Interior design is all about creating environments that not only look aesthetically pleasing but also serve a purpose, enhance our well-being, and tell stories through the interplay of color, texture, and form.
Also, the relationship between interior design and gardening involves creating a seamless connection between indoor and outdoor spaces with greenery.
In this interview, you’ll get a unique opportunity to peek into the mind of a design virtuoso, Mr. Michael Helwig.
So join us as we are going to delve deep into his insights, experiences, and the transformative role interior design plays in shaping our living environments.
Shudeshna: Hi guys, welcome to our channel PlantsCraze. This is Shudeshna Pandey. For today’s episode, we will be talking about how you can place your plant to make your home look more beautiful with the interior design expert Mr. Michael Helwig. Let’s begin by introducing yourself and a little about the company to our audience and viewers of PlantCraze.
Mr. Michael Helwig: Sure. My name is Michael Helwig. As you mentioned earlier, I officially started Michael Helwig Interiors around 2011. But before that, I worked as an interior designer in a store here in the United States called Bassett Furniture, which sold custom furniture. That experience helped me learn various design techniques.
After leaving the company, I shifted my focus to remote or online interior design, sometimes called e-Design. I assist people from all around the world in designing challenging rooms, especially those that are small, tricky, or have an awkward shape. I’ve been doing this for quite some time, and we can discuss more about it later if you’d like.
S: Yeah, absolutely. Could you please tell us a bit about how you got into interior design? Were you always interested in it, or did your interest develop over time?
Mr. Michael Helwig: You know, it all began when I was a kid. I grew up in a house with a really odd-shaped bedroom. I had three different doors in my room – one to my closet, one to the bedroom itself, and another leading to a walk-in attic. This attic entrance was on a wall perpendicular to the other two doors, which were close together.
Additionally, my parents’ bedroom had a closet bumping out into my room, and there was a radiator there too. I also had two windows on two different walls.
So, it was quite a puzzle to figure out how to arrange my bed, dressers, and other things. As a child, I loved rearranging my bedroom in different ways, but it was a real challenge to find a layout that worked.
This interest in interior design stuck with me. When I graduated from high school, I enrolled in an art program at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, focusing on commercial art and magazine layouts. After that, I transferred to a local college in my hometown, studying communications media. This was quite a change, moving from the creative side to a more technical field.
For many years, I worked in marketing and media for various companies, but the thought of pursuing a career in interior design was always in the back of my mind.
In 2006, I was laid off from my job at a law firm due to downsizing, and the economic situation in the United States was tough at that time. So, I decided to go back to school and became a certified interior designer.
I started looking for jobs that allowed me to tap into my creative side. That’s when I found a position at Bassett, where I delved deep into interior design. I learned about custom furniture, how layouts work, and many other aspects, like balance, symmetry, harmony, and color theory, which I often discuss on my blog.
This was my initiation into the world of interior design, and my colleagues would often come to me with tricky or small spaces, knowing that I had a knack for figuring out layouts and using furniture effectively to achieve a great look.
When I eventually left the company and started my own, I realized there was a genuine need for my expertise. Many people struggled with the same issues I’d encountered—tricky rooms, awkward layouts, and the like.
That’s how I got into online interior design, with a strong focus on helping people tackle small and challenging spaces. That’s why many folks find me for my expertise in this area.
S: That’s very interesting how your journey started and gradually evolved to the point where you have your own interior designing business. As an interior designer with over 10 years of experience and expertise, could you share some unique or unusual requests you’ve received from your clients, especially regarding plants or any peculiar requests that stand out?
Mr. Michael Helwig: Well, sometimes I get unique requests from clients. For instance, there was a client who wanted me to create a Harry Potter and Star Wars-themed bedroom for their teenage daughter.
It was a fun and fantastic project, but there was a challenge. The room was tiny, just around nine by seven and a half or eight feet, almost like a walk-in closet with very little storage space.
To make it work, we had to come up with innovative solutions like wall-mounted desks and under-bed storage. The closet required a lot of customization.
The client’s daughter wanted the room painted all black, and here’s a design tip – contrary to what some might think, using dark colors in a small room doesn’t necessarily make it feel darker.
Sometimes, an all-dark theme can make the room feel expansive, almost like outer space, which was precisely what the client’s daughter desired. So that was an interesting project I worked on last year.
Regarding plants, many people want to incorporate them into their designs. Some want plants with organic shapes, while others prefer more linear options. It really depends on the space I’m working with.
I often recommend ZZ plants, as they thrive in darker spaces and have an organic look. They can sometimes grow quite tall and leggy, which adds an interesting touch to the decor. I also suggest using flowers like bromeliads for seasonal pops of color.
Now, onto an unusual plant-related project: I once designed a room for a gentleman in Las Vegas who had a dedicated plant room. It was a space adjoining his living room and kitchen, filled with all kinds of plants. He was a true plant enthusiast and wanted to incorporate various looks.
We decided to create a green wall above a long buffet in the room, featuring different mosses and succulents, which are drought-tolerant. On the opposite wall, we hung light-absorbing plants in white pods, giving the room an organic, sporadic feel.
I told him to arrange them as he liked, and it turned out to be a unique and beautiful plant sanctuary. He was thrilled with the result.
S: I appreciate how your spaces are designed – they’re minimal but not cluttered at all. So, when it comes to decorating a space, what’s your personal preference? Do you lean towards a minimalistic style with subtle colors, or do you prefer vibrant spaces with plenty of greenery, colorful plants, and funky furniture?
Mr. Michael Helwig: Well, when it comes to my own personal style, I tend to lean more towards a transitional style. It’s a blend of traditional and contemporary elements. I like clean lines, so not a lot of intricately carved woodwork or excessive details.
In that sense, I’m somewhat drawn to the mid-century modern look, which is quite popular nowadays. However, I’ve worked with clients who have various styles.
For example, just a few weeks ago, I helped create a Victorian-themed bedroom, and last summer, I assisted a lady with a room filled with burled woods and intricate paneling.
She had a very specific vision, and I had to interpret her style from pictures on her Pinterest, and it turned out to be more traditional, with lots of curves and tufting on upholstered furniture, along with dark woods and a rich feel.
As for me, I prefer a clean, streamlined look with white walls. The wallpaper you see behind me is actually a peel-and-stick shiplap-style wallpaper, which might be getting a bit out of style, so I might consider updating it. I wouldn’t say I’m a minimalist, but I’m not a maximalist either. I fall somewhere in between.
Besides, I like having my things but prefer a somewhat edited and pared-back look. The succulent you see behind me is actually fake because I don’t have much direct light in this room.
This room is in my house, and while I have some natural light from a window to the side, it’s one of the darker rooms in my house due to the neighbor’s garage blocking much of the sunlight.
I struggle to keep live plants in this room, but I do have a couple of real ones elsewhere in my house. For example, I have a peace palm in my living room, a ZZ plant near my kitchen refrigerator, and a Sansevieria in my bedroom, which receives indirect light.
I also have a thriving, large Sansevieria on one of my dressers in the bedroom. I’m a big fan of plants, so if I can’t have real ones in certain spaces, I’m not opposed to incorporating a few artificial plants here and there to achieve that green, organic look I often seek in my designs.
S: Factors like flooring, wall textures, and furniture may not always be plant-friendly, as plants require watering, which can get messy. So, how do you manage to strike a balance and make it work in both your client’s designs and your own space?