Design is not for philosophy its for life.
~ Issey Miyake


The DTS Project House can only fully express its architectural agenda if the architecture and interior design are a single integrated and complementary experience. Neither the experience nor the design processes can be segregated. Integrated experiences rarely occur by accident. Thus, the architectural and interior design are a combined, simultaneous process with each requiring constant consideration of the other. Even more than most design processes, the interior design process must simultaneously address the macro vision and the micro detail, the whole and the part, the conceptual and the technical.

Although the architecture and interior design both contribute to a building’s experience, there are useful reasons to make distinctions between the architecture and interiors as they contribute to the experience in different ways that lead to different considerations during the design process. Identifying distinctions between architecture and interiors does not lessen their interdependency and need for a singular vision, nor the need for an integrated and fused design process.

The most consequential distinction for mills studio’s architecture is the permanence, structural, and communal nature of architecture versus the adaptable, functional, and personal nature of interior design. Since the permanent and the ephemeral are equally important and rely on each other for their meaning, the design process must equally and simultaneously address each. The design process and design presentations must consider and express which architectural and design elements address these two natures and determine which elements are and are not subject to the passage of time and changing circumstances.

The interior design and procurement process are no longer limited by time and place. The design process should take full advantage of information age resources and the wide ranging options and opportunities companies like eBay, Craigs List, and Amazon now afford. But the interior design process must balance these invaluable virtual resources with the real world experience of textures, colors, and touching. There is no substitution for actually sitting in a chair, turning on a light, or grasping a faucet handle to determine how furniture and products align with your judgement criteria.

The interior design process must also consider how particular decisions will contribute to sustainability and meet the requirements of the California Green Building Code and contribute to LEED certification. Like the interior design itself, the design process must address both the artistic and scientific.

A question with any design process is how much the process is simply a ratification of a concept and how much the process shapes or adjusts the concept. This question is particularly significant to the interior design process. Is the process simply finding materials, furniture, and objects that make for a decided upon aesthetic or does the act of looking and searching for materials, furniture, and objects help determine the ultimate aesthetic. mills studio’s architecture relies upon the belief that the best and most useful concepts are sufficiently structured to resist individual expediencies, but allow sufficient freedom for adjustment, growth, and development. Thus, the interior design process should adjust, refine, and nurture the intended aesthetic and architecture.

Interior Design Elements

mills studio considers the elements that can, and in some cases should, change and adapt over time as interior design elements. Interior Design addresses elements that the Owner and subsequent Owners can and will add, change, and remove as circumstances and aesthetic sensibilities change, evolve, and grow over time. Interior design addresses the elements that are necessarily and rightly more specific to time and personal sensibilities.

Interior design elements include applied finishes, colors, cabinetry, furnishings, HVAC grilles, hardware, plumbing fixtures, appliances, video screens, window coverings, electrical device covers, rugs, lighting, art, home automation control devices, and plants. We often think of interior design as chiefly affecting our visual sense, but a more encompassing interior design and design process addresses all of the senses and our well being. Thus, where and how much mechanically blown air we feel and the ease of changing the music volume are equally interior design issues that we should intentionally address rather than let happen by accident. Does any interior design element have the ability to affect the mood and experience of architecture more than the flicker of candlelight, the warmth and crackle of a fireplace, or the sounds of a digital play list?

Since devices, most with screens, are now a significant element of a home’s interior, the design process must consider their impact. The device or screen’s aesthetics, how the device or screen is mounted, and what is showing on a screen all contribute to the interior aesthetic. The permanence or portability of the device or screen, how the device or screen is powered or recharged, and the visual or voice control of the device or screen are all interior design decisions. The graphic design of control applications is now an integral part of the interior design process. There is no segregation between technological and interior design decisions.


mills studio and the Owners looked to full projects, to whole environments, to individual furniture pieces and products, to single materials, to artworks and installations, to fabrication processes to inspire interior design considerations and inform interior design strategies and specific decisions. Inspiration came from both studying and evaluating known designs and exposure to the unknown. Equal inspiration came from singular objects created by individual artists and mass produced objects created by industry.

