We’ve had a crush on this interior designer since the moment we walked into her home furnishings store in Dilworth — Abode Home Design. As soon as we looked around we just had to find out more about her and her designs. We are extremely excited to feature Mary Tobias Miller as this month’s Interior Designer Crush.
You have an expansive design resume — tell us a little bit about how you got started in interior design.
I moved to New York when I was 22 to complete an eight-week entree program at the New York School of Design, and I ended up staying for the better part of 10 years. I loved every single minute of my time in the city. I took continuing education classes, worked for three different interior design firms, got my associates degree from Parsons and worked part-time at Sotheby’s in the evenings and on the weekends.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Trade magazines and travel. I love to travel — my dad’s nickname was “Jack the Tripper.” I get my love of travel from him. Wherever I go, I scour decorating show houses, design showrooms, interior design shops and studios, trendy shops, museums and flea markets. I am a visual learner, so that’s how I absorb color palettes, trends and ideas.
What sets Southern design apart from anywhere else?
Southerners tend to be very social, so they want homes to reflect this lifestyle — they want homes designed for meeting and entertaining.
What are you favorite spaces to design in a client’s home?
I don’t have a favorite. If we are going to work in phases, I always suggest doing the living and entertaining areas before the bedrooms and less visited rooms.
What has been your most challenging project to date and why?
Honestly, I am sort of obsessive-compulsive and see every project as challenging in the beginning. I put pressure on myself to make clients’ homes unique and reflective of their personalities and not my own. However, sometimes clients tell me what they want, so I become solely a provider of goods that they select. It’s all about pleasing the customer.
Is there a space that you notice people often overlook when it comes to interior design?
Entrance halls are the first thing you see in most homes, and yet it can be sometimes challenging to make them warm and inviting. The light fixtures are often too small and cold looking. A large stairway might create an odd layout for putting carpet or a chest. There is a lot of wood flooring and banister stiles that need softening somehow.
What made you want to open Abode, and why choose Charlotte for its location?
When I moved to Charlotte, I had been working as an interior designer for close to 18 years. Many of my friends here were also interior designers, so most of their clients were our mutual friends. Therefore, in an effort to introduce my interior design style to a new audience, I decided to open Abode.
What’s the difference between your old store and your new one?
LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION! Our new location has been a game changer for us. Traffic is up incredibly, and we really have a great team of talented people who successfully wear a lot of hats. In addition to interior design and home furnishings, we now have accessories and gifts. This has been great fun, and we have really worked hard to put together selections that are unexpected and unique.
What’s the biggest design mistake you see people make?
They purchase things that they like/love without considering where this piece might fit in their homes. It gets more complicated when it’s a large piece that was ordered online. It arrives and looks different from the photos, it’s the wrong color or finish, it’s too tall, too short, etc. It’s often after these mistakes are made that they ask us what to do.
Share one design secret with us regular folk.
Mix textures for a balanced composition (wool, fur, silk, linen, wood, metal, painted pieces with brown furniture). We love modern art and accessory mixes in traditional homes. Antique furniture and architectural remnants take on new life in a contemporary shell. It’s all about the right balance and mix.
What’s your best piece of advice when it comes to design?
My best advice is to get some advice when you consider making changes to your home — before you start buying things. You may need a simple consult or maybe you need someone to assist you with everything from the ground up. It will save you money in the long run to not make costly mistakes from a lack of planning.
Abode Home Design is located at 1530 East Blvd., Charlotte, NC 28203. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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