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MIXING THINGS UP WITH JILL SCHUMACHER AND MICHELLE MIO

Jill Schumacher & Michelle MioMichigan Design Center recently caught up with Jill Schumacher and Michelle Mio, partners (along with Rosemary Rariden-Cotter) in the design firm Rariden Schumacher Mio & Co. The two were excited to talk about some their recent projects.

Their award-winning firm has been published numerous times in both national and local press.

The team uses cozy seating plans and durable fabrics to create family-friendly spaces that will withstand the test of time.
Rariden Schumacher Mio & Co. uses a team approach when working on ground-up building projects. Designers from the firm share their expertise to create stunning results for their clients.

Are there some favorite things you have found? Things you reach for again and again because they seem to always work?
Jill: I don’t think so. We don’t have a real ‘signature piece’ or anything. If you are asking about trends, I would say we are doing more sectional seating than ever before. It seems like families want to get cozier now. We try not to have that ‘signature’ piece because we want everyone to have their own look. It helps that there are three of us, each with very different styles.

What else are families asking for now that is different than in recent years?
Michelle: They want really wearable fabrics. They know they need something that will last and look good for a long time. We have been laminating and treating fabrics for stain resistancy, such as Nano-tex. We are also huge fans of some of Pindler & Pinder's faux leathers and outdoor fabrics from Manuel Canovas and F. Schumacher & Co.

Over the last eight years, if you were to think about some of your favorite projects, which ones stand out?
Jill: I was just talking to Rosemary (Cotter) about that in the car yesterday. It wasn't necessarily one project, but it's the type of project where we get to go from soup to nuts. It is great when we can be involved from the start and get to build a house from the ground up with the client. Being part of a team and getting to sink your teeth into it and getting it right from the start. Then you are creating it all together – It's really fun, and exciting to see it all come to fruition.

Michelle: We have been involved with projects where we have actually gone around with our client and a realtor and searched for pieces of property. We help decide how the house will sit on a particular site, so we are there before the house is even built.

Jill: Yes! So then you can imagine living in it and you can help your client see it. Many clients can’t visualize something that is not there yet. So you are building it together, and helping them to not make mistakes.

We do have many projects when we know going in that all we’re doing is furniture layout. We’re in – we’re out – boom. That is also something that goes along with being a favorite project – honesty. Just say up front – ‘okay, this is what I need from you.’ Then you create a trusting relationship and you know what your position is.

Michelle: Yes! Set clear job parameters so nobody is disappointed.

Clients receive their own custom look rather than a company "signature look". Collaboration with the client is the key!

Do any projects stand out as particularly challenging?
Jill: Many of our jobs are challenging in one way or another. Sometimes we need to think more mechanically, or sometimes we are asked to do something we have not done before.

Michelle: We accept the challenge and move forward (laughter). A recent law firm job we did was interesting. We do lots of residential projects, so it was fun to work on a commercial job. We were given a blank shell and got to plan the total space allocation. It was just like a problem in design school. We needed to have “X” amount of space for rest rooms, “X” number of offices, and they also needed a kitchen. We were really pleased with the result.

Jill: It was challenging in a really good way. It exercised our brains and then we saw the successful result. It was exciting for us to push the envelope.

Tell us about a time you had to discourage a direction a client wanted to take.
Michelle: Every day!

Jill: We try to do it lightly and with humor. We have clients, though, that we have to tell, ‘We’re here to save you from yourself!’

Michelle: We all have different tastes. We wear different clothes every day – different jewelry – some days you want to be bohemian, some days you want to be sleek, but you can’t have all those things on at the same time. We get to work with creative, fun people, and sometimes all that creativity shoots right out at once. It’s our job to filter through all of that for our clients.

So, have there been any disasters?
Jill: Nope. We figure everything out all the time (laughter)…

Michelle: Well, a big part of our job is problem-solving. There is something to solve on a daily basis!

Jill: What I finally did realize is that nothing is a matter of life and death. It’s only furniture, and in the
end, we make people happy. It’s what we do.

Michelle: Anything can be fixed and it’s all about how you communicate with your client. It’s just like with a new mother and a crying baby. If she is frantic, then the baby will be frantic. If we’re frantic, the client will be frantic. They read cues from our attitudes.

I think that’s why we are fortunate to be busy. We’re not going to drop a client if there is a problem, and we take responsibility – emotionally, financially, or any other way.

Jill: Things are going to happen. It’s a law of nature. But we always make it right.

To view a bio and additional work samples from Rariden Schumacher Mio & Co., click here.

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