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Our new designers Rachel and May

Meet our new designers: Rachel & May

Not going to lie — being a furniture designer sounds like one of the coolest jobs ever. They get to travel the world for inspiration (like Cologne and Stockholm), attend awesome trade shows, and they’ve got the pulse on the latest and greatest design trends out there. 
We wanted to live a little vicariously through two of our newest furniture designers, Rachel and May, so we sat down with them and picked their brains. Check out the interview below to learn what makes them tick, how they uncover inspiration and much more.
Sauder: So let’s get the basics out of the way. Tell us a little about yourself!
May: I started in February as a furniture designer. My role is to create new concept designs, like the prototypes at High Point Market, and figure out the construction of the piece. Then I work with our merchant team and the engineers to bring the designs to life.
Rachel: I just started in June, actually, as a furniture designer. I had been working in interior design, doing space planning and design for Knoll dealerships in Oklahoma City and Honolulu. After that, I got my masters in industrial design so that I could work more directly with furniture. And now, here I am!
Furniture budget and style furniture designer quote

Sauder: Now we want your know-how. What advice do you have for someone designing or decorating a room, especially when they’re on a tight budget?
May: Define your style and taste preferences for the space you’re decorating. Sure, feel free to look up and be inspired by what’s trending, but don’t feel confined by it. Styles are changing all the time and trends come back, so I think it’s more important to find something that fits you and stick with it. Once you find a style you love, then comes finding furniture pieces that fit your budget. Because, really, who says a small budget can’t have style?
Rachel: Oh, I agree. I recommend looking at images in magazines and online for inspiration, but at the end of the day, you will be most satisfied with a space that reflects your own personal style. Sometimes, less really can be more. Don’t always feel the need to fill the space with decorations, pictures and art on every wall and surface. By creating a few focal points for the space through furniture or accessories, you create a space that is more balanced and pleasing.
Sauder: May, when you start a design project, where do you go for inspiration?
May: Whenever I want to open my mind up for new design ideas, I look at fashion shows, fashion magazines or art galleries. I also watch some period films, like Pride and Prejudice. The furniture, the interior, the lifestyle — they’re all so elegant. I never get tired of the traditional styles! Oh, and I also like the new version of The Great Gatsby. The furniture, fashion and jewelry perfectly represent the Art Deco style.
Sauder: You didn’t grow up in the states, though, did you? Has that inspired you in any way?
May: I grew up in an artistic family in Beijing, China. After high school, I came to the U.S. to study at the Kendall College of Art and Design in Michigan, but I really enjoy the city of Chicago. Chicago’s traditional style architecture and the way the skyline embodies the city’s culture is what inspires me.
Sauder: Rachel, have you been inspired by any travel experiences?
Rachel: In the summer of 2010, I spent two weeks in Scandinavia. During this time, I visited several shops and museums that exhibited minimal modern design, and I could see how the community as a whole placed more value on the importance of well-designed things. Seeing this encouraged me to focus my efforts on designing products and furniture for everyday use rather than “high design” that are only available to a select few.
Home styling and color project furniture designer quote
Sauder: Oh, that’s beautiful. Now, here’s a question. What’s the biggest thing that can make or break a space?
Rachel: Oh, I’ve got this one! Color. It’s the single most effective influencer in a space. That can be through paint or furnishings, and it’s a great way to be resourceful with a limited budget. But here’s the catch. You can’t try to do too much in a space. That’s a big mistake I see people make all the time. A great example is my childhood home, actually. Growing up, my parents let me have free reign of the paint colors. When I go back to visit, I feel like I’m stepping into a crayon box — each room is a bright color that doesn’t relate to the next. They still love it, but to me it’s overwhelming with the range of colors you’ll find from room to room.
Sauder: One more question, and it’s probably the biggest, most important question of the day. If you had a theme song, what would it be?
May:I am me once more” by Zee Avi.
Rachel: Oh man, this is a tough one, I’d have to go with “Play it Right” by Sylvan Esso.
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