By the Grace of Design

Every home or work space is defined by design.

When you see a well-designed home, you just know. Something hits you. A staple piece, the way a room flows gracefully into the next, the tiny details that make all the difference. A well-designed home looks effortless, as if there were no other possible way for it to appear. But in fact, quite a bit goes into a well-designed space.

For many, the details of an excellently crafted home can be dizzying and take away from the joy of creating spaces where life happens. Let’s face it, we can’t all be Chip and Joanna, but with your own team of experts by your side, you can be even better.

Via Design has made their mark on the Michigan landscape through its well-crafted and practical designs for work and home. From quiet lake retreats to modern downtown lofts, the company’s custom home design work is second to none.

Put simply: they design for life. Their team of professional designers and award-winning craftsmen put their heart and soul into every project they do because they respect the challenge of turning a vision into a reality and honor their role in bringing it to life.

Display case designed by Via Design. There was very little room for the display case, so it is actually built into the stairwell.

“At Via, we take a holistic approach to architecture teaming interior designers with architects from start to finish to provide our clients with the best design and construction services available.”
— Brian Barkwell

From the Inside Out

“We want to create beautiful and functional spaces that enhance people’s lives,” Valerie Schmieder, founder and principal interior designer, said. As an interior and architectural design firm, both architects and interior designers work alongside one another on each project, as well as products designers and the artisans from the firm’s bespoke workshop, Tuck Studio.

“At Via, we take a holistic approach to architecture teaming interior designers with architects from start to finish to provide our clients with the best design and construction services available,” principal architect Brian Barkwell, AIA said.

And Schmieder adds, “The advantage of having in-house product designers and Tuck Studio is that everyone is engaged on the same projects and can work together as a cohesive unit that honors each clients’ needs and wants.”

From the beginning drawings of a home to the fabrics, textures, and pieces that will create the world within it, each element is carefully coordinated by professionals who listen and find ways to exceed expectations at every turn.

Process: Where to Begin

Bringing an idea into being is rarely a solitary act. Via Design’s team understands this and begins all projects with a desire to understand and articulate the ‘big picture.’ “We start with each client’s own vision,” explains Schmieder. “But we also go a step beyond what our client asks for, introducing them to ideas and concepts that perhaps they did not dream of, but we believe they’ll embrace.”

Following a stock checklist isn’t something you’ll experience, but rather a collaborative approach that reveals the true potential of every project. Short on time or not quite sure where to start? Schmieder says not to worry. The firm’s teams of experts and professionals is well-versed in all elements of architectural and interior design services. “We cater our specific services to meet the individual needs for each of our clients,” she said.

A custom stainless base table designed by Via Design, and metal work done by Dan Carlson Design. Walnut butcher block table bar height to compliment the cabinetry.

With a firm filled with award-winning designers and experts, there’s no shortage of places to start when it comes to the vision for a space. “I like to begin with the architectural style of the home and the setting,” interior designer Melissa Marklevitz said. “A client’s favorite color or a beloved piece of furniture can often spark inspiration.”

The Art of the Details

The difference in a custom-designed home interior lies in the details. From color palettes that draw the eye towards architectural adornments, to fixtures and furnishings you simply won’t find on store shelves, the hallmarks of good interior design start small.

Island designed by Via Design. Onyx counter top. Louis Campbell collage pendant light.

“We help tie every little detail together in a cohesive way,” Marklevitz said. Like art, interior spaces speak to each person in different ways, which is why having access to a wide variety of fabrics, textures, and pieces is key in creating a space that speaks your language.

At Via Design, the team can fully-customize all elements of a home or room — from a fireplace to shelving units and light fixtures. Its designers can create pieces by working with in-house fabricators, or with the talented artisans at Tuck Studio. The firm also offers a Resource Studio, an expansive architecture and design library featuring fine samples and resources from around the world, and Via Gallery, a curated collection of artwork from talented local artists.

The entertainment center features a thin stone mosaic panel and custom wood with custom stain finish to coordinate with the Cambria quartz cabinetry.

“Designers take care of all the details that often get missed when you do it yourself,” Marklevitz says.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

In every custom home interior project, Via Design’s goal is to keep the process enjoyable for their clients, which means connecting clients to resources with intuitive guidance and support. “We have access to the latest products and suppliers, which can also be overwhelming,” Schmieder said. “The infinite number of options can be confusing and frustrating.”

“As designers, our goal is to make that journey easier. It’s easy to get overwhelmed or to dwell on a small detail, and it’s our job to keep the focus on the big picture,” she said. Along each journey, clients’ needs and vision remain number one and key in setting a home or room apart in a world where customization is all the rage.

The skilled team at Via Design can be the intermediary, allowing each client to determine their level of involvement and the direction of a space. “A home is deeply personal,” Schmieder said. “Everything about it should reflect the individuality and personality of those who call it their own.”

Custom two-sided fireplace made of metal and two different types of stone was added to the building.

Form, Function, and Style

It isn’t just beauty that guides the firm’s designs. “We want our designs to showcase comfort, functionality, and beauty, which bring out the best in the people occupying the space,” Marklevitz said. “Form follows function. If it isn’t practical for a client’s life, then it isn’t the best option.”

Home is where life happens, after all, which in most cases means there’s a lot of “stuff” that comes along with is. Via Design’s custom cabinetry and storage options can be designed with the particular needs of each client, whether it’s to showcase (or camouflage) the latest in home entertainment or a kitchen that lets you cook smarter, not harder.

Modern island custom made of walnut with matching dining table.

The continued integration of technology into homes means finding new ways of balancing practicality with beauty, mirroring the innovation and exciting spirits in the execution. “Utility is stylish,” Schmieder said, and the Via Design team employs myriad ways of marrying form and function in spectacular ways.

“The design process is about getting to know your client and their needs. It comes down to how well you know the client and their needs and how much they trust you.”
— Sara Dupin

Having on-staff product designers means pieces will not only look unique, but they’ll be created solely for the specific needs of the individual in complete coordination with the overall design, its timeline, and budget. Finding this balance of practicality and aesthetics is something that drives the designers at Via Design. “I love discovering different ways to use material and finishes to create vibrant interior spaces. I enjoy the challenge of creating something that is both beautiful and functional,” Matt Maher, one of Via Design’s product designers, said.

It is this union of dedicated and knowledgeable designers, architects, and professionals that allows design decisions to be guided by the client and executed seamlessly. “There are so many decisions that need to be coherent, and often it is easy for a homeowner to get overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all,” Schmieder said.

“I love discovering different ways to use material and finishes to create vibrant interior spaces. I enjoy the challenge of creating something that is both beautiful and functional.”
— Matt Maher

More Than Just Design

And that’s when it becomes about more than ‘just design.’ It becomes a relationship where homeowners trust their team to create spaces that will enrich their lives. Schmieder draws from writer T.S. Eliot for inspiration, saying “Home is where one begins,” and when that space is cohesive and well-designed, the impact can be life-changing. Instead of a space to house things and rest heads, a home can become a living, breathing facet of who we are and who we hope to be


Photography courtesy Via Design

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