When I designed a house in Miami Shores for the Rosen family, I remember the question Jennifer and Steve asked me, right from the start, "Can we use our old broken tile, bits of artifacts and nic-nacs we've picked up in our travels?" As a fairly new designer to residences, having built mostly restaurants and hospitality projects, I remember being a bit timid with the prospect of building anything permanent into their home. Maybe we would make a mosaic cocktail table or a threshold at the front door. It occurred to me though, over the time of working with them, they had adventurous spirits and liked the idea of effecting their home with their own personal style. I followed their cues. Eventually we built a mosaic embedded border containing fragments of broken china, mirror, marbles, broken tile, silver flatware and charms, into the coral stone floor slabs, in their kitchen. I designed various style kitchen cabinet doors from lath scraps, chicken wire and old pine planks washed with a dusty olive stain. The artful mosaic was used in the backsplash too. The stainless steel appliances were a nice contrast to the earthen look of the stone and wood of the farm style cabinets. In the end, their home took on a very individual and unique look unlike anything shown in the market place at the time.
Since then, I've always explored my clients tastes before designing. Sometimes it takes a few weeks of intense exploration. What color does the man of the house have inside of his car? What color ties does he wear? What color was on the walls his wife picked out in their first apartment? What kind of things do they buy for their home together verses individually? As time progresses into a custom interior remodel, the spirit of my clients comes out in the choices we make. I act only as a beacon for what I've seen them embrace before. Often it's not the torn magazine articles they show me, although it certainly indicates preferences. It's the history of two lives, where they've lived, what they've collected, what they've inherited and of those pieces, what they choose to keep or have never liked. These are true indicators of how a project develops. Then the choices of modern mid-century or arts and crafts or Asian accents are made. The market helps us find inspiration, but the style of those seeking to build an environment is always the jumping off point. It just needs uncovering. Once I find the vein of gold in the individual style of the people I design for, the process of designing is ten times easier.