If there’s one thing that unites Steph Morris’ designs (and Instagram feed), it’s stunning natural light and a good throw blanket. Her love for personalized design is immediately apparent, as is her sweet demeanor and passion for her business, North + Birch.
Q&A With Steph Morris
Casaza: How did you get your start?
Steph Morris: I started off college as a political science major. It took about three weeks for me to realize that it wasn’t a good fit for me. I come from a family of nurses and engineers, so I never considered a career in design until my mom brought it up one day while she was visiting me on campus. I switched my major the next day. Every single job, from a painfully boring internship at the local design center, to reconfiguring workstations at a commercial firm, to learning the ropes of high-end residential design has been an intentional stepping stone to where I am at today. The end goal has always been business ownership, I just wanted to take my time getting a good feel of the design industry before setting off on my own.
C: How would you describe your style?
SM: I love the outdoors. I recharge when I’m surrounded by nature, so I try to incorporate those concepts into my designs. A fresh color palette, embracing natural lighting and textures, and creating airy spaces are all ways that I like to bring the outdoors inside. But when it’s all said and done, style isn’t about having a home that looks like it belongs on the pages of a magazine, it’s about embracing who you are and loving where you live.
C: Where do you get new ideas and inspiration?
SM: I’m continually inspired by my clients. Designing a home is such a personal experience and I love to see them come alive when they show me a piece of heirloom furniture, tell me about their design dreams or even explain why they have a personal vendetta against the color red. It’s so important to me that their space tells their story, not mine.
C: Favorite room in the house?
SM: My favorite room to design is a powder room, hands down! There is so much fun to be had in a small space because of the minimal amount of materials and items needed to execute a design plan. Paint the ceiling black, use a wallpaper that has tap dancing cats wearing top hats, splurge on that expensive tile that you fell in love with. The sky is the limit.
C: Design rule you don’t subscribe to?
SM: As a creative, I find that thinking outside the box often involves breaking a design rule or two. Creating a home that you can truly live in and embraces your current stage in life is not a one-size-fits-all process.
C: Recent project that inspired you?
SM: I’m currently designing a couple of rooms specifically for kids. When I was in the initial design phase, I would just get lost in the daydream of witnessing their reaction to the finished product. I drew from that inspiration when it came to each and every decision, from the wall color down to the accessories.
C: Favorite pattern?
SM: I’m a sucker for a good herringbone. Unlike its trendy cousin, the chevron, a herringbone pattern never gets old to me. It’s just so good in so many mediums: inlaid on a wood floor, installed on a backsplash with an elongated subway tile, or woven into a cozy throw blanket.
C: What is “good design” to you?
SM: Good design tells a story. It is a beautiful mix of functionality and individuality, with a healthy dose of self-confidence. From a designer perspective, good design involves being conscious of the environment, supporting local artists and craftsman, and creating a space that will outlast the current trends.
C: Pack your bag! You’re moving into a famous home. Whose is it?
SM: Every house on the western Michigan shoreline is famous to me. I would live in a shack if it meant ending each day with a Lake Michigan sunset.
C: What’s your rule when entertaining?
SM: If you feel happy and relaxed in your home, then your guests will feel that way, too. Keep it simple, not stressful. It’s important to remember that the main objective of entertaining is to create memories, not achieve perfection.
On a more practical level, whether it be a family hand-me-down, a piece collected while traveling, or a thrifted find, I like to have an eclectic collection of serving platters, bowls and plates easily accessible. Pieces like these not only create conversation, but they also make even the most generic of store-bought food look thoughtful.
C: Best advice for DIYers?
SM: My parents helped my husband and I get the nursery ready for both of our kids. We installed wallpaper, switched out ceiling lights, and hung gallery walls. Because we shared these experiences together as a family, my emotional connection with these two rooms goes beyond just the memories that I’m creating in those spaces with my kids.
Because of this, I find the lone bubble in the wallpaper or the extra nail hole in the gallery wall almost endearing. My advice would be to have loads of patience and find enjoyment in the process.
C: Best advice for those hiring a pro?
SM: This might be obvious, but it is so important that you are comfortable communicating with whoever you choose to work in your home. This includes establishing a relationship that encourages honest and transparent conversations. I lightheartedly say that order to gauge if you are comfortable with someone, think of what it might be like to be stuck in a car with them for three hours. If the thought of that makes you cringe, then they might not be the best fit for you.
C: What is one design trend are you most excited about this season?
SM: I love that I’m seeing an eclectic mix of different design styles in a single room. An example would be a Kilim rug paired with a traditional side table and a midcentury sofa. It not only shows that you are embracing your individuality, but it also reflects confidence in your design style.
C: How do you take your coffee?
SM: As a mom of a toddler and a newborn, I like my coffee warm, with a side of solitude.