Blog: Joy Naylor & Diane Bennett

Joy Naylor

Joy Naylor is the president and founder of Distinct Designs, Inc., a single source for interior design, construction management, and corporate art for business interiors.  The company, founded in l983, specializes in assisting small companies with the process of design through construction.  Services include but are not limited to space planning, workplace furniture, construction management, and art procurement.  Clients have included corporations, healthcare, financial institutions, education, and business offices.  Services range from a one-time hourly consultation to managing the design and build out of offices for Fortune 500 companies.

She enjoys working with her son Richard, who heads up the construction department of the business.  Her passion for art is exercised through searching for art for clients and co-hosting artists' workshops, both in conjunction with Diane Bennett, owner of Budding Art Ideas.

Joy received a BA from Eastern Michigan University and an MA from the University of Michigan.  She is NICIDQ certified and has had extensive training in Feng Shui design.

Diane Bennett

Diane is an art consultant and designer with Distinct Designs, Inc.  She is also the workshop retreat director for her business, Budding Ideas. The 2-5 day multi-media art workshops, held in the Ann Arbor area, are taught by accomplished instructors from all over the country.

Diane's vast experiences have evolved around promoting Michigan-based artists and products.  After graduating from Eastern Michigan University with a degree in interior design and marketing, she worked for many years as a corporate interior designer in the metro Detroit area, where she designed offices for Fortune 500 companies as well as institutions and smaller businesses.

Utilizing her marketing skills, Diane also worked for many years an account executive and new business development manager, selling multi-millions of dollars' worth of Herman Miller products. A favorite career path responsibilities was consulting for Pfizer Global Research in Ann Arbor. There she organized over 65 Michigan-based artists exhibits and events.  

An Ann Arbor area native, Diane has two boys and currently lives in Saline, Michigan.


L to R - Joy Naylor and Diane Bennett outside their South State Street office

Photo by Doug Coombe

Joy Naylor & Diane Bennett - Most Recent Posts:

Post 3: Joy Naylor - Feng Shui Design is Energy

People ask me, does feng shui design really work?  Yes it does!  I have applied the principals of this ancient Chinese art of placement with many clients and they have had very positive results.  

Take away the mystery and know that feng shui is all about good design, common sense and intention.  Those who benefit the most make an effort to understand the principals of feng shui and are enthusiastic about putting them into play.  As a designer, I have always worked with the energy of spaces.  Feng shui provides a way to talk about that energy.  I apply the theory of the five elements derived from nature.  Yang energy is active and yin energy is quiet and still.  For example, spaces like commercial buildings and shopping places should be made very yang with lot of bright colors with an air of activity and positive energy.  For a business to be most successful, the office space should be more yang than yin, designed to be bright, airy, organized and with no dark quiet corners.  Residential spaces require less yang energy than a place of business. Nevertheless, to keep a balance, yang energy should still dominate. That’s why we typically do not paint a bedroom red as red is a fire (active) color and one would probably find it difficult to rest and sleep in that very yang energy.

The first step to good feng shui is clutter clearing.  This, by the way, is no small matter in our culture – most of us have way too much stuff!!!

Clients have shared with me that once they have started this first step – the process of clearing clutter from the home/office, they experience a sense of lightness.  Most of us have spaces that are used to house items that are not pertinent to our life/work at this point in our lives – things that are outdated, broken, borrowed, or duplications – not to speak of the things that you just might need someday or the items that were passed down to us (to keep whether you like them or not).  As these kinds of things are removed from the environment, many feel more in control of their lives and less overwhelmed.  I think everyone would agree that this makes good sense and some of us may even make every effort to control clutter.  What most people don't realize is some of the deeper ramifications of living in a cluttered space.  

Chi (energy) moves through our spaces like energy moves through our body.  An acupuncturist will tell you that if energy is not flowing freely through our body, there is a blockage which can affect our organs and thus our health in a negative way.  There are a number of reasons that energy can be blocked from flowing freely in our living spaces, but the main culprit is clutter.  Energy stagnates around clutter and can become musty and stale.  The space will feel of heavy and dull.  Conversely, being surrounded by things that you really love and use on a daily basis will elicit feelings of peace and control in your life.

Having a lot of stuff can be expensive.  We have to take care of it, clean it, move it around, maybe even pay to have it stored.  It has been estimated that clutter occupies about 45% of our living space.  If you calculate your mortgage payment in terms of square footage, you might be less casual about what items are added to the contents of the home/office.

