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Bayou Icon | Terri Trichel

By Nathan Coker
In Bayou Icon
May 1st, 2024

article by Georgiann Potts
photography by Kelly Moore Clark

Terri McClendon Trichel has dabbled with design since childhood. Whether she was looking around her home for building supplies with which to build houses for her Barbie dolls or drawing house plans just for fun, it was clear early on that design would play a major role in her life. Today, Trichel has decades of experience in the design world and is a much sought-after designer both in Louisiana and well beyond. Her company — Terri Trichel Interiors — gives her the opportunity to do what she loves the most. Every job is a challenge, and every product is classic and timeless. For her incredible talent in interior design and her successful career as a businesswoman, BayouLife Magazine salutes Terri Trichel as its May 2024 BayouIcon.

The small town of Bastrop, Louisiana, was a typical southern town when Terri Trichel and her sisters were growing up there. Terri describes it as “. . . a very small town where very little happened.” Although small, that town was a secure, happy homebase for the family. Terri’s parents, James and Betty, settled there to rear their family.

Terri’s father was born in Strong, Arkansas. He served as a captain in the U.S. Air Force during WWII and was a farmer. Terri’s mother was from Linville in north Louisiana. After settling in Bastrop, she worked at home taking care of Terri and her sisters. Terri describes her family as a “church-going family – low-key and hard-working.”

Terri remembers the wonderful family get-togethers that she enjoyed. She and her sisters were very close to their mother’s side of the family. Terri especially loved her maternal grandmother and they were very close. “I always enjoyed family get-togethers,” Terri explained. “They were a big deal, and we always had lots of fun.”

During her childhood, Terri loved spending “hours and hours” playing with her sister and their Barbie dolls. Terri not only played with her dolls, she also made clothes for them. She loved to sew, and she even made many of her own clothes. That creativity was also translated into drawing imaginative house plans.

Pursuing Education 

When Terri graduated from Bastrop High School, her interest in fashion design was what took her to Atlanta, Georgia. There she enrolled at the Massey Junior College, a fashion institute. Terri found the environment too “fast-paced and cut-throat” there, so she returned to north Louisiana. 

After returning, Terri enrolled at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana University). There she selected art as her major. It was during her junior year there that she became excited about interior design. Era Davis taught a class that brought together all of Terri’s interests plus ignited some new ones. “Professor Davis had us do a project which included drawing plans, furnishing the home, landscaping, and electrical drawings,” Terri explains. “And I loved it!”

Terri immediately began searching for where she could earn a degree in interior design. To her delight, she found that Louisiana Tech University in nearby Ruston offered such a degree. Following her dream, Terri transferred and earned her Interior Design degree. Her art credits would not transfer, so Terri had to study an extra year at LA Tech to get that degree. 

At LA Tech, Terri was fortunate to study with Professor Mary Moffett, a teacher very well-known all over the country. Moffett was Terri’s most significant mentor in interior design. A second mentor was the late Phoebe Allen. Both women were strong figures in Terri’s education. “I always did well in art classes and interior design classes,” says Terri. Clearly her education laid an excellent foundation for the design career to come.

Forging a Career Path

Unlike many, Terri’s first job was an important beginning point in her career development. She worked at Liners Carpets where she was a “hands-on” employee. Here she developed experience in multiple facets of interior design work. Liners carried carpet, wallpaper, and furniture, plus made draperies. “I learned to measure for carpet and draperies,” Terri explains. “I learned so much about carpet and fabrics at Liners. I also learned how to design top treatments – a favorite thing of mine to do although there aren’t a lot of them done today.” An extra bonus: Mr. Liner would take her and others to market every winter and summer where they learned how to buy furniture for his store.

In a leap of personal faith, Terri’s next career step was to open an interior design business – Classic Studios – with two other ladies. Their first project was Century Telephone located on Riverside where they worked with Clarke Williams, Jr. Next they worked with Deposit Trust Bank in their building on 18th Street. A third great learning experience for Classic Studios was Century Telephone on the top two floors of that same building. 

It was with Classic Studios that Terri had one of the most unusual design projects of her career. They were hired to create a hospital room at Glenwood Hospital for a politician’s wife. “He said that money was no object – not something to say if you do not mean it!” Terri remembers. “We put an oriental rug imbedded in the carpet, hung a French painting above a lovely French chest, and placed a table and two chairs there so that he could share meals with her. We even had hospital gowns made to match.  It was beautiful!”

Sometime later Classic Studios ended and Terri began working for Carl Tidwell Interiors. Terri describes Tidwell as a great man and a wonderful mentor. “He became like a second dad to me, and we did lots of projects together,” Terri remembers. “He was great fun and always encouraged me. He taught me the fundamentals of running a successful business.”

When Tidwell decided to retire, Terri faced the greatest challenge in her career – opening a solo business. “I needed to work so [Tidwell] helped me to open my own business,” Terri says. “That business – Terri Trichel Interiors – is still going some 30 years later! I love what I do, and I love meeting new people. Some of them have become very close friends.”

