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Robin Wilson

Robin Wilson is an interior designer acclaimed for creating eco-friendly designs for homes and commercial spaces. Wilson was born September 26, 1969 in Austin, Texas. She is a fourth-generation member of a Texas real-estate family beginning with her great-grandfather who owned several rental properties. As a child she was “pan-allergic” and diagnosed with asthma. To accommodate her allergies, her parents made changes to their lifestyle including switching to organic foods and replacing carpet in the house with hardwood and tile. These steps later influenced her desire to work with eco-friendly materials. In 1987, Wilson graduated from S.F. Austin High School and received her B.A. degree in history and economics from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition, she worked through college as a runway model and her first internship was with the Lower Colorado River Authority focused on energy efficiency.

In 1991, Wilson moved to Boston to work for Mercer Management Consulting in the energy division. In 1993, she changed careers and joined Isaacson Miller as an executive recruiter and a year later was hired at Houghton Mifflin Company as a national recruiter. By 1996, she joined Heidrick & Struggles in their Boston office, and a year later was transferred to their New York office to work for the lead partner in the financial services area, where she worked on CEO and Board level projects. In 1999, the privately-held company conducted an IPO and Wilson received a windfall. She used the money to purchase an apartment, become an entrepreneur and enroll in New York University to earn her M.S. degree in real estate finance. Before receiving her degree, Wilson founded the WSG Consulting firm and began her entrepreneurial role as a project manager for clients in New York – earning the moniker “the busy homeowner’s best friend.” In 2006, she rebranded the firm to the eponymous Robin Wilson Home and the business grew exponentially after being profiled on television and in magazines. Robin Wilson Home is distinguished for its focus on eco-friendly lifestyle, with a combination of design and healthy living. It has expanded to include an online retail store, The Nest Store which sells to consumers. She is the first woman to license her name to eco-friendly kitchen cabinetry, sold by over 500 kitchen dealers nationwide.

Wilson has designed showhouse projects including the Esquire “Ultimate Bachelor Apartment” terrace (2007), the Good Housekeeping “Greenest House in New York” LEED-certified Harlem brownstone (2008) and since 2004, she has worked on renovation projects in the Harlem office of former President Bill Clinton. In 2008, she was selected to become part of a “green dream team” who worked on the private residence of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. In 2010, she completed her first book, Kennedy Green House which details the project.

Robin Wilson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 26, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.005

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/26/2010

Last Name

Wilson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Occupation
Schools

Pease Elementary School

O. Henry Middle School

Austin High School

University of Texas at Austin

New York University

St. Martin's Lutheran School

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Archival Photo 2
Speakers Bureau Availability

Depends on Schedule

First Name

Robin

Birth City, State, Country

Austin

HM ID

WIL50

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

Youth, Teens, Business, Adults

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $3,000-$5,000

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Australia

Favorite Quote

What Would You Attempt To Do If You Knew You Could Not Fail?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/26/1969

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Calamari

Short Description

Interior designer Robin Wilson (1969 - ) was the founder of Robin Wilson Home, the author of, "Kennedy Green House," and a noted designer of eco-friendly residences.

Employment

Robin Wilson Home

Heidrick & Struggles

Houghton Mifflin Co.

Isaacson Miller

Mercer Management Consulting

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robin Wilson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robin Wilson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robin Wilson describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robin Wilson describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robin Wilson remembers her paternal great-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robin Wilson talks about her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robin Wilson describes her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robin Wilson talks about her maternal great-grandmother's abduction by the Ku Klux Klan

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robin Wilson talks about the diversity of skin color within her family

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robin Wilson talks about her mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Robin Wilson describes the community of Angleton, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Robin Wilson talks about her father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robin Wilson describes her maternal uncles' careers

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robin Wilson talks about her father's upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robin Wilson describes her father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robin Wilson talks about her paternal uncle's struggles after World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robin Wilson describes her parents' relationship

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robin Wilson describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robin Wilson talks about her parents' perspective on education

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robin Wilson remembers her mother's career

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Robin Wilson talks about her father's mentor

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Robin Wilson talks about her parents' financial struggles

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robin Wilson describes her childhood allergies

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robin Wilson talks about her elementary school experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robin Wilson recalls her early struggles with her disability

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robin Wilson remembers her early understanding of race

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robin Wilson describes the culture of her youth

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robin Wilson recalls her early of experiences religion

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robin Wilson remembers her early influences

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robin Wilson remembers the gifted program at Pease Elementary School in Austin, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robin Wilson recalls her aspiration to become a writer

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robin Wilson describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robin Wilson talks about the alumni of Stephen F. Austin High School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robin Wilson recalls her experiences as a fashion model

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robin Wilson remembers her position at the Lower Colorado River Authority

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robin Wilson talks about dating at University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robin Wilson remembers her first black history class

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robin Wilson talks about her career as a designer

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robin Wilson remembers helping her maternal grandfather paint fences

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Robin Wilson describes her mentor at the University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Robin Wilson remembers her summer internship at a consulting firm

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robin Wilson describes her family's relationship with Barbara Jordan

