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Five Questions for: Designer Justin Riordan

ACCORDING TO DESIGNER JUSTIN RIORDAN, BIG INTERIOR DESIGN TRENDS NEED TO LOOK NO FURTHER THAN THE BIG SCREEN. Think the glitzy, amped up aesthetic of films like American Hustle or Casino, says the designer who splits his time between Portland and Seattle. After working as an interior architect for 12 years, Riordan founded home staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency in 2009 and considers this silver screen-inspired design pivot “a sexy, dirty backlash to the perfected mid-century modern interiors” that have had a stronghold on interior spaces for the last 10 years.

Read on for more of Riordan’s thoughts on mid-century modern design, how he lends his architectural know-how to his home-staging projects, and why every room in a home that’s for sale must have its (staging) moment in the sun.


Above: Courtesy Right: Courtesy

How does your background in architecture and design influence your home staging projects?

I came from the world of commercial architecture where we don’t miss deadlines. When a project is due, it’s due. If you don’t finish on time, people start losing money and they don’t just get upset they get litigious. I have carried that mindset into a hobbyist industry that doesn’t really understand service. It’s been the best way for us to stand out in a sea of competitors.

Our job as architects is to put ourselves in the shoes of our end user and design a space that is so intuitive that it anticipates our clients’ needs before they even knew they needed them. Because I don’t design for my client, rather my client’s client (the potential buyer), a person I will never speak to, I have only my intuition and years of knowledge to pull inspiration from.

What do you think is a must-have in every staged home?

Every room should be staged in real life, not virtually—from the largest living room to the smallest bedroom. Partially staging a house is like watching a magician cut the assistant in half and then closing the curtain. The trick is putting the assistant back together. If you stop staging halfway through the project, you just paid a pretty penny to greatly disappoint potential buyers.

For you, what’s a perfect day off?

I wake up, check our accounts, and have plenty of cash on hand. My son and husband wake up a few minutes later and we head out for a quiet brunch at a restaurant that takes reservations. We walk from there to a matinee of a great live show. We meet friends for dinner followed with a walk home to a nice warm bed.

What do you see as a big interior design trend coming in 2019?

Mid-Century modern has become a permanent fixture of the global design vernacular. But I believe we will start to see elements of it mixed in a variety of styles from traditional to contemporary. That being said, I am utterly in love with coke-glam. See American Hustle, Casino, and Boogie Nights for points of reference. It mixes the funkiest elements of brutalism, art deco, Memphis [design], chinoiserie with polished and mirrored surfaces to create a sexy, dirty backlash to the perfected mid-century modern interiors we have been seeing for the past 10 years.

What did you want to be at age 5 and why?

I always wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer. In the early 1980s before the launch of MTV, the best way to find out what songs and bands were popular was to watch Solid Gold. The show was kind of like American Bandstand or Soul Train with one small, but important difference: it featured the Solid Gold Dancers, a small group of professionals who performed to all the songs. I knew for sure that they made a lot of money because they had cool clothes (mostly made out of gold lamé) and they loved their jobs because they were always smiling.


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