Thinking Warm Even in the Deep Freeze

The Buffalo winters can be harsh, but Nikki Milley keeps it warm with great interior designs that feature plenty of floor coverings!

Thanks for joining us, Nikki! Tell us a little bit about your training in interior design and how you came to choose both the profession and location.

I’ve always been interested in interior design and how your environment can actually affect the way you think and behave. A number of years ago, I was considering going back to school to change my career path. I have a number of other interests, including sociology and psychology, but I couldn’t really find the right fit. I remember talking about this with my husband; there I was, a paint brush in one hand, a home & garden magazine in my other hand, and HGTV blaring in the next room. He suggested that I study Interior Design, as I looked at him blankly, he told me to go and take a look at myself in the mirror…the rest is history!

Is Buffalo a challenging market for interior decorating? What are some of the major influences for the area?

Buffalo is renowned worldwide for our beautiful architecture, including famous works by Frank Lloyd Wright, HH Richardson, and Eliel and Eero Saarinen. Our City Hall is an art deco masterpiece. Buffalo does its best to blend new construction with these timeless masterpieces, and this unique blend of old and new is steeped into the culture and interior design as well.

Buffalo is also a haven for artists; we have two of the largest Art Festivals in the region, a rich theatre foundation, and a burgeoning advertising industry. In addition, our region is quickly becoming a leader in the fields of bioinformatics and technology. Buffalo is on the cusp of becoming a shining example of rust-belt recovery, and is truly attracting the most creative and intelligent minds these days.

Having such a talented client base as well as our rich culture really creates a demand for high quality, clean, and beautiful design. It’s a challenge, but it’s one I’m glad to take!

What’s you design philosophy? How do you try and implement it in your work?

Stylish, simple and smart design is a rule that I live by–I like to think of it as sophisticated simplicity. When designing I look for pieces and furnishings that will provide a timeless interior for the client to enjoy. Good design is durable and functional as well as stylish. I prefer to use”trends” with items that are affordable and easily swapped, like pillows and lamp shades, an ottoman or pouf.

Are your clients typically looking for big jobs, or a room-by-room type thing?

I work with a wide range of clients, from commercial clients who need everything from floor to ceiling, to residential clients who need a color consultation, sample tips and accessory shopping. Of course my favorite are complete rebuilds and remodels, but I love having the opportunity to use my design skills at any stage of the design process. Any project keeps my perspective fresh, allows me to hone my skills, and promotes my growth as a designer.

When it comes to floor coverings, tell us how you incorporate area rugs into your designs.

Generally speaking, the trend these days is towards having hardwood floors installed or refinished, so area rugs play a large role in my design aesthetic. I use rugs in a space to pull together the elements of the room to create a fun and artistic place.

Buffalo is a cold climate 8-9 months of the year. Don’t area rugs add some warmth to the space?

Of course, not just for colder climates. Area rugs are an important tool in the designers toolbox. They can be used to create a more intimate space within a larger space, group seating arrangements, protect floors from dirt, and of course be used as a visual statement in a room. Area rugs are artwork for your floor. Have fun with them!

Do you have any types of rugs you use more often than others in Buffalo?

I particularly like wool and wool blend area rugs for their durability. White Orchard Home Furnishings has a line of area rugs that I use frequently in my designs. They offer several styles and colors and their prices are very reasonable.

Any other tips or tricks for using area rugs?

Area rugs are very versatile, you can move them from room to room to create a whole new look, switch them out for seasonal/holiday changes, and use them to soften a space. They can also help with dampening noise.

Where can readers find your work, or make a booking for an estimate?

Some of my work is showcased on my website, I am also an accomplished artist so be sure to check out the fine arts section on my website.

You can also find me on Houzz and Etsy, and read about my antics at my blogs,,

Define Yourself and Your Space

We all know someone whose style is impeccable. If we lived in Baltimore we’d be talking about Michelle Miller, an artists with a designer’s eye!

Thanks for joining us, Michelle. Tell us a little bit about how you got started in interior design and how you ended up in Baltimore.

My mother had a passion for design, although not a professional interior designer, our childhood home was always being transformed with new layouts, furniture and paint.  I think that designing spaces has always been a part of my life.  I moved to Baltimore after studying Fine Arts in New Mexico and begin dealing in antiques and studying Interior Design.  I eventually opened my own antique store in Historic Oella and begin working with designers.

You live in an interesting city! What is it about Baltimore and the history of the city you find most inspiring?

I am inspired by the people who live here and the communities and neighborhoods that they have created.  Baltimore boasts a very large art scene and is thriving with talented people from artists, designers, fabricators, developers and now more than ever offering exciting culinary experiences.  The city continues to be gentrified making a wonderful place to work and live.

Do you face a lot of challenges working with some of the cities older structures? 

I like to consider the “challenges” as opportunities to find new ways to create the space I envisioned and having a great team of contractors is key.

What are you fist priorities when meeting a new client in a new space? How much are you matching their needs to your education and inspiration?

