‘Featured Clients’

 D9 logoDesign 9 has been very fortunate to work with Marc Russell Interiors for over fifteen years. They have an outstanding staff of very talented designers, one of whom stand out from the crowd. This week, we had the opportunity to showcase Michael Huard, one of Marc Russell Interiors’ designers, as our featured client.  Michael is a top designer and the store manager of Marc Russell Interiors, located in Palm Springs, California. Marc Russell Interiors is one of the most prominent retail stores in the area, and specializes in soft contemporary and mid century designs. With an 8,000 sq ft show room, they offer  a wide variety of product, along with professional design services. I had the chance to sit down with Michael and talk about his career in retail and design, and his experience in working with Design 9.


Marc Russell Interiors storefront in Palm Springs, CA

From the owner of Design 9…

“I love working with Michael at Marc Russell Interiors. With his experience in the fashion and design industry, he has a true talent for putting together an entire room, perfectly complementing it with colors and patterns. I am always excited to see what COMs he is going to send our way. Once the fabric is on the piece, it always looks flawless. I would love to bring him to a fabric fair sometime with me! It’s always a pleasure working with Michael.”


Michael and Tricia selecting fabric for new floor models.

How did you get into the business?

“I came in through retail ranks, beginning in merchandising. I originally got hired by Neiman Marcus as the men’s fashion director at age 20. I started meeting great people in the business. I also had a minor in fine arts, so then I brokered art. I still do now as well. After I left Neiman Marcus, I started Michael H Productions Fashion Company. Eventually, Fashion led me into retail.”

In the beginning of his career, Michael began Michael H Production’s fashion company where he launched lines, participated in commercial business, and hosted fundraiser and gala-style events for well-known names such as Tiffany & Co., DKNY, and CIT Investment Group.

What is the focus or business model of Marc Russell Interiors with regard to staff? Is your staff more designer based or sales?

“It is a design based showroom, we’re open to the public, but really we are more clientele service oriented. Honestly, that’s what got us through the 2008-2009 down time, many left town but we survived because we were a full service. Because we weren’t just cash and carry dependent, we were still serving clients. Business was down- don’t get me wrong, but we survived because of the business orientation.”

How have you influenced the store? What style does Marc Russell Interior’s specialize in?

“I was having dinner with Marc and Russell and they started talking about their expansion plans for their showroom and they said they’d love to have me join their team.  I could bring in own lines, and bring in my contracts. It really worked out for everyone, and now I’ve been here for 20 years. Here in the store we have a very mid-century vibe with touches of a soft contemporary feel, it’s not hard edged and pointed or geometric.”

 What projects have you personally used Design 9 product in?

“I used some of Design 9’s product when I did a town house at the Four Seasons in Toronto, we did the dinosaur house for Leonardo DeCaprio and we used the product there. Design 9 fits into that mid-century feel and some of their pieces fit into the more architectural settings. I just used the big “Puzzle” piece, but most often the focus is specialty. We love their ottomans too. We especially use their chairs- dining and occasional. They work wonderfully as an accent to any setting.”


One of Marc Russel Interior’s installations using the Design 9 Spencer dining/occasional chair


Design 9’s Big Alice and Lady Berton on Marc Russell Interior’s showroom floor.

 Is there any piece in particular of our line that is your favorite piece?

“The Cole chair, people love it here! The original Billy Haines piece was used in Loretta Young’s house, so the Cole chairs are probably the most fashionable thing we have. There’s always one on the floor, they’re huge here.”


Pictured above is of one of Michael’s favorite Design 9 pieces, the Cole occasional chair.


Design 9 dining chair program featured at Marc Russell Interiors.


Design 9’s Big Alice, a staple on Marc Russel Interior’s showroom floor

 What are the demographics of your client?

It’s a resort town, and generally, yes, it is still a “second home” place, but we are seeing a younger, more diverse population moving in. We also see the homes becoming the principal house, and people are putting a lot more money and emphasis on what goes into the house, as opposed to just renting furniture or buying it cheap. So, along with the ever expanding gentrified neighborhoods, there’s more importance placed on these homes. As opposed to before, the interior of the home has now been prioritized.

 What trends have you noticed recently in your area that have been working well?

I saw Violet coming in as a color trend. Its one of three native colors in the desert, white, yellow, violet bloom in desert. With all the dusty green palm trees, violet alongside them is really beautiful. Its all over, its a wall color, a fashion color, an upholstery color. As far as trends go we generally stay away from whats trending in tile, floor covering, and we tend to create a classic transitional pallet in this day in age. Other than color, but that is transitory.

