Creating a Sense of Place.

by Beth Bramstedt | photos by Kim Wade

When designer Aaron Dolan heads to work, he could be ordering a sofa, designing a mobile pet spa, outfitting an MU tailgate party bus, or conducting a sorority house redesign from scratch.

“I like the adrenaline rush of it all,” Aaron says. “It’s high-energy and exciting. Always changing.”

It didn’t take Aaron long to realize that his original plan to spend his career in hospitality and event planning was not going to work. His relentless energy, packaged with his intense desire to create, was clearly not conducive to working a desk job. “When I had to be at work at 8:00 a.m. and sit all day,” he shares, “I just couldn’t do it.”

That experience led Aaron to refocus his studies on architecture and interior design and eventually open his own design firm with partner Jon Trigg in 2008. As co-owner of Studio Home, Aaron acts as the advisor, creative agent, and organizer for his customers.

“Jon and I promised ourselves that we would always be client-centric,” Aaron says. “Our projects need to reflect our customers; they can’t ever be formulaic.”

Aaron admits that the process can be very personal. He strives to create a space that’s beautiful and cohesive, where the client feels at home. “We want to provide our customers with a sense of place,” he says.

And while the process involves many pleasurable creative tasks, like choosing colors, furniture, and fabric, Aaron must also deal with practical matters. How many drawers would the client prefer? Do they want the dishwasher to the left or right of the sink? What about the garbage disposal? His team specifies every finish on a project, down to the type of epoxy used.

“Designing is creative yet very organized and detailed,” Aaron says. “It’s fun, but we have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders.”

You can feel the weight of that responsibility simply by glancing at the full-length whiteboard that consumes an entire wall of the studio’s work area. The wall organizer, in addition to a bulletin board full of weekly tasks and project punch lists, keeps the staff focused on their priorities.

Aaron is incredibly proud of his talented team. “We have a smart, dedicated staff,” he says. “They are approachable and down to earth. Everyone has something they’re good at and we work to accentuate those strengths.”

While each day is a juggle, Aaron strives to give every client his undivided attention. The satisfaction comes when the team gets a room detailed out and they can see a job come to fruition. Aaron says, “That follow-up call, the one the next day when the client tells you they love it — that’s the driver behind what we do.”

A Typical Day

8:00 a.m.: Aaron starts his morning at the gym to clear his mind and focus on what he needs to get done that day.

9:00 a.m.: Team meeting. Aaron assembles his staff to discuss the day ahead and clarify their focus.

10:00 a.m.: With 25 projects underway at any given time, there are clients to assist, questions to answer, and phone calls and emails to return.

12:00 p.m.: Interview with a new client. Aaron listens intently so he can visualize the concept and understand the needs of his customer.

2:00 p.m.: Install. The team’s work comes together as they put the finishing touches on a room or project. Installation may involve positioning a rug, placing a couch, hanging lighting, meeting the drapery vendor, or fluffing pillows.

4:00 p.m.: A sectional has been delayed and shades were delivered in the wrong fabric. Aaron spends the end of his day identifying problems and determining who is accountable for fixing them.

6:30 p.m.: Family time. Aaron can be found at home, helping his daughter with her homework.

Recent News

Made from Scratch

DeMarko Coleman and Teresa Wright connect over a bagel sandwich. Photos by Keith Borgmeyer The unlikely friendship between DeMarko Coleman and Teresa Wright started...

Laying Down Roots

Clyde and Sheila Ruffin have called Columbia home for 36 years. Photos by Keith Borgmeyer Modern families often find themselves scattered across great distances;...

COMO Loving: Karen Stone

Photo by Keith Borgmeyer Karen Stone, regional program director of The Caring People, is passionate about helping single moms. After teaching school for a...

COMO Loving: Sarah Sandkuhl

Photo by Keith Borgmeyer Yoga instructor Sarah Sandkuhl makes Columbia a better place just by being herself. “Sarah just has this incredible energy. It can...

COMO Loving: Verna Laboy

Verna Laboy lives out her love for the community. Photos by Keith Borgmeyer Community activist Verna Laboy shows up every day to contribute —...