The Next Wave – Chelsea Miller
At 28 years old, Chelsea Miller is already making waves in the interior design industry on Nantucket. Since graduating from Virginia Tech with an interior design degree in 2011, the Longmeadow native has taught English in Beijing, China, and worked as a model builder for LEGO in Enfield, Connecticut, before heading to Nantucket in 2014 to take on the role of lead interior designer for Hanley Construction & Development. “Every experience is an opportunity to grow,” Miller says, “and my past experiences gave me the confidence to pursue a career in design.”
CCH: As Hanley’s lead interior designer, what do your responsibilities entail? When some people think of interior design, they just think of decorating, but it’s much more than that, right?
CM: It’s totally more than that. True interior design is not just the pretty things—it’s everything inside a house. I’ll get involved in a project as early as the architectural phase and help design the entire interior. From there I’m doing everything from selecting plumbing and lighting fixtures, to visiting the site and working with subcontractors to determine how to best lay out everything. I’ll go to job sites sometimes just to poke around and ask questions to help me understand things like plumbing valves and electrical code. Having that knowledge makes the whole process more cohesive.
CCH: When working with homeowners, how do you create the home of their dreams and balance what works best design-wise?
CM: It’s all about helping them realize how their spaces can be most useful for them. I always start by talking with couples about how their family is composed. Is it just them? Do they have children? Do they envision lots of guests? How are they going to use the space, and then how do I solve their functional needs while creating something that is beautiful and fits with their design aesthetic? I worked with a family here that has three kids and a dog, and they needed spaces that were comfy and highly durable, so I used indoor-outdoor rugs, upholstered furniture, and indoor-outdoor fabrics. It’s ultimately a matter of me finding the right pieces and pulling them together in ways that speak to both the clients’ aesthetics and personal needs.
CCH: Why did you want to become an interior designer?
CM: When I was in fourth grade, I used the Internet for the first time, and the first website I went to was HGTV.com. I grew up watching HGTV and wanting to be like the designers I saw on their shows. When I was old enough to start thinking about a career, I realized I had a strong passion for art and mathematics, so it seemed like such a natural fit to explore the design world. After college I lived in China for a year teaching English at a private school in Beijing. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the experience reinforced that I love design and wanted to be a designer.
CCH: What words of advice do you have for young professionals like yourself looking to make it in the local home building and design industry?
CM: Stay curious. Whether you’re working in the field or a designer like me, the more curious you are the better, because you’re going to develop a better understanding of how everything works. There are always opportunities to learn more.
– Interview by Haley Cote
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