Another disadvantage of living with clutter is how we are affected unconsciously.  We are energetically attached to every thing we own and whether we know it or not, it draws our attention.  This can cause a nagging feeling of heaviness, doom, and in some cases depression.

The occasions where I apply feng shui principals in my design business are very diverse.   
When designing a new space, there is a greater opportunity to incorporate ways to plan for the most auspious results.  

For example, when the Ann Arbor-based Lotus Center decided to completely renovate its newly acquired building, the owner's objective was to create a harmonious space that would support patients through to wellness.  As acupuncturists, they were very familiar with the principals of feng shui and we mutually gravitated to design solutions that met their business needs as well as the peaceful environment they desired.  Some of the areas of special attention were: the layout of the space allows the chi to easily circulate, a red entry door is dominant and auspiciously faces the East, a water wall greets you in the reception area, and the curved shape of the reception desk was repeated in furniture and artwork. Colors used were serene, patient rooms acoustically sound - all adding to the quietness of the environment.  The interior is simple, clean lines, and organized.  Once in this space, it is hard to leave!

Most consultations are not total renovations but are spaces with many existing conditions that cannot be changed.  It would be rare for me to suggest making structural changes just for the sake of feng shui.   When it is clear what the client's objectives are, the solutions can take many forms.

The objective of one of my work-from-home clients was to increase his income.  Upon entering his home, I saw that there was no specific place that he used as his workplace.
Designing an office in a designated area of his house put more emphasis on work habits  and gave him a greater sense of 'going to work'.   He committed to being organized, focused, and placing intention into his goal to improve his income.

Other individuals have come to me for assistance in selling or buying their homes.  Many times, this just entails staging the house to be appealing to prospective buyers. Sometimes, it is much more complicated.  For instance, I worked with a couple (a second marriage for both) who were struggling with how they could combine their households into his larger house and sell hers, the smaller of the two. He had lived in his house with his first wife and their children had grown up in the house.  We explored what it would take emotionally and physically to adjust the space to accommodate the new relationship.  After a great deal of angst they decided to move into a house that they chose together where they could create their life together without the residual energy of previous relationships.

So, does it work?  Ultimately it depends on the client.  It takes an openness to see space from a different perspective and a willingness to put your intention into high gear!!

Post 2: Artists Up Close and Personal

As designers searching for art for our clients, working with visual artists is truly a privilege.  Most welcome us into their studios to browse through their works and chat about their life as an artist.  I've learned from experience that it is best to allow for adequate time, for once in an artist studio, time stops.  

Studios are wonderful spaces filled with materials, brushes (standing at attention), tools, supplies, found objects, in-progress works, and art hanging everywhere.  Some are very neat and organized and others are quite cluttered.  Studios take many forms, from additions to the house, basements, converted garages, free-standing buildings, barns, or a converted room in the home.  Regardless, artists find a way to create a natural setting for their studio even if it's in the middle of the city.  Some are surrounded by a natural wooded area, others look out over a beautiful garden with water fountains and interesting sculptures, and still others enjoy a view of patios with vines and plants to die for. I wonder, where here do these people get the time to tend a garden? Most say it is part of the process: a time to clear the mind and find the still quiet place needed to access the inner self and intuition.  I think we all would have to agree that there is a connection between nature and the access to clarity in whatever our endeavors are. As William Wordsworth said "Come forth into the light of things, let Nature be your teacher".
I love artists.  They are free thinkers, bigger-than-life individuals, and most are eccentric.  But, always friendly and willing to talk about their passion and share their amazing stories. Like the young man that came from his dark bedroom in England to seek relief from migraine headaches and discovered his awesome talent for photography during the therapy process. Or a fugitive of the Spanish army finds his way to teaching and producing wonderful sculptures. The Zen Buddhist monk that reminds us through her books, art, and life that there are less stressful ways to view and live our lives.  Many feel pretty isolated unless they are associated with a group of other artists where they can share ideas and get constructive feedback on their work. 

I remember when I first moved to Ann Arbor, I loved visiting the old warehouse (that didn't comply with modern development) but was the home of many artist studios at a very reasonable cost.  It felt a bit like the heart beat of art in town.  I for one was proud of that small but dynamic community as it gave us easy access to artists' work and it said something about our town and the importance of supporting artists. And, support is what our artists need.  We appreciate the work that the commission for public art is currently doing and look forward to seeing Michigan artists (an awesome pool of talent) have greater opportunities to make such a significant contribution in their home state.

