Giselle Newman

Photo credit: Lauren Cheathum

The senior director, Hendrick Inc. (Nashville, Tenn.), shares how she overcame a fear of healthcare spaces to build a career in interior design, where we’ll find her outside the office, and her passion for party planning

What drew you to a career in healthcare design?

Believe it or not, I was the person who fainted in a dental chair, so a healthcare-related career was not at the top of my career list. But during my undergraduate studies in interior design, I worked at a major healthcare system where I learned how evidence-based design impacts the care environment. From then on, I was hooked. I began my graduate degree in interior architecture with an emphasis on rehabilitative environments.

What was your first healthcare project?

Early in my career, I redesigned a home in Tampa, Fla., for a family with disabilities. The father was color blind, the mother was losing her sight, and their two children were blind. I learned so much about textures and special patterns. After this experience, I relocated to North Carolina in 1990 and began working for an architectural firm where my first healthcare project was The Mariam Cannon Hayes Family Center at Cabarrus Memorial Hospital, in Concord, N.C.

Design lesson on that project that you still carry with you today?

The importance of family space. In that area of North Carolina, many extended family members show up when a family member is going to give birth. Not only did we need larger rooms for the mother but extended family areas nearby.

Photo credit: Meharry Medical Center

Three recent healthcare design projects and your role

  1. Meharry Medical Center, labor and delivery renovation, Nashville, Tenn., project manager, lead designer.
  2. Nashville Dental, Nashville, Tenn., architect and interior designer.
  3. Embark Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, Atlanta, interior designer.

What do you like best about working in healthcare design?

The love and passion hospital staff have for their jobs have always inspired me. This makes the design process much more rewarding. Spaces are constantly changing with technology, but the users of those spaces do not. It’s the experience of the different spaces such as a burn center, behavioral care, pediatrics, and veterans’ environments that continues to tap into my heart to design for the users, their families, and staff.

What challenges about your work keep you up at night?

I’m  my own toughest critic, reviewing projects over and over to see how I could do it differently the next time. Coming up with innovative concepts that will be timeless and still within budget is a challenge. Also, I always ask myself if users will experience the spaces as intended.

An unexpected item on your desk

Black cats

Photo credit: Giselle Newman

I work from home three weeks out of the month and one week in the firm’s Atlanta office. If it’s not one of my black cats Nitro or Arrow on my desk, then there is usually a book in an envelope ready to ship to my oldest grandson who lives out of state.

Outside the office, we’ll likely find you … 

At my beach house in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla. The beach house, purchased in 2021, has been renovated and rents as an Airbnb all summer long. I get to enjoy it usually during the winter months.

Coffee or tea?

Green tea, please.

Morning person or night owl?

I can do both depending on the event.

How did you make your first dollar?

Unofficially, my chore at home was to dry dishes and do the weeding outside. Officially, I worked at a landscape nursery watering plants all day long.

Your go-to karaoke song

I have never done karaoke. I guess I’ll have to put it on my bucket list.

First album you ever bought

My first 45 vinyl was “ABC” by The Jackson 5.

Cocktail of choice

I’m a Chianti drinker, but also, I could go with a skinny margarita on the rocks, no salt.


Photo credit: Giselle Newman

Your hidden talent

I can bake anything. My pumpkin pies are the best. Pumpkin Pies start the weekend following Halloween and it’s not just one pie, the baking goes until all pumpkins are used—which is usually 28-30 pies!

If you weren’t an interior designer, you would be …

A party planner. I love seeing others having a good time and helping to create memories.

Favorite …

Quote “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”— author Andrew Grant.

Movie character Mary Poppins. I love the magic bag she has. And one of my old dance instructors played one of the chimney sweepers in the original movie.

Show to binge watch Too many to list. But one is “Catastrophe” on Amazon Prime.

Weekend activity Managing construction on my mother’s new home.

Band/musical artist Motown—oldies, but great for dancing.

Guilty pleasure Chocolate.

Sport College football.

Team Florida State Seminoles. Go Noles!

Book “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren and “The Book of Great Books: A Guide to 100 World Classics” by W. John Campbell. The latter is a great treasure of plots twists of classics, so it helps me decide on the next good read.

City to visit Amalfi Coast in Italy, again!