Photographs provided by Tracy A. Davis
Above left: Tracy Davis, Allied member ASID and Principal of Urban Dwellings, photo by Emilie Inc.
Above right: Home kitchen space design, photo by Darren Setlow
For urban dwellers, there are often a host of recurring challenges that range from a lack of closet space to generic beige carpeting. Paint colors change, light fixtures are replaced, but still the struggle remains of how to create an interior that speaks to, and of, the individual. This conundrum is largely what drives Tracy A. Davis, the Principal of the Portland, Maine and New York City-based design firm Urban Dwellings. Her creative team is a collaboration of architectural design, travel, communications, photography, interior design and illustration. These skills are all applied collectively to create interior spaces that are based on architectural understanding, and that reflect the emotions and personality of their clients in an urban setting.
Tracy A. Davis speaks with Ava Living:
Travel has played a role in your interior design work in the past, and has helped to focus your attention on the details of cultural and spatial living. Is this still an influence in your current work? Do you travel for inspiration and new ideas?
Yes, traveling remains a constant source of renewal and resource for me. I often find that my travel experiences leave me craving more, and they help to feed the creative energy that guides my design process. I feel like I’m a student that is constantly observing the ever-changing requirements of generations, cultures and the economic needs of human connectedness.
Your design team has an extensive range of varying experience. Do you feel that this broad skill set allows your company to be more approachable and diverse with the types of projects that you take on?
Our combined unique and varied professional experiences form the foundation of Urban Dwellings. Drawing upon these experiences has enabled us to produce work that is creative, original and very personal.
Above: Detail shot of home kitchen space design, photo by Darren Setlow
The focus of your company is to reinvent city living through chic interiors that celebrate all aspects of urban lifestyles. Do you find that you have a personal affinity for urban living, or was this concentration based more in the opportunity to fill a gap in a niche market?
The birth of Urban Dwellings came from my affair with the urban landscape and a vision to promote a design esthetic dedicated to spatial design. Coincidentally, this concept meshed with a social movement, which was quickly moving across the country. Less was really more.
Your main office is located in Portland, Maine, and you just opened a second space in New York City. What were the driving forces behind this recent expansion?
It has been a long-standing goal/dream (stemming in design school) to offer our design esthetic inclusive of services and furniture design, beyond a local market. The New York lifestyle is the ultimate offering – privacy, intellect, individualism, style, gastronomy… perpetual motion!
Above: Outdoor living space, photo by Mark Rockwood
Your featured interiors are a beautiful mix of natural light, organic materials, and a relaxed modern décor. Can you tell us a bit about your choice of materials and your general design philosophy when creating these spaces?
Each space is considered on an individual basis as I strive to understand the inhabitant’s spatial and emotional needs. My selections are a direct response to that. Design shouldn’t be about ego, it should be about the laughter, happiness, and joy that my understanding helped to form for the inhabitants.
I love the rawness of the exposed brick in your Middle Street Lofts and the wood beams in the East End Industrial space that are juxtaposed with modern fixtures and sleek design classics. Is this rawness a nod to the building’s original structure? Can you tell us a bit about the dichotomy between the varying elements?
The Middle Street project was a complete rehab whereas East End Industrial is new construction. The dichotomy was more about the client’s shift from a traditional shingle style of the 1920’s to an industrial modern of the Bauhaus genre.
Above: Kitchen space, photo by Mark Rockwood
How does your design platform fit with your own interior space?
I’ve recently purchased a house, which is very exciting! The house is nearly 100 years old, making remodeling and renovations a must. During these upgrades, I’ve really looked at my desire for a clean crispness, and a void of details, while still embracing the age of the house, from the moldings to the pumpkin pine flooring. The skylights, which are a new addition, allow me to really enjoy the light.
Do you subscribe to the same philosophies and guidance that you offer your clients?
Yes, I absolutely subscribe to the same guidance and philosophies that I offer to my clients. My home is really all about my own creature comforts, including my cat. I’ve tried to keep parts of my mid-western youth within the design as well. The mixture of old and new with simple pieces help to keep me grounded.
Above: Detail shot of dining space, photo by Mark Rockwood
In addition to your design practice, you’re also an instructor with the Boston Architectural College. How does one aspect of your career influence the other?
My design career has been deeply influenced by the instructors that I had in design school, and it has long been part of my philosophy to pay it forward. In keeping with that philosophy, the experiences that I have had both personally and professionally have enhanced the education passed on through academia in hope that these students will keep moving it forward.
What do you love most about educating and assisting students in the field of interior design?
I love the energy and naiveté. I often end up learning as much from my students as they learn from me, whether it’s personal, social, or political. Mostly, I’ve learned that design is based on human interaction within environments.
I’m curious to hear what projects you have in the works for 2010. Where can we keep an eye out for your designs this year?
We’re starting the year out with the completion of a project that has been three years in the making, very exciting! We also have two coastal Maine homes in the line up. Stay tuned to our newly redesigned website for what’s happening in Maine, New York, and the surrounding areas, and make sure to keep a look out for us in upcoming publications.
Written by Ehren Seeland
To contact Tracy A. Davis:
Maine office: 422 ½ Fore Street, Portland, Maine 04101
New York office: 419 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10003
Phone: (207) 780-6136