Mark Johnson, of Mark Johnson and Associates, works with clients to marry
the good bones of architecture and interior architecture with great quality
furnishings. Mark Johnson is known for developing a client’s personal style,
while bringing connoisseurship and impeccable detailing to every development.
How do you work to develop and define your clients’ personal styles?
I rely heavily on my clients’ personal style. Even if that style isn’t fully developed,
I will help them realize it.
I was recently working with a client on a closet remodel and we were picking out carpet for the space.
The client wasn’t sure what she wanted, so I brought a broad selection which included a sample of a
subtle leopard print broadloom carpet. When I presented it to her, she lit up even though she was initially
intimidated by the choice. I look for that kind of spark from my customers because we want them to feel
that way every time they walk into their space.
|Detailing of the interior architecture in this spacious home was
kept minimal to not compete with the homeowner’s collection of
My clients’ personal style may come from travel and exposure to more exotic cultures, but I urge them
to pick a style and do it with authenticity. Indigenous pieces usually have superior craftsmanship. We just placed an ornately carved Moroccan table in front of a
sleek and modern bathtub for great contrast. I will follow design rules so that nothing is done in questionable taste, but will also break them so that the final project is a reflection of the owner’s style. I’m always looking outside of our culture for design influences.
I also rely on my clients’ existing collections to evaluate what’s important
to them. A collection is the beginning of personal style and can set the tone on a project. If a client has
nothing in a collection, I will talk to them about starting one. It is a really important way of personalizing
your home in a way that’s quirky and client specific. Occasionally we must also de-acquisition existing
pieces so as to improve the quality of a design; editing is actually our most important service.
Technology and the internet have created a sort of flattened world, how have you seen that affect design?
In the digital age clients run the risk of going from patrons of the decorative arts to being consumers of
objects. We need to get past consumerism and marketable trends; quality is what remains timeless. The
biggest obstacle with the internet is that we are bombarded with additional information and choices but it
is really difficult to discern quality in the virtual world. A 21st-century designer’s job is to ensure quality
furnishings are purchased, not just pieces that are seductively marketed or conveniently obtained.
|The new interior of this dining space features a
paneled dining room, and a custom kitchen with high tile wainscot and onyx countertops.
Walk us though your typical design process,
and how you work to realize a space:
I begin the design process with a functional
interview – how the client lives, and their daily
rhythm in their home. We walk through room by
room, and tailor options for those rooms to our
clients’ lifestyles. Design begins with a master
plan and concept for the whole home. If a client
wanted a dining room redone, I’d look at the
dining room as part of a whole sequence of
living – dining room, kitchen, butler’s pantry,
and the living room. I take a broader view of
how one lives.
As much as it’s about how you want your china
to be stored, it’s also about how many people
will be around your dining room table at night
or for the holidays. I am an architect of function,
and these are lifestyle clients. It’s not just about
a single room – we are looking for life patterns.
I educate clients to possibilities through imagery,
and then edit that imagery down to something
that will be complementary to the client, and
complementary to the architecture of the space.
How do you work to incorporate interior
architecture and furnishings, and how do they influence each other?
Interior architecture and furnishings are often thought of separately, but they are very much
complementary elements in design. The six surfaces of a room are the structure and the bones of style.
Trim, wall coverings, lighting, wainscoting, and flooring all set the backdrop and stage for furnishings.
|Interior detailing combines rich cherry trim work
with native Michigan fieldstone to add to the modern home’s original palette.
If we get the bones of a structure right first – and that might mean moving a doorway, window, or altering a surface finish, the flow of the house will be correct, and it should work immediately without any furnishings.
But projects need to be complete thoughts, and
furnishings for the room need to be thought
about simultaneously, not sequentially to realize
a room’s potential. I think of a project holistically.
In a bedroom, for example, I will think about the
placement of the bed to a view through a
window, as much as the style of that bed and
the soft furnishings that go on it.
Why do you enjoy working in metro Detroit?
Detroit is a city with extraordinary crafts people: metal workers, furniture makers, installers and manufacturers – it’s a town that makes things. In other cities known for design there aren’t actually as many custom manufacturing resources relative to demand. We encourage as much customization as a client’s budget and time frame will afford.
Customization gives clients a chance to make something personal and exceptional that pertains to their own homes, and with Detroit’s
brilliant crafts people local projects have such potential for greatness.