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Holiday in the City: With Brooklyn Designer Jennifer Morris
City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks…
There’s only one place on earth that shares the magic of the season with the North Pole, and that’s New York! From the glistening lights of the Rockefeller Center tree and ice-skating in Central Park, to miracles on 34th street and watching the ball drop at midnight, the spectacular traditions of the city are inherently part of our American culture, whether you’ve experienced them or not.
Today, we are fortunate enough to have one of our favorite designers, Jennifer Morris here to talk about her extensive design career in NYC and Brooklyn, her secrets to embrace or escape the hustle and bustle, and what simple thing she does that reminds her what’s important in life…
Jennifer Morris, Interior Designer
C: How long have you been a NYC-based designer, and when did you start JMorris Interior Design?
JM: I moved to New York shortly after graduating from the University of Cincinnati in early 2000. I had previously visited the city a few times and I just knew with my whole heart that it was where I belonged! The energy and excitement fit the entire concept of who I was and who I wanted to be. I fell in love with all the craziness and intensity, and I still love it to this day!
At first, I made a leap into running my own firm in my twenties. It was a huge learning curve to go from being a confident designer to understanding what it really takes to run a business, and I wasn’t quite ready for the ups and downs of a start-up. Shortly after, I was wooed back by the amazing projects and people at Rockwell Group for a few years before braving it on my own again in 2008. And I have never looked back! Everyday, I am STILL learning and growing as a business owner and designer by leaps and bounds! I’d definitely say that my passion for design and learning has been a great match for living in this vibrant city!
C: Your accolades include high-profile restaurant and hotel projects that range from Las Vegas, to Miami, and New York, as well as positions within a couple of different architectural firms. How has that experience influenced JMorris Interior Design?
JM: I am very lucky to have played a role in some of New York’s most amazing and respectable firms, like Robert A.M. Stern and Rockwell Group. Working in the world of hospitality was all my twenty-something person could have ever wanted. The high-design and marquee clients handed to me were a dream come true!
That experience pushed my design skills and exposed me to the world’s most amazing craftsmen, artists, and vendors. I worked alongside the most talented architects, graphic designers, and clients. And I won’t lie, to this day I still miss their copy and model making rooms a lot!
C: When did you know design and architecture would be your career choice?
JM: Growing up, I moved around the United States a bit, which opened my eyes to just about every suburban landscape imaginable! I enjoyed soaking in the different vernaculars and architecture, but also fell in love with each new opportunity to layout and design my bedroom.
The process of examining what I had and learning how your room location, in relationship to the outside and inside, makes a huge impact on design decisions! Everything from painting or wallpapering to window treatments and lighting… I ultimately discovered a life lesson that I still live by today: The power you have to make a positive change in small and big ways in your home is amazing. It can transform how you feel, especially when it sometimes feels like there is little else you can control.
It was revisiting things that I had and adding things I wanted and needed. That left a big impression, opening my mind to the many influences that can only be gleaned as the new kid from the outside. I loved setting up new bedroom layouts and schemes so much that at some point I started moving things around every few months! This was followed by teen years that were heavily influenced by everything in the art world, especially Pop Art and Interview magazine.
I went to college as an art history major, but found I wanted to be more active in the process of creating. I soon discovered that interior design combined my great math skills and my love for furniture schemes, and everything fell into place from there. The intern program opportunities I received in college left me with invaluable insight and experience from different firm structures, which led to career opportunities in the city.
C: How long have you worked with Carlisle, and how did you learn about us as a wide plank wood floor company?
JM: I have been working with Carlisle for years! One of my favorite reps joined the company, so I knew the quality and product was going to be solid. It’s the only wood flooring that I specify, and now that they have expanded to soft surfaces, I have already started placing orders for rugs!
C: Why is Carlisle a good fit for so many of your projects?
JM: I work in many historic homes and I love to see a floor that has stood the test of time! It’s proof that quality and craft met with caring owners can leave a legacy. When I spec Carlisle, I know their wood floors can be the same for the next generation and more, and will still be beautiful!
In addition, the fact that they are harvested, manufactured, and finished in the US with the highest grade of timber is key! It’s one of the many important pro-environmental decisions I can make in the process of selecting products for my client.
C: You’ve mastered the art of blending historical architecture to meet the modern lifestyle of your clients. What are some of your favorite ways to pull off this signature look?
JM: THANK YOU! Coming from my background of hospitality, where I had to pull together a huge range of concept boards, I really opened up creatively and am open to influences from every style. When I work in homes, I try to approach it with that broad vision. I then hone in on what’s important to my client, and how to support the function of the space in a beautiful way.
I find that using this lens really reveals what to highlight and what to add. I try to really listen to the client and guide them. That said, I have a lot of opinions and suggestions, but respecting the space you have is huge; and being honest about how you use it while understanding how modern people/families operate is essential. And of course I love brave clients who will follow their instincts and vision while being open to ideas. In the end, all projects are a collaboration of the client, designer, contractors and vendors, as everyone plays an important role.
C: What are your favorite ways to embrace the holiday season in the city?
JM: For the most part, I try to avoid the tourist traps, however there are some that are worth the shoulder to shoulder. I enjoy the holiday markets at Union Square; walking around finding stocking stuffers and unique gifts is always fun!
I also love taking my kids to see the holiday lights in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Seeing the decorations and over-the-top Christmas displays gets everyone in the mood for the holidays! We celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, and although I struggle to make the house as festive as my mom did for us growing up, decorating the tree and getting out the Menorah are magical family times!
We have created our own tradition by singing and lighting the candles, making paper chain links, and getting out our stockings. I always want my children to feel warmly about our celebration so they will continue on in their own way as they grow up and have families of their own.
C: And if you feel the need to escape it all…
JM: I like to go on my Brooklyn rooftop deck. Looking out on the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty never fails to put me in a place of awe!
I hug my kids! This is the greatest reminder of what is important and why I work so hard.
And I love to get a cup of coffee with friends, many of whom have been clients. I want to hear about what’s going on, what’s on their mind, and what’s in their hearts. In this way I continue to stay connected while learning more about their story, which is my favorite part of practicing residential design.
Thank you, Jennifer! We love YOUR story, and think the city is sparkling a little brighter because of you, from the tallest building to the smallest brownstone!
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