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Going beyond decorating, interior designers ‘push walls around’

M Charles Beach works on a house in Waltham. M Charles Beach works on a house in Waltham. (Chitose Suzuki for The Boston Globe)
By Cindy Atoji Keene
Globe Correspondent / May 16, 2010

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Interior designer M. Charles Beach of (m) + charles beach Interiors in Framingham shares his trade secrets:

■ Avoid fad designs.

■ Dislike the home shows on TV. Good design doesn’t happen overnight.

■ Don’t ask for design advice from your building contractor.

■ Cheap and chintzy looks, well, cheap and chintzy.

Beach, who specializes in “bold, fresh, and contemporary interiors of distinction,’’ says his design hero is legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright because of his timelessness. “He worked so organically, and he had the uncanny ability to put everything together so perfectly.’’

The terms “interior decorator’’ and “interior designer’’ are often used interchangeably, but in many states — not yet in Massachusetts — interior designers require a license or certification to do their spatial and building work, which requires a special skill set that can include decorating but also the physical structure as well.

“To put it simply, decorators do more of the soft goods, like fabrics, while designers will actually build and push walls around,’’ said Beach.

Demand for interior designers is expected to grow to 19 percent by 2018.

Beach found his way to interior design after getting a degree in journalism and trying his hand at other types of design, especially graphic and interactive website design. After going back to school to study interior design, he decided it was time to go with his first love — helping others figure out their living spaces.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s on a page or digital, solid design is timeless,’’ he said.

How did you get started in interior design? Way back when, growing up in Buffalo, I used to watch my mom do all sorts of creative projects with interior spaces, including wallpapering, refinishing furniture, and painting. She was amazing — everything looked so seamless when it was done. I used to help her, and that was when the bug began.

I just bought a lamp — why doesn’t it look good in the room? People think interior design is about where you put a sofa, what color you paint a wall, or picking out a table. But it’s not about single pieces, but the entire environment and having a roadmap for the palette, lighting, traffic patterns, and all the other aspects of a home.

What is one of your favorite projects? I’m very proud of work that I did at a loft in South Station. It was a huge, open, industrial space with 12-foot ceilings and a huge concrete pillar in the middle. There was a lot of chi or energy bouncing all over the place that needed to be reined in. I built eight-foot walls to help break up the space, surrounded the column with hardwood cherry, hung monorail lighting, and installed walk-in closets. We painted it deep reds, browns, and tans. It’s a stunning home to walk into now.

What traits does a good interior designer need? You have to listen and care about your clients and their wants and needs, and never bulldoze your way through.

What’s your work uniform? Clients must expect you to look stylish as well. I tend to dress somewhat rock ’n’ roll. I wear French cuff shirts, Italian leather shoes, British blazers, and Ray-Ban sunglasses.

On the job with
M. Charles Beach,
interior designer