Spokane Journal of Business

Pacific Design Co. sees opportunities in change

New-business clients bring culture, personality

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-Karina Elias
Shaleesa Mize, owner of Pacific Design Co., oversaw the interior design for The Man Shop headquarters building, under construction on Spokane’s North Side.

Shaleesa Mize, owner and founder of Pacific Design Co., says what intrigues her the most about the commercial design landscape in Spokane is the number of new boutiques, quirky businesses, little restaurants, and coffee shops that she’s noticed popping up in the last few years.

“That’s what I get excited about because it’s where I see culture coming in and growing in Spokane,” says Mize.

Mize sees an opportunity for interior designers to develop these niche spaces based on their distinct brands. The Man Shop, for example, is a Spokane-based chain of barber shops with a offbeat space filled with framed memorabilia. When thinking about how to design its corporate office at 801 W. Francis., Mize thought it best to showcase the training center, which is a small example of the barber shops themselves, near the reception desk to highlight the company’s brand and personality when visitors first enter.

“It’s the same for these smaller businesses. I think there’s a lot of opportunity to pull a brand and that brand’s message to its interior … and reflect the message it wants to send,” says Mize.

In addition to highlighting the company’s personality, the Man Shop’s corporate office is designed as a collaborative work environment, with a culmination of different seat groupings, lounge chairs, and modular benches and furniture that can be moved for events. The office is currently empty of furniture but is nearing completion.

Mize started Pacific Design in 2017 and says the company’s revenue has double each year. In January, when she returned from maternity leave, she had a growing waitlist of clients and hired a full-time junior designer to keep up with demand.

Mize adds that there is a boom in both residential and commercial construction, and she doesn’t see it going down anytime soon. She currently has 15 ongoing projects.

She operates Pacific Design out of a home office but envisions her business growing to a team of five designers at which point she will look into having a formal business space.

A born-and-raised Spokanite, Mize first began shadowing designers in junior high school. In high school, she was an intern for Integrus Architecture PS. She attended Spokane Falls Community College, where she studied interior design and was an intern for HDG Architecture before transferring to Washington State University and receiving her bachelor’s degree in interior design in 2013.

She moved to Denver for a year and worked as an interior designer and architectural assistant for a design-build firm, where she completed several residential projects.

“When I was in school, our professors always told us basically how important it was to travel, because Spokane is about 10 years behind big cities and Europe,” adds Mize of her year in Denver.

She adds that with the internet and rise of social media sites like Pinterest, that gap has narrowed to about three to five years.

Mize says people often are afraid to invest in things they feel might be trendy.

“It’s one thing to know what’s happening, and it can be another challenge to get people to embrace those things when they haven’t seen it. It can feel scary,” adds Mize.

As an example, she pointed out the black steel-framed windows installed at The Man Shop’s corporate office. Mize says that she began implementing that design while working in Denver, and it took some time for it to reach Spokane, yet she still gets clients who are ambivalent about its validity and longevity.

“However, if you look at where it originated, you will see it being used in warehouses and industrial-style buildings,” she explains. “So, something that can feel like a trend can actually be something that has been used for hundreds of years.”

Mize describes her personal design style as “warm organic modern” in which she uses a lot of wood, warm tones, and organic materials. She says her portfolio showcases a variety of work, however, and she attributes that to Spokane’s big blend of distinctive styles, from historic and traditional to a growing number of modern designs.

In the past two years, Mize has mostly worked on small home renovations as more people improved their homes while in quarantine. About half of her clients were new residents from Seattle and Bellevue whose deeper pockets allowed for entire houses to be gutted and renovated.

“I think we will start to see some different trends play out over the years as we get a new type of culture and lifestyle moving in,” Mize says.

She adds that while renovations had increased in response to the pandemic, it has also been a struggle executing projects in a climate of back orders, discontinued items, and long lead times. As a strategy to prevent lag times, she selects and purchases items and materials before the construction crew can begin demolition, instead of purchasing items as the project moves along.

Mize recently met with her plumbing representative because she noticed the lead time had grown to six months for some items that once were in stock or available within a couple of weeks. She learned that a German company that produces a popular line of sinks and faucets in Ukraine has shut down production. She’s also learned that other companies, like Indianapolis-based Brizo Kitchen & Bath Co., which also makes faucets, are only producing their top-selling pieces because they’ve been operating with skeleton crews.

“We’re so low on contractors and subcontractors, it’s difficult to get projects executed on time, on top of getting materials,” says Mize, adding that she worries about supply-chain issues also impacting her creativity.

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Karina Elias
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Reporter Karina Elias covers the banking and finance industry. A California native, she attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. Karina loves salsa dancing, traveling, baking, cuddling with her dog, and writing creative fiction and non-fiction.  

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