For some men, interior design doesn’t extend much beyond finding the right spot for their beer fridge and big-screen TV. Many others, however, want their surroundings to reflect something deeper.
Enter Michelle Miazga.
The former Stettler woman and her business partner Kyla Ray have carved out a niche helping men create living spaces that they’re comfortable in.
Based in Vancouver and operating as Port + Quarter, the pair offer services ranging from new-build design to finishing touches on existing homes.
“There’s definitely a market for it,” said Miazga.
She described how interior design firms often lean toward feminine aesthetics, or focus on their own unique look.
“We kept finding a lot of male clients, or couples, who just weren’t satisfied with their interior designers.”
Miazga and Ray have discovered that the tastes of the two sexes do vary.
Women, said Miazga, are more likely to follow evolving trends; men tend to favour classical, more permanent looks.
Females are interested in the visual appeal of objects, she added, while men focus on function and are intrigued by things like stereo systems and security devices.
“While women are drawn to pretty or more aesthetic things, men aren’t interested in that. They look at a piece of sculptural art and say, ‘What does it do?’”
Since starting Port + Quarter two years ago, Miazga and Ray have gained an understanding of their male clients’ needs.
They study men’s magazines and blogs, and bounce ideas off male friends and Miazga’s boyfriend, who is a graphic designer.
The biggest part of Port + Quarter’s work involves the construction of multi-family housing, like condominiums and townhouses, said Miazga.
She and Ray will assist developers from the initial floor plan, helping them pick finishes and even marketing their units.
They also help homeowners customize their living spaces.
“We get a lot of couples because the women are finding it hard to convince their significant others to take the designer route,” said Miazga, explaining that men are more amenable to working with a firm that understands their tastes.
Vancouver is a prime market for Port + Quarter’s services, she noted, because so many men live in small homes.
They don’t have the luxury of developing a man cave in a basement of a guys’ place in a garage.
“You need to be able to take that space and make it function for either a couple who are living there of for that single gentlemen.”
Port + Quarter also helps clients develop commercial space to meet their male customers’ tastes. Miazga noted that an increasing number of businesses — from hair stylists to clothing stores — are catering to men.
Now 34, Miazga left Stettler when she was 18 to pursue a career in musical theatre. She studied at Red Deer College and then moved to Victoria to attend a musical theatre school there.
“I was a working musical theatre actor for the better part of my early 20s.”
Eventually, Miazga realized she needed “a more sustainable career” if she wanted to remain in Vancouver.
After attending the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the Visual College of Art and Design in Vancouver, she worked in a few industry-related jobs. One was with a home-staging firm, where she met Ray.
Port + Quarter recently enjoyed a jump in its profile when the Canadian Youth Business Foundation featured the Vancouver entrepreneurs in a national advertising campaign.
“It’s really increased the traffic to our website,” said Miazga, who would be tickled if the exposure attracted some clients east of the Rockies.
“I’d love to get some work in Alberta.”
Port + Quarter’s website can be found at portandquarter.com.