPS and worked at Wendy’s and then at Loveman’s in the shoe department. “I was terrible in sales,” Beth admits.
Following her mother’s footsteps, Beth’s first job out of college was teaching. Beth taught at Howard and then at CSAS.
“I had majored in French and English which was not very useful. It was useful that I received a good education, but not in finding a job. I didn’t know what I really wanted to do. I taught English and French for five years and I liked it, but I just didn’t love it. My husband was a teacher and he just loved it. I knew that I didn’t have the passion that he had,” Beth asserts.
In 1990, Beth had married Schaack Van Deusen who is 21 years her senior. Mr. Van Desusen was a teacher and coach at Baylor School and is well known in the wrestling and theater community.
The Van Deusens have two daughters, Sarah 19 and Elizabeth 10. Schaack was about 60 years old when his youngest daughter was born. “It will either kill us or keep us young,” Beth quips.
Staying at home with her first child, Beth didn’t know if she would want to go back to teaching. “I was interested in interior design and went back to school at UTC for a degree in that field. I started doing freelance work for John Coffelt who was my drafting teacher. John was also the owner of HGH Construction,” Beth states.
Through working with the construction team, Beth developed an interest for ‘space planning’ and navigated her way to the structure part of design.
“I do space planning and I draw renovation plans. I talk to people about what they are trying to accomplish and then I draw the floor plans and the 3D stuff. I do draw new houses plans but renovation is what I mostly do,” Beth says.
Launching Van Deusen Designs in September of 2011 was a step in the right direction for the skilled designer.
“I was the in-house designer and project manager for HGH Construction for 14 years. It was a great experience for me and I gained a lot of ‘practical’ experience that I exercise in my business,” Beth promises.
With her background in the construction end of design projects, Beth is able to foresee problems that could occur when clients bring in their ideas.
“I know what you can take out and what you can’t and how much things will cost. You can dream of the things you would like, but if you design out of your budget – it’s pointless,” she says.
In taking the step to go out on her own, Beth says, “I wanted to concentrate just on design, I was doing some other things in the company and I wanted to be able to just dedicate myself to design. I love figuring out the pieces of the puzzle of a house and how it is going to flow for the client.”
Beth’s passion in a design project is ‘solving problems’ using her experience knowing what doesn’t work for a client’s house and knowing how to bring together what they want to accomplish.
“It’s a challenge to me but I love it,” Beth insists. “I will wake up in the middle of the night and think about an idea.”
Beth’s talent shines through when transforming a basic 1960s rancher into a craftsman bungalow. “Changing the exterior or opening up new areas for a more unique, textural style is what turns a space from blah to interesting,” Beth affirms.
Her husband’s retiring has allowed Beth more freedom to pursue her own business. Beth works alone and has not hired other staff. While business has been going very well, Beth contemplates possibly expanding.
“I had a good first year, but this year has been even busier. I am very happy about that – I just don’t know what my next step is. The thing I love to do is the design and, if I get bigger and hire people, then I wouldn’t get to do the part that I love. I want to still keep a hand in the design part,” Beth maintains.
Though her focus is the design, having experience in construction enables Beth to refer clients if they want help seeking contractors.
“It’s like a puzzle and all the pieces are kind of scrambled. You have to figure out how to get those pieces in the right place. I like orchestrating the big picture, seeing it come together and looking at the whole thing with clients - modeling it and seeing what all the possibilities are,” Beth says.
Creative ideas come with functionality for Beth. Her background experience has helped her achieve what others may not think about.
With every project, Beth has learned something that she could use for the next job and all the years of knowledge add up.
“Sometimes people come to me with a preconceived idea of what they want. I always will draw what they describe to me, but then I draw my ideas. I draw three options and usually what happens is we will pull things from all three possibilities and then come up with a final result,” Beth says.
Using a designer gives clients a fresh set of eyes and Beth’s background brings her a step ahead.
“There are just typical things I know on the other end …things the client may not think about,” Beth proclaims. “When they say to me, ‘I would have never of thought of that’ – it is always fun to hear.”