Missy Steffens grew up surrounded by her family’s collections of art and antique furniture, and she credits early exposure to art, architecture, reading and travel for her career in interior design. Her family would agree. “If you ask my parents, they would say my opinions started early in my childhood on all things interiors,” says Missy, owner of M. Steffens Interiors. “For instance, in fifth grade, my best friend (who’s now in the business as well) and I rearranged the beach house we rented for the week. My mom and dad laughed but did admit it looked much better. The stories continue from there.”
During college, Missy spent a semester in London, where she gained a new appreciation for art and architectural history. And in graduate school, she specialized in Mid-Century Modern furniture and learned that form and function can coexist. “I strive to bring that concept into my daily design,” she says. “Careful blending of the old with the new defines my classic style that is fresh and clean. A home should be comfortable yet elegant.” Learn more about Missy’s work in today’s Interior Designer Crush!
Talk for a minute about launching your career. What were your earliest jobs in design?
I feel as though I landed in interior design by way of art, furniture design and antique furniture. After college, I went to Vanderbilt and received my master’s in art history. My thesis focused on the furniture of Charles and Ray Eames, which strived to bring a balance between form and function. This sparked my interest in furniture, and throughout college and graduate school I was collecting antique furniture and going to antique shows. I still have most of the pieces I purchased!
Fast forward through my husband’s law school years and staying home with two babies, I found myself giving advice to friends and family. I realized I needed to open a business as I really enjoyed thinking through spaces— the rest is history. My first project was renovating two children’s bathrooms and their bedrooms. I included a photo of this 2011 project as it still feels fresh 9 years later. (bathroom with the circle mirror).
Where and how do you find inspiration for your work?
Inspiration is everywhere if you take the time to look at the details. My friends tell me I walk too slow as I’m always taking photos of interesting forms, colors and architectural details. Fashion is another source of inspiration, especially the combinations of color. Fashion designers Lela Rose and Delpozo are fresh to me.
Who are your industry role models, and why do they speak to you?
Darryl Carter, an interior designer in Washington D.C., combines antique furnishings with clean upholstery to create the most interesting mix. It’s antiques reimagined for today’s lifestyle. Gil Schaefer is an architect with an incredible eye for space and design. I enjoy thumbing through his book for inspiration for upcoming renovations and new builds.
How would you describe your personal design aesthetic?
My design is rooted in Southern tradition. However, I mix in modern and fresh elements to give a layered and collected feel. In a client-driven field, you never know what unexpected item or furnishings they may have, so it becomes a big puzzle you sort out. I strive to create a functional space for my clients’ lifestyle that has plenty of nods to the past but is forward-thinking as well. It’s truly back to my thesis of blending form and function as I think through renovations and furniture plans.
What brings you the most professional joy?
To sit back and really look at the finished installation. I have also been told by clients I blush when I really like something.
What’s one of the most misunderstood aspects of interior design from those outside the industry?
How many logistics are involved in a project. A close second might be that backorders are a major part of the business.
Will you share one trade secret with us?
Benjamin Moore’s White Dove is my go-to ceiling color except when painting a moody space like a library or study. You need to soften the ceiling color to help balance the dark space.
If you could squeeze your design philosophy into five words, what would they be?
Fresh, collected, timeless, layered and thoughtful.
All photos, unless otherwise noted, are by Ross Group Creative.
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