Amanda Maier Makes it Work

AmandaFrom twigs to distressed furniture Amanda Maier finds a way to connect her clients to the designs they’ve always wanted.

Thanks for joining us, Amanda! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.

After high school, and after only one semester in state college, I was restless and instead I began a career modeling. Several years later, I was living in Paris and working for Givenchy and was reaching a point in my career where I was ready for a new direction. I went to visit a fashion school in Florence, Italy which I was very interested in attending. Modeling for years made me a lover of fashion, I just loved wearing the clothes, meeting the designers… Upon returning home to the states, I instead decided to return to a childhood love of mine, interior design, although back then i didn’t know there was such a thing. I just always wanted to build things, decorate, move furniture around…plan all the details.

I remember planning an underground fort as a kid- although it was set up more like an apartment. I started digging, but didn’t get very far on that one. I would love to see those sketches today. I asked my mom for a subscription to Architectural Digest. I always loved it. So flash forward to when I began classes at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, I realized It was so much more than I ever thought, and I knew I was meant to do this. I earned my bachelors degree in interior design and worked for a high end residential firm for a few years before starting my own business in 2007. I went on to pass the NCIDQ exam and am an active professional ASID member, currently serving on the PA East chapter board as president elect. I am so grateful that I enjoy a career I truly love, and am able to use my creativity for others to enjoy…having a positive, real impact on people’s lives.

What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist, or is it a meet and greet to feel out their personality?

When I meet a potential client in their space I am looking to find out a lot of information – most of which is personality, although certainly other factors are important and some are even intuitive. The best clients are excited about the process, (aka happy people) willing to trust me and my team, and are good decision makers. I have all kinds of different clients -but most of them have these in common and it makes my job easier, which in turn makes the client happy and everybody wins. Design of the home  is intimate, and there must be a good connection. Also of course I am taking in the existing spaces as well, and most important, I am listening to the client speak about them, uncovering cues on lifestyle, attitude, and aesthetic. 

Working as a designer is committing to a career filled with difficult challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Clients or space? Do you have a method to work through those problems?

As a designer, I am a problem solver, and not only with spaces, which I find  is the easy part, but also challenges with clients and projects in general. The method of working out a seemingly disastrous situation such as a cabinet being made the wrong size or a vendor losing an order, damage or long delays, etc…. is to make it right for the client. That entails using all my resources to remedy the situation, whatever it is. This could cause problems with the client as well, and as a designer i am sometimes the bearer of bad news, but that comes with the job. . We do everything we can to ensure the smooth run of projects but there are always crazy things that happen and you just have to roll with it, and do the best we can. i focus on the fact that in the end everything will be brilliant and the client will be happy. that is the most important thing.

Design shows are very popular on television right now. How have they influenced your business? In what ways do your clients now interact with you that they might not have before the popularity of the shows?

Design shows can be educational, touching and entertaining…  But that is what 

It is, entertainment. Although it can definitely be fun, interior design is a serious business, and design on TV is very different than in real life. You would think that would be obvious, but I believe it creates some misperceptions about the industry. On the plus side, it has brought design to the masses, and helping inspire creativity and beauty is never a bad thing. Interior design is exciting and fun- it is such a big part of our lives- so I look to the positive elements that design on TV brings, and focus on educating others about how the design process actually works.

From the outside it seems like the Philadelphia area focuses on incorporating it’s rich history into many designs! Is that something many clients want? Describe if/how you might incorporate a sense of history into your designs. 

I love to bring a sense of history to a project – or even focusing on the second part of that word- story. I love creating spaces that feel as though they have been there awhile, a little comfy worn-in feeling. Distressed finishes do this very well. Also I love incorporating reclaimed architectural items into projects, like time worn painted corbels used to support a milled mantle, or old barn beams used as material for a coffered ceiling. Old family photographs and antiques are of course beautiful ways to bring the past to mingle with the now. It is amazing how beautifully an antique set of doors works juxtaposed to a modern chandelier. Old and new together are so fresh. Also fabulous is using a gorgeous modern print fabric on a classic or traditional frame – chair or sofa… The effects can be dramatic. 

Do you have a design project you are most proud to have completed?

What did it look like before? After?

I was very excited to complete this renovation of the first floor of a stone manor home in Chestnut Hill, PA. Before it was an unused outdoor porch, leading into a dull living room, complete with sad brick fireplace with classic woodwork mantle, nothing special. I incorporated many gorgeous custom elements into the design that made it so exciting to see come together. From the new ledge stone clad fireplace, which now extended the length of the wall, where I used a huge reclaimed beam spanning the 10 feet, to the mahogany paneling and arched windows which now enclose the former outdoor porch. The entry to which is now home to the old front door, given new life surrounded by the custom stained glass design for the sidelights and transom. It is brimming with a classic, yet elegantly rustic charm, with a modern twist. 

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your designs? Are there designs where you’re more likely to use a rug? Less?

I love rugs too… And I have used area rugs many times in my designs. They can be the centerpiece of a room, like a rug I selected for a penthouse loft in Center City Philadelphia. It had a bold modern Aztec circular design on it, and we did a low glass slab coffee table; the warm tones of amber-gold and red-orange gave it the punch it needed to pull the room together. Sometimes a room can go sans rug however. It really depends on the project. In a home out in New Hope PA, I designed a custom glass dining table, the glass was embedded with twigs- absolutely stunning. The new floor below was a gorgeous natural walnut. I decided that no rug was needed here, to allow the beauty of the tabletop to shine; it also seems to float in the space. 

Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable?

I love 100%wool rugs, and and wool and silk is gorgeous if the budget allows. Nylon is also a good durable natural fiber as well. Sisal rugs are very durable. I have some clients with big dogs running around- and they love it. Acrylic is cheap and not durable; it pills and will look old quickly. A good flokati wool rug can be cleaned over and over and last a very long time. There are a lot of cool wool felt rugs out now : plaited, woven and flat, even shag ones. These are extremely durable, and cool. If you are really into something different, and Eco-friendly, I have seen rugs made from recycled plastic that are so adorable, and outdoor! 

We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price? 

Hmmm, well I would hit local rug dealers…they will flip through tons of heavy rugs for you to view, and they are usually open to negotiation on price. Remember also that a good rug is an investment, it’s functional art and you deserve it. I like to view rug options in the space also when possible, where you can see how it is reacting in the light of the actual space. If you really want to save on rugs… Do some traveling; Turkey, Lebanon and India can procure amazing finds at a fraction of the cost.

Thanks for your time today! Any more hints for our readers?

Think about the size of the rug you actually need for the space before you start your search so you avoid falling in love with something that won’t work. Envision the rug as creating a backdrop for your furniture, something to ground the space, it should compliment the fabrics, not compete with them. If you have mostly plain or striped fabric on the furniture, maybe a bold design is in order. Or if the fabric is more patterned, then possibly a rich and textured rug is the choice.  Also, look at the rug from all angles, the fibers can appear different shades of light and dark depending on which direction the rug is viewed from. 



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