Michael Friedes’ Love of Design Becomes Career

sfgate-imgDespite a childhood that included devising his own window treatments, creating vignettes in his room and even going so far as to persuade his parents to move just so they could redecorate, Michael Friedes’ first chosen profession was not interior design. “I always thought of design as a love,” he said, “not a career.”

After graduating from New York University, Friedes worked in the film industry and then at Giorgio Armani in sales and merchandising. In 1991, he bought an apartment in his native New York. His friends were so impressed with his decor, they solicited his opinion for their homes. He soon had a side business that turned into his own design practice.

In 2002, Friedes moved to San Francisco to take a job with Pottery Barn. After less than a year, he returned to his love: interior design. These days, in addition to client projects, he’s enjoying product design and developing an art catalog.

According to Friedes, design is 50 percent creativity and envisioning. The other 50 percent? “It’s psychology – trying to read people,” he said. “At the core, people know what they like. You just have to pull it out of them.”

The Friedes cheat sheet

The big picture: “I once had a client who got really nervous after her living room was painted. I explained to her that it was just the first step of the process. There was still the window treatments, rug, furniture, artwork and accessories. I equated it to dressing for a big event; it is not just about the dress, but also your hair, shoes and jewelry. After the room was complete, she called to tell me how much she loved the room – especially the paint color!”

Eco-chic: “A big new look is what I call ‘eco-chic.’ Eco-chic is furniture that is mostly made of reclaimed woods with burnished metal accents. The pieces are designed with such clean lines. Some have industrial wheels or hardware, as well as cerused finishes on the woods, that make them so unique and interesting. It offers a whole new twist on modernism, and the end result is a warm and textural look that can slip into most interiors effortlessly.”

Dining-room double duty: “Dining rooms are no longer just for eating. I like to put this under-utilized room to work. Place a computer armoire in there and use it as your home office. I love the Cyril from Ikea for only $199. I do all kinds of projects on my dining table – from art projects with the kids to photo sorting. I have a friend who transforms his dining table into a pingpong table with a kit available at Perpetual Kid. How fun!” (ikea.com, perpetualkid.com)

Color my world: “As a colorist, I look at the nuances of a color and how it will play into an overall design scheme and feel of a space. Some of my favorites are what I call ‘color without color’ – such as subtle variations of sea foam, khaki, honey and gray. A few that I love to work with are Benjamin Moore’s Mellowed Ivory, Sag Harbor Gray, Prescott Green, Mushroom Cap and Desert Tan.”

The layered look: “I am always talking with my clients about layering their rooms. I love to mix in different woods, finishes and materials. It immediately gives a design character and adds a texture to a room that makes it interesting. Mix in dark and light woods, stone, glass and metal, as they all play off each other when executed with a fine hand.”