KBDN

Mechanics and Movement Lead Designer

Designer Meredith Weiss of Merri Interiors utilizes open and honest dialogue with her clients about ‘scary’ topics such as money in order to foster trust and teamwork.

authors Autumn McGarr | June 16, 2020

With 12 years of experience as a medical massage therapist already under her belt, Meredith Weiss entered her education for a second career in interior design with a unique understanding of how the body moves in and interacts with its surroundings. “Understanding the way the body moves and how it works came beautifully into play when I was learning about design [as well as] form and function and scale of space. Those all came kind of naturally to me,” Weiss offers.

During her education and internship, Weiss recalls, she “really fell in love with the technical aspect of design more than soft goods and things like that. I happen to be very good at math, and I really like the mechanical aspects of things – figuring out how to engineer something and understanding the ergonomics of elements.”

This inclination lent itself well to a career in kitchen design, and 16 years later, she is the owner of her own firm, the Commack, NY-based Merri Interiors. The decision to start her own business was one that came out of necessity. “I went on my own in 2010 because, at that time, we were in a recession and there were no jobs to be had,” she recalls.

Luckily, she already had experience owning her own business from her previous career as a massage therapist, but she still had to build her design business from the ground up. “I built my first website and got business cards made and started doing everything I could to promote myself,” she says. “There were no jobs, so I had to create one for myself. That was pretty much my start.”

This kitchen was part of an extension for a busy family. The hood was custom created in order to provide the exact aesthetic the clients desired.

‘Kitchen interpreter’

“I’ve always considered myself a kitchen designer who is actually a kitchen interpreter,” Weiss says. “I try to take as much information as possible from [clients], and I’m always drawing out information from them so that I can understand their design aesthetic – even if they don’t know what their design aesthetic is.”

Weiss’s approach to translating her clients’ ambiguous wants and needs into actionable designs often necessitates the use of both images and keywords, a practice that builds trust with her clients. “They understand that I’m understanding them, and not just, ‘Hey, I want to replicate a picture,’ because I never want to replicate something I’ve seen,” Weiss notes. “I always want to create a unique space for them, but I also want to make sure that my ideas are going to be launched from their words and ideas.”

Weiss also builds trust through a straightforward, honest approach. She meticulously breaks down budgets and prices, ensuring clients have a thorough and accurate understanding of where their money will be going with regard to the project. “I think that by talking those numbers through, I’m showing them that I’m not scared to talk about it,” she explains. She adds that if clients find themselves falling in love with elements that might be out of their budget, she talks them through that openly and honestly as well. “[I say], ‘That’s not a problem. But this is what we had budgeted and this is where we are now. If you’re comfortable spending that, I’m comfortable as well.’ We want to make sure that any decision that is made comes from the team,” the client as well as Weiss.

Many of her clients are seeking a transitional aesthetic, with some farmhouse flavor. Due to the pervasiveness of these styles, Weiss always makes an effort to bring unexpected elements into her designs to keep things fresh. “I switch things up with hardware and finishes, maybe choosing things they wouldn’t have chosen before,” she explains. “Oftentimes, clients think they want chrome, but then we look into doing gold or mixing several metals together. People often think everything has to match,” but Weiss takes them beyond that.

Organic marketing

Like many designers, the lion’s share of her business comes from referrals from satisfied clients and contractors. “What’s been happening for me, which I think is extra special, is that I’m getting clients who were referred to me by maybe a neighbor. And then it just so happens that they saw I did so-and-so’s kitchen, which happens to be a friend of a friend. So I’m getting almost double, and sometimes triple hits,” she explains.

Additionally, Weiss has garnered clients through everyday efforts on Instagram, Houzz and Facebook. “I tag the clients, and then if the client likes it, they may tag their friends, and then it kind of keeps streaming along. It’s like little bits and little bits,” says Weiss. “It’s an organic community building – not really a marketing plan.” ▪

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