Michelle Ortiz [mitchy1441]
What is your specialty?
I am an Interior Designer, specializing in kitchen, bathroom and custom furniture design. I believe it is important to list those specialties because it gives me an added edge when working with my clients. Most designers have no experience nor knowledge of wood materials, cabinetry and the intricacies of furniture mechanics.
Where can we view your portfolio online?
You can see samples of my work and learn of my experiences, good, witty and indifferent at my Interior Design Blog http://www.interiordesign2you.blogspot.com or view a large collection of my work and learn about my wonderful company Custom Interiors LLC at http://www.mycustominteriors.com.
What made you interested in design?
When I was 11 I had a powder pink room with white based wallpaper that had a floral linear pattern and a matching border. It was not the best design so I began doodling on my walls creating alternate borders around my window and voila- a designer was born.
I was punished a lot when I was younger, so I began sketching furniture for my imaginary designer home. Now I get paid to design the homes of others. I cannot dream of doing anything else. I can't go into a public restroom without redesigning it in my mind!
What has been your professional career path?
I went from school to interning and working for others. I've worked for a few mid to high end kitchen cabinet and plumbing centers, where I gained my expertise in kitchen and bathroom design and plumbing, lighting and cabinetry knowledge. I met the love of my life right after high school. Eventually him (a custom cabinetmaker and master finisher), and I doing Interior Design opened our own company on the east coast catering to high end clientele in NY, MA, CT, VT and RI. Now living on the west coast, we do the same for our clients in the Phoenix metro area and affluent outskirts. I am also working on designing some custom furniture pieces going into a great showroom in Tempe, AZ.
What is your motivation? What makes you get up in the mornings?
I am always striving for that larger home (above my largest of 15,000 sq. ft.), that chance to improve upon my current skill set and wow myself and my client. I am seeking that "AHA" moment where I have pushed the envelope by creating an extraordinary and unique space. I live for modern and contemporary design, but I also enjoy the excitement that comes from creating a completely different interior. I live off of truly educating my client so that I am making them understand our process, not just presenting them what I want for their space.
My motivations are the referrals to that next client because I did so well for the last and that beautiful portfolio picture that I get to take when I am done with their home. I get excited when I can wake up to work on a whole home remodel or a unique custom piece of furniture to fit a space. Design is both my job and my reward!
How would you define your design style?
My preferred style would be ethnically inspired contemporary and a tinge of ultra modern. I have a very eclectic home. My husband is more transitional, loving both contemporary and traditional design. Although I say that the homes I do are all about my client, I often infuse one little piece of me in every design. I am happy to say that I never repeat an interior, right down to never using the same paint color. Each home is all their own. You can look through so many portfolios and see the same thing over and over from one client to another. That is not the case when I work. Each home is truly an individual thought all its own. My style is the spirit of my client interpretted through my paint brush.
How do you promote and move your work?
My clients over the last few years have been through word of mouth. Now that the market has slowed, I must admit my workload has decreased tremendously. I am working to establish new contacts through social networking and getting my name out to all who will listen. Our cabinet division has also begun using lead companies as a way to generate new prospects, but they are not the best R.O.I. We also get many who find our website through google searches.
In which new areas would you like to experiment?
I am looking to expand into the model home and staging circuit and also do a bit more light commercial, hospitality and retail where an unique, individual sense of branding and upscale urban feel is desired. There are so many great spots in AZ that I'd love to sink my teeth into- nightclubs, spas, salons, boutiques, restaurants, hotels.
Shapes, color, concept: where do you usually begin when conceiving a design?
I do not have a specific formula for how thigns come about in the homes I work in. My mind goes from the second I walk in their door. I am already planning the space in my head as I am introducing myself for the first time. As I am shaking hands and passing out my card I am visualizing colors. I take cues from the colors I see in everyday things around the home. Many times a client will think they absolutely love a color but you find that they don't even own it in a shirt and conversely you will find a color that they never even realized they love plastered in every nook and cranny of their house. I always make sure the shapes are interesting, mixing simplified, clean lines with complex geometrics. The concept is always the most fun...until they see the end result.
What is your favourite type of customer?
I have many favorite types of clients. Of course, my most favorite is the one with no predefined budget that can afford to do a well thought out interior from top to bottom. I say this rather than say one with no budget restraints because I do not believe that a well planned interior has to cost endless amounts of money to achieve. I can usually design a spectacular room for 20-50% less than the average high end designer who has to work with furnishings with high markups. I have great contractors and vendors that I have worked with for many years and who do excellent work at a fair price that I get to pass onto my clients.
