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Interview with Michelle Jennings

Get to know Michelle Jennings  Interview with Michelle Jennings cover
Get to know Michelle Jennings

Michelle Jennings Wiebe is president and founder of Studio M, specializing in sophisticated luxury interiors since 1991. Her work has been featured in national newspapers and magazines, and she also writes home features for the Tampa Bay Times, serves on the Board of Interior Design at Florida State University, speaks on design and social media, and is editor of M}Pression, the Studio M design blog.

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• When did you realize that interior design was your passion, and how would you describe your style?

Honestly, I’ve always been very into interior design for as long as I can remember.  I grew up in a historic home built in the 1800s in a small town in Ohio. My grandparents owned it before my parents did, and I was quite enthralled when my grandfather let my grandmother hire a “decorator from the big city!” I loved seeing the transformation of this house from tired to beautiful!

I also spent a lot of my time as a child drawing floor plans and elevations, decorating my Barbie houses, and spending time in multiple art classes. My love increased during high school with more art and drafting classes. Upon graduation, I knew I wanted to study Interior Design. I chose Florida State University and graduated, loving every minute of it!

My style would have to be a mix of coastal chic with an eclectically modern edge.  Florida is a great place to express myself creatively, being that it’s near the beach and home to some really progressive clients who love to have homes with modern designs and amenities that are sure to impress their visitors and guests.

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• Who or what has been your biggest style influence?

Inspiration comes from many sources, but travel provides new creativity and refreshment. I find a lot of design inspiration from the ocean, the rugged cliffs and trees, and the charming architecture of a beach community! The tranquil setting also is perfect for complete renewal and recharging.

Other than that, fashion, architecture, books, magazines, and art inspire me. I also have to say that I’ve been spending a lot of time in NYC, and that definitely energizes my creativity. It’s that “Empire State of Mind.”

My style heroes of the past include Dorothy Draper (a trailblazing great decorator), Grace Kelly and Jackie O (for their infinite grace and style), and Florence Knoll (incredible furniture designs).

Today, I am enamored with the fashion designers Diane von Furstenberg (for a still relevant 40 year design career, now including interiors) and Tory Burch (for an incredible “real clothes” fashion empire), Kelly Wearstler (for her risk taking and bold design), and Candice Olsen (for putting chic design on TV).

• How did you come up with the Studio M interior design concept?

Thinking back, the actual concept of my own design firm must have started while I was in college at Florida State University, although I feel like it’s always been in the back of my mind even before that.  I was lucky to be able establish Studio M in 1991 as a way to make a living for myself, at the same time having a fun and creative outlet to express myself.

I feel truly blessed that Studio M has become one of Florida’s premiere interior design firms, and we’re continually making strides to grow and improve every day!

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• Working in such distinctive metropolitan areas (NY, LA, FL), what are the biggest challenges you find using your “Michelle Jennings Wiebe” signature style?

Working in multiple metropolitan areas, I’d have to say that my biggest challenge using my signature style would have to be spending as much time with my clients as I’d like.  I love orchestrating the perfect design style for their lifestyle and passions, so spending time getting to know them and figuring out their likes and dislikes is essential.  It’s both intriguing and rewarding to get to know them and learn about their individual life stories!

In short, jet setting and spending as much quality time with my clients as I’d like, (while simultaneously managing a full service design firm and being a mom and wife at home) would have to be my biggest because there are only 24 hours in a day!

However, I do have to admit that I love to travel and visit with my clients, and I truly enjoy when that becomes part of any particular project that I’m working on.

• What’s the best interior design advice you can give to a beginner interior designer?

Be passionate and curious about learning and getting involved in everything design related. Work hard and strive toward excellence.  And above all else, be yourself and not someone else.

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• Where do you see your company in five years?

Recently, I have set some new industrious career goals for both our firm and myself.

First, our firm is very enthusiastic about doing more interior design work outside of Florida; it is our intent to branch out into more national projects, and even international ones!

Second, we would like to design and license our own line of designer home items. We have some great ideas for bedding, area rugs, and furnishings; we are still looking at which avenue to pursue.

Third, I’d like to write a design book and get published; this has been a dream since childhood. I’ve actually begun the initial process on this so needless to say, these are exciting times at Studio M!


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