Take Time for a Chat

These designers fashioned two cozy sitting areas perfect for a day’s-end catch-up with your better half or a morning cup of coffee with a friend


FURNISHINGS // Inspired Designers

Benchmark Wood & Design Studios

Portrait by benchmark
WOOD & design studios

WHO: Benchmark Wood & Design Studios, founded in 2001, is a Holland-based firm with an award-winning design portfolio that includes a sophisticated collection of Lake Michigan’s finest beachfront retreats. The talented team of designers is made up of on-staff skilled craftsmen, artists, and project managers who offer everything from floor plans to custom cabinetry to interior and exterior design selections, furnishings, and more.

STUDIO’S GOAL: The team worked in collaboration with Holland-based Mike Schaap Builders on this home. The beach-inspired conversation area, shown above right, is located adjacent to the kitchen and features matching chairs placed in a cohesive group, so the residents and their guests can take in the magnificent lake views or enjoy each other’s company. “This cozy hearth room is a nice place to enjoy a glass of wine and snacks,” says Benchmark’s lead designer, Jodi Medina, above, seated at far right. “The neutral hues and natural décor were all carefully selected to serve as a subtle backdrop to the soft and shimmering tones of the fireplace’s mosaic glass surround.”

INFORMATION: 616-994-7374, benchmark-studios.com


Jodi Medina’s Design Tips for Creating Intimate Gathering Spaces


• Develop a focal point such as a fireplace, and center everything around this feature.
• Keep it together. If a space is too large, or there’s too much distance between furniture, it’s broken up and makes conversing difficult.  Also, never create a walkway through the conversation area.
• Create and maintain center lines throughout your design, to ensure symmetry and balance.

“Overhead, a metal and wood chandelier anchors the room, while oversized chairs, patterned pillows, and an earthy round cocktail table complement the cozy atmosphere.”
— Jodi Medina



Paint, in Nimbus (left), and White Dove (right), Benjamin Moore, metro Detroit-area stores, benjaminmoore.com


Metal and wood globe chandelier (six-light), $499, Shades of Light, shadesoflight.com


Ikat Dots pillow (20” x 20”),  to the trade, Surya, surya.com  


Birds in Flight wall décor, to the trade, Palecek, palecek.com



Ellwood Interiors Inc.

photos by beth singer



WHO: Amanda Sinistaj, left, is principal interior designer at Birmingham-based Ellwood Interiors Inc. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University’s Foundation for Interior Design Education (FIDER)- accredited interior design program. With more than a decade of experience, the designer has developed an original approach to her craft and uses classic design principles as a touchstone in bringing her clients’ ideas to life. Ellwood Interiors is the recipient of many Detroit Home Design Awards and prides itself on its versatility.

DESIGNER’S GOAL: Intimate, warm, and inviting were the three main goals for this Bloomfield Hills home, whose gathering space is showcased at left. “We wanted a space (that would) draw conversation, yet felt comfortable enough to put your feet up,” Sinistaj says. “The proximity of the wing chairs adds to the sense of intimacy.” Conversation wasn’t the only activity on the designer’s mind when this area was developed; reading, relaxing, and board games are all encouraged with the support of an appealing ottoman, cozy throws, and pillows.

INFORMATION: 248-707-7157, ellwoodinteriors.com


Amanda Sinistaj’s Design Tips for Creating Intimate Gathering Spaces


• Avoid putting televisions in spaces that are meant for talking and reflection. They’re too distracting.  
• Furniture should be on top of the rug completely, not half-on, half-off.
• Incorporate larger, bold rugs to create a focal point.

“We love the life that plants bring to a room; They connect the outdoors to the interior space. Oversized plants work well in rooms with tall ceilings.”
— Amanda Sinistaj


Laney pillow (similar to one in room photo), $49.95, Crate & Barrel, Troy


Kyoto pillow cover, in Goldenrod (similar to one in room photo), $68, Serena & Lily, serenaandlily.com


Korman natural throw (similar to one in room photo), $49.95, Crate & Barrel, Troy


Clark cocktail ottoman in Charcoal Brown with Espresso legs, $295, Safavieh, safaviehhome.com  


Kensington Lillian occasional chair in Gray Chevron, to the trade, Four Hands, fourhands.com




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