There's a lot to catch the eye when walking into MWA Design in Silverthorne. Cabinets and picture frames line the walls, each a different color, cut and style of wood. Islands throughout the store offer rows of tile in stone, porcelain and ceramic, as well as variously patterned countertops slabs. A myriad of styles of lamps and light fixtures illuminate everything from above. It's an interior designer's playground.
MWA Design resides in the former BigHorn Interiors and Design store in Silverthorne. MWA Design previously took up one section of the store, until it was closed at the end of last year. Now, MWA Design takes up the entire building and has expanded its products. The building's interior has been remodeled and now displays various furniture and decor items that it did not have before.
"We have to recreate ourselves," said manager Mark Adolph, about the changes and additions.
Local artistic touch
Some things that haven't changed, however, are the large murals on the upper walls. Painted by local artist Bonnie Norling Wakeman, the murals show alpine landscapes and mountain backgrounds. Recently, Wakeman did another installment - a bas-relief of leafy aspens ascending the staircase at the back of the store.
Wakeman is just one of a variety of local artists whose work is showcased. Customers can walk up and down the store to see the art on the walls. If something strikes their fancy, they can buy it or commission something similar from the artist.
"We try to create a win-win situation for local people to exhibit their work," Adolph said, explaining that showcasing the paintings in the store allowed artists a place to show off their work while adding to the artistic decor of the showrooms.
Product and process
Adolph and his associates - interior design services and custom framing expert Jill Creager and showroom manager and designer Reese Frayser - say that the experience with each customer is different. Some come into the store needing only one or two products, replacing a light fixture or knob handle, for example. Others bring more ambitious projects, such as remodeling whole sections of their home or their entire condo at once.
"Everybody has a different situation," Adolph said. "Usually we try to meet people at their needs and what they're looking for."
Whether homeowners come in with a clear idea of what they want or practically no idea, the next step is to set up meetings to discuss the plans. This often includes a visit to the site in question, giving Adolph a chance to size up the space and dimensions for himself.
In addition to selling the products, Adolph will also install them himself.
"We're really the only place in the county where you can get everything in one stop," he said. "We install everything that we sell."
That said, Adolph and his colleagues don't mind sending customers to nearby stores as well for more options. Adolph said he's pleased to have good relationships with other local businesses.
"If anything, it helps everybody as a whole," Frayser said.
"It's been really nice to send people their way," Creager agreed, adding that often other businesses will send them referrals back.
Just like many other businesses, MWA Design has felt the impact of the poor economy over the past few years.
"The recession really caused a swing in the construction industry to go from new construction to remodeling," Adolph said. However, "now we're starting to see an increase in new construction jobs."
As the real estate industry continues to improve, so will the design and remodeling business. According to Adolph, positive changes have occurred as recently as in the past six months. While during the recession many of MWA Design's customers were people they had served before, now around half are new customers coming in.
In addition to economical trends, Adolph, Creager and Frayser have noticed certain other trends within homes and designs. One, unsurprisingly, has to do with modern technology updates. Clients often need assistance in making their electrical system compatible with cable and big screen TVs. These television sets, much slimmer than before, are now more often mounted on walls rather than entertainment centers.
Other trends have included more lighting within the home and motif fabrics. The three have a seemingly endless list of design-style adjectives that follow the word "mountain" - mountain rustic, mountain modern, mountain elegance, etc. Each one is different. Rustic, for example, involves a warmer color palette, with distressed finishes and knotty wood. Contemporary, on the other hand, involves cleaner lines and a lighter color scheme.
The most popular at the moment, Creager says, is a blend between the rustic and contemporary styles.
Built to last
Adolph, Creager and Frayser are always eager to discuss design and options, each drawing on backgrounds that feature design, art and engineering.
Creager previously worked with art galleries and said she feels very connected to the art scene, having lived in Summit County for 27 years.
"I go back to the art," she said, of her favorite part of her job. "I really like supporting the local artists."
As much as he enjoys the process of installing and remodeling, Adolph said he feels happiest once a project is completed.
He also said that it's not unusual to meet clients and former clients for dinner or on the ski hill from time to time.
"Our relationships with our clients often form into great friendships afterwards," Adolph said. "My favorite part is establishing the friendship with the client and completing the project."