GTPulse: New Traverse City Design Studio Will Debut First Project on State Street in January

Prefab homes date back to the 1600s, but my first introduction to prefab homes was having a history teacher in high school talk about how homes used to be sold out of catalogs. Sears, where I would buy homecoming dresses, used to sell houses and that blew my mind. House kits came with all the materials needed to construct a house, everything except labor. When the automotive, steel and coal industries were booming in Michigan, prefab homes spiked in popularity. Workers were buying plots of land in the country and wanted an affordable home that could be used as a summer getaway. Prefabs were an option that could be done quickly and cost-effectively due to their in-house, assembly-line production. Prefabs fell out of popularity during World War II, and when vets returned home they flocked to mobile homes instead. Prefabs are not mobile homes, and the ones Design Elemental are striving to create are nothing short of stylish.

Angelo’s interior design studio, Design Elemental, is partnering with Socks Construction and Component Construction Systems to create modern prefabs that are more economical and environmentally sustainable than traditional building methods. 

Angelo’s background began with sports science. The Australian native came to the U.S. in 1996 and began working in Chicago for Motorola where he was tasked with creating an in-house wellness center.

“That’s how I got my working visa. It was a great opportunity to come to the U.S. because I had never left Australia. I mean, I did as a little kid, I’m a first-generation Italian but…ever since then I never left Australia. Anyway, this opportunity came along and I took it. I’ve been on a 23-year walkabout ever since.”

He spent six years working in Chicago where he eventually met his future wife, Katharine Laidlaw  in a bar.

“She said that I’m the rudest man alive, she invited me for a drink and I’ve never left.”

It was Katharine who pushed Angelo to explore designing interiors. She noticed he had an intuitive connection with space and he was encouraged to go back to school for interior design. He signed up for classes at Harrington College of Design where he graduated in a little over four years.

“I still had to work during the day.”

He got a job in New York City designing high-end residential where he spent a few years and in North Carolina where he spent a few more years focusing on designing commercial, corporate and hospitality interior design. He became frustrated while working in North Carolina and felt that his passion grew aimless. 

“I wasn’t combining my two passions. When I did sports science I loved homeopathy, I loved ayurvedic science, I loved aromatherapy. I used to bring a lot of holistic approaches to my work with athletes. I loved connecting things with human senses, and I realized that interior design was like that too.”

He wanted his design to go beyond the interior, he wanted to appeal to human senses through architectural design too. When he moved to Traverse City he found a way to make that happen when he met Jonathan Lee of Jonathan Lee Architects and Dave Socks of Socks Construction. 

Jonathan is working with a sophisticated new system called Component Construction to create modern prefab homes in a new way. With the three working together they will start open studio service Design Elemental, a service that combines that help customers design their dream prefab. Unlike modular homes that are made to be cookie-cutter copies of one another, Design Elemental aims to create individually designed homes and businesses with attention to detail during the process and an option to use luxury materials. 

Human Sense Connectivity is Angelo’s personal design philosophy that he takes with him to every project. 

“Human Sense Connectivity is giving an object a meaning. When I was in Italy my mom gave me rosary beads that were baby blue and had a beautiful texture to it, I still have it. Pope John Paul the second had just been elected and seeing him in the cathedral being blessed as the new pope was very spiritual. So color blue reminds me of a spiritual moment, of motherhood, of feeling things at a higher level. It’s about connecting to the Earth, connecting to scent, connecting to color, connecting to texture.”

Design Elemental’s first project is an apartment building planned to be built next month on State Street.

“I labeled the project Modern State because what I’ve done is very different. I’m using a lot of materials that resemble natural products like natural timber, natural stone. We’re creating 16 units, 750 square feet, and this is our first job using component construction.”

Angelo looks forward to working with clients to use his design experience to create beautiful spaces that are made efficiently, beautifully and with a lower environmental impact. The Design Elemental Studio is set to open in early 2020.

“It’s more than a home with layers and layers of things, this is about the core which is you.”

Categories: GTPulse