I believe the most important part of the first meeting is listening to the client(s) and understanding their needs and goals for the project.  I like to talk about their lifestyle, how they use their current spaces and how might that change with the new design.  Each and every client has their own individual style and it is my job to turn that into a home that represents them and make it truly personal experience.

Your city is known to have a few lofts and that can mean hardwood floors. All this adds up to area rugs, which we like! Tell us how you use some of these in your designs.

Area rugs help define spaces and can create atmosphere in any room.  In loft spaces I incorporate larger scale rugs as they help ground a furniture groupings and help the eye to travel across the room.  I use textured and patterned rugs to add a bit of tension when keeping the furnishings monochromatic and sometimes I like to throw a bold color down to give the space some drama.

Do you have a type of area rug that you lean on most? Or is it a case-by-case basis?

I like natural fibers and warm tones with texture to create neutral backdrops for my interiors.  I also am loving the incorporation of linen in flooring as it gives a beautiful age to the rug but keeps it modern at the same time.

How much is too much when it comes to rugs? 

Working within each client’s budget is key but if I find something that I feel passionately about I will show them and work with them to make it happen.

Any final words of design advice?

As a client, find someone that you like both stylistically and personally; having both of these elements will make creating your home a great experience.

Where can readers see your work, or make an appointment for consultation?

Michelle Miller Interiors

2654 Maryland Avenue

Baltimore, Maryland 21218

Office No. 410-702-4993



Designing the Inner Harbor with Elizabeth Cross-Beard

Choosing what’s best for a client’s space is always interesting, but for Cross-Beard of Jenkins Baer Associates of Baltimore the task is made more unique by the rich history of her city.

Thanks for joining us, Elizabeth. Tell us a little bit about how you got started in interior design.

Interior design has been a passion of mine since a very young age. I studied interior design and architecture in college, and have been working in the field ever since.

Baltimore is a city with a lot of history. What elements of the city and its past do you bring into your work? 

Baltimore is a beautiful, diverse and ever changing city. My home is in a building that was once a tin decorating factory, and I love the historical feel of the original facade, mixed with the modern interior renovation. I strive to celebrate the historical….rehab an original fireplace, keep the exposed brick. I like to create a transitional environment, instead of covering up the history in order to create something so stark modern. History is warmth.

What are the most challenging spaces? Does a more unique layout always benefit the designer?

A more unique layout does not benefit the client or designer. Keep it simple and make it functional.

The idea of flow is huge in design. How are your designs patterned to help the occupant feel that the space is stress-free?

Creating a comfortable and functional interior gathering space is paramount. My floor plans tend to keep entries into rooms visually open, so spaces feel large and inviting which is a plus for many of our clients.

Area rugs are versatile and since Baltimore has plenty of loft space with hardwood floors, I’m sure you see a bunch. Tell us how you tend to incorporate them in your design?

Area rugs are the building blocks of room schemes. In my initial conversation with clients, I ask questions such as “Do you have children? Pets? How do you relax? Do you sit on the floor and play board games, or are you never on the floor? Shoes in the house?” I often incorporate rugs to define a space and to add character, warmth and texture. However, asking these questions allows me to zero in on the most suitable area rug necessary, depending very much on how the space is used on a daily basis. Especially when the existing floor is a beautiful hardwood, I gravitate immediately towards area rugs (as opposed to wall to wall carpeting) that will compliment, not cover up, the existing floor. If the area rug is full of pattern, I know that I want the eye to settle there, so I select more neutral, textured fabrics for the furnishings. If the rug is closer to a solid, I am much more playful with pattern on the furniture and window treatments. Everything must strike a balance to the eye.

Do you have a type of area rug that you lean on most? Or is it a case-by-case basis?

Case by case basis, but you can find an assortment of area rugs that are always great for a neutral, sophisticated texture, and durries are great for a pop of color and pattern. The best part for most home owners are the both of these are going to be well priced! You don’t have to go broke when getting a fantastic design.

How much is too much when it comes to rugs? 

Hmmm….that question is a bit loaded! I think that when you have the perfect rug it can adapt to the space. You wouldn’t want to overlay too many, but that’s not something I would ever attempt!

Any final words of design advice?

Go with what makes you happy, don’t follow a trend just because you feel you have to. The best designs are of original thought and are timeless. It’s really about trusting yourself to understand the space and how you want to express yourself within that space.

Where can readers see your work, or make an appointment for consultation?

A portion of my portfolio can be found on the Jenkins Baer Associates website, on Houzz, and through the magic of Google. My maiden name (very recently married) is Cross-Beard. Please contact me through Jenkins Baer to schedule a consultation.

Customizing Your Space

When the rug doesn’t fit, customize it!  

One size does not fit all when decorating your space. Custom sizes allow you to create and innovate the perfect rug for your home.

This shag rug from the Surya Berkley collection was custom ordered to fit this beautiful space. It creates an inviting and welcoming walkway while still providing style and sophistication. With a rug like this, guests will walk in and feel like they are on Cloud 9!

Thanks to our wonderful shopper for contributing this picture!