Designing her first tea house on paper when she was only 12 years old, Interior Designer, Michelle Morelan is one of the fortunate people that discovered her calling at an early age. After meeting an interior designer at her friend’s house when she was just 10 years old, Morelan knew from that moment on what she wanted to do. Inspired by the jagged rocks, sand and the dynamic textural nature of growing up on the edge of the wild Pacific Ocean in Ucluelet, Morelan’s renderings are beautiful works of art replete with rich colours, texture and impeccable perspective. Rustic deep sea treasures her father dredged up from the bottom of the Pacific adorn her own home and inspire her design aesthetic to create a textural narrative she aspires to create for each of her clients. “I just love the interaction of objects in a space; anything that can tell a story should have a special place in your home.”
After raising her children, Morelan returned to her passion for design in her mid-thirties and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Design, specializing in Interior Design, from Kwantlen University College in Vancouver, in 2006. Post-degree positions included working in Vancouver for Kelly Deck Designs and Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning. As a mature graduate in the industry, Morelan quickly realized she had the skills to build her own business and returned to her roots on Vancouver Island to develop Michelle Morelan Design. Informed by architecture and a home’s natural surroundings, Morelan’s contemporary designs strike a balance between luxurious and livable and always vary to accurately reflect the lifestyle of her clients.
Dedicated to honing her business acumen, Morelan did what most entrepreneurs only dream of doing and met with a business coach in New York City. Strongly encouraged to find a niche in a saturated market of interior designers, Morelan came away with clarity in the direction she would take her design business. As an ultra-talented hand renderer, Morelan believes that it’s not always skill that drives a successful business but a person’s business acuity that allows them to prosper in any industry. “My coach explained that there are certain parts of the design process that are profitable and some that are not. One of the most salient messages I took from that meeting was to focus on my strengths as a designer and really define my niche,” says Morelan.
While rendering is an essential part of her process as a designer, Morelan views her interior design work and her renderings as two completely different portfolios. “Strictly rendering for clients is the majority of my work but I also render as a communication tool for my interior design clients. An excellent value for my clients, I don’t charge extra for the rendering service for interior design because it is just part of my process and I really love creating each unique design on paper first. Most of my rendering clients are designers who send me their floor plans, elevations, and specs and want it all in a rendering,” adds Morelan. From nurseries to living areas and exteriors for new homes, Morelan renders any part of a redesign, renovation or new build.
Renderings by hand can be a lengthy task and now, after a decade of integrating computer technology into her methodology (and attending a SketchUp conference in Colorado), Morelan has created an efficient hybrid approach to her rendering process. “Beginning with the substrate done on the computer, I will quickly box things in and play with my field of view until I choose the perfect perspective. The computer aids me to a certain point and then I draw the rest by hand. After a decade of working this way, I am quite efficient with the process and have learned how to fuse both the hand drawing and the computer to create a hybrid that has the look of a hand drawing. I am currently working on some videos for my website to provide a platform for people to learn my rendering process,” states Morelan.
Working with some of the industry’s top designers, Architectural Digest’s Interior Designer to Watch in 2013,Melissa Rufty from New Orleans, and most recently, Grant K Gibson from San Francisco, Morelan knows how to stay connected in a competitive industry. “Both designers hired me to do work for House Beautiful, the work with Gibson being the most recent from the February 2015 issue. A few years ago, I spontaneously sent Rufty one of my renderings. I didn’t think of it as marketing; I was simply inspired by her work and wanted to send it to her. Two or three years later she contacted me to do some work for House Beautiful.”
Giving her work an exposure boost, these projects have resulted in some of the industry’s top designers seeing her work and following her blog. Working with top designers in the industry has definitely contributed to client confidence but she attributes most of her success to her online presence. Attracting a range of people from architecture students to big name designers, Morelan says that it’s her consistent online presence that generates the most attention, traffic and interaction with her work. “Online is definitely a more targeted channel for getting my work out there; I definitely get a lot of response by posting photos of my work on Instagram,” Morelan adds.
Schematics, a favoured aspect of the design process for Morelan, is the inspiration behind her blog, A Schematic Life. Realizing that a static website wasn’t generating significant traffic, Morelan knew she had to create a dynamic venue for people to interact with her work. “I have created an inbound channel to get my name out there and for people to connect with my renderings.” Balancing her social media presence with her love of design inspired travel, Morelan is heading to her favourite city, Amsterdam, in March 2015. Morelan says that the first place she’ll go isRembrandt House Museum for an intense sensorial experience in the natural curiosities room that is rich with items from the natural world: seashells, bones, rocks, skeletons. “My designs are always inspired by the organic nature of objects where nothing is linear and everything has a narrative.”