The Art of Making Rooms

“My earliest memory of interior design was growing up: my sister and I shared a room. We used to dream out loud about what we were going to do,” said Elizabeth Swallow ’07, Interior Design, a Lead Designer at McIntosh Poris Associates. “They were just ideas, but we built on them. You never know if something you’re interested in is a hobby or a real career. This is one hobby that turned into a career.”

After years in the field and five years at McIntosh Poris, which specializes in hospitality — think restaurants, hotels and pubs — multifamily residential and commercial design, Elizabeth Swallow understands what it really takes to be an interior designer. While it’s more complex than the TV clichés of fluffing pillows and picking paint swatches, it’s still a lot of fun. Swallow has taken lead on multiple high-profile projects, including Townhouse Detroit, upscale steakhouse Prime + Proper, DuCharme Place apartments and Detroit Athletic Club.

Interior of a room with luxury white chairs and walls of alcohol and wood paneling

Outdoor seating area

“The process is a little bit different with each client,” Swallow said. “First, we take into account the architecture. We go look at the building that we’re working with, or, if it’s a new build, we take a look at the neighborhood. So we always look for context first. Also, who are the end users? What is the budget? There’s a lot to consider.” She explains that hospitality clients tend to have a more fleshed out idea of what they want, based on the food they’ll be serving and the clientele they’re after.

A good portion of the work involved, however, is less about the designs than how to execute them. “We have these great concepts. Now, how do we make it happen?” Swallow typically teams up with a lot of people, including architects, engineers, lighting designers and many more. But smaller projects can be satisfying, too, precisely because the teams are smaller — more collaborative, with budgets requiring more creative solutions.

Either way, Swallow adds, “as long as you have a great team in place, it’s a great experience.”