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A Conversation With Michelle Rohrer-Lauer, Principal At Michelle’s Interiors

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MichellesInteriors is an award-winning, residential design firm with clients in the Chicago area and throughout the United States. Recently we talked with Michelle about her studio, her philosophy and inspirations, and what we can look for in the future from this dynamic designer and business woman.

Q: Please give us a brief introduction to your studio.

A: Michelle’s Interiors is a full-service, residential design firm. I launched the studio more than 30 years ago after running a successful children’s furniture boutique, and I truly love what I do. Throughout my career I have created one-of-a-kind homes for hundreds of clients. I feel very proud that a significant portion of my business comes from referrals and returning clients.

Q: Who are your clients?

A: My clients are varied and fabulous! They represent every stage of life. I have families with young children or teens, empty-nesters and retirees. I work with never-married singles and those who are divorced or widowed. My decades of experience have given me a clear vision of what homeowners are looking for at each of those phases so I can help them transition from one to another.

Q: What makes your approach unique?

A: Every designer says they create homes that reflect their clients’ personality and lifestyle, and so do I. But I go beyond that. I want my clients’ homes to feel like their personal vacation destination every day – a private get-away where they can relax and refresh. People spend substantial time and resources on a one- or two-week vacation, but the majority of our time is spent at home. When we walk through that front door, we should instantly begin to unwind and rejuvenate so we can feel and be at our best. To that end, I help my clients discover who they are and what they want and need at home, going beyond the basics. Through one-on-one conversations, I dig deeper with questions such as – do they want to cook more and eat a more nutritious diet? Do they have a quiet space where they can be alone? Are they sleeping well? Do they thrive in their homes the way they do on vacation? What are they missing?

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Q: What is your definition of luxury?

A: Luxury is…

• An investment in everyday life, because your surroundings are everything.
• Being able to say, “my home is my vacation destination every day.”
• An environment where people can thrive
• A well-designed kitchen that inspires you to cook more and eat better
• Private space in your home for the times you want to be alone, or be a couple
• A piece of furniture that feels as good as it looks. The fit and finish are superb, the fabric is scrumptious and the tailoring is impeccable, like your favorite jacket or dress.
• Conveniences such as remote-controlled shades and smart thermostats
• Excellent lighting for all purposes – task lighting for reading, cooking and working, statement lighting and mood lighting for entertaining
• A bedroom that feels as if you are in a 5-star resort or your favorite bed-and-breakfast. Your bed promotes a deep, rejuvenating sleep or intimacy with your partner
• A great shower that revitalizes you for the morning, or a steam shower to prepare you to unwind and sleep well
• Improving indoor air quality through natural fabrics and eco-friendly paint and finishes

Q: What can a client expect when they work with you?

A: Discovery

The first step for me is discovering my clients’ “pain points” at home. What drives them crazy? What isn’t working well for them? I want to know how they use their home and how they want to feel at home. What are their favorite colors and style? Do they cook or entertain often? Do they need more storage or a better organized laundry room? Do they need to carve out space for a home office? Are there any family heirlooms they want to incorporate or treasures from their travels? My goal is to show them what a well-designed home can do for their lifestyle. My clients often tell me that I took their vision and made it better than they could have imagined. During the discovery phase I also take photos and measurements that help me in the design process, and I discuss budget and time-lines with the clients.

Creating and Presenting

At this stage I analyze what I have learned from the client and add my creativity and expertise to create an overall design plan and budget. Space planning, color palette, furniture design and selections are made, from fabrics and finishes to cabinetry, tiles, rugs and lighting. Once I have developed a plan, I present it to the client.

Working Behind the Scenes

We want the design process to be as enjoyable and efficient as possible for our clients. My team and I oversee every detail of a project so our clients can live their lives. We work closely with our trusted tradespeople and vendors, refining details, placing orders and tracking their progress to ensure that everything comes together as planned. My team also creates a calendar of construction work and deliveries, updated as needed, and share it with our clients so they know what to expect. During installations, we are onsite to ensure that furnishings arrive as ordered and in perfect condition.

Q: Where do you find your inspiration for interior design?

A: Inspiration is all around us, from the color of the water at my lake house or the way the sunlight filters through the trees to the architecture and history I encounter when I travel and the precision engineering of a luxury car. I also keep track of the latest in home furnishings during trips to High Point Market in North Carolina. It’s the largest home furnishings trade show in the world and it’s like catnip for me. I spend several days walking through miles and miles of exhibit space. Plus, my tried-and-trusted vendors keep me up-to-date on their newest products.

Q: What can we expect from Michelle’s Interiors in the future?

A: One of my goals is to incorporate more eco-friendly furnishings into my clients’ homes, not only to protect the environment but to improve their indoor air quality. I believe that luxury and sustainability can be combined to create outstanding interior design and achieve energy efficiency without substantially affecting cost. Whether my clients just want efficient LED lighting, fast-growing eucalyptus wood for their kitchen cabinets or reclaimed French farm house wood for their floors, their homes can be any shade of “green” that they like. Because I am dedicated to this effort, I recently became a certified GREENleader and member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council. SFC is a North Carolina-based coalition of manufacturers, retailers and designers dedicated to raising awareness and expanding the adoption of environmentally sustainable practices across the home furnishings industry.

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Q: Tell us about your awards.

A: I was very honored to win First Place Kitchen from my peers in the 2018 ASID-Illinois Design Awards of Excellence and a Best Powder Room award in the 2018 Kitchen and Bath Design Awards, sponsored by Kitchen and Bath Design News. I have also received “Original Furniture Design” and “Artistic Surface Design” awards from Chicago Home & Garden and a “Top Treatments” award from Envision Design.

Q: Congratulations on your latest book!

A: Thank you! I am a co-author of “Today’s Inspired Leader,” which is a collection of essays on leadership by successful entrepreneurs.

Q: How do you define leadership?

A: I believe that leaders are consistent, keep their promises and generate positive energy that motivates their staff and inspires trust in their clients. Leaders share their vision and values with others, and they never stop learning. I consistently hold myself and my team to the highest standards in order to lead by example. Everyone needs to produce his or her best work, every time.

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