In this episode, we welcome Megan Pittman. Megan is a designer at M. Sudermann interior design here in Kansas City.
Can you kind of describe what an interior designer does?
Yeah. There’s, such a wide range, right? I think interior designers in the simplest definition would be someone who comes alongside an architect or a builder or both, and kind of help with every non-structural part of a project.
Let’s start with, your background. How did you get into interior design?
I grew up in a family of DIYers. My parents were always remodeling from the time I was born to the time I left for college. So, there was always in the back of my mind, this interest in making a house better than when you started. Changing things, making it, updating it, things like that.
When I went to college, I was really interested in both math and art and loved art history. I looked to the college of architecture at OU, to find a career where I could use both that math side of my brain and the creative side and landed on interior design. I absolutely loved the program at OU. The college of architecture was integrated with the construction science program. The architecture program was good preparation for the real world.
What do you have in your own design kind of aesthetic? Or how do you define that for clients?
That’s a hard question. We always say at our firm, that a designer should be able to help a client either figure out their style. Or come alongside them if they already know it and help them achieve what look they want, whether that’s stark and modern and clean, or really layered and collected and traditional. Anywhere they fall on the spectrum. I love the variety of that and getting to help them.
My personal style would probably be pretty traditional. I lean more tailored and refined, but I love layering and mixing old and new. Yes. I love vintage mixed with modern, especially if it’s a client’s heirloom piece or something that has sentimental value.
Do you have anyone that you follow for inspiration?
There’s a book we have in the office right now by a designer named Ashley Whitaker. And I find myself looking at it and pulling inspiration for all different projects. She’s really good. Some of her new construction projects look like they’re hundred-year-old houses, which I just really appreciate.
How do you pick a color? Where do you start with a client on their color palette and kind of their design?
It’s always good to know with color anything they hate. Start there, cause you’ll find out later on that they absolutely hate yellow or purple or some of those more obscure colors.
My go-to’s are blues and greens. They’re kind of natural. Even if a client wants a neutral palette, I’ll sneak in some blue and green in some way or another, just because they’re less harsh, they’re calming colors. They kind of integrated, you know, nature. They’re just natural. They don’t feel out of place if someone may a little bit scared of color.
It can just start with a rug or a certain, fabric sample, or a piece of art. Maybe it’s something they already have, or I look in our resource library and come upon something and think, okay we could plan a whole room around this.
And then how do you layer on that?
Yeah, I think that’s a great question. I don’t know if that’s something I could even really put into words sometimes it’s just kind of how you feel. It all starts with knowing your client and that one of the things I love about my job is getting to meet people and ask them questions. I enjoy hearing their dislikes, but obviously also their likes and just seeing kind of where that leads you. If art is something that’s super personal I usually kind of let them guide me with art. Then if they like this piece of art, then I bet they would feel okay about their sofa being this color.
It’s always good to push their boundaries a little bit too. I think if I just gave someone exactly what they asked for and thought that they wanted in the end, there might be some regrets for them. Like they could’ve done it themselves. Pushing them just a little bit outside of their limits, each meeting and getting to that end result is exciting to me.
Do you always do a whole room? Do you sometimes just do pieces or how does that process work?
Yeah, I guess there are occasional projects where we would just do part of a room. Maybe if we’re working on a kitchen and it overflows a little bit into the living room or something like that. In general, it would be an entire redo, using the pieces they want to keep and maybe replacing the ones they’re sick of, or that just aren’t working.
Do you go to vintage markets sometimes and do that type of thing with them?
Yeah, we do. Our firm has a showroom attached, Sid & Co. It’s open to the public and is great for clients. We have sofas and chairs that they can actually sit in. Ordering something off the internet can be very scary. It’s nice that they can come to see how it sits and then order it in their fabric or change the cushion style or finish. We do incorporate vintage pieces in the showroom. Our owners will go on buying trips.
