You’ve had a long relationship with Duet Design Group. Can you describe how you started your first project with us and how we’ve collaborated since?
We initially met Devon Tobin when she was still working for another firm, around 2010-2011. She had an incredible sense of design, was very easy to work with, and was generally on the same page as us when it came to our house and how we wanted to explore the design process. When she started Duet Design Group, we simply followed her to help us design our first house.
The house was essentially a blank slate – it was all cream-white walls with cream-white carpeting and a standard builder-grade kitchen. It was a lovely house, but both my wife and I wanted to make it our own – unique and distinctive while still being cohesive.
Devon and the team did an incredible job merging our two styles (particularly in the beginning of our marriage when we were fairly far apart on our design preferences). They managed to walk that fine line and find stylistic touches in each room that would cater to each of our own preferences while simultaneously making the entire room appeal to both. It was a remarkable feat.
WILLIAMS Project Den
We lived, and enjoyed, that first house for about eight years and then came across a property that offered us the opportunity to build our dream house. We had so greatly enjoyed working with Duet Design Group previously that we didn’t think twice. Before even purchasing the new property, our first call was to Duet to get their input on the footprint of the existing house and to make sure we could mold it into our vision.
Throughout the whole home-building process, Duet Design Group not only came up with an incredible design (HILLS), but they also helped shepherd us through the long and arduous process of a new-build (technically a remodel, because we kept the existing foundation, but that was the only thing we kept). They even had recommendations for a contractor (Wade Cumming with C4) and architect (Architectural Workshop) that turned out to be exceptional, so building the house was a pretty pleasant experience for us.
HILLS Project Entry and Library
A few years after we moved into our new home, we decided to finish out the basement, and once again, no thought was necessary – Duet Design Group was our first call. Our basement/home theater is no exception to any of their other work. It’s an outstanding space that executes our ideal vision with perfection.
HILLS SPEAKEASY CINEMA Basement/Home Theater, part of the HILLS Project. Credit: Guthrie B.
In your own words, what has your experience been like working with Duet Design Group?
Enjoyable. Stressless. Exciting. Thoughtful. Creative. Timely.
As a client, how would you describe the value of working with the Denver designers from Duet Design Group?
The value-add really comes from relatability and skill. The only other experience we had with a different interior design firm, both my wife and I felt somewhat belittled by the designer. The designer had a bit of a “my way or the highway” attitude to her designs, and when my wife and I came in with questions or other thoughts we would walk away feeling a little dumb (and also indignant for having to feel dumb). That has never been the case with any of the interior designers at Duet. They meet you at your level. Designing large spaces, or any space for that matter, can be overwhelming, and they lead you through that process graciously. We also came to simply trust their skill. Whenever we didn’t have a clear vision of how the design would play out in the space, we would engage in a kind of trust-fall. We would just know that Devon and all the designers at Duet Design Group knew what they were doing and that it would look incredible when it was done (which, every time, it did).
Is it true you changed career paths (to an Audio-Visual technician) due to your experience with Duet Design Group?
I have a genuine passion for the intersection of technology and the home, and, by working on our own homes, really came to appreciate the process of design and how technology can add to, or detract from, the overall design and friendliness of a space. I decided to transition careers to become an audio-visual technician after I found myself spending all of my free time working in this space. After some encouragement from my wife, I decided to make my passion my career. Our experiences have given me perspective on what the process is like to design a home, and in my role at Precision Media Solutions I hope to be able to help merge the execution of the design process with the implementation of technology in the home. I think it will only become more vital as technology advances and continues to play an ever-increasing role in our lives and homes. Finding a way to seamlessly merge the two together is an exciting opportunity and a space I wanted to be a part of.
Can you tell us about a favorite moment or funny story that happened during one of your projects?
Over the years, my wife and I have evolved to have mostly overlapping styles with one major exception: countertops. We have polar-opposite taste in what countertops should look like, and therefore shopping for granite and other stones for our counters has become almost comically challenging for the two of us. Our method of dealing with this is to come up with increasingly ridiculous insults at the other’s taste in stone.
As we were finishing the basement, we needed to pick a stone for an accent counter. So Duet sent Janey to the granite store alone to try and choose a material. I was skeptical that it would end well but relished the opportunity to generate the snarkiest possible responses to all of her choices. Janey sent us a few options, but one was especially hideous. My immediate reply was: “The first picture looks like a microscopic shot of someone with a horrifying skin disease.”
I’m glad no one happened to be walking by my desk as I opened the photo on my work monitor, to see me recoil in disgust and make an embarrassing noise.
Devon knows me very well and took my humor, but evidently a few of the other staff at Duet saw the message and, without the context of how Janey and I operate around countertops, were caught off guard by how uncharacteristically feisty my reply was. Devon explained it, and we all got a good kick out of it later.
Can you give an example of a specific request you had during Programming and how that was brought to life in the final design?
As we were getting into the design of our first home, Janey stumbled across some tiles on Etsy that were recycled from old skateboards. Both Janey and I love graffiti and other types of street art, so these tiles were a perfect representation of that. But we had no idea how to use them. So we made it a Duet-problem, and they came up with this wonderful solution to use the tiles in a unique design on a metal fireplace mantel. We like the finished product so much that we actually reused this fireplace mantel in our new home as well.
In truth, there are so many examples of the Duet Design Group team coming up with perfectly implemented ideas that they’re almost too numerous to mention. But this was one example that sticks out!
Skateboard tiles on the fireplace from both the WILLIAMS and HILLS Projects
What would you want prospective clients to know about working with Duet Design Group?
That they’re an amazing design firm. I really can’t speak highly enough of the work that the Duet team has done with us. Everyone we’ve worked with at Duet has been incredibly professional and a pleasure to work with, and at the end of the day you’ll have an exceptionally well-designed space to live in. And best of all, the process of putting it together is actually enjoyable.