Michael Coyne of Michael Coyne Design took a big leap of faith by leaving a
successful business to pursue a career in design. Read more about his inspiring
success, community involvement, and philosophy on design.
Interior designer is your second career. What are some of the challenges
and rewards of making a major career change?
For 20 years I ran my family’s automotive interior trim parts business, but I was
always interested in interior decoration. My best friend was the late, well-known
interior designer, Brian Killian. Brian had asked me to work for him for a long time. He really thought I had an eye for design. In my estimation we were too close to work together – it just
would have never worked out.
|Mohair modern wing chairs flank a custom Pewabic
fireplace. The bookshelves and mantel are constructed
of a stained knotty alder wood.
|Fossilized granite was skillfully inset to create a custom
maple desk in this library. The fabric for the chairs is a
complement to the original art.
|The fireplace wall and sketch of a raging colt deliberately
overwhelms and adds drama to this living room. The
walnut mantle was made from a fallen tree from the
Just before he passed away, I told him
I was starting on my own, and he was
extremely supportive. I told my brother
and my father that I was going to begin
transitioning out of the family business,
and, if I was lucky enough to have the
decorating business take off, I’d leave
the family business all together.
As it turned out, it took off really quickly.
I don’t know if it was the gods or
something, but within months I was
almost 100 percent out of the family
business, and into this business. My
expectations of the industry itself were
totally different. I was of the impression
that it was going to be all fun and
games, just like decorating your own
house, and it was nothing like that at
all. You learn that right away – day one.
I still love that I took that chance, but I
wouldn’t say it was easy, and I don’t
regret a day of it. It will be eight years
How have you developed your style
as it relates to your clients?
I loved Brian Killian’s style, and I
assumed that when I started decorating
that would be reflected in my work. But
on my very first large project I completely
gravitated away from that look. That’s
when I realized it was more about the
client than the style. I realized that I
don’t want to be hired for a set look, I
want to be hired so that I can help
clients achieve their own aesthetic.
If you review my portfolio you’re going
to see a crazy mix of styles. I don’t do
heavy traditional very easily, although
I don’t think I’d say no to a client that
wanted a very traditional space, I would
just have a tougher time with it.
I’m also of the belief that, as we get
older, clutter free and the less-is-more
philosophy makes more sense. I like to
pare down and keep life a little more
simple because it’s just easier.
Your showroom at Michigan Design
Center has so many fabulous
accessories. Where do you collect
your unique pieces and antiques?
Every year we pick a different city in
Europe to shop for antiques. This year
we were in London during the royal
wedding. We shopped in Paris a few
years in a row, but I’m always looking
out for antiques. Judy Frankel is quite
good and she’s right here in Troy. There
is also a great antique market at High
Point that I always attend. I go to more
markets than most decorators, and
that is a defining difference. Many
designers don’t go anymore, and I think
it’s so critical to be there to see the
trends and to find truly unique items
for your clients.
Years ago you couldn’t buy nice and
affordable accessories at a retail level.
Now you can create a beautiful home
out of accessories from retail furniture
stores and call it a day. If all of that’s
available to the general public, then the
only way to stay ahead of the game is
to find unique accessories that aren’t
available to the masses. That is a big
challenge today, to find one-of-a-kind
antiques that will never be replicated
anywhere else. As a designer, you have
to be out in front of everything to
You seem to be very involved in the
community. What causes do you
Most of the charities I’m involved with
are children’s charities, and I also do
the AIDS community fundraisers
whenever I can. I will always be involved
with charities year-round.
You don’t do it for business. It’s not about pulling a client from a fundraiser. That’s not the idea, and it
never should be. It’s first and foremost about the charity, and secondly it’s about having your name
involved in something you really care about.
I’ll do Dining by Design for DIFFA (Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS) in the fall, and I’ll be
chairing Variety the Children’s Charity’s Table Tops Luncheon next year.