2017 Circle of Excellence: Interior Designer Miranda Cullen
Co-founder, Duet Design Group, Denver
Photo by David Lauer
This year’s Circle of Excellence recipients continue to elevate our landscape and enhance their legacies. Here, learn about winning interior designer Miranda Cullen, co-founder, Duet Design Group.
“I’ve been a designer exactly half my life,” says Miranda Cullen, co-founder of Duet Design Group. “I got my first internship when I was 21, and now I’m 42.” Having to choose between a couple of options after junior college, she says, “I was true to myself. I said, ‘Design is really what I need to do.’ And I never looked back.”
Portrait by Jennifer Olson
A whole range of clients, from homeowners to corporate offices, celebrate Cullen’s decision. “Miranda has an innate ability to understand a client’s style—which is extraordinary—and she is adaptable," says Nancy Buese, for whom Cullen has worked on a Denver house, a Vail house and a large office space. “And even though she’s not the architect or kitchen designer or lighting designer, she will add something incredible to what they’ve come up with, so her finished product is truly a finished product. She thinks of every detail.”
After graduating with honors from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, Cullen worked at a design firm in Southern California and then at HRI Design in Denver before co-founding her own firm, MOD Interiors. She teamed up with Devon Tobin in 2011 to launch Duet Design.
Since then, the firm has earned a reputation for its uniquely beautiful commercial and residential spaces. “We try to create a timeless aesthetic—not just pushing trends—so clients won’t get tired of a house after a couple of years. We like design that is subtly understood—there’s no one overpowering thing in a room. We like to work closely with architects and builders, so that when you walk into a space, it’s a beautiful symphony. Everything complements. Everything’s beautiful. Everything just feels good.”
"A designer should be able to do any look," says Cullen. Above: A soft modern dining room. [Photo by David Lauer]
Written in the stars: “I recently found a little journal I put together when I was 10 or 11. It’s hysterical. I literally wrote: ‘My future family and life’ and painted a picture of who I would be as an adult, who I’d be married to, what my kids would look like, the cars I would drive, my china pattern, the furniture in my house, as well as the floor plan. It was my destiny to create homes.”
Colorado, then and now: “The evolution of design here is amazing, and I like to think that a part of what I did when I came here from California was to push that envelope. Today, Colorado has no specific aesthetic. This is such a transplant state, with people coming from the East Coast, the West Coast, the South. So there are all these opportunities for people to bring those distinct personal elements to their houses. And for me, well, I never thought in a million years I’d own a cow hide, and now I do.”
Above: the hall of a historic Denver residence. Photo by Emily Minton Redfield
Biggest lessons learned: “One thing that Devon and I say all the time is that there is no life and death in interior design. When you’re starting out, everything is so traumatic. ‘Oh my god! A sofa came in and it’s the wrong color.’ Now I know that—you know what?—we’ll just fix it.”
pièce de résistance: “We just installed a home for a young family who recently had their fifth child, all under the age of 7. And watching the kids skipping through the house, going, ‘Oh my gosh! This is so fun! Look at this room—it’s my favorite!’ Their little faces—just seeing how we were affecting their environment—was a pretty big deal. Once you have children—my husband and I have two adopted kids—they do such amazing things for you. They really ground you in the important things in life.”