Eric Drozd has had a pretty unique career path, thanks in large part to the influence of his father. “My dad and I have grown a development company over the last decade,” he shares. “I designed over 60 flips, the first being at the age of 14!”

He went on to get a degree in architecture, work for an HGTV designer, and then a luxury custom home builder. However, just over a year ago, the builder suddenly closed—leaving Eric and fifteen others jobless. “I’ve always been someone with a plan,” he shares, “so being in a place where I had no clue what was next was terrifying. I was also under contract on my own place and had no income. So many coworkers and friends encouraged me to start my own business, and the clients I worked with from the builder were calling me asking how I can help them finish their homes!”

It’s clear his preparation and organization cued up a path to success. We’re stepping inside his Chicago pad—a property he lovingly updated alongside his dad—and chatting about a career that’s only going up from here. 

First, we’d love to know a bit about your career path. How did you first get involved in design, and how has your career evolved? 
I grew up watching my dad flip houses in the suburbs of Chicago. I was inspired and eager to join in his pursuits and designed my first property at 14. Looking back, it turned out awful! But with experience and guidance I was able to learn and grow fairly quickly. From then on, I knew this field was exactly where I was meant to be. 

The homes I started with were basic, and I wanted to work with higher-end homes. I was lucky enough to start working on luxury homes with an interior design firm for multiple HGTV shows in college. These years were such a huge period of growth for me, and I credit so much of my design style and capabilities to what I learned in that role. 

I moved on to work for a custom home builder where I was trusted to design numerous custom homes, while also leading the design team. Since then, I’ve been so privileged to not only lead my own luxury home projects, but also purchase and redesign my own home. 

Having so much experience likely influenced your home buying process. What can you share about the process?
When I started looking for my own place, I thought I wanted to be in downtown Chicago. The more I looked, the more I realized I needed a place that was an escape from my professional, everyday life. I shifted my search to the north suburbs. 

When I first saw it, the unit was in its original state from the late ’90s: white carpet, white vinyl and oak cabinets, white laminate counters, and oak trim throughout. I knew I would start from scratch, and this was the perfect place to do it. 

The 1,400 square foot condo had absolutely no architectural significance whatsoever. I liked the floor plan but could tell very little thought went into the initial architectural design. Looking at other buildings in the neighborhood, I saw many of the exact same carbon copies of my unit, so after buying, I was determined to add architectural elements in any way I could. I could not be happier with the way it turned out. 

What are some of the ways you brought your own aesthetic to the space?
I love traditional architecture mixed with contemporary fixtures and furnishings. My love for architecture and design has definitely been influenced by travel. From rugs in Istanbul to one-of-a-kind art in Paris, I’ve been collecting things for my future home for many years. I designed my space around a lot of these key pieces and used them as a jumping off point for the color palette and design in general. I am definitely a “neutrals” guy, and kept the scheme to taupe, white and black. 

Did this project have any challenges? 
This project’s biggest challenge was the timing. When purchasing the unit, I knew my schedule and I had everything planned out to get my renovation done. Right before I closed, life happened and changed many parts of my plan. I started a new job and took on so many exciting new projects that left me with very little time to work on my own home. With my real estate knowledge, I knew what I could put into this unit to make sure I was not over-investing. With all the renovations I had planned, my dad and I needed to do most of the labor ourselves to stay on budget. I spent every free evening and weekend chipping away at everything needed to finish this unit.

How long did the project take? 
This project took 5 months to complete. My dad is a talented craftsman and builder, and I am so lucky to have had his help and expertise throughout the project. We did a majority of the work on our own, which proved to be difficult with my demanding schedule. Many times throughout the renovation I found myself thinking “I shouldn’t have done this. Not now.” Today, feeling inspired by my home every single day, I do not regret one thing. I believe in surrounding myself with beautiful things that remind me of past travel and experiences. This pushes me to continue creating beautiful spaces for others to enjoy as much as I enjoy mine. 

What do you love most about design? 
To me, design is more than just pretty finishes. Designing a home is also about designing a lifestyle. 

With my new space, I am motivated to be physically fit, well-dressed, well-spoken, well-traveled, and so much more. My life has evolved into more than I could have dreamt of because of my space. After even the longest days, I can relax and unwind in a home that makes me so proud to have created. 

My wish as a designer is for everyone to be inspired by the space in which they call home. 

Career-wise, what do you have planned next? 
Having known I wanted to be a designer from a young age, I am privileged to have been evolving in this field for so long. Designing homes for others is such a personal experience, and having done it for myself definitely puts that into perspective. I pride myself on being extremely approachable and easy to work with. I see myself continuing to refine my design style, making my stamp on the many neighborhoods of Chicago, its suburbs, and beyond. Having designed for myself, I greatly enjoyed working independently and bringing my vision to life. Development brings together all the things I love: architecture, interior design, and real estate. As a licensed real estate agent, I offer a seamless process of finding a house and creating a home. 

I see development in my future, and would love to bring speculative homes that are both approachable and beautiful to the Chicago market. My goal is to be able to offer my clients a turnkey place for all things home. I hope to inspire a happy, healthy, and beautiful life through the spaces I create for others. 

See more in the slideshow.