Detroit Inspired Business Design

Katie saw the need for better access to design services while working in Detroit neighborhoods.


Ever wonder who’s behind Roomations and how it came to be? Well, in a series of interviews, we’re talking to the three founders of Roomations to find out why they started Roomations and what inspires them to drive the company forward each day. This month we’re talking to Katie Miller, the designer who had the first inkling of an idea for a company that could fill the chasm between HGTV and high-end design firms out of reach for America’s Average Joe.

Q: Why did you start Roomations?

A: Ever since I started pursuing architecture back in college I’ve been interested in the idea of increasing access to design. Architects have an Ivory Tower sort of reputation that I’m not fond of (if you’re not sure what I’m talking about, rent the movie The Fountainhead). At any rate, this interest of mine got me doing community design work in Detroit. I worked with first-time homeowners in northwest Detroit, often going through the process of showing them material samples for interior finishes on new homes that were being built. I also worked with small business owners in Southwest Detroit’s Mexicantown community, helping them to fix up their storefronts to attract more people to their stores and to the neighborhood in general. In both situations, it was obvious that design really mattered, but that it was sort of a new concept, too. I worked with a liquor store owner, for example, who’s storefront included windows covered up with vinyl siding, white painted brick and what seemed like a million LIQUOR LOTTO signs. But the owner really wanted his storefront to look great, so it really was a lack of design education and access to design services that had been holding him back. With homeowners, I noticed everyone had a hard time visualizing what a particular material finish or color would actually look like in their home. So when I decided to go to graduate school, pursuing both design and business, I was set on coming up with a concept that could make design services accessible to the mainstream population, not just the wealthy individuals and big businesses.

Q: What’s your role at the company?

A: While we don’t use a lot of titles around here, I’m essentially the director of design. And by that I mean interior design and architecture, not website design, although I have a lot of opinions on that aspect of design as well (opinions, but not authority). Mostly I oversee the development of our Designer Network, which is a network of freelancing interior design professionals and also some residential architects with an interiors focus. These freelancing designers are providing custom designs to Roomations customers based on their own creative thinking and knowledge of materials and products. I have the responsibility of selecting top talent to be part of the network, to enhance their knowledge where possible, and to critique their work before it goes to client. In addition to this design support role, I also am involved in providing useful design advice directly to homeowners in the form of free content on the Roomations website and partner websites. I write posts regularly for the Roomations blog and encourage anyone interested in residential design to subscribe to our blog emails or RSS feed. Our content ranges from personal musings on design to specific suggestions on cool products. We try to have fun with the blog and let our personalities come through while still being really disciplined about providing unique, accurate and of course helpful information.

Q: Who’s your favorite designer?

A: Gosh, that is a tough question. I think for this interview at least I’ll go with the late Samuel Mockbee. He was an Alabama architect and teacher that created the Rural Studio at Auburn University. Mockbee and his students created inexpensive houses out of local and recycled materials for families in need. The homes were unconventional but absolutely breathtaking. Sam Mockbee’s work is a true testament to creativity and ingenuity in design not to mention humanitarianism.

Q: How would you describe your personal design style?

A: When designing for others, the style is all about the person or company that I’m designing for. But for myself, I guess I’d have to go with “eclectic” because I like a lot of different types of styles. I like to create a contemporary or modern feel but have traditional pieces as part of the composition. You have to give props to old school French designers for some of the things they’ve come up with, so why completely retire the look? I also like a room and everything in it to be functional and comfortable – very important.

Q: Where do you like to shop?

A: I’m a bootstrapped entrepreneur, so I’m not doing much shopping for myself right now. I’m open to donations!

Q: #1 piece of advice for homeowners?

A: Get help! Most people have a really, really hard time visualizing how colors, furniture and different materials will look in their home and Roomations is designed specifically to deal with this. Designers in our network also have ideas you may not have thought of and will work within whatever budget you have.

Q: If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?

A: Why wouldn’t I be doing this?

Q: Deep dish or thin crust?

A: One of each, please!

Related Links: 
Find Your Style - Roomations Style Quiz
View Blog Posts by Katie
Meet Roomations Co-Founder Lakshmi Bhargave

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