Bankston May Associates at a Glance
High-end interior design for single-family residences
The past few years have been exceptionally successful for your company. What do you attribute this to?
Darla Bankston May: We have blossomed in the past few years due to the fact that many of our long-time clients are reaching a different point in their life. They are either upsizing, downsizing, or acquiring other properties. Once you have been in business for a while and have built strong relationships, you reach a critical mass, and it seems like these things happen all at once, but it is really something you have been building the entire time.
How did you build this client base? How did you strengthen it?
DBM: Every one of my clients I have through referrals from previous clients or subcontractors I have worked with. I always strive to do the best job for every client no matter how large or small the project is. I also think you have to maintain a reputation of not just giving a client a beautifully designed interior but also being fair and honest in your business practices.
What’s your design style like?
DBM: I wouldn’t say I have a signature style necessarily. I try to design spaces for my clients that reflect their taste and personality. The one thing that I do strive for in all of my projects is timelessness.
Is the current economic crunch hurting business at all?
DBM: Clients are definitely much more price-conscious. They are choosing to spend their money on a few key pieces that they know will make an impact instead of making frivolous choices. We had a brief time toward the end of last year where things slowed down some. We have been somewhat insulated in Houston while the economy in other parts of the country has faltered; Houston is fueled by the energy business, which has remained strong.
What sets you apart from other interior design firms in the Houston area?
DBM: My experience in building and a strong architectural background. Also working in a variety of design aesthetics. A recent project in New York City gave me the opportunity to showcase a different look than what is widely being done in Houston.
Tell me about the New York project. Any particular challenges?
DBM: I did a home in Houston for the client several years ago, and then they approached me about their new place in New York. The home in Houston is formal and French in style, but they asked that [the New York] space be classic-modern with a bright color palette. The client had specific ideas and color choices for each room. It really was like a puzzle trying to make all of the pieces fit—taking what she wanted and making it all work together in one space. [Also], dealing with the logistics of a project out of state can pose a challenge, especially when that project is in a location like New York.
How do you prepare for such projects? Do you end up working with architects often?
DBM: As a designer, you have to think about how each space is going to function for your client and how the furniture is going to work in the space. I always do furniture layouts for my clients before the architectural plans get too far. That way we can let the architect know if a room needs to increase or decrease in size, if we need to change the placement or size of a window or door, etc. The main challenge with this is giving your client what they need to actually live in the space—but not changing the overall design that the architect had envisioned for the home. ABQ