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Islander entrepreneurs and design professionals, Colleen and Michael Knowles, are the recipients of what could be regarded as an enviable media coup; major attention via online media. Such attention, usually gained with the cost of time and hard work, is priceless.
On March 21, the couple was named as recipients of the 2012 “Best of Remodeling” for Seattle from Houzz, a website that features work for residential remodeling and home design.
Knowles was one of 10 professional design firms from Seattle given the distinction, which came from web statistics that tallied how many images were viewed and downloaded. The website also allows viewers to ask questions directly of the designer.
The awards were given for the most popular images from Seattle designers across all types of living spaces; from kitchens and bedrooms to bathrooms and outdoor living spaces. Winners’ work was the most popular among the 1.2 million members, also known as “Houzzers,” who saved more than 16.5 million professional images to their personal ideabooks via the Houzz site and an iPad/iPhone app.
The Knowles are pleased about the distinction, but their lives have not changed. They are partners in life as well as in design. Together they operate an architecture and interior design firm and studio on Mercer Island, Knowles PS, that offers professional architectural and interior design services to both residential and commercial clients. They established the studio in 2003 and are committed to the development of highly integrated and well-crafted projects.
It is just the two of them along with several professional partners and contractors who are part of any design project.
“Yes, we are a small firm,” Colleen Knowles said. “We do smaller architectural projects with interior design elements. We do a variety of jobs — large and small. Being small naturally limits the number of jobs we can do and that gives us a way to focus.”
The Knowles have posted samples of their work on the Houzz website since 2011.
They are pleased by others’ response to their work.
“It is an acknowledgement of your work, when people say ‘we like this.’” Colleen Knowles said.
People go to the Internet and look at blogs and ideas, she continued. It is another way to spread the word about a designer or contractor.
The couple does not underestimate the power of referrals and connections. The Knowles do not advertise, Colleen said. They receive all of their work through referrals.
As Michael adds, it is still most important to have the face-to-face interaction through networking, doing good work and having good relationships with contractors.
It has worked well for them.
“We are absolutely overwhelmed with work,” Colleen said. Much of it can be attributed to a gradually improving economy, her husband added.
She said they receive about three emails with questions and comments each day from the Houzz site that they squeeze in time to answer. But so far, they have one possible job in the works, Michael Knowles said.
The Knowles, who have lived on the Island for 10 years, work out of a studio in the backyard of their home near Mercer Island High School. They have two school-age children.
Both hold degrees from Washington State University, where they met. Michael received a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1992. He is a licensed architect in the states of Washington and California. Colleen received a Bachelor of Arts in Interior Design in 1991. She holds nationally recognized NCIDQ certification.
A tour around the portfolio of some of their residential projects shows clean modern lines that blend with homes that range from ranch-style homes to classic turn-of-the-century ‘Seattle Box’ style architecture on Capitol Hill. From kitchens to entryways, they are sleek and simple and artfully spacious.