Experts Reveal Their Design Transformations — And No Two Are The Same

Lesson: Your design style is always in flux

Design by Briana Gagnier.

The first time I was tasked with designing a space, I blew it. I was an incoming college freshman, and there was a sterile, basement-level dorm room awaiting my arrival. When I saw my newly assigned room for the first time, I panicked and ordered an absurd array of mix-match prints from Serena and Lily (like this, this, and this, but even louder) in hopes of making this pea-sized space feel like less like an underground bunker. In turn, I essentially created a life-sized mood board — an overwhelming display of florals and textiles which, at the time, I absolutely loved. 

Now, my room is a clean, neutral canvas with a few pieces of art on the walls. My décor tendencies took a 180-degree turn, and overall, I prefer less. Design preference is a perspective — an opinion that changes with experience, travel, interactions, and time. But, how exactly do we relate these things to our personal space? In hopes of better understanding how design transformations take place, we picked the minds of interior designers Vanessa Alexander and Anne Hepfer, and General Store founder Serena Mitnik-Miller. Each  shares how far their design point of view has come, and what exactly led to a shift in overall aesthetic. 

Vanessa Alexander, Interior Designer

Experts Reveal Their Design Transformations –And No Two Are The Same
Designed by Briana Gagnier.

What has made the most obvious impact on your design perspective? 

VA: My designs center around finding ways to create not just an aesthetically beautiful environment, but one that reflects and bolsters the lifestyle that the client is seeking. If a home is beautiful but doesn't live well, it is not a successful design. In each of my projects I take great reference from the surroundings and generally try to create a connection to an indoor-outdoor lifestyle and the beauty of the environment. A strong correlation to the environment and surroundings of the projects remain constant as trends change.

What has lead to changes in your design tastes?

VA: I am always learning and being influenced by experiences and travel. But even more, changes in taste come from what we learn every time we build a house and bring it to life. The feedback of the client really lends itself to my development. 

What was the first trend, design, piece, or style that ignited your love for design?

VA: As far as trends, I’d say the invigorated embrace of modern design about 15 years ago is what first drove me. When I was younger, there was a major trend toward traditional arch and design. But, in the years following, people started to yearn for and embrace open floors plans, edited palates, and mixing styles and periods. To me, that is the meaning of modern. 

What stands out as an design era or phase that you were once all about, not aren’t anymore?

VA: Strict mid-century modern. While I adore mid-century architecture, we never design interior solely within that period. We never want anything to look like a set or a showroom, only sticking to one style. 

Anne Hepfer, Interior Designer

Experts Reveal Their Design Transformations –And No Two Are The Same
Design by Briana Gagnier.

How would you say your eye for design has changed overtime?

AH: Moving to Toronto from New York had a big influence on my design aesthetic. Since moving here years ago, I aimed to blend the two opposite looks. Now, after a significant amount of time in the design industry, my signature style fuses elements from a range of periods and cultures while maintaining a look that is both distinctive and timeless. My general aesthetic is tailored, including clean lines with graphic elements, luxe and layered textures, refined and interesting color palettes combined with unique and unexpected finds. Living in two very different cities for a long time has helped develop this look.

What makes the most obvious impact on your design tastes?

AH: The biggest influence in my design has been my exposure to the great outdoors after moving to Canada. I spend a lot of time 2 hours north of Toronto in lake country and the landscape is absolutely breathtaking: the colors at different times of the day and season, light and texture, organic materials. It’s been an amazing journey.

What stands out as an design era or phase that you were once all about, not aren’t anymore? 

AH: I do not like using rose gold, feature walls, river rock or exposed appliances very much. All-white rooms also aren’t something I typically like to do because I appreciate color too much to commit to an all-white space.

What do you see yourself loving in the future?

AH: I am always open to new inspiration and have found that art is becoming one of the key factors in designing a space. Art can be so influential and I want to make it a bigger part of my process.

Serena Mitnik-Miller, Artist and General Store Founder

Experts Reveal Their Design Transformations –And No Two Are The Same
Designed by Briana Gagnier.

How would you say your eye for design has changed overtime? 

SMM: The one thing I notice that changes overtime is that my taste becomes more and more, refined? I yearn more for simplicity. The more life gets complicated, the more I want to sit in an empty room. That's how I'm feeling on the inside, and I think what comes out in terms of design is  always very organic with me. 

What makes the most obvious impact on your design tastes? 

SMM: It's hard to say. I’m most excited by finding places that can be redone. I love looking at old houses and reimagining them. I love envisioning what can be done and how to bring a space into its most simple, but most beautiful, form .

What was the first trend, design, piece, or style that ignited your love for design? 

SMM: Growing up, we moved around a lot. My mom is very particular about her space and making it look good. Everything is very thoughtful, and she was always stripping the floors and painting them. That was part of the moving process – making the best of the space with what we had. So, that was ingrained in me and definitely influenced what I do now. 

What stands out as a design era or phase that you were once all about, not aren’t anymore? 

SMM: I think that overtime, the thing I see eliminating the most is color. There used to be more color in my spaces – I'd have my grandma's quilts on the bed and posters on the walls. And I love those things, but now, I look for more monochromatic quilts and neutral color palettes. 

What do you see yourself loving in the future?

SMM: My desire now and for the foreseeable future is definitely to stay simple. The thing that I'm always looking for now is space, and not necessarily square footage, but space around whatever I have. I know that doesn’t really relate to design, but it directly relates to my design but it does to my inner yearning for simplicity and wanting my surroundings to reflect that. 

Based on Alexander's, Hepfer's, and Mitnik-Miller's stories, no two design paths or lens are quite the same–  and we think it's better that way. 

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