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INSPIRATION AND CUSTOMIZATION: Terry Ellis of
Room Service Interior Design

Terry EllisTerry Ellis of Room Service Interior Design has been designing spaces in metro Detroit for more than 20 years. Inspired greatly by her travels, Terry likes to offer her clients personalized solutions by creating custom items unique to each home.

What are some of the things that inspire your design work?
I love to travel. I tend to be more attracted to places off the beaten path, unusual destinations. I’ve been to Buenos Aires four times – it just has this certain energy about it – the people lead a creative life. They often paint their buildings very vivid colors, which really highlights the creative energy there.

A few trips ago I saw a vendor on the streets of Buenos Aires with all these old telephones, and it was just so beautiful – all these black shapes, stacked up – it was amazing. I don’t know where I’ll use that mental image or how it will filter back out through my design work, but it’s in my memory waiting for the right moment. Design is a visual talent, and when I travel I’m inspired by other cultures and ways of life.

Room Service Interior Design
Black, white, and yellow serve as the palette for this ladies' entertainment and exercise space.
Recently I visited Denmark, Croatia, Slovenia, and New Zealand. Who knows where the next stop will be!

Tell us about one of your favorite projects:
I recently finished an amazing brownstone in Rochester. We took the approach of it being a New York brownstone. The foot print was kind of small but it was four stories tall. The clients wanted a very contemporary interior with lots of customization.

The top floor was the girls’ room because the female owner takes her girlfriends up there to entertain. We placed cascading coil metal draping to separate her exercise space from the sitting area. We used a black, white, and yellow color scheme. It was really fun, very girly.

Room Service Interior Design The clients wanted the powder room to feel like a nightclub, so we covered every square inch in platinum glass tile. The faucet is mounted to the mirror and the mirror is back lit. Most clients wouldn’t agree to the lavish use of tile, but it was incredible and really over the top.

In the basement, where the husband entertains, we used a SoHo loft as inspiration. We finished the extra tall basement space with a very irregular reclaimed wood floor, exposed brick, and big alder beams.

They were a fantastic family, and open to my ideas. When clients are really hands-on with the decision making and the ideas, it makes for a great collaboration and a fabulous project.
Room Service Interior Design

Expansive use of platinum glass mosaic tile in this bathroom make it feel like a powder room in a posh club.

Room Service Interior Design
Inspired by a SoHo loft this entertainment space features exposed brick, reclaimed wood flooring, and alder columns and beams.

Take us through your design process – how do you begin developing each project?
Many new clients express the common fear that interior designers will override their preferences and do their own thing, ignoring the tastes of the clients. I really don’tbelieve that would be a fruitful relationship for the client or for me, so I reassure them that their project will be reflective of their wishes and dreams. I really want to hear what the client has to say, I want to hear their challenges, and I want to solve their problems.

We meet initially and conduct a lifestyle questionnaire, we talk about every detail, and I listen. I do an initial site visit, measure, and then work on drawings. I always do drawings, if not for my client, then for me. The drawings help organize my thoughts on paper to see if the ideas play well with each other. The lifestyle questionnaire enables me to understand my clients and to be sure we’re speaking the same language.

Clients love that I can draw conceptual sketches. Having the ability to sketch quickly is valuable to the whole process.

Once the project plans are in place, then comes the careful coordination of working with the trades people, setting up measurements, and coordinating access to the house. Often times I work with really busy people. I give them white glove treatment. I take care of their home and cause as little disruption as possible. In fact, I love it when they’re not home. It’s like behind the scenes magic, all of a sudden they come home and see the finished project and it’s exciting.

Having an office within Michigan Design Center is a huge benefit. I can be sitting with my client talking about a specific product and we can spring out of our seats to go look at it. It’s convenient for both me and my client.

How do you incorporate clients’ existing items into the plan?
If they have collections; antiques, photos, art – I think about how to make sense out of them. People often display one item here and another one in a different room. I really prefer to gather the items together and create a more impactful arrangement.

Sometimes clients don’t have collections but should. Twice I was doing custom book shelves and the clients had no books. I went to Borders and coordinated with the manager, choosing books that we felt they should have on their shelves that looked pretty together. There were books on travel, architecture, science, and even some classics for their teenaged daughters. It was wonderful building a library for them, and this is one of my favorite things about my job. The clients would never have the time or wherewithal to select all those books for their shelves. We had all the books boxed up and delivered to the home, arranged them on the shelves with accessories before the clients returned home. It was all about service, and they were thrilled.


To see more of Terry Ellis’ work, click here.

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