Designing Woman – for Men

Lake Ann – "I was and always have been obsessed with houses and the people who live in them,"says Dorina Rudd of Lake Ann Twenty years ago, Dorina turned her fascination into Design Strategies, a successful business specializing in interior and exterior design. Recently business has been booming, and she attributes it to a specific market: men.

Be it residential or commercial spaces owned by men, Rudd is getting a reputatation for her ability to tap into the male sensibility and create a space that is decidedly "his."

She says it all starts with psychology. "Men have a different competitive edge than women, and want their lives to reflect it," Rudd says, "Their hobbies and interests are important, and they often decorate according to those. And if they are bachelors, they also want it to be woman-friendly. I try to help them find the balance between the two."

Design Strategies recently completed a project in Elk Rapids where Rudd oversaw all aspects of the complete renovation of the 4,000-square-foot private residence for a single man. With an expansive view of Elk Lake, it has been transformed with a very masculine Asian craftsman style "Upon entering the original house, I immediately knew that the wall and fireplace that was obstructing the gorgeous lake view had to go. The original footprint of the house was flip-flopped for better use and flow. The old elevator shaft was converted into a wine cellar, and we added an outdoor room with a massive fireplace. Rudd blended natural materials with metallic finishes and tiles, patina'd finishes, onyx counter tops, zebra wood cabinets, and bamboo and cork flooring." She says it is the quintessential "man's space."

When designing with a masculine eye, Rudd says she visualizes the client's surroundings by studying who they are, what they do and what the purpose of the space is.

"I've worked with a lot of couples, and I have always tried to engage the man and find out what he is about and draw him in so he has more than the typical den space. The woman appreciates that he is being included and lets me be the mediator. She trusts that I will get rid of the Spartan rug in the bathroom," she says with a smile.

"Men tend to prefer design that is practical, sturdy and comfortable, and they want room to spread out. They want to show their signature style, one that reflects their hobbies and interests; and are generally annoyed by useless decorating touches. They prefer earth tones; dark, heavy wood, glass and metal; and want a clean, solid, uncluttered approach," Rudd explained.

Having worked with Rudd on the first Aroma's Coffee & Tea at the Bay View Professional Center in 2005, Kelly Miller, CEO of Miller & Miller, Inc., called on her again in 2009 when he purchased the former Beaner's on Division St., for a second location for Aroma's. Miller wanted the space to be re-done in a weekend so there would be little disruption for customers, so Rudd led a small army of contractors and working around the clock, completely redid the café space in a little over 48 hours. "When customers came in on Monday morning, they were amazed at what had happened since Friday night," Miller said.

Miller first worked with Rudd 10 years ago on his penthouse at River's Edge and then on the transformation of the Bay View Professional Center project, and admits it took him a while to gain confidence in her decisions. "I was much more hands on at first until I realized she has a creativity that is really outside of what I have routinely found in designers."

Traverse City Fire Chief Brian Kuhr called on Design Strategies when he recently purchased and renovated a home. "Dorina knew just how to fix the place. She is amazing in her detail, and she designs from instinct. She knows how to use color and texture and is knowledgeable in all kinds of products. She knew right where to send me for faucets, exactly what kind of paint to get, who to go to for kitchen cabinets, she knows how to expedite the process. I am forever grateful that I didn't have to run all over. I wanted a warm, comfortable space that would be welcoming for my two young children, and that's what I got. I love my home."

Rudd admits that commercial places are more of a challenge as it needs to have appeal across the sexes and still be what the client envisions. When Chris Baldagya and Cornel Olivier were looking for an interior designer for their modern 2Lads Winery on Old Mission, they knew it would need some warmth. "We have a unique space for a winery – very modern and contemporary, minimal architecture, glass and stainless steel – which can also be cold and stark. Dorina brought warmth with her great color choices, natural wood, soft lighting – it changed the whole space so it has a welcoming feeling to it. We get a lot of compliments from our customers." said Baldagya. BN