Amidst a setting of trendy high-end furniture and accessories, the Montage showroom at 75 Arlington Street was the scene of a celebration by the NESADSU Interior Design community on Friday night, March 9th. In observance of our graduate and undergraduate Interior Design programs’ ascent to #3 in Design Intelligence magazine’s nationwide rankings of interior design programs, Program Co-Directors Karen Clarke and Nancy Hackett invited their students and alumni to revel in these achievements. And to top off the DI programs rankings, Karen was also being honored for having been named one of their “25 Most Admired Educators of 2012”.
2001 Interior Design graduate Michael Moeller was the evening’s featured guest. Now a successful New York-based interior designer and the visible face of several design-related television programs, most notably HGTV’s Design Star and Clean House New York on the Style Network, Michael gave an entertaining and advice-filled presentation. He began by tracing his own career trajectory, beginning with his first job with residential designer Alan Tanksley. This experience demonstrated the perils with working with and for the very rich (“I quickly learned this industry is full of devils who wear Prada”) but also compensations (“I’ve also had installs in homes that ended with a weekend on the beach ….or hitting the slopes for the day”.) Then, from a firm of eight, he moved to BBG-BBGM (“…consisting of close to 200 interior designers and architects, in several different offices, on three different continents.”). Now it was “grand spaces and intimate guestrooms” and more travel “in the four years I spent at this company than ever in my life”.
Michael’s favorite project in the hospitality industry “was not a tangible space at all”. Instead he was charged with studying and inventorying the successes of Radisson’s European properties, by visiting and experiencing them. “Myself and two colleagues, along with several people from the owner’s side, jumped the corporate jet and headed to twelve cities in six countries. It was a whirlwind fourteen days in which we would arrive at a property, tour it, have lunch, jump the jet, hit the next property, tour it, have a spectacular dinner, spend the night, then do it all over again the next day. I saw more of Europe in those two days than most people will ever see in a lifetime!” Aside from the fun and excitement, however, this trip taught Michael the importance of good conceptual design and brand standard adherence.
After eight years of working for someone else, Michael decided to take the plunge and go into business for himself. “It started out slow, with only one large-scale residential new build home and a couple of small scale decoration projects” but, soon, business picked up on the strength of several good referrals, and he’s been on his own since.
Design Star came along just two years ago, in March of 2010 and, though Michael was not the ultimate winner, he did, as one of the two left standing in the final episode, garner plenty of attention and, ultimately, a stable of new clients (“after weeding through the unrealistic inquiries!”). As he notes: “TV is an interesting medium to work in. All the exhausting long hours, being produced to the point of feeling slightly like a live puppet, and putting yourself out there for the world to critique seems discouraging, but, to a true narcissist like myself, it fuels my fire, motivates me to reach higher, and, ultimately, not settle down until I achieve, to whatever extent I choose, my goal. My friends and family call me crazy…I’m OK with that…”
Then the advice: “You need to believe in your reason and always know your worth. What you do, who you are, your qualifications, all set you apart from the saturated world of the masses. You take the client’s taste and make it work better, convey their personality, and leave them with a one-of-a-kind product that was not shopped from the pages of a catalogue or website.” He also touted buying American when possible, “going green”, “peel[ing] back the layers of all these design trends”, in order to “stay true to your clients’ needs and wants, your concepts and yourself…”
Standing surrounded by students, faculty and alumni of the Interior Design programs, and in the midst of a showroom he was probably eager to plunder, Michael ended the evening by reminding his listeners that “… ultimately, it’s about loving what you do.”
Watch a video of Michael’s keynote address on the Interior Design Connections blog.
Besides being an impressive feather in the Interior Design cap, the DI program rankings have proven a powerful recruitment tool. According to Karen, several prospective students have told her that one of the reasons they are looking especially closely at NESADSU is our programs’ high standing. Given the fact that the survey participants are those “who have direct experience in hiring and in evaluating the performance of recent architecture and design graduates” (DI Survey Methodology), the rankings carry all the more significance for those who wish to enter the professional interior design world.
Montage, who generously loaned their space for the evening, is a staple on design students’ itineraries. Founded in 1959, Montage was originally conceived “to introduce the finest in contemporary furniture from Europe to the Boston design community” (Montage website) and continues to offer such manufacturers as B&B Italia, Cassina, Matteo Grassi and Poltrona Frau, among others. Montage also generously offers its showroom to NESADSU for the annual exhibition of graduate students’ thesis projects.
Images Courtesy of Molly Akin