Michelle Dirske: Beautiful on the In(terior) and Out

“I’ve always loved art, design and creative outlets,” Michelle Dirkse explains, on her earliest memory of her artistic journey. “When I was five, I often re-arranged my room and built “houses” from shoe boxes and Legos.” To some, those childhood activities are just that, but to others, such vocational creativity eventually finds itself a permanent home on the right side of the brain. For Michelle, she would find herself down a path that would utilize and balance both her logic (left side) and her craft (right side).

We recently featured the work of Michelle Dirkse in Parts I and II of our Fall Campaign, ”Taming of the Schai”, and here you will find just a sliver of a glimpse into the beautiful mind of this unique creative; an interior designer, scholar, photographer…you name it. An artist that can strategically combine the use of her psychology degree and interior design background to achieve HER ultimate goal, “bringing out the best version of YOU.” It takes an artistic intellect to fully grasp what a client is envisioning, then bring it to life. Let us help you bring Michelle to life.

1. Who are you and what do you do? Describe a typical day for Michelle.

Michelle Dirkse, Owner and Principal Designer at Michelle Dirkse Interior Design and Boutique; I own a small interior design firm and an art and pillow boutique. It’s rare that I have a “typical” day. Usually, my day is a combination of design meetings with clients, construction meetings with contractors, sourcing meetings with vendors and collaboration meetings with artists. Between all of that, I lead my team in designing residential and commercial projects, while sourcing new fabrics for our pillow boutique. My world is a mix of technical drawings that we create in AutoCAD, project management of timelines and details, as well as the inspiring sourcing of furniture, textiles, and art!

2. How did design get introduced to your life; we want to know the story of how you got to where you are.

I’ve always loved art, design and creative outlets. When I was five, I often re-arranged my room and built “houses” from shoe boxes and Legos. This continued until elementary school when in fourth grade my mom bought a book of architectural housing floorplans. After studying this book, I began to draw my own plans (my fourth grade teacher still comments on this when I run into her!). In high school, I was a part of wood shop, band, choir and I was often sewing/building things on my own. Photography became a passion of mine and I commuted three hours, twice a week, to attend a community college photography class. While pursuing as many hobbies as I could, I was also working two jobs, babysitting for my family and playing sports. I think exploring many creative fields combined with the required discipline of schools, sports, family, and work, I was able to develop a creative business balance.

Despite loving the arts, I felt that it was selfish of me to pursue them as a career. I decided to pursue psychology at Western Washington University and after graduation, I worked in the non-profit world as a mental health case manager. The jobs were challenging and while I had many successes that I am very proud of, I felt I was simply a band-aid on a broken system. I decided to take interior design classes “for fun” and worked for other designers and construction companies after graduating.

Once I decided to start my own company, I worked with the Small Business Institute at Seattle University to develop my business and marketing plan. From then, I’ve researched my way through each step as it’s presented itself. In less than four years, I’ve grown from working by myself, part-time out of my living room, to working on over 35 projects a year, with my team of three. I think that my firm’s continued growth is due to quality partnerships with artists, craftsman and vendors, not to mention, the talent and dedication of my team; which I am so grateful for! Social justice is still very important to me, and I have plans to incorporate a goal building program for the youth of our community into my pillow boutique next year. Stay tuned!

3. Top two inspirations in your industry.

Kelly Wearstler’s style and dedication to design anomaly have always inspired me, as well as her own business path. Locally, Codor Designs growth, marketing, style and quality product has inspired me to do more and be more.

4. Top two inspirations NOT in your industry. 

Grimes and Santigold. I love their DIY spirit, attention to detail and dedication to doing what they want, how they want.

5. We featured your work in our Fall Campaign ”Taming of the Schai”, and as you know, the inspiration was from Shakespeare’s story of Katherine, the shrew. Can you relate to our modern day shrew and how do you think your work portrays you as an artist?

I started my own business because I didn’t want to be “tamed.” I am honored to tailor my style for each project, so that it echoes the voice of my client. At the end of the day, or at the end of the project, a part of my voice and style is always present. My team and I work hard, but find time for creative and funny inspiration. If I have to pretend to be a different person in order to succeed, then it won’t ever be a success. Collaboration and compromise can happen without losing sight of who you are and what matters. I’m always looking for whats next. #ThreatToComplacency reflects our ethos and seems to be it’s own modern take on a call against “taming.”

6. What is your dream project; in the next five years?

I’d love to help design a boutique hotel and bar. Commercial projects like these can be fun because they need only represent a moment in time. Because of this, I’m able to explore more fantastical and edgy elements that I wouldn’t bring to a client’s personal home.

7. Lastly, what is your (adult) drink of choice?

Americano by day, Big Gin with grapefruit juice by night.

(Big Gin, the brand, not the size!)

Boutique Hours: M-F: 9-5:30 // Sat: 12-6pm.

1321 E Pine Street, Seattle, WA 98122.

Garments worn by Michelle Dirkse– Schai by Suk Schai // Interior Design by Michelle Dirkse // Photography by Erin Lodi Photography.

The Purple Lemonade creative team: Fashion Editor– Kristen Puckhaber // Model– Emma Alexander // Makeup- Marvia Jones // Hair– Matthew Lawrence // Shoot Assistant– Ron Gatsby.

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