We have had the privilege of watching artists and our celebrity instructors at work during the three-to-four day art workshops we host at various times during the year. They are intended to be retreats at the Ann Arbor Botanical Gardens: a beautiful inspiring setting with yummy food to boot.  This is a time for personal education, rejuvenation, and focus without distraction. Experiencing that much intensity and creativity in one room is mind boggling!

Some artists produce art with the sole intent of selling their work. We have also met artists that are driven to make a statement to the world at large.  Some are working through internal turmoil and their art is predominately a conduit for expression.  Some are successful at making a living selling their work, but many are struggling, especially in the current economy.  Art needs to be shown - to connect with the public in order to keep the creative energy flowing.  We'd like to think that our efforts have contributed to that exposure and in spreading the creative energy into spaces and workplaces, hopefully tapping into the imagination of the viewer.

Most artists do not see themselves as entrepreneurs and tend to put off addressing the business tasks of their profession. Although some do a fine job of marketing their work, many are reluctant to relinquish their valuable time in the studio.  So, when we bring up topics such as social media, websites, electronic cataloguing, and of course marketing, we usually hear comments like "Well, I've been trying to get around to it" or "It takes so much time and I'm not sure where to start." 

So, like all of us following our passion, it is a real discipline to keep all the balls in the air and still stay true to oneself.


Post 1: Art Speaks About Your Business

After visiting the ArtPrize event in Grand Rapids, it is no wonder some people cringe when you say you have art to recommend for their business environment. Along with some amazing artwork, we also saw some very wild things.  One of my favorites was the hat tree, 12 feet high with numerous branches holding over 100 custom made hates of every conceivable odds and end material one could image.  They were all funny and most were pretty strange.  It stuck me as unworthy of my time until I read the artist's statement explaining what led him to make these hats. His effort to provide a bit of humor within a difficult and serious military environment got the effort he was hoping for and that experience lead to many more funny hats putting smiles on many more faces.

That wasn't the only experience of that kind during the day at ArtPrize. Many pieces of art (crafts) that I saw made no sense at all until I read the artists intent.  That didn't always make me like it any better but sometimes it helped me appreciate it more.  Usually I felt more connected to the artist's intent, but in some cases, I was still left asking myself "WHAT?"

These kinds of experiences are helpful in reminding ourselves, as designers and art consultants, of the importance of the connection of the artist and viewer.  Clients often feel concerned that they will be presented "weird stuff" and may lack the confidence to express what they like vs. what would be appropriate for a business setting.  Helping with that connection is very exciting when it happens.

For example, a local law firm, Brink, Hofer, Gilson & Lione, wanted to appeal to their clientele with some reference to the industry they serve.  Businesses buying art want to also appeal to their employees making sure that it is interesting and will support creativity.  This was especially true of Pfizer.  Dr. David Cantor was a great believer that the arts in the work environment can spur creativity in employees and worked with us in establishing several rotating exhibit spaces on campus. Rotating exhibits are also a source for finding art to purchase, such as a major university in Michigan that bought a series of one artist's work from the Eagle Crest Conference Center in Ypsilanti.

Artwork in the work place, in our opinion, will make a statement about the image of a business. For one thing, it's an opportunity to make a positive impression.  The subject matter and style of the art must make sense with respect to the kind of environment and the specific location.  For example, a high tech, cutting edge business may appreciate art that is a bit more avant garde and unusual, a style more in line with the nature of their business.  On the contrary, the artwork in a healthcare/healing environment would be much calmer, serene, but certainly no less interesting and fresh.

As interior designers, we have the ability to arrange things to obtain optimal functionality, balance, and beauty: all of which adds to a company's bottom line.  Approximately 74% of employers say that productivity improves when artwork is a part of the daily experience on the job, yet it can be a very challenging process for clients to select art and place it appropriately without help. Very often clients wish to add new pieces to existing artwork. With a new frame and mats, the image can take on a new look that enables the old to fit well with the new.  How pieces are grouped or placed in juxtaposition to other art or surroundings will add or distract from the art and how it works in the space.  Art can create moods, bring energy into a space, and calm a room that is too active. It can help make a space look larger, more intimate, or provide a focus of interest in waiting areas.  Art can contribute to good feng shui!

It is NEVER about just putting artwork on the wall.