If these walls could talk: artist brings flair to home design

Originally published in the Baltimore Business Journal, June 22, 2009

Susan Perrotta’s current job may not be as glamorous as her former role as art director for CBS Inc., where she enjoyed a panoramic view of New York City from her three-window corner office. But she’s happy with her career move, even when she is painting walls for hours on end.

In the early 1990s, a few years after Perrotta moved to Baltimore to accept a job as a designer at the Baltimore Sun, the single mother realized she needed greater flexibility to successfully blend her family and work life. So she left the corporate world behind and built up a business as a freelance artist. Over the years the 52-year-old’s career branched into a real estate niche that allows her to do what she loves best: turn a client’s design ideas into reality.

BBJ: What is your home design specialty?

Perrotta: Color and faux finishes on walls. I can make a wall look exactly like stone, or crown molding look like wood. You can’t tell it’s not wood or marble when it’s done.

BBJ: What makes you excited to come to work in the morning?

Perrotta: It’s rewarding to change people’s environment. It makes them feel better. I handle all aspects of the job, from concept to completion, though usually a painting company will prepare walls for me before I apply decorative work to them. It’s exciting to go through the process then see the finished results.

BBJ: What impact has the recession had on your business?

Perrotta: It’s been good for home improvement; people are improving instead of moving. I’ve actually increased the color consultation part of my business; I work at Budekes Inc. design center in Timonium twice a week consulting with clients on paint colors. One client just put in a new floor and it threw off the look of the whole kitchen. I advised her to paint her cabinets rather than buying all new ones. I push a look through the most inexpensive type of improvements.

 How do you stay on top during a market downturn?

Perrotta: My networking and people skills have enabled me to stay afloat. Plus, sending information via e-mail makes it easy to stay on top of things without being too aggressive. I also get a lot of repeat business and new business from word of mouth.

 When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Perrotta: What I’m doing now. I sold my first commissioned painting while in middle school and haven’t stopped.

BBJ: What is one thing you always have with you?

Perrotta: My portfolio. Painted samples and photos of murals and wall finishes are an easy way for clients to visualize a potential project.