Meet the Assistant profiles the assistants and associates who work behind-the-scenes with some of the industry’s top designers to help make beautiful spaces come to life.
Ben Miller is assistant extraoirdinaire to the incredibly talented Laura Kirar of Laura Kirar*TRU Design, who has infused her modern, tailored aesthetic into the interiors of residential spaces, award-winning restaurants, showrooms, and hotels across the globe. Originally from Lafayette Louisiana, Ben, 29, moved to New York on a whim nearly six years ago and has worked with Laura for the past year-and -a-half. With offices in New York and Miami, a wide range of product lines that includes furniture, accessories, lighting, tile, carpets and more, not to mention an insanely busy travel schedule, Laura relies on Ben to help her keep it all together. I caught up with Ben earlier this summer at his 240 square foot studio apartment in Brooklyn and was utterly impressed with how he created such efficiency and style in his small home. Look out for a house tour here on the blog coming soon (!) and in the meantime, let’s get to know the fabulous Ben Miller…
How did you end up in New York?
A few weeks after Hurricane Katrina I was home in Louisiana driving back to Lafayette from dinner in Baton Rouge when a dear friend of mine called to catch up. She had just moved to Brooklyn and was telling me about how a couple of potential roommates had fallen through and was going on about how much I’d love the city. It wasn’t the first time we’d kicked the idea of me moving to New York around, but it was certainly different this time. It took the 45-minute drive from Baton Rouge to convince me to give New York a shot. The next day I gave notice at my job, broke the news to my parents and bought a plane ticket. Two and a half weeks later I flew to New York for the very first time, blew up my air mattress and fell asleep in my windowless 10′x10′ room. I got a job with a big ad agency a couple of weeks after the move and the rest, as they say, is history. It’s crazy to think that was nearly six years ago already!
What is a typical day in the office for you?
Between collections and interior projects, everyday is its own adventure. We start work around 9am and finish between 6 and 6:30pm. Some days are spent in showrooms but most of the time I’m helping out with the project management of the licensing collections and smaller scale design projects. The licensing collections is where most of my focus is currently. There’s so much that goes into launching these collections–from gathering inspiration through all the planning and promotion it involves–that the majority of my day-to-day is spent making sure things are moving along.
Do you have a favorite project that you’ve had the opportunity to assist Laura on?
Seeing the latest introductions from Arteriors home was big for me. It’s the first collection I’ve been a part of all the way through, from hand sketches to the launch at High Point.
How would you describe Laura’s style?
Utterly refined, simultaneously handsome and beautiful, grounded in her foundation as a conceptual artist and accented with worldly influences.
A lounge chair from Laura’s McGuire furniture collection inside a penthouse residence she designed at the W Dallas residences
Have there you ever had any crazy on-the-job disasters or mistakes that you’ve learned from?
Ha. Just last week I directed our driver to a random address in New Jersey I’d mistakenly picked up in an email chain. We were forty minutes out of the way but managed to make it to her speaking engagement on time! Best of all, she completely kept her cool while I turned five shades of embarrassed.
What do you like most about your job?
The fact that it’s a constant education. Our office is small but mighty so there’s lots of opportunity to be a part of all areas of the design process–I really love learning about new resources and techniques, though.
What do you like least?
Facebook! I’ve never been that active personally, so to do it for our company is truly bewildering.
What has been the most valuable lesson Laura has taught you?
Scale and proportion matter more than just about anything. I’m paying close attention to the way she balances restraint and grace with something a little punchier, like rich color.
What are your long term career goals?
To always work with inspired, talented people who are doing what they love. I work best when collaborating, so hopefully to find a good partner or two to bounce ideas off. Maybe we’ll start a small design firm together one day.
A sneak peek at a vignette inside Ben’s Brooklyn studio
Finally – What advice can you share with our readers about decorating on a design assistant’s budget?
1. Start at the hardware store–grab some paint to completely shift the feeling of a space, swap in a dimmer switch to your most used light sources, look for creative new uses for otherwise typical products.
2. Spend as much as your budget allows on a few things–a comfortable sofa, your mattress and bed linens, and a rug that will work hard beyond it’s current home.
3. If you find something you absolutely love, get it, because chances are you always will.
4. Frequent your neighborhood antique shops and vintage stores–you’d be amazed at what treasures are hiding in those dusty corners.
5. Don’t be afraid to DIY–cut your own mats and dress up inexpensive frames, make some art, repaint (and reupholster while you’re at it) a tired chair with good looking bones.
Top and bottom photos by me