Printable PDF - David Michael Miller Associates
"Miller energy is pure — and it doesn't miss a detail," says Walter Spitz, owner of Creative Designs in Lighting of Phoenix, a frequent vendor to Miller. "He's got the job figured out from the start — and always with his clients' interests in mind." For Miller, designed space, however beautiful to owners and guests or worthy of accolades by peers and press, must ultimately be functional space. It must, for one, be livable — for people, not museums, for experiencing, not gawking. It must also evoke an emotional response — not be cold but be vibrant and throb with energy: "Architecture and interiors have emotionality; designers should be concerned about how spaces make us feel." Finally, interiors must be streamlined and clean: "I am not a minimalist, but I do like simplicity.” David Michael Miller Associates, based in the well-known two-story studio that he and Phoenix architect Wendell Burnette created in Old Town Scottsdale, never forgets these roots and the dedication to interiors that are honest, organic, and true. The connection to the earth is apparent in Miller's allegiance to organic materials, monochromatic colors, and natural forms: "Wright's romantic writings of the prairie and of nature resonated with me," he recalls, tracing the origins of his design sensibilities. So, although Miller is now one of the most requested luxury-home designers in the West, he has never really left his homespun, formative years in Chicago — the heartland of modern American architecture, with its genesis more than a century ago by architects such as Louis Sullivan, Dankmar Adler, William Jenney, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Born in Wisconsin (site of Wright's Taliesin), Miller grew up in Chicago and studied at the Ray College of Design, an arts trade school on the city's "magnificent mile." After completing his education, he worked for a design firm in downtown Chicago but found that its work was antithetical to his view of truthful, unadorned design and the philosophical roots of the Chicago School: clarity, honesty in materials, minimal decoration, decoration that tells in the total design. "I don't like to get caught up in the whimsical aspects of interior design," he says, "so I strive for honesty and simplicity — for interiors that are sensible and sensuously restrained." This truthfulness is central to the Miller metier and morals — from overall design to materials selection to business relationships with clients and project participants. "Design," he has written, "does not exist to support the business structure; the business structure exists to support the efforts of design." When he migrated to Arizona, the Frank Lloyd Wright Fellowship at Taliesin West in Scottsdale offered him its prestigious membership (from Mrs. Wright herself), but Miller declined, more intent on setting his own standards rather than on aligning with those of others, however august. Created in 1989, David Michael Miller Associates specializes in residential interior design (in new construction, he prefers to be involved from the conceptual stage of architectural design) as well as custom-furniture design and manufacture. With Miller as the sole designer, the firm includes professional support staff Shelley Behrhorst, purchasing/expediting; Brian Wieberg, CADD and technical support; and Audra Harvey, business and financial administration. The company has been regularly honored by peers, including these recent awards: First Place, American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), Arizona North Chapter; Residential Space Between 3,000- and 6,000-square-feet; 2003 First Place, ASID Arizona North Chapter; Residential Space Under 3,000-square feet; and the 2002 Ashley Group Best in Show from the National Design and Architecture Competition. In addition, Miller's work has appeared in a number of books on interior design. Most recently, he was named one of a handful of designers to receive this year's National Design Excellence Award from the National Society of Interior Designers in Washington, D.C. His simple, unadorned, elegant designs have been celebrated nationally and lo - cally in Arizona Foothills, Coastal Living, House Beautiful, Interior Design, Metro - politan Home, Objekt, Phoenix Magazine, Phoenix Home & Garden, Renovation Style, and Sources & Design and The New York Times. *David Michael Miller's 1,680-square-foot Scottsdale studio is a collaboration with Phoenix architect Wendell Burnette, who ingeniously placed the tall, narrow building amidst existing structures, parking, and the garden streetscape of First Avenue in downtown Scottsdale. “ Miller energy is pure – and it doesn’t miss a detail,” says Walter Spitz, “He’s got the job figured out from the start – and always with his clients’ interests in mind. Building the Relationship Between Architect and Designer For Miller, a successful design requires a closely coordinated relationship between its architecture and its interior. Miller is annoyed by the snobbery regularly echoed in architectural halls: that interior designers are not equal participants in the overall building process. In contrast, he feels the relationship between architect and designer should be symbiotic, creating a final work that is vibrant with life and energy. "The best scenario is when the architect and the interior designer work in concert to create continuity, not monotony," Miller says. "Each discipline needs to acknowledge and respect the other." In this ideal dynamic, the project and the client benefit from this hybrid creation. “ For Miller, the relationships that facilitate good interiors are represented by a triangle with vertices of architectural context, geographical/cultural influence, and the client's own style and color sensibilities. Similarly, architects and interior designers must work in harmony: "I like interiors that live with the architecture and are fused to it or are another expression of the building itself," he says. Some designers exceed their primary charge to design honestly: They stuff interiors, setting the designed space against the built space by overwhelming it — prioritizing the contained space over the container. Conversely, some architects want to do everything — including the chairs and the rugs. "Egos," Miller says, "sometimes get in the way." But egos need to meld for an ideal project: "Architect and interior designer should have a shared concept from the beginning about what the building is and what the building should express," Miller says. "This is the common ground that is essential for a cohesion between architecture and interiors." A Study in a Studio This tension and cohesion is the essence and philosophy of the DMMA studio, which has been praised in numerous publications for its innovations. Creative tension resulted in a better product, says Miller, as he and architect Wendell Burnette worked together on, and often battled about, the studio project from its conception. Burnette agrees: "Together we went places we wouldn't have gone independently. It was a great collaboration."