Shanna Bender, owner of Design Studio 15, knows how to design for comfort, excitement and the feeling that a space has come to life. Her latest project, an ultra-modern office space in Orlando, is no exception. Shanna tells us what she did to design a space that makes staff happy to come to work and clients curious about what’s beyond the front door.
GN: How did you come to develop your style?
Shanna: My style developed from my background as an artist and as a performer singing in jazz lounges and in theaters. I’m inspired by period fashions like the big, bold prints from the ’70s and the rock-and-roll glamour of the ’80s. But I often also employ the simplicity of the trend toward modernism that evolved after the Victorian period. I love unexpected drama that adds an element of surprise and the “wow” factor, but I also infuse tranquility into the design to provide provocative, bold images combined with a sense of relaxation and quiet.
GN: Tell us about your latest project.
Shanna: One of my most recent projects was the development of my new cutting-edge, ultra-modern office in Orlando, Florida. I initially designed it on a napkin while on a train to New York City. I kept that napkin for a couple of years, drew it up in CAD and then started organically having the selections come to life. I love the entire process of starting with pencil sketches and passionately having it come to life.
I truly believe that design is like life: As you evolve, so do your designs. At the end of the day, your designs become chapters of your life story. The biggest challenge is when you are passionate and in love with all aspects of design and have all materials and knowledge at your disposal, which components should you choose? I encouraged my staff to be involved in the ultimate design and offer their input as a team to make our selections. The result was a dynamic, functional yet aesthetically pleasing office environment that inspires creativity and a desire to excel.
[Photo Credit: Stephen Allen Photography]
This is a photo of the exterior of our office. I was inspired by the perception of volume and perspective when developing the footprint. Our office faces a lake, and as you move up the stairs, you get a different view with every rectangular window. It’s really quite beautiful and really cool when the sun is setting and every window displays in a different shade of color.
Although the building exterior has muted colors, I love the unexpected pop of bright orange in the eco-friendly planters constructed from recycled materials and the paint on the front door.
My staff says it makes them happy to come in to work and my clients say it makes them curious about what they might possibly find beyond the doors.
[Photo Credit: Stephen Allen Photography]
GN: What advice would you have for homeowners in hiring and managing contractors, whether it be for paint, flooring, handymen or big remodels like custom-made closets?
Shanna: Have a plan. Everything evolves from an organized design process. First, always start by establishing a clear plan of action for their designs and budgets, and second, over-the-top communication. Clients are always so excited to get started. We slow them down for just a moment to take the time to understand and efficiently design exactly their vision.
We provide fully rendered elevations with each fabric, wall color, art and furniture piece. We also provide a specification package with architectural drawings scaled for contractors. That way, we know the design works. We then compile selection sheets that itemize every design detail with its associated cost.
If the need arises to scale back due to budget or time constrictions, a client can then make informed choices. The client can then move forward, either with our contractors or those they select, with no surprises. I always tell my clients that surprises are for birthdays, not for their design investments.
GN: What elements account for a comfortable home?
Shanna: A comfortable, happy home is a home that represents the voice of the family who lives there. While I may have my particular style, I really try to remove that from the pallet, and sit down to really listen to the family’s needs and desires to produce a design that truly represents them.
GN: What's your philosophy on creating meaning in the home?
Shanna: This is where the true character of a home evolves. Meaning in a home is achieved in a couple of key ways that start from really listening to the client, understanding the architecture and then creating intimate areas of the home that are custom-designed to satisfy the individual needs of that particular family. I love to incorporate pieces that may have been handed down through the family, such as art or furniture. This blending of the new with the old fosters a feeling of comfort in the known elements and excitement for the new design.
Shanna Bender prides herself in creating functionally efficient and aesthetically pleasing environments that promote comfort, excitement and the feeling that the space has come to life. She believes that a good designer looks beyond the obvious to create the unexpected and unique. Her designs are bold, groundbreaking and inspirational with a strong artistic influence. Shanna truly lives her life committed to Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy that “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Design Studio 15 was established in 2006.
[Main image: Stephen Allen Photography]