GUIDING LIGHT: Evelyn Audet’s lighting firm has found its place in a male-dominated industry of residential and commercial construction.
PBN FILE PHOTO/DAVID LEVESQUE
By Rebecca Keister
Lighting a home – or any space, really – is a tricky business. Such design work involves careful and intricate planning, establishment of sourcing, careful product selection and, finally, decoration that celebrates a job done well.
Much of the same could be said about East Providence businesswoman Evelyn Audet’s career.
“It was really a dream. I thought [for] my ideal job that I would have an office in a house and [have] something that I created and then I would drive to the city and present my work and get paid for it,” Audet said. “I’ve created that. And it’s a marvelous situation.”
Audet owns Evelyn Audet Lighting Design, which she runs on the third floor of her 125-year-old home. The company recently was selected by the Public Broadcasting Service’s “This Old House” as the design firm for its remodel of Barrington residents Geoffrey Allen and Michelle Forcier’s beachfront home.
If that’s her decorative moment or, as she calls it, her “icing on the cake,” it’s been earned over 25 years of establishing herself as a respected veteran in the male-dominated industry of residential and commercial construction.
Audet, 54, grew up in Westport, knowing from an early age that she was meant to work creatively.
During her junior year in high school, she entered the Massachusetts Junior Miss pageant and presented an interior-design project as her “talent” for that portion of the competition.
After high school, she took a job in data entry but three months in realized it wasn’t for her. She then enrolled in Bristol Community College and earned an associate degree in fine arts in 1980.
Accepted to the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, she moved to the city for a short time but discomfort there led her back near home – and back to the corporate world, which she once again found unsatisfying.
With an interior-design degree from the Hall Institute of Technology in Pawtucket and the encouragement of a friend – her life partner of 27 years, Steven Sullivan – she opened her own business, Evelyn Audet Interior Design, in 1987.
It went well for a time as she started off remodeling her girlfriends’ bedrooms, then moving on to window-treatment design all over Massachusetts and, through word of mouth and networking, as well as for a time running a storefront shop, growing to complete office and residential work.
Then the savings and loan crisis hit, in which several hundred of the savings and loan associations in the United States began to fail.
And her business folded. She found work with a Pawtucket company, where she was trained in lighting design and traveled all over the United States to meet with manufacturers for several years before leaving to become the showroom manager at All Phase Electrics Supply Co. in Providence as their lighting designer.
In four months, she brought showroom sales from $1,000 to $10,000 per month. Then the company closed that location.
That was in January 1995 and she’s been at it ever since, concentrating solely on lighting design.
She typically has an active project list of 30 to 50 jobs, in various stages, that range in size.
“I think my biggest challenge is that if I could just be a lighting designer, I’d probably be even more successful,” Audet said. •