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.
|The paneled library is modern and
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
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
|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
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.
|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
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.