Tell us about your experience and background in design.
I always knew I wanted to do this. As a kid, I was the quintessential product of an artistic mom and a great-grandfather who was one of the first window dressers on State Street in Chicago. My father would take me on daddy-daughter dates, and we would look at all the architecture in Chicago, so I always loved design. My parents had a very contemporary living room with white shag carpet and modern art, but they also had wonderful antiques from my grandmother. After school I interned with this genius crazy cabinetmaker and designed super high-end kitchens where clients would spend $100,000 just on cabinets. My first job was all about these tiny little crazy details, which is what I’m now known for. We don’t do anything cookie cutter, we do these high-end renovations around Charlotte. People come to me because they want something different. I do a lot of monochromatics but add a lot of architectural details. I’m known for my signature pyramid.
What is the renovation process like?
We’re one of the few design firms that is one-stop shopping for high-end renovations. We put together the team from the contractor and the architect to the builder, and we’ve started becoming known for that. It’s a team mentality. Our whole philosophy is that renovations are stressful, and we put the team together so that it’s a cohesive unit, no fighting, and the client can just sit back and relax. Most renovations take between four and six months — sometimes a year. I have one client spending $1.5 million just on a renovation, so if we can take the stress out of it, that’s our goal. It’s like plastic surgery — once you start with the master bedroom, the bedding, the window treatments, everything needs freshening. We obsess over the trim on the pillows and the leg on the chair … we do a lot of custom furniture. People are tired of ordering from a catalog. They want something different, something that is unique to them.
You design private planes – these jobs can have $90 million budgets! What sort of unique design challenges does that present?
Everything has to pass FAA regulations, so we might use some of the same fabrics, but they have to all be burn resistant. Everything also has to be easily maintained. We have people that these planes are their second homes, so it still has to feel like home while also being serviceable and still elegant. I hold everything in my hand – the scotch glass has to feel good in your hands, but when you get 10 of them on a plane, you’re talking about weight, and that can be an issue. We sit in avionics meetings. I sit down with the flight crew and find out how a flight attendant likes to prepare meals. Again, it’s all very detail oriented. There’s so much to think about when thinking about designing for a plane. We usually start from scratch. It’s basically a tin can with a cockpit and then we put everything in it.
Who is your typical client?
We have a huge range of clients. Generally they are executives and CEOs — somebody who really values a designer who’s going to be fully involved. These are not DIY people. We have surgeons, entrepreneurs, busy women. They don’t want to be involved — they want a professional to take over from soup to nuts.
What is your design aesthetic, and how do you translate that to a client and his/her home?
We’re all about clean, crisp elegance. I like to say comfortable elegance. We don’t have a lot of stuff everywhere – I don’t like clutter. I think clutter breeds non-productivity. I do like family photos and mementos. I think the most interesting interiors are the ones that have architectural details, different textures, white marble and steel next to antique beams from the mountains … I like rustic floors in combination with clean, crisp white or grey cabinets. I like fluffy. I like high/low – expensive and inexpensive. I like antiques with contemporary art.
What design services do you offer?
As far as interior design services, we offer space planning, color & finish consultation, custom furniture and upholstery, lighting, window treatments, floor coverings, custom bedding, and art and antique procurement.
As far as renovation and new construction services, we offer site and project analysis, design concept development, selection of interior finishes, collaborative consulting with architects and contractors and project management. And of course with private jets, we design the interiors and help with exterior paint schemes.
Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? What is your favorite part?
It’s really about getting to know the client. Each job and scope is based on my client. I want to know what they do. How much they entertain. Do the kids play in the house? Everything we do is based on the client’s lifestyle. My whole gig is making someone’s life better through space planning, placement of things in the kitchen. That all leads to better routines, which leads to better lifestyles. I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with beautiful things. It’s uplifting. My favorite part is when the client says “I love this!”
Would you share one designer secret with SB readers?
Buy the best you can afford – don’t buy throwaway furniture just to put something in your house. If you have to wait, wait. Wait for the right things, and be true to who you are as a person and what you like.
If you could design one person’s home, who would you choose?
I love everybody who comes through my door. We’re very choosy on who we take on. I truly do dig my clients — I have clients I’m working on multiple houses over 10, 15 years. I watch the kids grow up. My biggest motivation at this point in my career is truly changing the way my clients live. It’s not just all about the pretty, it has to also be about the good work.
If you could squeeze your design philosophy into five words, what would they be?
Can it be six?! To thine own self be true. Be yourself.
Photography courtesy of Chris Edwards.
To learn more about Amy, check out her website at amyvermillion.com.
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