Interviewed by Matthew Totsky
Photographed by Scott Stewart
Meet Birmingham resident and interior designer Michelle Mio. She, along with her partners Rosemary Cotter and Jill Schumacher, run the successful design firm Rariden Schumacher Mio & Co., working primarily with residential clients.
“This is my dream job,” Mio says. “It’s my passion. Even if I were given the opportunity, I don’t see myself doing anything else.”
A native of California, Mio’s parents always knew she would work in a field where her creativity would be put to good use.
“I started at Texas Christian University pursuing a psychology major, but I just wasn’t challenged creatively,” she says. “I’ve been blessed my whole life to be in the right place at the right time. One day I attended a senior design portfolio show at my college that gave me a chance to see the technical aspect of the work and inspired me to take a design course as an elective. I loved it and ended up changing majors. When I broke the news to my parents, the first thing they wanted to know was if I’d be able to make a living for myself in this field. I’m happy to say that I have.”
When did you arrive in Michigan? I moved here in 2000 and worked at a local design firm. I was there for 2½ years before deciding to start my own company. I worked hard building my business for a year and then decided to pair up with my current partners. We’ve been together for about 13 years and it’s been great. This experience has given us the opportunity to design homes from coast to coast as well as in Europe and the island of St. John.
How would you describe your personal style? At Rariden Schumacher Mio & Co., we specialize in inviting, approachable interiors. I like spaces where people can entertain friends and not be afraid to put their feet up on furniture. Our firm is neither uber-traditional nor modern. We strive to be avant-garde and want our work to look well-traveled instead of something that came out of a catalog. Anyone can do that without a professional designer.
I like to work in layers: furniture, accessories and art. My partners and I don’t want our work to look like our own homes, but like the homes our clients want. The people who hire us are well traveled and educated. Many of them bring back pieces from other parts of the world, and it’s our job to try to incorporate these items into our designs so that their personalities ultimately shine through.
How has working in Michigan shaped your career? We have a really rich art scene in the Detroit area and it’s very inspiring. I love the DIA, Cranbrook and the work coming out of the College for Creative Studies. You’d be amazed at some of the pieces hanging in local private collections. At our firm, we will go to college art shows and support up-and-coming student artists by buying their work and incorporating it into our interiors.
Tell us about your experience on HGTV’s
Showhouse Showdown. I was approached by them to participate in 2013. It was a chance for me to do something different and witness what goes into a television production. The concept of the show pits two designers working on two houses with the exact same floor plan on the same street. We filmed it in Midland and everything was condensed into a tighter time frame than what I usually work with. The budget was also tight, but a lot of items were donated, too. It was eye-opening to see how scripted shows like that can be. It was a learning experience, but really fun, too!
You’re actively involved in the community. Can you expand upon that? I am a board member for both the Karmanos Cancer Institute’s Partners Committee and the Restore Foundation, which is partnered with the Oakland County drug courts. This is a very important charity that helps people with abuse issues get back on their feet. I am also an affiliate of the Children’s Center Village of Giving Circle, which helps underprivileged kids in a variety of ways.
What are some of your favorite things to do around town? I’m a major foodie. I will travel great lengths just for food! The Forest Grille is a favorite. I’m also excited about what’s going on with all of the amazing restaurants Downtown. Selden Standard is great and so is Wright & Company. I can’t wait to see what pops up next!
What is one thing that most people don’t know about you? I started golfing when I was 4 years old and I was a collegiate golfer. There was a time when I thought that golf would be my life’s path, but when you do something like that for 360 days a year for so many years, it becomes a pretty big commitment. I decided to take some time off and recently got back into it after a 10-year layoff. I’m a little rusty, but I appreciate the sport more now as opposed to when I had to do it all the time. NS
To contact Michelle Mio, call (248) 723-9160 or visit rsminteriors.com.