What type of items are really popular right now in the area that you’re servicing (Palm Springs, California).

We have a tendency to do a lot of great color pattern and prints. Light and airy pieces do great. We do a lot of white, orange, lime green, palm springs-esque colors.

What has been your experience working with Design 9?

Design 9 makes accommodations all of the time. And Tricia is a doll and shes really cool about expediting things. We do a lot of COM work with her and she’s great for fabric application- very accommodating. For example, in one project I needed to stretch a bar stool into a bench and she accommodated us and had it done, she’s great about doing that. And working with a company that will do COM orders is incredibly helpful, and that’s where Design 9 comes in.

To see more from Michael and Marc Russell Interiors visit their website at: http://marcrussellinteriors.com/

From the author:

Having the opportunity to speak with Michael was one of a kind. He’s incredibly experienced, and obviously talented. There’s no doubt- Michael loves what he does. His passion shows in his work with design and at Marc Russell Interiors. He was excited to talk and open, which makes my job much easier. It was a genuine pleasure to speak with someone who has worked for so many incredibly well-known names. I look forward to talking with Michael more in the future!
-Jordan Boles
Marketing Director

If you’d like to be featured please send inquiries to tricia@design9inc.com or jordan@design9inc.com.

D9 logo

Design 9 Inc. is proud of it’s longstanding relationship with its clients and has been fortunate enough to work with countless extremely talented designers and retailers over the years. As a tribute to them we will be featuring one of them each month in new our monthly blog. One client in particular that stands out from the crowd and has made it to the top of our list. David Schaefer of Urban Essentials is a designer /retail store owner that is based out of District Columbia. Urban Essentials was a finalist in the Arts Awards, and was in the running to be named one of the top four retailers in the United States. In addition, Urban Essentials was awarded “Best Lighting” by the Washington City Paper and was featured in the “Best of Washington Furniture Stores” by the Washingtonian.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with David Schaefer and learn more about his career in retail and design.

david schaefer

How did you get into retail furniture sales and design?

“I originally worked for congress for thirteen years, and after a change of administration, I lost my job. I decided to open a men’s clothing store, but someone told me right before I opened that if I put any clothing on clothing racks it wouldn’t be my property, any fixture on the walls became the property of the landlord, so I decided to put the clothing in and on top of furniture. Eventually, I started selling the desks, tables, chairs, and the things that the clothing pieces were laying on. I sold so much of the furniture that at the end of each weekend the clothes would be on the floor. I ended up selling more furniture than anything. Designing the store is how I got into design because it is all so visual. I learned my way around retail for about three years, and then I partnered with friend and opened a furniture store in DC.”

When did you begin designing and retail?

“In 1997 when I opened the first store, but I had been helping people with their homes and flowers and renovations for almost ten years at that point. I’ve always had a knack for the visual aspect. Then, I met Tricia [of Design 9] the first year I went to market, they didn’t have a permanent show room at the time, so I met her and her husband at their booth. She basically held my hand and helped me place my first order.”

mike and trish

David Schaefer of Urban Essentials and Tricia Bellocchio at the 2005 Vegas market

 What do you specialize in?

“Currently, we specialize in small scale, upper end, and contemporary furniture. Everything has to be about form and function and ultimately, it has to be of good quality. Most of our clients are moving into 500 sq ft bedrooms, spaces are getting SO small in DC. We have focused mostly on small scale furniture. Anything with dual function is also our specialty.”

Tell us about some of the projects you have worked with us on.

“2501 Penn is one of the most expensive buildings per square foot in Washington. Of the sixteen units in the building, I modeled three. I used 60 different lines of furniture, and pieced together the models, giving each a different feel. Design 9 products played a very important role in each model.”

2501 Penn Project

“In the model where I used the mirrored Reggie sofas, they were ideal. They were very sleek, and I think about 100 inches long. Each unit that we had to model had to have a different feel, this one was more of that clean lines, classic contemporary look, and the sofa fell right into place. I needed one that wasn’t too deep, and the Reggie wasn’t. It had to be long and stream line and I wanted a single cushion so that was ideal. Design 9 also really has the best fabrics there’s no question.”


