Spotlighting Asheville, NC in partnership w/ AVLtoday
Interior design, like many things, is something that you can study and something that you can feel. Your body knows when a room is uncomfortable for you to maneuver and the brain is the first to know when the energy of space inspires you. The idea that the flow of a building or the angle of a mirror can drastically shift your life is something that not all agree with, but what is universal is the fact that humans have been experimenting and experiencing shelter since we began to begin. And whether or not you understand all the intricacies of what makes the perfect couch, you know when you’ve found it. And if you can’t find it, you know who to call… Shelter. Karie Reinertson and Rob Maddox are a design duo that bring more to the table than perfectly arranged flowers. Offering interior and architectural design, they truly can transform your home from the inside out. What caught my attention when prepping for our interview was the fact that while scrolling through their website I felt a sense of nostalgia. Yes, I have been in places that they have worked on before - East Fork, Center for Craft, etc. - but to be honest I had that same feeling when I walked through the door of those establishments too. This sense that I had been here before. I quickly realize that I wasn’t experiencing “deja vu”, I was experiencing comfort and understanding.
I had walked into a space that made sense to my senses, that piqued my interest, and that welcomed and enveloped me in warmth. The sense of intention is apparent in their work, but also in their interview. After talking with Karie and Rob I not only wanted them to re-do my home I wanted to invite them in and pour them a glass of wine. And perhaps that’s why all of this felt so serene. If the people designing your home aren’t people who you’d have in your home, then your space won’t be a place of comfort and security. And as we know from Karie and Rob, Shelter is meant to protect you.
How did you two meet? What drew you two to work together? We met when we were both interns at a little design build school up in Vermont. We had both just lost our jobs in 2008, and were fortunate enough to land this internship in one of the most beautiful places on the east coast. We knew immediately we wanted to work together - they way we both talked about art, music, culture, politics, relationships — we both felt our respective minds open up and expand with each other. That felt like a good recipe for being in partnership together in all the ways.
Karie, how have your worldly travels influenced your design style? Good question — in all the ways, really. Traveling has given me an appreciation for eclecticism, beautiful textiles, unexpected combinations of materials and textures, craftspersonship, things not being perfect (or being perfect in their imperfection), colors, shapes, and form.
Rob, Asheville is an incredibly different change of pace from bustling Manhattan. What made you decide to settle down here? I'd been looking for a change and apparently needed an act of economic disaster (2008) to force me into a new way of living. I remember driving out of Bushwick in a Uhaul and seeing the city just start to plant their first trees, and knew that it was time to go. I was offered a job here in Asheville, which was somewhat of a miracle in those days (2010) so Karie and I packed up our 1985 Toyota Tercel and drove all of our belongings down here to Asheville, sight unseen.
What is the most challenging aspect of interior & architectural design? Collaborating with so many people and making sure that we (and they!) meet deadlines and working within budgets are definitely the most challenging (and stressful at times!) aspects.
What are some common design mistakes you notice people do? Do you have any easy suggestions for someone wanting to vamp up their space? Probably the biggest issue I see is people buying furniture to fill a space quickly, rather than taking their time to choose pieces that they will want to keep around for a long time. Not only is the best in the long run in terms of cost for the client, but it's also better for the environment and makes a home richer to have a deeper connection to the objects that they bring into the space.
Being featured in Architectural Digest is measured by many as the pinnacle of success. How did you feel when you found out your work was being recognized by them? It's always fun to see our work published, but at the end of the day we are doing this because we love it, so the real measure of success has to come from within. The moment we start caring too much about all of that stuff, we're doomed. That being said — we are incredibly grateful to have the exposure as it helps get the word out and gives us the opportunity to do what we do more.
Tell me about your creative process… It's a long and winding road, but I'll give you the abridged version - we meet with a client and talk big dreams, as well as budget and timeline, and then spend some time coming up with a concept. This takes the form of a presentation that we show the client, but internally it ends up being our guiding mission statement for the project. When we start to stray it brings us back. Then we move into Design Development, where we create documents that explicitly describe every detail of the project. Once that moves into construction, we go on site visits regularly to help answer questions when issues arise, and to make sure it's all landing as we intended. Our role is essentially as aesthetic steward.
What is the most exciting part of Shelter? Karie here — it's definitely different for both of us, but my favorite parts are working with craftspeople and seeing custom things design take shape. Traveling for work is always pretty fun too - though I'd also love to take a vacation and not think about work once :)
What do you prefer more- residential or commercial design? We love both, but residential work is definitely more Rob's thing, and I love commercial.
Where do you envision Shelter in five years? What is your dream project to work on? Designing our own home and some other structures, like a library, on land we own - that is the ultimate dream. We'd also love to work with more thoughtful and kind people that want to do some weird stuff.