|INSPIRATION AND CUSTOMIZATION:
Terry Ellis of
Room Service Interior Design
Terry 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.
Recently I visited Denmark, Croatia, Slovenia, and New Zealand. Who knows where the next stop will be!
|Black, white, and yellow serve as the palette for this ladies'
entertainment and exercise space.
Tell us about one of your
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.
||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.
Expansive use of platinum
glass mosaic tile in this
bathroom make it feel like
a powder room in a posh
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
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
Clients love that I can draw conceptual sketches. Having the ability to sketch quickly is valuable to the
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.