April 16, 2008

Christine Carmichael was surprised to receive word that she is recipient of the 2008 Athena Award Tuesday.

By KEVIN SWEENEY Journal Editor       

NEW ULM — Christine Carmichael, the 2008 Athena Award winner in New Ulm, said Tuesday she wants to “pay forward” the honor that comes with it.

Presenters who surprised Christine Carmichael at her business, Interior Motives/Design Directions, on Tuesday afternoon thought she’s paid plenty already.

Carmichael has excelled in her work as a designer and interior decorator, especially her work in helping to restore historic buildings such as the Lind House and the Gag House in New Ulm, and the George Draper Dayton House in Worthington. She has also been active in community historic preservation activities in New Ulm.

All this while suffering from a form of arthritis for years that slowed her down, an illness she bears with good humor and submersion in her work. She is an inspiration to all who know her, fellow Athena Award recipients told her on Tuesday.

“When I have an ache or pain, I never complain when I see you,” said Shirley Jo Meidl, a past Athena recipient.

“That’s the problem,” said Carmichael. “Whenever I ask someone how they are doing I really want to know. And they all look at me and say, ‘Fine, fine!’” Carmichael quipped.

The Athena Award program is sponsored in New Ulm by the Chamber and Jensen Motors. It is an international program that recognizes individuals who show excellence, creativity and initiative in their business; who provide valuable service to improve the quality of life for others in their community, and who actively assist women in realizing their full leadership potential.

All of that makes Carmichael wonder how she has qualified. “I consider myself to have lived a very average life, with maybe a few more challenges than others, but it feels like I’m getting an award for simply getting through the day,” she said in an interview.

Her days, however, are more than average. She was owner of Design Directions, LTD for over 24 years before joining forces with Interior Motives. She has worked with many clients, not just to create a design, she said, but to have a deeper impact, to help them achieve a better quality of life and achieve a comfort and security that comes from within themselves, she said.

She has devoted a lot of time to New Ulm’s historic preservation efforts, serving on the Lind House Preservation Board and designing its historic decoration plan. She also served on the Wanda Gag House board. She served on the first New Ulm Historic Preservation Committee for 15 years and helped create the legal commission that exists today. She also designed the arbor in German Park.

2008 Athena Award Luncheon
Date: Thursday, May 1
Time: Noon
Place: Holiday Inn, New Ulm
Tickets: $14, available at the New Ulm Area Chamber of Commerce

In 2003 Carmichael was selected as Designer of Record in the restoration of the George Draper Dayton House in Worthington. This is the family home originally built by the founder of the Dayton-Target Corp.

In 2002 she was appointed to the Governor’s Residence Council by Gov. Tim Pawlenty. This council is in charge of the up-keep and decorating of the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion. She served four years and donated over 180 hours of professional service.

She has published numerous articles, and has appeared on the HGTV program Restore America. She and cabinet maker John Covington won a design award from the Minnesota Chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

“It’s a gift that I have been given to be able to do this work and to get so wrapped up in it,” she said. By immersing herself in her projects, she often forgets about her physical ailments. “When I get wrapped up in something, the last thing I think about is myself,” she said.

The Chamber will officially present the Athena Award at a luncheon on May 1, at noon in the Holiday Inn. Tickets are $14 and are available at the Chamber.

This article first appeared on the New Ulm Journal's website and print edition:
Sweeney, Kevin. "Carmichael wants ‘pay forward’ Athena Award." The Journal 16 April 2008: Web. 15 August 2015.