Sized Just Right: The Small Luxury Home

As a seasoned designer with diverse clients, I am often either helping a family decide how much to add to a home they are outgrowing or I am figuring out how to put unused rooms to work in a house that is a little too big for its owner.

Generally my opinion is that less house is better than too much house, but my skills and vision afford me the opportunity to create impactful designs no matter the scale of the project. For the homeowner who is trying to decide the size of their next home investment, there are a number of ways to evaluate what will be the perfect fit.

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An In-House Chat with Our Designer on Commercial Design

We recommend looking at the business from two perspectives: inside out and outside in. How staff experience it inwardly and how customers and clients perceive it outwardly. By sharpening the image of a business through interior design, clients and patrons feel more confident in their choice and more apt to refer the business to friends and colleagues.

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Design 101: Perfect Drapery

One of the most impactful features of a room can be window treatments.  The most classically appealing of these is drapery.  Whether fully operating or stationary, drapery adds pleasing vertical lines while providing additional expression to the design through textiles. 

To help demystify these treatments, here are the factors I keep in mind as I design drapery for my projects.

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Design Solutions: Warming Up Office Spaces

Much like business dress, the design in an office suite should elicit confidence from clients. This makes the typical default one that in the world of fashion is the equivalent of a two piece grey suit: a classic choice, but one that needs a little help from a necktie, jewelry, or a great pair of shoes. 

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What to Expect When You're Expecting [Your Designer]

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By Paul Miller

Interior Designer, IDS Professional Member

Read Time: 2 Minutes

There is something wonderful about the first time you ring the doorbell or lift the knocker at your first house call with a new client.  The front garden and the decor on the porch tell you a little bit about them, but when the door glides back to reveal the entry, the picture begins to clarify.

First Things First

We have developed a practice of meeting with prospective clients at our office before the house call.  It is a half hour get-to-know at no charge: the client shares the big picture reasons behind seeking design help and we discuss our process and fee structure.  When we get to the site the first time, we already know whether the whole house is being remodeled or if we're tackling a few specific areas.

Judgement Free

Despite having already met one another, on the first site meeting the client is sometimes a shade nervous.  They might say, "Here it is. Don't judge."

It took me a long time (and a number of my own home projects) to realize what this first moment must feel like on the other end.  The moment the homeowner lets you into their personal haven is a vulnerable one for them.  For some the uncertainty comes from imagining their own design attempts are under the microscope (a good designer doesn't judge, he assesses).  For others, the biggest question is how does this appointment work.

The Facts

The most important thing to note is that the house call is simply a fact-finding experience.  The designer is there to gather notes relative to the project.  Rooms will be measured as well as heirlooms that aren't going anywhere.  Notations on existing materials and architectural details are gathered.  Photographs are taken.  There is additional discussion about the project and some of the challenges to overcome.

The house call isn't complete until the client points to something about the space (or to a piece of furniture their spouse has lobbied to keep) and says gravely, "This is what I was telling you about."  There is further discussion.

What your designer isn't very likely to do on the first house call is make a lot of suggestions right off the bat.  Until the floor plans have been rendered and the site notes unpacked, it can be an exercise in fruitlessness to make too many promises.  However, there are occasions when the best fix is immediately obvious to a professional eye and while he will likely reserve judgment until his homework is done, he may float out a tentative suggestion. 

Preparing

The best way to be prepared for the house call if you are a client is to make sure the rooms haven't been cleared of signs of life.  If magazines usually pile up near a favorite chair in a sunny spot, that tells your designer a lot.  You like to bask in a particular corner; you're an avid reader of periodicals; you have a lot of issues of Cat Fancy for a self-described dog lover.  The clutter and the crushed cushions tell us where and how you spend time at home.

The house call is intriguing for the designer and can be fun for the client once the ice is broken. Hopefully knowing a little bit more about what the designer is hoping to glean will make it easier to relax into the visit.  

And cookies. Most designers will not turn down cookies.


Still digging into your research about working with a designer?  See our guide, 5 Tips for Working with a Designer!

Brand-Supportive Design


By Paul Miller

Interior Designer, IDS Professional Member


Every space tells a story. 

We tell the story of the families who dwell within our projects by allowing their interests and patterns to read in the flow and aesthetic details of their homes.  When our job is to design restaurants, lounges, and lobbies, we aim to tell a different narrative: brand story.

