From Bland to Grand

With Michael Strauss of the Design Haus

Article by Sadie L. Harper

Photography by Get Photographer Name from Michael

Originally published in Cary City Lifestyle

Michael Strauss of The Design Häus recently discussed a recent project with us, a living room which comprised the main family center. The clients voiced the need for the new space to represent the home well, as guests saw this room first on entering the home. But it needed to balance livability and durability with being family-friendly; lifestyle-oriented, yet formal and cohesive.

Knowing the space would require new upholstery pieces, Michael turned to modern, high-performance fabrics, known for their qualities of durability and stain resistance. While originally developed for outdoor or commercial uses, they have transitioned into interior, residential spaces. The seating arrangement grounded the space, offering an inviting feel. From leathers to fabrics, these decadent yet durable fabrics bring a return on investment and enjoyment. Once can relax and enjoy the space without stressing over life’s mishaps.

The fireplace – always a focal point – served to inspire some of the color scheme, drawing from the hues in the hearth surround. A unique art piece for over the mantle added another element from which to draw the overall design palette. The client fell in love with it, and the soft-yet-vibrant color story sprang to life.

Taking from his background designing theatrical sets in the New York metropolitan area, Michael knew the soaring, twenty-foot ceilings need the emphasis a grand illusion would provide. Doing so would bring a sense of intimate scale to the space.

Challenge: Merely adding large-scale artwork or mirrors would not suffice. 

Solution: Applying trim to form shadow-box moldings which created a floor-to-ceiling architectural detail. This filled the space, while also adding visual interest. Adding large-scale sconces and a dramatic mirror completed the wall treatment; bringing emphasis down to eye level. Contrasted with the dark wall color, the simplicity provides visual interest, yet does not detract from the intimate, conversation-ready feeling of the seating arrangement.

The blush-hued leather ottoman, which became Michael’s favorite piece in the room, came from a manufacturer his studio partners with – which also happens to be the largest Hickory-based North Carolina furniture manufacturer. A metal fabricator and artisan just down the road supplied the metalwork detail, fulfilling Michael’s desire to keep production local. All items in his showroom, and all items used in his designs, come from domestic manufacturers. Rather than big retailers and distributors, Michael endeavors to support family businesses, from North Carolina wherever possible, and refrains from outsourcing overseas.

Michael used his ability to allay the clients’ fears with the window treatments. Where the client wanted to leave the windows bare or stop at the break halfway up, he knew he needed a strong feature to balance out the room’s height. Encouraging them to trust the process and explaining his perspective, he installed a metallic fabric which spans the entirety of the window’s floor-to-ceiling sashes to give a luxurious vibe. 

Oftentimes during renovations and design projects, the homeowner remains on site throughout and sees each small change, which can lead to doubt. Recognizing most homeowners will undergo such a large-scale transformation once – maybe twice – in their lifetimes, he relies on his experience while reassuring them along the way. Nerves become frayed; anxieties rise. Fifteen years of steering the ship from port to port means confidence in his vision, even during the “half-baked cake” stage mid-way through the project.

When it came together, the clients loved the changes. The end result? The look of a model home while incorporating the clients’ desire for comfort and practicality. 

Michael Strauss took a cavernous room and created a welcoming space for family, friends, entertaining - all while retaining a usable (but luxurious) aesthetic.

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