Founded in 1989, Dallas-based Duncan Miller Ullmann has grown to become one of the preeminent hospitality interior design firms in the world. CEO Kimberley Miller and her team have been coming to Round Top for years, shopping for their biggest clients. Most recently, it was for Hotel ZaZa Memorial City in Houston. We caught up with Kimberley, in advance of her next trip to Round Top for Hotel ZaZa Austin to talk about her team’s vision, process, strategy and inspiration.
Market Hill: Tell us about your firm and what brings you to Round Top.
Kimberley Miller: We work with lifestyle brands. We know what each brand needs. For Hotel ZaZa, it’s irreverence, whimsy, especially in reference to a particular suite. That’s what Hotel ZaZa is known for: its concept suites, which our firm helped create. For the last project, [Hotel ZaZa Memorial City in Houston], there were 12 specialty suites. We used Round Top to bring special pieces into these themed spaces.
MH: What kind of pieces were you looking for on this trip?
KM: We design not just spaces but experiences, whether it be in a restaurant or in the lobby. We are looking for unique pieces to create an experience. We sometimes take a residential approach, but we’re looking for out-of-the-box, something you can’t find at a furniture store, catalogue or elsewhere. Custom, stylized, one-of-a-kind, out-of-the-ordinary pieces with memory value.
MH: What do you love about Round Top?
KM: Outside of Texas, maybe people think of Round Top as cowboy artifacts and folk art, but it’s a great mixture of new, vintage and true one-of-a-kind pieces; we can fill 12 themed suites in one trip. What we also love about Round Top is that everybody knows everybody. Paul Michael is especially great at that. If we go in looking for 50 copper bowls and he doesn’t have them, he can point us to a person three miles down the road who does. You can find almost all of your needles in a haystack here. Paul has the best connections to those people.
MH: What should shoppers know about Market Hill?
KM: Market Hill is a place of unique pieces but also the things you just need – new products in multiple quantities like sets of dining room chairs. The great thing about Market Hill is the wide range of items, old and new, that’s what I like, that it has so much. And that you can eat there [she laughs]. Also, that it’s inside. It’s nice to not be slogging around in the rain. We’ve done that. Each vendor has a unique style. We’re buying a massive amount of stuff, and they are all so nice, so helpful.
MH: Tell us about your shopping strategy.
KM: We have a list of places we go. We have a spiral notebook with dimensions, budget and floor plan. We go in with very specific needs, like a 60-inch round dining table. We walk through every store on our list, and we keep our antennas up. We have a detailed concepted mood board for each suite. For instance, for a seaside suite, we might be looking for a shell table, but we leave ourselves open to be inspired.
We once found a refurbished gas pump, not on our list, but it made its way into a themed suite. There was once a suite that we went into the shopping trip thinking would be themed Blue Door, but then we saw all of this campfire ephemera, and we changed it to Cabin Fever. At Market Hill, we found this gold leaf deer head, and we knew we had to have it. We didn’t know where we’d put it, but it found a home in the ballroom and is now a memorable fixture. Again, it comes back to the idea of a memory.
MH: How do you stay inspired?
KM: We look to travel, being exposed to different places, fashion, the trends we are seeing, the hot new shows and set designs. I recently watched Vanity Fair. One of the rooms is an Orient Express train theme. It’s fun to see a set design and get inspired by it. These kinds of trips help with inspiration. We use Round Top for inspiration.
To learn more about Duncan Miller Ullmann, visit DesignDMU.com.