North Central College - Naperville, IL

Designing Woman

In just six years, Summer Daily ’04 Thornton has gone from opening her own interior design business to being featured as one of the “10 New Trad Designers to Watch in 2013” by Traditional Home magazine.

Thornton opened her business, Summer Thornton Design, in 2007 after working at a high-end European textile company and under other interior designers. “Honestly I think I was just naive enough to go for it!” she says. “I had a few jobs after college that were all great learning experiences. I was fortunate enough to find a really great designer to work for whose business was a wonderful model for me. Studying under someone who has a similar business to the one you want to start is invaluable.”

Today, Thornton has two full-time employees and two others who work part time. She specializes in residential and boutique design projects primarily in Chicago and Atlanta. The projects range in scope from comprehensive design/build projects and rehabs to those more focused on interior furnishings and decor. Her signature look is “cultured irreverence,” blending classic forms, unexpected colors and materials, and a few flea market finds. She has traveled to places like Moscow and Buenos Aires for inspiration.

Her work has been featured in both Chicago and national design magazines, such as the “Kitchen of the Month” for House Beautiful. Traditional Home magazine highlighted a colorful home interior she created for a family in Hinsdale, IL. Her business has grown from a combination of press coverage and word-of-mouth referrals.

Traditional Home coverDouble-majoring in entrepreneurship and small business management along with studio art, Thornton credits her time at North Central for starting her on the path to success. “My studies there were a huge part of the reason I started my own company,” she continues. “I chose North Central because it seemed like I would get a lot of personal attention and guidance from my professors. I learned so much from studying entrepreneurship, in coordination with an internship at an interior design firm. Studio art was also a nice balance for me—spending time in the ceramics lab was a wonderful stress reliever.

“And I owe a lot of the confidence it took to start my own firm to Dr. Gary Ernst (professor of international business and marketing emeritus). He was an amazing professor and was passionate about developing his students. He always said there is a difference between getting a job and having a career.”