The mirrored Reggie sofas from Design 9 in Urban Essentials’ 2501 Penn project

“In the model with the Spencer dining / occasional chairs it was more of a bachelor pad or shared space kind of feel. They are more of a masculine chair; they aren’t little by any means. There was a huge dining room table so the chairs completed the masculine feel that we wanted to give to that model. This is my favorite picture from a project ever- I would move in here, if I could.”

Spencer chairs

The Spencer dining / occasional chairs by Design 9 are pictured in the back in Urban Essentials’ 2501 Penn project

Rhodes Hill Square project

“Then at Rhodes Hill Square in Arlington, VA, I did a project about five years ago. It led to me designing these huge semi-circular sofas. I sent Tricia some photographs and schematics, and hoped for the best. This is a lobby space, and the one thing the builder told me was that he didn’t want the round table in the middle of the lobby with flowers on it- nothing cliche. He wanted it to be open. We had to plan this 40 foot long room and how to furnish it, and how to keep it open. Each space kept becoming so narrow, and I knew I needed a piece to open it. I decided to design my own with Design 9. Each semi circle was two pieces, and they were twenty some feet long.”

RhodesHill_Lobby-custom_seating (1)

Concept drawing for large semi circle sectionals for Urban Essentials’ Rhodes Hill Square project

What was it like to see your ideas come to life?

“Nerve wracking, between this custom piece and the huge chandelier above. When you have it on paper, it looks one way, but when you get it in place it doesn’t always look like you have it in your head. When it was exactly what I had envisioned I was thrilled!”


Semi-circular sectionals custom made for Urban Essentials by Design 9 at Rhodes Hill Square in Arlington, VA

On another Urban Essentials project at Rhodes Hill Square…

“Then in a unit model in Rhodes Hill Square, I used the Lilly dining /occasional chairs. The room had an 18ft ceiling so I thought we could use tall pieces, like the Lilly chairs, which I think are beautiful, very sleek, modern, streamline, they look very grand. They are upper tier homes, about a million dollars a piece, and they have to look like a grand palace in the apartments.”On another Urban Essentials project at Rhodes Hill Square…

Lilly chairs

Design 9’s Lilly dining / occasional chairs in Urban Essentials’ Rhodes Hill project

What drew you to work with Design 9?

“When it comes to something I need customized, Design 9 is the first place I call. They have proven they have the ability to do anything. We don’t have a huge need of customization all the time, but in some cases you just have no choice. I mean, you cant find a 20 foot sofa on the market. When I need larger scale pieces- I call Design 9. And Tricia [of Design 9] is so easy to work with. Most places would run away from the idea of a semi-circle sectional and everything that goes into it, its often very hard to explain what you want. Design 9 doesn’t. There was no one else I could’ve called for the Rhodes Hill Square lobby. I also do very well with their dining /occasional chairs: as dining chair they are large and comfortable enough to entertain with and small scale enough to use as living room or bedroom chairs which works well for the small spaces, often times they do double duty.”

Why is it valuable to work with a custom furniture company as a designer or retailer?

“It makes everything easier because they will customize everything, they will work on a deadline, and they will think outside of the box. Most companies will not change dimensions, arm covers, etc. That’s never an issue for Design 9, its all bench made, and they always complete my special requests. The answer is always yes. Some people want what they want at any cost, and that’s where Design 9 comes in.”

In your mind, how did our product accentuate or tie together your entire project?

“Each piece is so different, but I have never had an issue, everything has worked out beautifully. Each time I’ve called upon Design 9 to do something special for us they’ve always hit the mark.”

Overall, what would you say your experience was like in working with Design 9?

“It’s been a pleasure, it’s always been great. I typically go to see Tricia and Mike when I go to market, and it’s always towards the end of the day. We can sit down and chat for hours, about our lives, and what were doing, and I don’t do that with anyone else. Their products are always new, fresh, and they’re always coming up with new ideas.They are great people and very easy to work with.”


David Schaefer of Urban Essentials pictured sitting in a Design 9 Lilly dining / occasional chair

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From the Author: 

I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to sit down with David Schaefer of Urban Essentials and put together our first blog. Design 9, including myself, would like to extend their gratitude to David for being our first featured designer on the blog. Additionally, Design 9 would like to thank David for his loyalty to the line, despite the large market of other choices available. We appreciate and value our longstanding relationships with clients like David. Keep an eye on Design 9 Inc.’s social media and website for more blogs in which our valued designers and retailers will be featured.
-Jordan Boles
Director of Marketing

If you would like your installation or projects in which you’ve used our products to be featured please send information to Jordan Boles at jordan@design9inc.com.