Products & Trends

Inspiring the Journey Home

For Drew McGukin, the right path leads through the heart of each, individual customer

Inspiration for practically every one of our firm’s projects begins with the client. I am often asked, “Where do you start?” My answer rarely changes, “with the person.” The number one tip I can give anyone is to listen. So many designers do not, and the result can be disheartening for all. In my book, every home should be comfortable and reflect the person living in the space.

“When I say, ‘Style is subjective,’ I mean it. The style part is not about me – it’s about the client.”

It is enormously satisfying to help articulate another person’s needs. A design often starts as a blank canvas, which is easy if one is looking for my personal style. But to make it right for the client, I look for a starting point from which to interpret their dreams, embody their vision.

I love taking random comments, or an odd “like,” and using them to create an environment that starts to characterize a person. These tidbits play a major role in developing an environment that represents home, in time and place. Without people, what’s the purpose?

After “listen,” the next best tip I can offer is to find a strong starting point. I am always looking for something that sparks a direction within each client. This is an absolute must. It could be a fabric, a rug, an heirloom, a piece of art, or even an inspiration image. The idea is to create a point-of-reference that is not just a starting point, but a place to go back to if the team is feeling off course. A design project is a journey, and the traveling is easier when you know where the milestones, goal posts, and guide markers are.

“To stay on track, follow this simple road map to the client’s heart: Inspiration > Concept > Plan > Process.”

The trick is finding a way to infuse a soul quality without losing the business of it all while engaged in the artistry of the moment. If there is any secret weapon in my business, this is it: Engage the client emotionally, and you’ll not only find all the answers you need, you’ll get a lot farther than you might expect when it comes to budget concerns.

There is a delicate balance in managing another’s personal life, belongings, and how those things work together. I am fascinated by how individuals organize, rest, find comfort, seek quietude, entertain, feel creative, and enjoy living. My goal is to peel back enough layers to understand where each person fits on the spectrum of the 5 W’s – what / who / when / where / why.

“After listening, finding a destination, and making a good plan, the name of the game is 100% staying on plan all the way to home plate!”

The last trick up my sleeve is to assign personal responsibility. Once you have listened and collaborated, and then nailed down some specific directions, it’s time to move into execution. Staying on plan requires great confidence, and often feels like a function of sheer willpower! There are a million directions you and your client can find yourself entertaining, but if your eye is on the prize, you can hone your reasoning skills and consistently direct your client back to the plan. “Yes, that Parson’s style console is stunning and exactly the right size, I agree, but remember we need storage. Let’s go back to looking at cabinets to meet your functional needs.”

Throughout the entire process, though, design inspiration is a huge and necessary part of every project because it becomes the glue that builds and holds everything together. In the most successful projects, that glue will hold for many years beyond completion. So remember, whatever the style of the project may be, make very certain the glue is infused with each client’s individual sense of self and belonging. The journey you are leading is, after all, a journey to their home.

About Drew McGukin

As lead designer for his New York-based firm, Drew McGukin Interiors, Drew tackles the interior design world with a unique level of energy, great pace and integrity. He is known for a touch of the ‘unexpected,’ combined with beautiful textures and bold patterns that vibrate with the perfect amount of sophistication, warmth, innovation, style, and approachability.