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Telling stories through design

Photography by Matt Haas

September 2013

A background in the performing arts helps Polish-born interior designer Aga Artka of Aga Artka Interior Design, Milwaukee, create spaces that reflect her clientsí unique stories. "Growing up I spent a lot of time on stage acting, singing and dancing. Iíve always carried with me the power and influence that live performance has on people. I think my need to tell stories through design comes from that experience," she says.

Artka, who studied interior design at the Milwaukee Area Technical College, believes that a designerís style should be minimal and the clientís lifestyle should be the priority. "I always say that good design is invisible. If you walk into a room and you can tell who designed it, thatís not a good outcome. The space should reflect the clientís life, not my own," she says.

Artkaís parents were involved in the arts in Poland. "It was an easy choice to go into a field that offers such great versatility and freedom as interior design. Creating a comfortable and memorable environment is my goal," she says. Not satisfied with just one business, Artka has a T-shirt business geared to interior designers called Enough Said and has written a book for future interior designers.

M: Tell us about the book youíre writing.

AA: "The book, which should be available at the beginning of 2014, is meant to feature career paths that are outside of the box for most designers. It guides a reader through a discovery and branding process that broadens their professional opportunities. I hope it will be the basis for a rediscovering process, which my co-author, Jenny Shrank, and I believe is a recurring activity that leads to a flourishing career. Iím writing this book to help other professionals realize the full potential of a career in interior design. Jenny was one of my design instructors and she was instrumental in giving me a solid foundation in interior design. Now we work together and I believe complement one anotherís styles."

M: Where can we see some of your work?

AA: I designed the lounge at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center and the Community Room at the Courtyard Square Condominiums. I enjoyed creating those spaces. I also was selected to participate in the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Showhouse in Milwaukee in 2011, the Design MMoca in Madison in 2010 and the American Cancer Societyís Christmas Fantasy House in 2009. These were inspirational spaces."

M: We understand that you are an avid volunteer.

AA: "Since I was a student at MATC, Iíve been very active with the state chapter of American Society of Interior Designers. Iím just finishing my term as professional development director. Iím proud that I received a Volunteer of the Year Award from ASID."

M: What do you do when you have a little spare time?

AA: "Iím a restless traveler. Travel makes me appreciate my roots, exposes me to cultures and makes me more open-minded. I always make a point of staying at boutique, unique hotels. They provide inspiration, tell local stories and are so much more personal than the chain hotels. I photograph the spaces and write a quick synopsis of the guest rooms and the public areas, location and my overall experience on my blog at

M: Anything else?

AA: I love to bake, create deliciously beautiful desserts that make appreciate not just the taste, but the presentation. I love everything Cuban; music, food, drinks, architecture. And, I also play Congo drums, inspired by my father who is a drummer."


This story ran in the September 2013 issue of: