Next Wave: Mika Durell
A true change-maker, Mika Durrell is writing her own rulebook within her interior design firm, Able Moraine. Based on Martha’s Vineyard, Durrell works with specialty craftspeople to bring an authentic, cohesive, feel to all of her projects. In her own business, Durrell believes in a fluid design process and strives to promote an inclusive, expressive environment for her team and clients. ~ Brenna Collins
CCH: How did you get involved in the design industry?
MD: My dad was a builder, so I grew up on a construction site my whole life. He had a job on the Vineyard and brought me out to the island. I moved here year-round pretty young. I atually enjoyed the Vineyard shuffle because I could recreate my home between seasons. I decided I wanted to pursue a career in interior design. I had heard about the BAC (Boston Architectural College), a concurrent work study program. It was a great fit because I went to school while working simultaneously.
CCH: When did you begin your own firm and how did that come about?
MD: I began my own firm in September 2019. Working in architectural firms, I realized that the business of residential interior design required a different infrastructure than an architectural firm. In residential design, I was able to utilize the great community of people in the industry to create truly custom homes for my clients. When I began my own residential firm, this community became the heart of our process and our ethos. I am a concept-driven and client-centric designer. I strive to understand the client’s vision and who they are while aligning them with interesting craftspeople. Incorporating this community is what allows our clients’ homes to achieve a richer, unique character.
CCH: How did you end up back on the Vineyard getting back into your design career?
MD: The Vineyard is definitely my home. It’s where my best friends are, and in some ways, my family. While in Boston, I worked for prominent commercial architecture firms, completed my degree, got married, and had two kids close together while maintaining a lead design role in commercial architecture. I wanted to continue to focus on my career, so I interviewed for positions to run interior design sections of architecture firms. A position opened to start an interior department at Hutker Architects on the Vineyard, and it was perfect. I got the job and we moved here in 2015.
CCH: What is the meaning of your firm’s name, Able Moraine?
MD: Moraines are the glacial formations that created Martha’s Vineyard. I always loved the velocity of that—the energy of these things coming together and creating something so unique and beautiful. Able comes from my blue-collar background and appreciation for people that work hard. We also truly believe that contractors, plumbers and electricians are a part of our team and the process behind the scenes helping us create such amazing homes. Able Moraine is a design collective that celebrates every person involved to make the project come to life.
CCH: How would you describe your design philosophy?
MD: This is all about the client and how they live. Each project is different. We do traditional, modern, eclectic, bohemian, everything. At the end of the day, I want clients to walk into their home and say, ‘this is me’. We listen to our clients to understand what’s important to them and what they’re drawn to. We love and appreciate authentic materials. Our process is focused on engaging specialty craftspeople. I look at designing a home as a living organism. You have your basic needs to let it grow and thrive, but we’re like a pot of wildflowers. We like to sprinkle the seeds and let it become what it is naturally. That comes from our lack of rigidity and our focus on the client’s vision.
CCH: What advice would you give to young professionals looking to succeed in the building and design industry on the Cape & Islands?
MD: In this industry, there can be an obsession with formalities and traditional thinking. I believe you have to constantly acknowledge you don’t know it all. Everything is always evolving around us and we have to be open-minded to allow the creative process to thrive. As a woman with an incredible passion for what I do, there are stereotypes and walls put in front of you. Honor your goals and protect yourself from those stereotypes. As women, we need to continue to carve a path for the future and independence of our young girls.
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