Thirty Under 30 Designer Gets Personal
authors Autumn McGarr
Traverse City, Mi — Readers who attended KBIS in February might recognize Paige Fuller-Maurer as a member of the NKBA’s 2019 Thirty Under 30 class – or perhaps as a recipient of the same honor in 2017.
This young Traverse City, MI-based mover and shaker has actually been pursuing a career in design for many years. “Everybody always asks me how I got started in design, or when I decided I wanted to be a designer,” Fuller-Maurer reflects. “It really starts back when I was a kid. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, who had a store where my grandpa made furniture and my grandma did crafty home-good things.”
Fuller-Maurer’s early interest in design eventually turned into a degree and two internships, and eventually her own business – Paige Lee Interiors.
“I think I always knew that I wanted to do residential [design] instead of commercial because I like the personal attachment that you get with people in residential design,” she explains. “Kitchen design stood out to me specifically because I like to cook and bake, so I appreciate a good, functioning kitchen. In my childhood, so many good memories were made helping my mom or my grandma cook in the kitchen, or hanging out in that general area while they were cooking. It really is the heart of the home.”
Fuller-Maurer’s Traverse City location provides her with a high-end yet down-to-earth clientele. “We are in the northern area of Michigan, so we’re surrounded by tons of beautiful lakes – turquoise blue water, sandy bottoms – so it’s a huge area where people are building homes that they’re going to retire in, and it’s also a lot of second homes for clients who come here during the summer or winter to vacation.”
Her clients appreciate unfussy, easy-to-maintain designs that lend themselves to a laid-back, practical way of life. “Over the past seven years that I’ve been in the business, I’ve seen [preferences] really start to shift toward more contemporary looks,” she remarks. “I don’t do a lot of traditional homes – I would say somewhere in the transitional design area is where a lot of people are drawn. I think a lot of it has to do with the clean lines of modern design: you don’t have as many grooves to clean. It’s really easy to live in a modern home because it’s very minimal.”
Fortunately for her clients, Fuller-Maurer strives to be a one-stop shop for all of their design needs. “[I’m] geared toward being able to provide my clients full-service design – combining my interior design background with my kitchen and bath knowledge – so I do a lot of whole-house projects, whether it’s a new construction home or a whole-house remodel, pretty much touching everything that goes into the house, including exteriors, flooring, tile, kitchen and bath design, furniture, etc.”
Personal and Patient
In order to ensure a project’s success, Fuller-Maurer prioritizes getting to know her clients as people, not just as homeowners. “A lot of times, in my first meetings with clients, I actually don’t ask them too many questions necessarily relating to design. They’re probably wondering what I’m even talking about!” she laughs. “I try to ask them about their life: Do you have kids? How many? What are their ages? Pets? Where do you drink your coffee in the morning – in the kitchen or the living room or upstairs in your bedroom?” I try to ask more lifestyle questions than I do design…I need to get to know them and how they live because it’s probably very different from how I live.”
She adds, “I try to understand what they need from a function standpoint and get to know them on a personal level…it makes things go a little more smoothly because we’ve developed a relationship that’s sort of like a friendship.”
For Fuller-Maurer, developing and maintaining that relationship (or friendship) means making sure her clients are comfortable and, in the event of client stress, using a patient approach to alleviate that anxiety.
“Some people definitely get very worked up about things,” Fuller-Maurer says, “so I try to give them as many visuals as possible…I try to do renderings and drawings and take them through past projects. Even if the project I’m walking them through is not necessarily their style, when they see what I’ve done and how beautiful it turned out, it puts the trust back in me and so they calm down because they know that I’m making sure it’s going to turn out nice.”
Additionally, in order to alleviate project-related anxieties, Fuller-Maurer will refer her current clients to her past clients so they can chat about the remodeling process – and there are quite a few past clients that can attest to Fuller-Maurer’s design skill. “80% of my business is referrals or past clients,” she says. “Some of my clients do things in phases as well – [for example] we did the lower level last year and now, three years later, we’re working on the upstairs.” ▪