 
 

At the bare minimum, the task of a marketing agency is to help a company refine and present its message to the appropriate audience.  In the hands of the extraordinarily thoughtful and creative marketer, a company can even develop a stronger sense of its core identity - sometimes learning that it has yet to establish one. 


Many brands are not a physical location to the public as much as a sense of place.

Many brands are not a physical location to the public as much as a sense of place.  Coca-Cola isn’t a plant with offices and conveyer belts to the average soda lover.  It’s a twist of white on a field of red or a half time ad that draws a chuckle.   Deeper still in our consciousness, it’s the sweet, fizzy burn in a childhood memory, as fleeting a pleasure as fireflies lighting a meadow.

Yet for restauranteurs and many experience-based enterprises, the location of their business is as strong a sense of place as the food the chef creates, the drinks the bartender crafts or the way in which staff engages them during their visit.  In the lobby of a service provider, the stability of the business is suggested by the weight of the actual furnishings.  One hesitates to invest money with a firm that lines up folding chairs in the front room and perches a fax machine on a moving box tagged: Ship Next Tuesday.

We believe the designer working on a commercial project must understand the brand identity of the business.  Knowing who the audience for the business is and determining what they will want out of the experience drives every detail of the outcome.  In the best case scenario, the design blows out past what the brand audience could have imagined, providing a memorable journey that sets a business in a class by itself.

We have helped determine the aesthetic and functional details of restaurants, salons, lounges, professional office lobbies,  as well as public spaces in university housing and learning facilities. Without exception, the best outcomes were always arrived at when the brand story of the client was clearly understood and integrated in the design process.

As it heads into its twelfth year in business, MakeNest is positioning itself to capture more commercial and hospitality projects.  Part of our goal is to underscore our unique sensitivity to branding through design.  The procedure for our commercial projects is to dig deep to discover the intentions, the audience, the narrative, and the brand standard of the company.   In this way,  MakeNest can not only impact the function and beauty of professional and hospitality spaces, but help businesses to edit and project their own brand story.

Sustainability


By Paul Miller

Interior Designer, IDS Professional Member


Some companies have practiced responsible forestry for years, harvesting and replanting in turn to provide resources for future production, but now there are more offerings made of salvaged wood.  This practice not only cuts down on waste that burdens landfills but it also lessens deforestation.  Old wood has characteristics difficult to reproduce in virgin wood, such as raised grain and general weathering, so for those who love a lot of texture and a sense of age in their pieces, the benefits are obvious.  Knowing you tread a little lighter on the planet feels nice, too.

 
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One furniture designer I met with at market some years past opts to produce her line of rubberwood, a trend out of Asia. Rubber trees too mature for latex production used to be thrown on burn piles.  To my understanding, an English furniture manufacturer a few decades ago began to experiment with this 'waste wood' and discovered that it was not only useful in furniture making, but took both painted and stained finishes beautifully.  This extremely heavy species has a dense, attractive grain, and, once properly kiln-dried, is very consistent, meaning that splitting and warping are not an issue.  The furnishings my new acquaintance designs and manufactures are not only stylish and durable, they follow this direction of taking some responsibility for our planetary health by reducing the rate of deforestation.

Warm & Cool


By Paul Miller

Interior Designer, IDS Professional Member


In recent design projects, we have been put to the task of infusing warmth into our clients homes. Traditionally, either warm or cool neutrals predominate a space. Cool tones like grays, silver, and washed wood tones still find favor with many homeowners due to their modern and understated sensibilities. Even so, warm neutral tones are making a comeback from their several year hiatus.  

 
 

We remember looking through resources during this peak in cool tones and wondering if everything warmer than taupe had  become extinct. Embracing warm tones comes naturally to us as they add a wonderful comfort and richness to a space. We love encouraging a mix of neutrals as we have found that it creates a sophisticated and unexpected palette that our clients love.


Just like wood tones and upholstery, try mixing neutrals in other materials too!

One of our favorite examples of a piece that brings in warm wood tones while still being harmonious with predominantly grey toned elements is this beautiful tusk table. Don’t underestimate the power of accessorizing to enforce the striking balance of warm and cool as well. From rugs and gimp tapes to wallpaper, we find that this trend is really taking off within the design community. 

Here at MakeNest, we love a confident mix. Just like wood tones and upholstery, try mixing neutrals in other materials too! We are looking at you, gold and silver.