Tips, Tricks... And Pics.
Lucky us! We got a chance to go to Chicago and take a peek into our Co-Founder, Doug McClellan's, incredible apartment. We even got the insider tip on how to make our apartment not look like we are still living in our college apartment. Doug also shared with us his journey from architecture school to launching ModernLook using his design aesthetic to guide our site.
ModernLook: What is your earliest memory of design—the first time you really noticed it?
Douglas McClellan: I was fortunate to be exposed to design early in my childhood. My father is an engineer with a passion for architecture and I remember being mesmerized by all the old, hand drawn plans he kept in his office. I was so awe-struck that I would tag along when he had to go into work on Saturday mornings. I would just sit at the drafting tables with all of his tools and stacks of vellum and start drawing floorpans while pretending I was an architect. Of course, it was a rudimentary understanding at best, but I still remember it vividly and I think it clearly triggered a passion within me that continued to grow and evolve over time. Design became a way to show personality and one of the first “design” items I really gravitated towards was a CD player from Michael Graves' first collection for Target designed in 1999. This was before Apple really heated up and electronics were pretty boring in general. It was just so cool, so different from those boring standard CD players of the time and it lasted for so long! It is probably in a box at my parents' house and is still in working condition today. That object broke the barrier between architecture and design for me and I realized the discipline was actually quite broad and there were countless opportunities to be creative in it.
Clean and concise, Doug's living room aims to be a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the city outside his door. Bacsac planters line the balcony which offers a breathtaking view of the Chicago skyline.
How has your interest in design grown since then?
Well, from those early days filling sketchbooks with dream houses and skyscrapers, architecture has always been my passion. I was interested in the exterior, the massing, the materials - the allure of architecture. I spent time at summer programs while still in high school where I took classes in architecture and eventually went to college for it where I realized my interest really was the inside space. So, after realizing this, I made a move to Chicago, transferred and changed my concentration to Interior Architecture. It was in Chicago where I took a job at one of the preeminent design stores in the country and really learned more than I could have imagined about design. It became more than just buildings, more than just “space” but more about the environment that is created when architecture, design and objects work in harmony. This was a pivotal moment for me and really sparked a passion for product design. So, from architecture, to interiors, to product… my interest has been going to a smaller scale over the years.
What inspires you?
Travel, books and connecting with other people can bring about new ideas for me. When I travel, especially to foreign countries, I love seeing the local department stores to get an idea of how people live - what products they buy, how they are displayed, even the architecture.
Looking around your home, it has a minimalistic design aesthetic. What was your inspiration?
First, this apartment is pretty new - I’ve been in here less than a year so it’s still evolving. My previous home was a much more traditional Chicago apartment with exposed brick, worn wood floors, and a fireplace… all types of character. With that space, I could really fill it with a lot of accessories, so I did. Of course, it was still modern, that’s always been my aesthetic, but we’ll just say it had a lot of personality. Now, the bones of this apartment are much more stark - it’s new, it’s precise, its very white. And I love that, but the decor had to be toned down so it wouldn’t overpower the space. With that in mind, I had to put more thought into what I was bringing into the space and eliminate what didn’t bring me joy. I thought it was going to really simplify the objects around me. Which is why I decided to keep the things I really loved, pieces that had stories or memories attached to them. And that’s what really inspired the space, starting fresh, giving thought to each object in the house and then arranging them in a way that’s functional for me while showing a little bit of my own personality.
What’s the last design item that you have bought for yourself?
Actually, it was from ModernLook. It was a set of gradating, nesting dishes by the Canadian design brand DesignLump. The contrast between the rough exterior and glazed interior of the porcelain is really stunning in person, as is the subtle colorations.
When you started your career in design did you ever think you would be launching an eCommerce Flash Sale Site?
Oh, definitely not. But life has a way of providing opportunity where you least expect it. Right now, it’s a great culmination of all of my passions into one project that lets me share my design vision and aesthetic with the masses.
The bedroom gets a punch of personality though the addition of bold art. On the wall, a large scale print by Chicago-based artist Nathan Miller.
A big part of your company is dedicated to uncovering new products for your consumers. How do you approach this task?
Well, I’ve have been fortunate to see incredible products exist in the market from both small, independent artisans to larger established brands. Unfortunately, a lot of the time these great items never make it in front of many people. The improbability of the average consumer to uncover these lesser known items without dedicating time to scouring blogs and magazines or working with a designer, it becomes even more difficult to connect people with great products. So, this desire to uncover new, exciting design and bring it to a large audience really drives us at ModernLook. With this in mind, we attend fairs in cities like New York and Paris, we search blogs, we keep up with designers and always have our eyes on the industry to bring our finds to our members. We aim to be your new favorite source for uncovering unique finds that your friends will be jealous of.
What are you hoping that people will take away from ModernLook?
An interest in design. Often times, people think design is elitist and that’s not true. It’s universal and really can be transformative.
More art, books and accessories give the space a personal feel.
Ok, now give us the dirt - how do we get your look?
Well, let’s start with what not to do… don’t impulse buy, don’t buy because it’s just cool or beautiful. Don’t buy it unless you love it. There are quite a few mistakes I’ve come to regret and instead I should have resisted temptation of buying something that was just OK and saving for something that is great. Think about what you need. If it’s your living room, I’m guessing it’s a chair, a sofa, lighting, a table etc. Those are your key pieces and probably things that are going to last you for years. Don’t follow trends with those - go for timeless - you’ll thank yourself later. Then, start collecting, find what you love and work it into your space. That's the icing on the cake really, and the best way to add a little bit of yourself into your space.
Doug's picks from ModernLook reflect his refined style.
Now that we have the scoop from a talented designer like yourself - what are some of the must-have pieces from ModernLook a beginner should buy?
There are some great accessories to add a designer touch to your house. I think the Paper Airplane Wall Art is a really fun way to add texture to a wall - the whole line from Gold Leaf is great because it’s a way to give your wall a makeover without investing in expensive art. I’m also all about bringing life into your home with plants, and with Luur Design’s Utility Vases you get to bring good design and some greenery in at the same time. Like I’ve said earlier, I’m a big fan of marble. So Native Union’s Clic iPhone Case made of real marble is a real stunner to make your phone stand out from the sea of bland cases on the market. To top it off, indulge in something for yourself: Blackbird’s unmistakably unique colognes will make you stand out as much as your newly improved home.
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