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STAYING AHEAD OF THE TRENDS: Michael Coyne of Michael Coyne Design

Michael CoyneMichael 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.

Michael Coyne Design
Mohair modern wing chairs flank a custom Pewabic fireplace. The bookshelves and mantel are constructed of a stained knotty alder wood.
Michael Coyne Design
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.
Michael Coyne Design
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 client’s cottage.

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 in November.

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 remain relevant.

You seem to be very involved in the community. What causes do you support?
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.


To learn more about Michael Coyne Design, click here.

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