Terri’s design magic has been used for whole house designs in Baton Rouge and New Orleans and out-of-state in Utah, Colorado, Florida, and New Mexico. She especially loves to do these “whole house” projects where she gets to start at a project’s genesis. She loves helping with the plans, selecting fixtures, selecting paint colors, furnishings, fabrics, window treatments – literally everything that will go inside. “Today, after all of this time, this still excites me!” Terri says. “I love that every job is different, and I love putting it all together – challenges and all! Seeing that finished project is the best.”

One of the things that sets Terri apart is that she doesn’t follow design trends. When she is working with a client, Terri tries to make the finished “look” to reflect that client’s tastes. She just guides them toward selecting things that will still look good in 10-20 years. “I want my work to be classic, lasting,” Terri explains. Terri also does her best to please her clients. If she has to fix something, she will. “Things are expensive, and I want my clients to be happy and to think good things about me.” Clearly, they also say good things about her. Almost all of her clients are from word-of-mouth and repeat clients.

There’s More to Life

Terri learned early on in her career that there is more to life than work. Travel, for one thing, became a passion. She discovered snow skiing on a trip to Vail, Colorado, some years ago. She didn’t know how to ski, but that didn’t stop her from learning how and falling in love with the sport. 

Many of her favorite trips have been to ski country. She has traveled to find slopes many places, but her very favorite is Snowmass, Colorado. There she not only skied, but she also enjoyed hiking there during the summer. “Some very close friends have a time share there and often invited my husband and me to go with them. I love those mountains!” Terri says.

Sometimes, one’s life’s work merges happily with one’s private life. Such was the case 24 years ago when a fellow named Elee Trichel came into her business looking for a picture for his kitchen. Four years later, the two were married in Snowmass. “Well, it’s been 24 years since we met, and Elee still hasn’t bought that picture!” Terri says with a laugh. She says that she is married to the love of her life, a happy marriage because they like the same things. “There is never a dull moment being married to Elee!” Terri adds.

Together, the two have a lovely blended family. Terri has two daughters, Leah and Maure. One lives in Baton Rouge, and the other lives in Lafayette. They have presented Terri with two granddaughters (8 years 0ld) and one grandson (5 years old).  Interestingly, neither of her daughters chose a career in design. “They said I worked too hard,” Terri says. Elee has two children, son Todd and daughter Jana. He has 5 grandchildren and 2 great-granddaughters.

Both Elee and Terri love to entertain friends in their home. Terri will cook for special occasions, but never on a daily basis. The two took a Viking River Cruise through Germany, France, and Switzerland and loved it! They would love to go overseas again. Terri’s heritage is Scots-Irish and she would love to take a cruise around Scotland and Ireland. “I would love to see where my people came from,” she says.

Terri has always been active in church, following in the traditions of her youth. Today she is a member of Covenant Presbyterian, a Bible-focused church, where she serves on the Mission Board and Fellowship committees. She previously served as a deacon there. Before this she was an elder at First Presbyterian in Monroe.

Terri’s passion for mission work is fulfilled in Mercy Multiplied where she has served on their board for 15 years. She has become good friends with many of the other board members. “I loved it when they housed girls here in Monroe with problems.  We would have birthday parties for them, get to visit and minister to them,” Terri explains.

She is also passionate about Bible Study Fellowship. This is a life-changing Bible study that Terri has participated in for about 23 years. She has been a leader there for about 15 years. It meets on Wednesday mornings from September to May.

Looking Back – Looking Ahead

When Terri was asked recently if she could start all over again, what – if anything – would she change. “I don’t know that I would change anything,” Terri says. “Everything has gotten me to where I am today. Those learning experiences have all been valuable. Some were hard; some were fun; and most were really good.”

Terri says that interior design is a great career that offers excitement, the opportunity to meet new people, and is never boring. “An interior designer gets do something different every day and to be creative,” she explains. She goes on to say that to be successful, the beginning designer must develop a clientele. “I was fortunate that there was a store here in Monroe where I got to learn and meet people before I started out on my own,” Terri remembers.

The biggest challenges that she and other interior designers confront today is the cost of mid- to high-end products and shopping online. “It could be considered a luxury to hire a designer and pay the prices of mid- to high-end products. With the internet, now many just make their own decisions, pick out something, and order it,” Terri says. “Of course, if it’s not right, they just live with it.”

Even with challenges, Terri doubts that she will ever retire so long as she can see and can get around. She simply loves designing too much! She does admit to one leisure activity – cross-stitch – but even that becomes a design project, albeit personal. Terri says she doesn’t work everyday samplers because she prefers more detailed pieces. She also often draws her own patterns to work – landscapes, people, rugs.

Henri Matisse (French visual artist / 1869 – 1954) once wrote, “Creativity takes courage.” Terri Trichel would agree. Terri’s journey from designing Barbie homes as a child through an exciting and ever-growing career as a professional interior designer was a journey combining an amazing creative talent with the courage to pursue a dream.