We’re also located in an antique district in the west Plaza. So, we can just go to our neighbors’ shops and find an old chest that we turn into a bathroom vanity or dining chairs that are old to go with a new table.
Are there fabrics that you always use and fabrics you will not touch?
For functional reasons, yes. I think velvet scares people because it feels soft and expensive, but it wears like iron. So, velvet is an absolute favorite of mine. I love the way it looks and I love the way that it will wear over time. Velvet is definitely a go-to for me.
One that I love to look at but for functional reasons will sometimes shy away from his linen, like a true 100% Belgian linen. Absolutely gorgeous, but depending on the client and their needs and how they’re going to use the space, it’s not as practical. It’s easy to wrinkle. If it drapes, they can shrink or grow depending on the heat or the temperature, I guess that makes sense of my linen clothes. Do that. That would make sense.
Do you do a ton of prints? Are there certain prints that you lean towards any certain genre of they are across the board?
I think just looking around my own house I have lots of stripes and plaids. They almost, depending on the scale, can feel like a solid, and then it’s easy to pair another busier print. Right now, I’m loving block prints. So, kind of that handmade look. It just depends on the project and what they like. There’s this draw right now back towards floral, which is funny because it can either evoke this nostalgic, “Oh, my room was floral growing up and you want that again?” Or “Oh, my gosh, if I’ve done that and it takes me to a place I don’t want to go back to.”
How do you feel about prints on couches?
To be honest, I personally have not done that. Not to say that I wouldn’t that’s just bold. It’s a hard sell because you have to love it. A sofa should last you a good decade and so I wonder about some of those trends. Are you going to want that in five or 10 years?
How do you look at the spatial layout and decide scale, rug sizes, and where things kind of go? Is that all in your brain? Or is that a science?
A little bit of both. It’s a puzzle. I love puzzles. I love having a puzzle out on the coffee table and occasionally working on it while the TV’s on or something like that.
Space planning really is the same thing. I use an AutoCAD program to actually draw it out. So, in a way, it is a science you have to measure, and numbers matter. But there is kind of an art to it. It’s asking clients, how are you going to use this space? What are your priorities here? Who uses this space?
Maybe it’s a family and mom and dad work from home. Monday through Friday nine to five, it’s a work-from-home study. And then in the evenings and on the weekends, it’s a free for all playroom TV room. So, I think, it’s asking how they use the space. Figuring out what they’re going to use most often matters. Sometimes you can’t make it both a playroom and [an office. You design for whatever they’ll use it as more. I think that’s a really important part of the puzzle and then start drawing in the pieces.
I usually give them a couple of options. Here’s a layout where we’ve got, a game table over here and a living area over here to watch TV. And here’s an area where there’s a floor plan. You know, you have one big area for everyone to hang out together. What do you prefer? And then kind of going from there and placing that.
What about seatback heights? Does that come into play?
Oh, absolutely. If you completely just went off an aerial view floor plan, you could be very disappointed when you walk into a room. There could be tiny chairs in front of a 20-foot fireplace. So absolutely that definitely plays a part spatially, all directions.
How do you lay out a rug and does it go in the middle or does it go underneath everything?
I think one of the biggest mistakes that I see about rugs is people just going too small and kind of feeling like a postage stamp in a giant room. There are definitely different layouts you can use for rugs.
I’m totally okay with the back of a chair or sofa being off of the rug, if it makes sense for that, that space. But I would usually err on the side of a bigger rug. A good money-saving tip for that would be to layer jute, sea grass, or something similar that’s bigger underneath. Then you can use a cool, more expensive, vintage o, Turkish rug on top.
What is your biggest challenge in design?
I want to make sure my client is happy. But as a people pleaser, I find this tension sometimes between what the client is saying that they want versus after having walked through the project with them, what I am seeing. I hear what you’re thinking you want, but this is really what you need, and what’s going to get you that end result.
Usually, they trust me and it usually goes well but for me as a people pleaser, I think the fear of like, oh no, I’m going have to push them a little bit here. That’s hard for me.