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robin Wilson talks about the female role models in Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robin Wilson talks about politics in Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robin Wilson remembers her brother's death, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robin Wilson describes her involvement with the layoffs at AT&T Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robin Wilson remembers her brother's death, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robin Wilson describes her career as an executive recruiter

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robin Wilson remembers recruiting African American executives

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Robin Wilson recalls her transition to the real estate industry

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Robin Wilson remembers the growth of her real estate business

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Robin Wilson remembers rebranding her firm as Robin Wilson Home

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robin Wilson talks about her home rehabilitation projects

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robin Wilson remembers her interview with Oprah Winfrey

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robin Wilson recalls lessons from her business coach

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robin Wilson talks about ecofriendly home design

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Robin Wilson talks about the prevalence of toxic materials in homes

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Robin Wilson describes the need for ecofriendly home education

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Robin Wilson talks about her book, 'Kennedy Green House'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Robin Wilson recalls lessons from her family

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Robin Wilson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Robin Wilson reflects upon her legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

1$9

DATitle
Robin Wilson describes her childhood allergies
Robin Wilson recalls her transition to the real estate industry
Transcript
From what I've read you were hyper-allergenic as a--or you were, you were allergic (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Pan--$$Pan-allergic.$$They call it pan-allergic, yep.$$Okay.$$I was--who knows why I, you know my dad [Rubin Wilson] had hay fever. My mom [JoAnn Scott Wilson] had other allergies and I think they all came into me and became a dominant force. But I literally, I was in the hospital for a great amount of my early months of life. I was allergic to milk. I was allergic to almost anything, dust, pollen, as they say, wheezing and sneezing outside wheezing and sneezing inside. And when you're a baby and all you're doing is screaming and, you know, crying, nobody knows. As I got older I--it was dairy. Now people think I'm saying I'm lactose intolerant. No, it's--I was literally allergic. If you gave me a piece of cheese, I would have an anaphylactic reaction. If you gave me a glass of milk I would puff up, couldn't breathe, you know, like literally having to go to the hospital and ice cream, same thing.$$Right.$$So--$$So--$$It was, it was a very bland diet.$$That cuts out a lot of things in people--$$That's right.$$--people are used to consuming.$$That's right, that's right.$$Then you're allergic to wheat too right (unclear)?$$I was, I was not really allergic to wheat but I couldn't have a lot of bread, who knows why. So it was all these things that--So I had a diet--by the way, a wonderful doctor who wasn't the type that said, "Pump her full of medicine." He was like, "Let's eliminate everything from the diet. Let's start with oatmeal. Okay, once she get--we know she can have oatmeal. Now we'll try green beans. Okay, now she can have greens beans, we'll try the next thing," and so literally we learned or my parents, my mother and dad learned through multiple test and, you know, I would have, let's say a hamburger and if it was too greasy, I would have a reaction, it's just all sorts of things and who knows, and often you grow out of these things. Today kids stay away from them. Back then it was give you a little a little bit, build your tolerance up. Give you a little bit, build your tolerance up.$But they went public in '99 [1999] and I got a windfall. And it was a choice of do I wanna keep the money with the firm [Heidrick and Struggles International Inc.] and keep gaining shares? Or do I wanna take the money and do what I wanna do? And I literally said I can do search every day, some elements I like. But being on the phone smiling and dialing for the right candidate wasn't fulfilling to me. I like real estate. I would read the real estate pages like it was a sports section for a guy. It was like "What's the price? Oh, what are the comparables?" You know. And I ended up getting enrolled at NYU [New York University, New York, New York] while I was still working there at night, and I started getting my master's in real estate finance from NYU at night. And when they went public, I was like, "Give me my money." And I got a lot--like six figures and I bought an apartment. This--So, the next year 9/11 [September 11, 2001] happened or two years later 9/11 happened. I had this money saved now. I bought apartments, flipped them, bought another apartment and started building a nest egg and at the same time was doing project management on the side. So I managed my own project when we did renovations at places. When you think about New York [New York], there are so many old places here. And when you have a buyer who can walk in and its turnkey. That's unusual in New York. Typically you have to renovate. Hasn't been touched since 1970 or 1950. And I was doing these places where I would make it perfect so you could just walk in and buy it. And so I made a lot of money.$$What make it perfect? You--what do you mean?$$It might mean refinishing the floors. Taking those old appliances out that are energy inefficient. Putting in energy efficient appliances. Sometimes old claw foot tubs that are just, you know, sides or the paint's peeling. Putting in another new tub or refinishing that old tub. Taking out the old Flush-o-matics toilets and putting in a new toilet. And making it pretty, you know, so that the lights. There might not be any lights in the living room. So putting in recess lights or, you know, putting in phone lines that aren't--they're hidden behind the baseboards. So you have like--a modern house you have the switch. You have the thing but you don't have wires running everywhere. The wires are in the wall. And just making it aesthetically pretty. But if you walk into many old apartments, you'll see the wires running along the baseboard or along the molding and you've painted over it fifty thousand times. It just doesn't look pretty anymore.$$Right, right.$$So that's what I do.$$I know lots of people in cities all over the country, Detroit [Michigan], San Francisco [California] and Chicago [Illinois] are--start rehabbing$$Yeah.$$--buildings around--in the '80s [1980s].$$Yes.