Joe McGuire Design is an Aspen-based interior design firm that brings a uniquely holistic approach to home interiors. We were excited to sit down for an interview with Joe and Matthew to learn more about the firm. Read on to check out their interview below.
When did you know that interior design was the industry for you? Is there a memory that stands out as a turning point for your design trajectory?
Joe: I knew it was the career for me a long time ago, in 1996. I got a job managing a furniture store in Aspen and our clients kept asking me to go to their house and measure it for furniture. I was also looking at fabric samples for sofas and I loved it. I was really curious about the process, so I would ask them what they were doing with their carpeting, kitchen, and other rooms. It grew organically for me.
Matthew: There was a point when you realized you could go out on your own.
Joe: Yes, I worked there for 9 years and I became a self taught designer; I’d go to people’s homes and help them with their projects. I quickly started doing big projects for clients who had healthy budgets. That was a turning point. I’ve always loved aspects of design without knowing it and having that opportunity made me realize it.
You’ve spoken before about how the pandemic has altered the path of design. What is the most prominent design trend you’ve noticed since the pandemic began?
Matthew: There have been so many ways that design has changed. Ultimately, there’s an incredible shift in the amount that people value their homes because they’re spending so much more time there. Some people were already working from home, and when the pandemic hit, it reached another level. Homes had to function in many ways and it was clear then that spaces were no longer functional. All of a sudden our homes had to function at a whole other level to accommodate video calls with schools, work, family, friends…in addition to preparing and cooking meals, meditating, exercising. That had never been realized before. There was a newfound appreciation for every square inch of our homes and realization that there are many ways we’re not fully utilizing these spaces. This also translates to outdoor spaces. Yards have become full extensions of our homes. Patios and balconies have become critical and need to be used. The pandemic had everyone realizing this: that their homes weren’t maximized to their full potential. And then on the aesthetic level, we were ingesting so much design inspiration from around the world through media. We were seeing good design on a whole new scale and wanting that for ourselves and comparing it with our own spaces. So, I think we have been taking a closer look at our living spaces, and that has had a huge impact on the interior design world because we have so much more demand than before. People are wanting to transform their spaces and reaching out to us for help.
Is there a project that is most memorable for you? Please tell us about it!
Matthew: The project that really stands out for me is a home on the west end in Aspen that we started working on before the pandemic. It was supposed to be completed in the spring of 2020. And it was a project where we really were in sync with the client and her design sensibility. We were enjoying picking interesting furniture from around the country and world; beautiful, comfortable, textured fabric – we were creating an extraordinary space. In the process, COVID hit and it became a whole new reality in terms of logistics: how to be on site, around the builder and clients, and get things done in an atmosphere where we needed to work in a whole new way. A wedding was coming in early summer, and there were big dreams on the client side for the use of the home. We wanted to be able to deliver on those and it all worked out because our client was supportive and patient, and so were our vendors. We were able to source a number of things locally; our local vendors really rose to the challenge. It ended up being a home that exceeded everyone’s expectations. Clients loved it so much and they’ve used the home far more than they expected to because there were so many beautiful functional spaces. Their kids from around the country ended up working, studying, and vacationing there. And it turned out to be a home that is very memorable and fully maximized because of the pandemic.
Joe: Same with me. That house really stands out.
What do you think, design-wise, is the most powerful way homeowners can make their house feel more like a home?
Matthew: Well, we approach design from a holistic point of view. We both have a background in healing arts. Joe went to massage school years ago and we both meditate. I was a Buddhist monk for some years and a long time meditator. And we’ve also studied with shamans to learn more about the energy of spaces and objects in places. We notice that some spaces don’t feel good, despite how well they are designed; some spaces are not balanced energetically. Reading the energy of the space, and getting a sense of the history. At times there are imprints in the space from former occupants that need to be cleared. So energy balancing and clearing is a big part of what we do. Not all our clients are interested in that, and not all spaces need it, but we are always aware of it and bring it to clients’ attention. We want to clear any negative energy and bring in intentions that the clients hold for the space and their life. We love bringing a holistic point of view to the spaces we design.
How can a homeowner better understand their own personal style when planning their home redesign?
Joe: We often start with our clients…a lot of clients have things they like and don’t like. Our job is to suss out that information…to help them see and learn what they like and don’t like. Sometimes clients will have photos of projects they like…like saved images on Instagram or Pinterest, or there may be something about the current home they like, or hotel they’ve visited. Often people see items when they’ve traveled and find things they’ve seen in Paris, or New York that really amazed them, for example. We try to gather that information and if they are drawing a blank, we pull together images. It’s a visual language where we’re trying to learn what they like and don’t like. We do an inquiry process with them, which we love. We approach the design of people’s homes empathetically. We look at the architecture and relationship to outdoor spaces and views and strive to complement them; we don’t want to compete or obscure them.
Matthew: As we’ve worked together over the years, we’ve developed a portfolio and clients may comment on those. We’re known for creating warm, comfortable, livable, and contemporary spaces…not so minimalist and modern that it feels harsh and cold. We like spaces that are welcoming, casual, sophisticated, and artful; we like spaces that have some personality. We’re not afraid of color. And memorable – it’s important for a space to be memorable. It’s a fun process to develop with a client because everyone has something memorable about them. People may like certain pieces of furniture or mementos that they like to weave into the design, and we enjoy doing that. Sometimes it’s hard to see from within, but we enjoy getting to know our clients and observing their style; the way they dress, etc., and pulling aspects from that. Some clients are very clear about what they want, others need more support in the process.
Is there anything that stands out to you about Colorado interior design that is different from other areas of the country?
Matthew: The power of nature is huge in Colorado. We naturally find ourselves drawing upon landscapes for inspiration. The outdoors is part of the Colorado lifestyle; there are references to the outdoors throughout Colorado design. There’s a kitschy aspect; overly woodsy and mountainy, and that’s fine in certain places because it might feel really authentic. But our clients are primarily people who have lived in other parts of the world; people who have an interesting background and history and are cosmopolitan and international in experience and taste. While there are references to place and palette and material, we don’t design the typical mountain modern or mountain homes. We try to design spaces that reflect the personality of the client. These are people who often have multiple homes and have lived in many different places and collected those experiences. Our designs and projects could be homes that could be in a lot of different places. But, they relate to the environment around them and have in general a more natural quality. Natural, true authentic materials are really important in Colorado design.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to discuss today?
Matthew: I would say that we are really excited about the future of design. We see the potential for design to be a very powerful healing force on the planet. Right now that’s not necessarily the case with the design industry. The design and home building industries have been a big part of climate change, and other problems, yet the design of our homes could be a huge part of the solution: bringing people together to help them feel more at ease and supported, connected to each other, as well as feeling healthy. Health and wellness are a huge focus right now, so we’re excited about the future of what our homes can be, for us and for the planet.
What’s the best way for readers to contact you?
Joe: they can reach out to me via email or phone: 970.948.7096.
📸: David Marlow