Damion's Midcentury in New Orleans Home Studio

Damion's Midcentury in New Orleans Home Studio

Gregory Han
Jun 5, 2013

The man working from this home studio is Damion Michaels of Ephu Studios in New Orleans, a space furnished with a vintage, possibly one-of-a-kind executive desk designed by George Nelson, a clever magnetic photo wall, and dotted with colorful details revealing an affinity for the midcentury aesthetic...

Tell us about your background. In the early 1980s, I ended up in Naples, Italy, working for the US Foreign Service. There I had a wonderful little group of affluent, quirky friends. I fit right in as the eccentric American who was constantly writing, painting, and exploring the gritty city while taking black-and-white pictures.

One of the friends owned a small advertising agency. After one wine-fueled night, the group deemed me clever, and I received an invitation from the ad-agency owner to stop by for tea the next day. I spent the afternoon in a creative meeting that seemed more like an excuse to drink during the day; the never-ending day-party went on for weeks until one of my ideas launched a major piece of business for the agency. I was suddenly an official member of the creative team.

Four years later, with many successful campaigns under my belt, I returned to the States to work at several small agencies, and then founded a Mac-only consulting firm. I built editing and recording studios. I provided tech support for print houses, TV studios, editing companies, and graphic artists.

When the Internet was born in 1995, it was the perfect marriage of my creative side and nerdy side. In 1997, I hired a young wunderkind in Photoshop and HTML, and became his production assistant while I developed the business. I grew more proficient in digital and soon we were both turning out great work.

One of my graphic clients had chef Emeril Lagasse as a client, and as a result, my agency built the first EMERILS.COM website. I was soon offered a job with Emeril’s Homebase. We had a lot of fun and pulled off many firsts for a celebrity website. We even managed to put 1,000 recipes on the newfangled Apple iPod by using the Notes function. This was five years before apps made it to the iPhone and iPod.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina came in and changed everything. I left Emeril’s and started digital work for hire again — working for companies like Viking Range Corp., Kraft Foods International, Wolfgang Puck, MySouth Foods, Sucre, Lands End, Orient Expressed, and McCormick Foods. Again, I went to work for one of the companies for whom I was consulting. But having gone through Katrina, I kept my little digital agency on the side to continue to diversify and hone my creative skills. Having a day job meant that I could be more selective with clients and more adamant about doing things the best way possible for the brand. I decided to rebrand my agency and call it Ephu Studios. It is an agency with attitude and aggressive thoughts on branding, marketing, and user experiences.

Tell us about yourself and your work: what you’re passionate about, what inspires you, and where you’re going. I am a proponent of clean, simple design and communication. I study the work of innovators like George Lois, Dieter Rams, Saul Bass,  and of course, Charles and Ray Eames. George Lois was a bold communicator who believed in the one big idea. Dieter Rams believed in designing an object to its simplest, functional form. Saul Bass was a master at visual communications with minimal strokes and the brilliant use of negative space. And finally, Charles and Ray Eames understood functional creativity and gave other creatives the tools to work in their creative spaces.

I am passionate about a few things. First, my work. I am working on a book and a documentary about a local New Orleans character, Gene Dongieux. Gene is a wealthy and eccentric fellow who has seen and done just about everything. He attributes his success to his rules about life. I am learning about these rules as I interview and film him in his element. It will be titled “Gene Therapy: 12 Lessons on Life and Success.”

I am also working with a company called ZeroTouchDigital who has invented a revolutionary computing platform that changes paradigm of computing. I hope to take my little studio and deliver big results for them. I think it will be amusing to come full circle and use my creative talents to drive my nerdy interests for a while.

I am passionate about painting, writing, and learning. I paint when I have the time. I love abstract. The use of colors. Getting paint on the canvas with unconventional tools. And I am passionate about my family. I have a beautiful wife of 21 years, 15-year-old twins, Max and Marlee, and two pugs, Mimi and Tootsie. We are one big happy and blessed family.

Tell us about your space. What’s your aesthetic? What do you like or dislike about it?I am inspired and creative every time I am in my studio. I love mid-century modern with a little assistance from today’s technology.

My color palette is chocolate brown and robin’s egg blue with splashes of orange for impact. I love the balance between aluminum and wood in the desk. I only wish that I could use a vintage Eames Time-Life Chair because it better matches the period of the desk. Therefore, as a task chair, the Aeron Chair wins out for long periods of sitting and moving around the space.

I have a magnetic wall that allows my children to come in and move pictures around all of the time. I also have an Orange Crush collection that my kids keep enhancing with unique finds.

The only thing that bothers me are the warped wood floors. A recent hurricane cause a roof leak that buckled the floors a bit. At some point, I want to change them to something more sustainable like bamboo.

You have several Herman Miller pieces in your space. Why did you choose them? I love the clean lines of my desk. I have a 1965 George Nelson Executive Desk because it is huge — 40 inches by 80 inches. I have been told it is extremely rare because of its size. I don’t care. I love it for its beauty and functionality. Its huge desktop allows me to stretch out and use every inch when I am working.

My task chair is a custom Aeron with chocolate brown webbing, chocolate brown leather armrests, and wheels from the Embody Chair. I liked the look of those wheels more and they work well on a warped wooden floor.

I also have an original Eames Hang-It-All coat rack. I love the look — it’s whimsical and functional at the same time.

(Images: Damion Michaels)

Republished in partnership with Herman Miller Lifework. Originally posted by Amy Feezor.
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