When it comes to designing the interior of a home, Hillary Kaplan and Miriam Silver Verga of Mimi & Hill find that its style should not only reflect the clients' individuality, but do so in a way that doesn't compromise cohesion or elegance.
As part of our "BHS Design Collaborative" series, Kaplan and Verga spoke to the Brown Harris Stevens Content team about their work, friendship, supporting women-owned businesses, and much more.
How did Mimi and Hill come to be?
We were first introduced by our realtor and quickly became close friends. After working so well together on many PTO projects, we also realized that we had a similar passion for interior design and at the same time we were asked by a friend to finish her kitchen. Not only did it come out beautifully, but we also worked seamlessly together. This was the perfect time to discuss creating a real partnership and starting Mimi & Hill.
What is it like to be friends with your co-founder and business partner?
It is truly a blessing that we are friends and have the utmost respect for one another as partners in business and our different strengths and talents work. For us, coming to work has been a true source of happiness and peace. We are very compatible people, and our partnership happened organically as two moms that were ready to go back to work so the timing was also right. Miriam sees the big picture which means she develops the brand, the overall look and room layouts. Hillary’s strength is in fine details and works with fabrics, furniture detailing, has very refined tastes, and that comes from her background in Fashion design. Our different strengths mixed with our personalities and mutual respect for one another are why the firm is successful.
We understand that you have projects and clients in both the suburbs and the city, how would you define the differences and needs of each?
Whether you live in a city or suburb, our clients are looking to utilize space in multiple ways. Even in the suburbs that we are in, there are historic homes that don't have copious amounts of storage space. Weirdly for us, where wedo our work, there are more similarities than differences. If I had to describe the aesthetic that we see from each type of client, our city clients tend to lean towards more sophistication and glamor in their design. As for our suburban homes, our clients are looking for a more relaxed environment. The clientele in the suburbs happen to be very similar to our city clients.
Whether it be Short Hills, Rumson, Westfield, Summit, or a client in Manhattan, they all want the design to be beautiful and a true extension of their personality that they are proud and happy when they walk in the door to their gorgeous, warm space.
How has each of your backgrounds in fashion inspired and influenced your current work in design?
Hillary studied at Parsons and was a knitwear designer before transitioning to interior design. She has an innate sense of fabric, how different fabrics play off of each other, and how they are constructed.
Miriam was in publishing and worked at “This Old House,” magazine. Miriam has an interest in architecture and design. Miriam comes from a big equestrian family and her daughter is a natural born equestrian as well. They are very familiar with country and city living. This is a huge help when working with families whether it be in the city or country.
How do you support and empower women in business?
We were Stay At Home Moms (Miriam has 4 kids, and Hillary has 3!) for 11 years and truly understands the importance of empowering women. As women, we tend to shy away from failure. But that is the superpower, realizing that we don’t have to be good at it all. We have found an untapped, and hardworking resource through SAHM who are looking to get back into work but have required different schedules based on their desire not to be full time. We have also created an incredible group with other female designers where we bounce business questions and ideas off of each other. It's the ultimate women supporting women collaboration. Lastly, we have been asked to be on business panels in our local community to share our experiences and inspire other women to take the leap to start their own business.
You have an incredible presence on social media, how do you engage your audience and develop your content strategy?
Because we have a large audience on this platform, when things need to be said, we are not afraid to stand up for the communities that we feel strongly about – LGBTQIA+, BLM, local concerns, gun protections, etc. We haven't been afraid to lean into our platform at times to take a stand on issues, even if it's not always popular. Our mission is to protect the communities we believe in and support. We have invested in an in-house photographer to have beautiful and professional work to share. We have also invested a lot of Miriam’s personal time as well as a social media marketing person to ensure that we remain consistent on the platform. Lastly, we have tried to be more informative instead of always just showing pretty pictures. We have seen growth when we share knowledge with our community.
Can you share your experience working with builders and developers and what your team specifically does to make the partnership so seamless and successful?
Speed, cost and quality are the drivers to our design decisions. There is a level of detail in our plans that provide very specific dimensions and detailed drawings that allow the builder to full steam ahead without stopping to ask questions. However, when they do need to ask questions, we have dedicated construction experts to answer every question.
We understand you have a retail store in Westfield, NJ, can you walk us through your office renovation process?
The two townhouses our design studio and shop are now in were built in the 1870s. They were originally two adjourned townhouses that we connected. It was stripped of charm and character in the 1960s and 70s, we worked to restore it back to a beautiful building that honored the downtown. We repainted both floors and added historically correct true-divided light windows. We did not remove the original paneling and details. We would have loved to have kept more historical details, but the tin ceiling was not usable. Instead of removing it completely, we covered it, so it can remain inside the building’s memory. We are so proud of how we were able to bring this landmark back to life and add a beautiful facade to our thriving downtown.
Have you noticed any new evolving design trends?
There is a strong return to traditional and vintage, which we are so excited about. We LOVE vintage shopping. It has been really fun for that side of our business. It's the timelessness, sophisticated, je ne sais quoi of this trend’s return that makes our hearts flutter.
What room do your clients typically ask you to design first?
We tend to get a lot of kitchen requests, which then turn into working on the full home, or they may start in the family and living rooms, so that they can save up for the kitchen of their dreams.
Can you share one of the most rewarding or challenging projects you’ve worked on?
We did a house in St. John where every single item had to go through an arduous process. First, we had to send everything to our receiver in Miami, crate the items, and then boat to St John. Then uncrated and finally installed in the home. It was a wild process!