Excelsior Designer Creates Unique Spaces for Clients

Excelsior expert says great design starts with listening.
For this stunning great room, Manor House Interiors collaborated with architects Murphy & Co. Design and builder John Kraemer & Sons.

After working in your industry of choice for a few years, you might get tired of the daily grind. Negative attitudes and perhaps a tough schedule could have you thinking about the next step in your life. When Jamie McCandlish moved to Minnesota six years ago, he had already worked 18 years in Texas running a design firm and thought he was ready for retirement. “Clearly that wasn’t in the cards for me,” says McCandlish, who happily jumped back into his chosen career. “I am one of the lucky ones that is truly able to do what they love for a living.”

After only a short time in semi-retirement, McCandlish established Manor House Interiors in the lake area. “There are so many aspects of why I enjoy being an interior designer,” he says. “My job does not end at designing a sofa. We have clients who ask for input on everything from holiday dishes to bathroom towels. We help create the lifestyle they want to live.”

When a client chooses Manor House Interiors, they get the experience and expertise of the entire team. McCandlish works alongside Morgan Froemming and Pam Jensen to help create a space unique and special to the client. “We find that bringing all our experience to the product benefits our clients the most,” says McCandlish. “Really understanding who your clients are is such an important part of what we do.” For example, white-on-white or off-white is a popular design choice, but not a practical one for a family with four children.

“I want to create something that is effortless to maintain so you can enjoy the room, not worry about how you are going to maintain the room,” says McCandlish. “We pride ourselves on getting to know the client, learning how they live, and how the family uses the spaces in their home.”

To start the process, McCandlish and his team visit the space and interview the client about it, and the client fills out a questionnaire. Then they talk budget. “Everyone has a budget,” says McCandlish. “It’s our job as interior designers to figure out how to spend that budget wisely to achieve the overall feel the clients are after.”

McCandlish likes to keep a bit of the client’s history in every project. “I don’t want anything to be a matching set,” he says. “I like to incorporate family photos, maybe a favorite or sentimental piece of art, or repurpose a family heirloom. I want a room to be an expression of the family and the generations that created that family.”

The goal is to create a space where the family feels at home. “In Minnesota, we use our homes in very different ways with each season. With a few minor changes, you can change the look of a space with seasonal rugs, pillows or even a lamp shade,” says McCandlish. “We do not want a space to become stagnant. We want to leave room for a space to grow.”

He can remember several favorite projects, but he’s most pleased with the relationships he has with clients. “Interior design is about the process and relationship you build with the client,” says McCandlish. “Once a relationship is established, it’s usually ongoing.” Manor House Interiors can work with the same client two or three times through different projects, as they upsize, downsize, purchase a cabin or need a new office.

McCandlish says, “I always tell my clients, ‘You won’t hurt my feelings. You live here, not me. My job is to create something that works for you and your home.’ ”