We first fell in love with Miriam Dillon's style through the incredible family vestibule that she and her associate, Rebecca Foley, created for the CharityWorks GreenHouse. Since then, the senior interior designer for Custom Design Concepts, has shared more of her work with us, and it seems that each project is more exquisite than the last.
Custom Design Concepts has been known primarily as an architectural firm. However, it also offers full interior design services, and Miriam heads the interiors department. Like her family vestibule from the CharityWorks Greenhouse (pictures 1-4), Miriam's interiors are characterized by a particular type of classic— fine but not fussy, artfully crafted but deliberately unpretentious. After witnessing some of her collaborative projects, we had a few questions for the talented designer...
Do you consider yourself primarily an interior designer or an architect?
I consider myself and interior architect. I have a degree in architecture and I am a self taught interior designer. As a residential project architect I developed an interest in the architecture of the interiors and later helped to create and manage a full service interiors department with in an architecture firm.
How does your background in architecture influence the aesthetic of your interiors?
My understanding of structure and architectural design allows me to visualize how an interior space may evolve, whether it is through a renovation of the space or just by adding architectural elements such as custom millwork and decorative beams.
What are the strengths of the DC design scene?
The DC Design scene is very eclectic. There is a huge variety of talents ranging from traditional to ultra modern. I find inspiration from the many showrooms and talented designers in the area.
Do you find yourself drawn time and again to a certain look or does the style and needs of your clients influence each interior?
I believe it is of great importance to first listen to your clients and address their needs and style, and then incorporate your style as a designer. It is a collaboration of efforts.
When designing a room, what element do you generally begin with?
In new construction, I always begin with the built environment by focusing on its relationship to the style of the home. This includes detailing millwork, selecting finishes, and providing furniture layouts. While those areas are being developed it is a natural progression into the interior design of the space including color, furniture and fabric.
What recent projects have been most rewarding?
I was recently selected to design a family vestibule for the CharityWorks Greenhouse, a luxury green designer showhouse. This carbon-neutral house featured 19 premiere designers with a challenge to create luxury environmentally friendly interiors. I worked on this project with an associate of mine, Rebecca Foley. It was a great opportunity to meet and work with many talented designers and demonstrate how to be environmentally conscious with design. I enjoyed this opportunity, and was honored to been selected to participate on that project.
Upgrading an existing home rather than building from the ground up seems like quite a challenge. What do you most look forward to when redesigning an old home?
I recently completed an addition on my 1920s bungalow. When working on such a project I most look forward to embracing character of the original home while incorporating a design that appeals to the modern family. It is very rewarding to hear that the design is fitting to the style of the home.
What words would you use to describe your personal design style?
Transitional, comfortable, clean lined
What influence has the green movement had on your design projects?
It is my responsibility as a designer to educate our clients on the green movement. It is important to select products or manufacturing processes that are more environmentally friendly, and also by incorporating repurposed and reused materials. We as designers can educate and influence our clients.
What upgrades do you suggest for budget conscious home-owners seeking to beautify their homes?
If furniture is upholstered in more neutral fabrics, it is inexpensive to add color and patterns with the addition of pillows and accessories. Paint is also another simple way to add color to a room.
What are the advantages of working in a team setting, as with CDC, rather than designing solo?
It is great to have such a variety of knowledge surrounding you at all times. It allows me to have continuous exposure to architectural design while also pursuing the architecture of interiors and interior design. The team environment also encourages working closely with the project architect and other team members during all phases of design.