Projects and environments created by significant architects and designers were evaluated for how the “interior design” worked against or reinforced the architecture. Often, the most instructive takeaway is what elements the architect or designer excludes as well as includes. Interior design is as much about editing and curating as it is about the design of what is included. So called harmonious and discordant environments were equally informative.

mills studio and the Owners looked at projects and environments that express differing attitudes toward built-in and freestanding furniture to help establish how the architecture and interior design can simultaneously establish a sufficient framework and sufficient flexibility. mills studio and the Owners were interested in seeing how architects and designers with differing agendas incorporated the same material and how their material treatments did or did not reflect their design agendas.

mills studio and the Owners looked at individual furniture pieces designed for a specific project and pieces designed for mass production to see how context or lack of context affected the design and aesthetics. It was instructive to see what these pieces still had in common since it was not an architectural context. This helped determine what was universal and what was particular about each furniture type’s design. Architect’s and designer’s own houses or environments were of prime importance as we could see how interior design unfettered by any third party concerns contributes to the architectural experience.

Projects and interior designs created to “sell” the idea of technology integrated into daily life were of particular interest because they express very directly how various attitudes toward technology can express themselves in architecture and design. Inspiration also came from industrial and fabrication processes which point to possibilities but not specific designs or aesthetics.

Inspiration came equally from classic Herman Miller and Knoll designs, current European manufacturers, such as Roche Bobois and Rimadesio products, and consumer oriented vendors like IKEA and The Container Store. Since interior design elements are most about the specific and personal, environments, products and materials experienced directly by the Owners most inspire the DTS Project House’s interior design.


In the context of the Interior Design, the purpose of research was to inform strategic and specific decisions with disciplined exploration, documentation, and evaluation. Exploration included field trips, visits to showrooms, visits to trade shows, visits to fabrication shops, taking advantage of on-line resources and applications, and taking notice of what we come in contact with during our daily lives. Documentation includes visual reminders of specific attributes and responses to context, as well as personal reactions. It was equally important to record general reactions to intangible qualities hard to pinpoint and specific reactions to a particular attribute or design aspect.

Evaluation for projects and environments includes personal reactions, determining how the context affected the design strategies, and in turn how the context is affected by the interior design decisions. Most important to evaluate was if the interior design elements furthered the architectural agenda, and would the strategies used align with the DTS Project House’s architectural agenda. Particular products and materials were evaluated again for personal reactions, for how they addressed both universal and particular considerations, how well they functioned for their intended use, if they furthered innovation, how much they cost, and ultimately if they would reinforce or distract from the DTS Project House’s architectural agenda and intended aesthetic.

Furniture pieces were evaluated for aesthetics, comfort, durability, sustainability, cost, and again if they would reinforce or distract from the DTS Project House’s architectural agenda and intended aesthetic. Useful research, especially evaluations, must be disciplined and based upon documented criteria. While personal reactions are important, it is very easy to just like or became enamored with a product or piece while ignoring how it contributes to the whole and the larger aesthetic goals. That is not to say that a product, furniture piece, and especially art cannot be included chiefly because of its pedigree, it’s sentimental value, or it is just plain liked for whatever reason, but this inclusion should always be done with the clear realization of how individual decisions strengthen or weaken the larger vision and experience.

Case Studies

The DTS Project House contains certain singular interior design elements that require and lend themselves to an in depth process of exploration, documentation, and evaluation. They are case studies exploring the vast number of available options, documenting the myriad design strategies and aesthetic choices, and evaluating to determine the commonalties, differences, and subtleties that make each implementation unique and potentially right for the DTS Project House. Among these singular elements are sofas, benches, wall switches, and control applications.

Concentration on singular elements helps to see how particular aspects of a product or piece may be relevant to the DTS Project House even if the whole product or piece does not meet the criteria for inclusion. Detailed focus on a singular element also helps establish what considerations are important for all elements. In conjunction with this detailed focus is the development of detailed criteria for evaluating each option to determine how it aligns with the larger vision for the architecture and design aesthetic. Options become overwhelming and evaluation becomes useless without clear criteria for judgement.

Schematic Design

Schematic Design considers options for strategies of what elements to include and exclude, whether elements are built-in or freestanding, how elements relate to the building’s infrastructure, element locations, and element positions. These general considerations are accompanied by the specifics of size, pattern, finish, texture, color, and sheen as design elements are ultimately about how the specifics reinforce the general intentions.

The Schematic Design Documents and presentations consider all of the design decisions as both individual choices and relative to other choices, and show them both in context and how they create the context.

Design is examining the possibilities. ~ Peter van Dijk, quoting Eero Saarinen