Michigan Design
Designer Spotlight
Charles Dunlap of Dunlap Design Group
Charles Dunlap

Charles Dunlap of Dunlap Design Group has been designing beautiful homes in metro Detroit for more than a decade. Inspired by organic forms, varied use of materials, and well edited spaces, Dunlap’s design style continually evolves while remaining modern and classic.

What is your design philosophy?
Great design should improve the way people live – it connects them to their surroundings. It’s not just furniture placement and rug selection. Great design is about making interiors function for the way people want to live. It should also be a reflection of their personality and ultimately enhance their lives.

Dunlap Design Group
The paneled library is modern and masculine.

What serves as your inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere – from the grittiest urban areas to the most elegant locations in Europe. My travels give me a unique understanding of many styles, and an exposure to unusual materials. Travel also exposes me to various cultures around the world. It’s interesting to see how differently people live.

I like to use earth tones and texture, as you might find outdoors, it connects the interior to the exterior and really puts people at ease.

What is your design process like?
While working on a project, we are sensitive to the architecture, site, function and the way our clients want to live. Many times I use the architecture of my clients’ homes as a jumping off point for their interiors.

Before we begin any design work we send our new clients a questionnaire in order for us to get to know them and have a better understanding of their project. It is important for us to find if we are all a good fit and that we establish clear expectations at the beginning of the project.

I’m interviewing them, just as they’re interviewing me, and we establish trust at the beginning of the designer / client relationship. Trust really is the proper ingredient for a successful design collaboration.

I feel one way our firm stands out is the use of technology in our design process to convey our ideas to our clients. For example, some of our clients find it difficult to visualize the entire concept so we employ 3D modeling software that allows our clients to actually see the completed project.

Dunlap Design Group
This mid-century inspired room features a sofa designed to be used as a dining banquette.

While nothing really can replace face- to-face interactions, we also meet with many of our clients via the Internet. We often are working with busy professionals who sometimes live out of state and appreciate the flexibility of being able to meet with us though the computer to review floor plans, materials, and so forth.

Are you working on any projects that are particularly exciting right now?
I find excitement in all of my projects because each project is different. I’m not about cookie-cutter design. People come to an interior designer for custom, tailored solutions. The majority of our clients give us a clear idea of what they are looking to achieve, then trust us to create their dream home. While we’re all for collaboration, I think the best design happens when clients allow the designer to take the reins of their project.

From your past projects, do you have a favorite?
It’s always rewarding when I can tell that I have enhanced the way my clients live. It’s such a thrill for me when I receive phone calls or referrals from past clients that tell me they are still enjoying the space I’ve created for them.

My favorite projects are those where the client has let me go and trusted me even if it meant stepping a bit outside their comfort zone to do a bold printed wallcovering or unusual material – treatments that made those spaces really special.

Dunlap Design Group
Multicolor glass tile is a striking focal point in this bathroom.

How has the nature of interior design changed over the past few years?
I think the whole “design on a dime” thing has changed the way people look at design – and not in a good way. People have unrealistic expectations. Social media, the Internet, and smart phones have created an immediacy that is not necessarily conducive to design. Good design takes time.

While hiring an interior designer can save you from making mistakes, you should be going to them for something special and custom. That’s what real designers do.

Your firm is celebrating 11 years – how did you become interested in design, and what have you learned over the past decade?
I was in the fashion merchandising business for 10 years, which made me realize my love for style and individuality. At that time, I remember devouring every issue of Architectural Digest. when it arrived. Eventually, that passion influenced me to enroll in Wayne State University’s Interior Design program. Since then, I’ve learned that there will always be problems, and it’s how they’re resolved that truly makes the difference. Our job title may be interior designer, but our many roles include project manager, client relations, and often times, therapist. Communication and trust between client, designer, vendors, and artisans is crucial.



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