Award-winning interior designer, Starr Miller, is known for her streamlined and collaborative approach to design. Her methodical process and focus on project management have earned StarrMiller Interior Design numerous accolades and a sizable roster of devoted clients. What makes Starr unique is her business background, design education, and superior listening skills. We recently spoke with Starr to learn more about her business and the challenges she overcame to get where she is today.
Unlike most designers, Starr spent 20 years working as a buyer for large corporations before discovering her passion for design. “I got to design packaging, furniture, and store displays, along with my principal responsibilities in buying and selling, which was one of the things that piqued my interest,” says Starr. As she considered leaving the corporate world behind to pursue interior design, Starr recognized that she needed the best education possible to become the type of designer she aspired to be. After applying and gaining acceptance to Parsons School of Design, Starr packed her bags and moved from Florida to New York for the next two years as she pursued her dream.
At Parsons, Starr was surrounded by people of all ages and backgrounds. “I worked myself silly, and we used the city as part of our learning,” she says. “There's so much to learn in New York.” When her work was critiqued, it was by some of the most prominent architects in the city, which was an important learning experience for Starr. After graduation, she moved to North Carolina in 2007 and intended to work at a large firm. Then, the economy crashed. Starr, a savvy and resourceful businesswoman, did not let the crumbling economy stop her from pursuing a career in interior design. In fact, she managed to build a successful business amidst the worst economy in years.
Running her business out of her own home for the first three years, Starr built a reputation on organization and attention to detail. “Coming from a business background, I tend to approach things more from an economic and project management perspective,” she says. “When you're handling what is many people's largest investments, they like to see that you’re buttoned up and have things under control.” Today, Starr continues to search for ways to streamline her processes even further. “We call it my continuous improvement project,” she jokes.
StarrMiller Interior Design uses a collaborative process on every project that brings together different opinions and ideas. After administering a detailed questionnaire to the client, various designers and project managers will come together to discuss the best approach to solving the client’s unique design challenges. “If you live in a silo, you can come up with wonderful things, but until you add other people's collaborations, you can't see how far it can go. I truly appreciate that method of thinking,” says Starr.
To tackle design challenges creatively, Starr creates a culture of continuous education. “It's important for us to be out in the community, to watch what's on Instagram, to be in the forums that are on Facebook, to learn what people are talking about and how to handle things,” says Starr. It’s also important to be open to other trades within the design process. “The more you know about things like construction and architecture, the more you can manipulate the design process to solve challenges for clients,” says Starr.
“After one month of trying to do things in Excel, I knew I needed software that was designed for interior designers,” says Starr. “That’s when I found Design Manager.”
To save time and streamline the design process, StarrMiller Interior Design uses a wide array of software, including Google Calendar, CAD, Chief Architect, Minutes Matter, and Design Manager. “After one month of trying to do things in Excel, I knew I needed software that was designed for interior designers,” says Starr. “That’s when I found Design Manager.”
Today, Starr’s firm uses Design Manager for budgeting, invoices, time tracking, and more. “I wanted to make sure it was something I could put everything into at once,” says Starr of her decision-making process when choosing Design Manager. “Clients like it because they can see a budget and see pictures of things that they're buying without me having to describe every detail to them again. I like it because I can track any changes we make along the way,” says Starr.
If she could do it over again, Starr says she would have hired someone who knew the business side of design from the get-go. “We built all of our own processes, but it would have been so much better if I’d gone to someone who had already done that,” she says. Luckily, she had the foresight to hire someone with 17 years of design experience as her very first employee. Cautioning future designers, Starr says, “You have to know that you don’t know everything, and you have to know exactly what it is that you don’t know.”