Anatomy Of A Design: A Closer Look At Product From Michelle Nussbaumer

Designer Michelle Nussbaumer joins us to discuss how her new collections of wallcoverings and fabrics for Clarence House influenced her “Turkish Writer’s Lair” from the Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse Dallas.

Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop these new collections?
Michelle Nussbaumer: I started working with Paul Montgomery on wallpaper designs and firmed up this one pattern specifically for the Showhouse. I wanted it to directly correlate to my Clarence House fabric and trim that we launched in January in Paris. I worked very hard to make it all have a cohesive look and feel.

Raymond: What was the overall time-line from conception to achieving the final design?
Michelle: Perhaps this may sound completely crazy, but the main design only took about six weeks. I am very decisive and always have a clear vision of what I want to create and always work with the best people to turn those plans into reality. Partnering with Clarence House and parent company Fabricut was indeed a dream pairing, especially as Robin Roberts had a rich love of color, pattern, and texture. It was kismet to be a significant part of this new phase in the almost 60 years of this fabric houses legacy. 

Joseph’s Coat in Nero.

Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did your ideas come from?
Michelle: My initial inspiration was a Malanje between a recent trip to Cairo and a lifetime of visiting Istanbul. I love the idea of Turkey, this dynamic place where East meets West – from the exotic Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul to the Poshest Palace in Cairo. I also adore the bohemian porcelains, Venetian damask, and mother-of-pearl inlay furniture found there.

Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Michelle: I really started with “pattern” on this project and mixing those patterns in a subdued and yet provocative combination. I like to think of the room’s four walls, not forgetting the fifth wall: the ceiling. In this room, I created architectural significance by mixing various patterns as it was initially a clean, white box devoid of any character. I knew that my collection for Clarence House would play an integral part in the overall design. The clear Moroccan and Turkish influences found in my wallpaper, fabrics, and trim could not be ignored! 

Cartagena in Mineral.

Raymond: Did you have a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Michelle: My collection with Clarence House and the wallpaper collaboration with Paul Montgomery led the charge as I knew the patterns and colors that I wanted to swath this room in. In many ways, this room was a direct outcome of these new collections. I started my career studying set design, so I always play to the audience while creating something memorable. As this is for the legendary Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club inaugural Dallas Designer Showhouse, I set out to create an entire world visitors could immerse themselves in while touring the house. I knew that my new collections would come to life in three dimensions when used in this way; seeing their full-scale repeats, and colors were invaluable. Lighting also played a crucial part in the entire concept. The pierced fixtures from Hudson Valley Lighting created pattern play on the walls that interacted beautifully with the existing motifs found in the wallpaper and textiles. 

Helecho tape trim in Mineral.

Raymond: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials that you used to develop and prototype these designs?
Michelle: I had the original rendering done by a friend in Paris, Manuel Santelices. He does renderings for The House of Chanel. I find his work inspirational yet whimsical. I wanted the collections to nod to the past, so it was all hand-drawn. Honestly, the whole thing existed in my head from the get-go. This is a collection and a space that I’ve imagined and reimagined many times over many years.  

Raymond: Did you utilize a new technique or technology to conceptualize this product?
Michelle: No, I’m pretty old school. I like to keep my process real and authentic. 

Raymond: Please describe any challenges that affected these designs and perhaps steered you to an entirely new final design?
Michelle: The design of both the wallpaper with Paul and the fabrics and trim with Clarence House was effortless. Everyone was a dream to work with, and we were all on the same page. It was so satisfying from a creative and business point of view. Both companies are experts in what they do, so I left the overall logistics and nitty-gritty of physical execution and logistics to the experts. 

Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos
Michelle: Recreating the past in a modern way that is both functional and inspiring. Creating memorable spaces that don’t follow trends, referencing iconic architecture, and the restoration and conservation of historic properties, all within the realm of a playful pallet of color and pattern.

Click here to see more of our “Anatomy of a Design” series.

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