Michelle Chandler of Design with Purpose

B YourselfYou have decorated many different spaces, so where do you like to go to be inspired for fresh and new ideas when you start a new space?

It’s really different with each project, but I am always on the hunt for inspiration and I keep files for all the hoards of images that I collect for future projects. Sometimes, the space itself directs the concept of the project. I think staying true to the architectural bones of an existing space but altering them in an unexpected way makes a project really special. I actually started my education in fashion design, and I keep a heavy influence of fashion in my projects. Fashion and interiors are very much related. I also like infusing a touch of nostalgia into each space. The balance of old and new, past and present is something I love using in design.

What makes a successful space?

I don’t know if there’s any one thing that makes a space successful. Design is so subjective, and that’s what makes it so great and also so difficult. I find the most beautiful spaces are the ones that were completely thought through. Where every single detail was placed with intention and was meant to bring together a complete experience. I truly believe that every piece that goes into a design should have a purpose.

What sort of design or decorating mistake do people make and how can they avoid it?

Not having a plan! So many clients have come to me frustrated because they didn’t know where to start so they just started buying pieces with no plan in place. They end up with a space that doesn’t function, that they don’t love but spent most of their budget on. My advice is to always start with your must-have inspiration piece. Have you been eyeing a killer area rug or incredible vintage chair? That’s where you need to start and build on your space from those key elements. Design is a very layered process and it requires organization and time, it’s always worth it in the end.

What is your favorite room to decorate?

I honestly can’t pick one, so it’s a three way tie between kitchens, bathrooms, and nurseries. I have a serious obsession with tile and hardware, so kitchens and baths make me really giddy. I could hang out in tile showrooms like all day, and I have! The kitchen is also the heart of the home and where you spend most of your time, so it should be a phenomenal space both aesthetically and functionally. Although, there’s something so incredible and sacred about designing a nursery. It’s such an important process for new mommas, and it’s so much fun to work on.

Any other interior designers you resonate with or follow?

I currently have a major designer crush on Amber Lewis. She is 100 percent a designer who does her thing and she does it very well! She also just seems so cool. I always love what Consort Design, Avenue Interiors, and ICRAVE have going on. They have some incredible portfolios that I always go to for inspiration.

Tell us about living and working in Newport Beach, CA versus Birmingham, AL.

Southern California was my home for over 10 years, so it will always have a big place in my heart. But, I’m originally from Northern California, which is similar to Alabama. I was very fortunate to be able to work and live in Newport Beach. I learned so much about the design industry while working for firms in LA and Orange County. There are so many incredible designers in the area, and it’s a tough field. I learned very fast to get a thick skin. I soaked up every ounce of experience knowing at some point I would go off on my own. That was one of the reasons why I felt okay about leaving California, because it was the perfect opportunity to follow my dream of starting my own studio. And it definitely helps that Birmingham is very design hungry! The city is going through a huge Renaissance right now, and it’s awesome to be here at this time. I will say I miss seeing the ocean everyday and having my favorite shops and restaurants right around the corner, but Birmingham is an incredible city and a great place to raise a family.

What’s the single best advice you’ve ever received?

Always have an opinion! This has stuck with me more than anything and it has helped me in my career and in life.

What’s one little thing everyone can do to make his or her home even more elegant or luxurious?

Update your lighting fixtures. Lighting makes such a huge impact in your home. You can add sconces anywhere now with plug in sconces, no hardwiring required!

Describe your perfect day.

A sunny day on the lake in Northern California with my family and friends.

Mantra you live by?

Be present and patient. Life is a journey, and it could all end at any moment, so order the damn fries.

Parting words, Michelle?

You can follow me on Instagram @harperjamesdesign and on my blog. For design inquires contact me: michelle@harperjamesdesign.com

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