I also like that client that will inquire enough to understand, needs a little leading. but in the end will trust that I know what I am doing and follow my advice. Too many chefs in the kitchen or clients that try to cut costs by using inferior products or services that they THINK they are getting a "good deal" on are the worst. There always ends up being problems with their end of the job. Saving money that way always costs more than had they done it the right way the first time.
To a certain point, is copying justifiable?
I say no to this... I have been doing interiors for over fifteen years and have not copied one design or concept yet. I believe that if you have a good imagination you can come up with a unique interpretation of another idea if need be. Our field is one where skill is married with intense creativity. What we do is not all textbook. There are some great designers on television that haven't attended a day of design training. I never copy my own work or the work of others, not even a wall color. Just ask my clients that have tried to get me to do a paint that they have seen in another home I've done. :-(
List some things you dislike seeing in design.
My Design pet peeves are many. What I dislike the most is that in AZ people have not realized that Tuscan design is old, overdone and has been out of style for the last two or three years- at least! Trends tend to last much longer here and tend to be behind the faster paced cities by around five years. Things that I was doing back in Boston and New York when I left five years ago are now being done here.
I also try to make clients understand that the exterior design of their home does not have to reflect the design of the inside. Once they know that, they get excited. I dislike the overuse of textural paint techniques and faux finishes here and the fact that all of the walls are a textured plaster, which makes people scared of wallpaper- which is so wonderful now- because they have to skim coat their walls to install it.
I dislike how so many designers do the same look over and over again. I also dislike seeing a poorly done interior and knowing that they paid a fortune for the designer who did it and it wasn't worth it.
My largest pet peeve is people and designers who style their homes for the people who have yet to move in... Those that do a neutral interior in ten shades of beige with one or two feature walls because they don't want to hurt their resale value; but they are not planning to sell their homes for at least six years. Don't design for someone else who you have never met. Chances are very large that they will repaint when thery move in!
Do you believe the newer generations are better at designing?
I believe that great design has nothing to do with age, but more the open mind of the designer. Obviously if their age is reflected in the home that is a problem. If they are doing a scarf valance on a window still, they might not be the best one to design your home. Continued research and education keeps your skills sharp and young.
With which type of client would you decline in working for?
I prefer not to work with someone who has hired me to do their home, but turns around and shops for the same items on their own that they have hired me to find. That always ends up as a mess.
I also will not work for a wife if I have not met the husband and know that they are on board. I always insist on meeting both spouses in a relationship so I can create a complete picture, rather than the interpretation of what one wants without the other's input.
How do you calculate budgets for a design project?
I always ask my client how much they perceived their project to cost up front. I find that 9 times out of 10 they have no idea how much their remodel will cost. I blame HGTV and DIY for that because they put together fanstastic rooms and either don't share the exact cost with the audience or tell you it all cost $2,000. Clients never consider the donated materials and labor and how that all adds up in real life. I then try my best to give my clients a more realistic range of what it all will cost.
Up to what point do your designs reflect your personality?
I always say that my designs are merely an interpretation of what's in the soul of my client. I do not have to live there when I am done, so I make sure my designs reflect them in the way they genuinely live. They always want a "model home look" or a "spa feel" but it has to function for them as well. I always manage to invoke a small piece of myself in some eclectic manner within their space. I don't have one staple item like how some designers always put a piece of chinoiserie in their designs or one small green object. But I think if someone really knew me they could pick out that one great unique piece that I just had to add.
How do you distinguish passing fads from mainstays in new trends?
I use my ongoing research combined with pure skill and experience at what I do to define items for my clients that are timeless versus using fads in their interiors. I do work with many hig end clients that do prefer to design on trend. They are the ones that will be calling me back to redo in a few years but they are able to do so. For most clients I keep the meat of their interior in a timeless feel and use trend ( if neccessary) in the accents that can be switched out in time. This way their rooms always stay fresh and current.
If you weren't a designer, what would you be doing?
I cannot imagine being anything else if I was not a designer. I think I would probably be a phsyciatrist. That helps a lot with what I do, analyzing my client and their needs.
At this moment, what would be your dream job or project?
My dream jobs for this year- or should I say goals:
My first custom model home.
A total new home interior or renovation over 15,000 square feet or the home of someone featured on MTV Cribs.
An upscale nightclub.
A cutting edge spa/ salon- somewhere where I can go beyond reality (massive budget).
Can you see yourself in this field twenty years from now?
I've been here for a while and I am only 34. I definitely hope that God blesses me with enough prosperity and the longevity to be here doing this for twenty years to come.
Mesa, AZ USA