Design of Philadelphia
Much like the attitude of the city in which Michele Plachter is based, her designs and approach to projects are straightforward, honest and colorful.
By Kirsten Niper
Based in Center City, Philadelphia, Plachter and her eponymous company, Michele Plachter Design, strive to create beautiful and functional spaces, starting with her own office environment. With just one other coworker, her office projects a warm, boutique-y feel, accompanied by two dogs.
“I believe space impacts how you live. I try to create whatever space and function the clients want to achieve, and make it comfortable and warm, never stuffy. I don’t want it to feel delicate, functionality is the key,” shares Plachter.
Plachter started designing homes while she was involved with rehabbing homes and it became a passion. “I’ve always been a visual person and I can see spaces easily,” she explains. She formed relationships with contractors, and her business blossomed from there.
Working in Philadelphia, Plachter notices that people value functionality, practicality and beauty in their designs. “I think Philadelphia is unique. It’s a large city, but it’s not a city that is as wrapped up in labels. In general, people aren’t as showy, they really want a beautiful and livable space.”
When approaching a new client, the first steps Plachter takes is to meet with the client to make sure it’s a fit, and that both parties trust each other. “It’s a personal relationship; I’m in your marriage, wallet and pocketbook. And then it’s getting an understanding we’re on the same page and setting a realistic budget. I’d rather be upfront with you, and transparent about how I work. There is a trust moving forward,” she explains.
Fabrics are the starting point in her designs. “I love fabrics. I always tell my husband to bury me in beautiful fabrics,” she shares. “It’s the beginning of my inspiration. After my clients pick out their favorite fabrics [from the selection], it all comes together in my mind.”
With more and more durable fabrics available, even families with young kids can have space that reflects their style, without sacrificing function. “You don’t need everything to be blue or brown. I can create rooms that look unpractical,” she says, but that are very durable.
Plachter also looks to incorporate any heirlooms or mementos of her clients into the design, with an affinity for mixing old and new in a space.
She also does not shy away from using color in projects. “Color is an integral part, or layers of patterns. It’s what makes a room warm and comfortable. I’m not a sterile designer, although I love the contemporary style. Even when using whites, with a mixture of textures it warms the space.” Plachter also adds an earthiness to the designs by bringing in an organic feel, such as a solid-slab table or nature-inspired fixtures. The accessories used in the spaces tend to be pieces she has picked up from antiquing, or straight from the manufacturer. “It’s not a specific process, I’ll just find beautiful things and keep them in inventory until they fit,” she explains.
While she works predominately on residential projects, Michele Plachter Designs has done work with a law firm and a school, and she would love to work on a restaurant. “There is something about creating a personal space, and there is a difference in projects where one is lived in and the other is completing a space,” she shares. Both though, should reflect the needs of the client. “I’m a real believer that in a beautiful space you feel better and it impacts how you live. Whether it’s a bedroom with soothing tones or energizing an office with brighter colors, I want it to feel good for a client and their uses.”
In every job, there is potential for issues, like a delay with a piece from the manufacturer or a container didn’t make it from overseas, but Plachter and her company thrive on forming real relationships with clients and working hard to make them happy. “I always tell people I’m a problem solver. I’m similar to a waitress delivering burnt toast, I didn’t create the problem, but I’m trying to make it right,” Plachter says.
One such bond resulted from a whole-house project recently completed in Villanova. “The project was rewarding, the whole home was open to exercising free range and creativity,” shares Plachter.