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FOR MICHELLE Rohrer-Lauer, all it took was one project for the greater Dallas area to work its magic. Here she found friendly, approachable people and a climate that expands the possibilities for indoor-outdoor home design.

“I fell in love with the lifestyle and the people in the Dallas area while I was working on a luxurious, whole-house project for clients in Westlake,” she says. “I was impressed by the local artisans I worked with on that home. There are so many talented people here.” And she’s coming back for more. Rohrer-Lauer, a Chicago designer, decided to expand her practice to the DFW area, and she is excited about the prospects. With her new territory just a short air commute away, distance is no obstacle when it comes to her passion for creating beautiful, luxurious homes.

“I can add a new spin to the designs by incorporating top manufacturers and vendors I have built relationships with throughout the years,” she says.

After a career spanning three decades, Rohrer-Lauer has finely honed her definition of luxury. And to those thinking the word equates only with budget, the designer offers a different perspective.

“Yes, luxury is top-quality materials and exquisite craftsmanship. But it is so much more. Luxurious interior design is about creating an environment where people can thrive and be their best. It is all about lifestyle,” says Rohrer-Lauer. “When you are at home, you should enjoy the same mind-set that you have on vacation, every day. Your home should feel like a refuge. It should refresh and rejuvenate you and give you a deep sense of well-being. People often are willing to splurge on a fantastic vacation that ends in a week or two. But you spend most of your time in your home, and you deserve a retreat that gives you what a vacation gives you, day after day.”

Throughout her career, Rohrer-Lauer has embraced all design styles. “I could never do just one look,” she says. “I enjoy working with people who have a variety of tastes. I find that exciting and stimulating.”

She often finds fresh inspiration in architecture and travel. Most recently, she traveled to Capri and Spain and was struck by the relaxed cultures and their focus on gathering and leisurely meals and by timeless materials, which inform her own work.

Take the dining room, for example. Even in today’s more relaxed interiors, there are varying levels of formality, and the design needs to reflect that. “Even in a casual home, you’re still stepping it up,” she says. “When you do the dining room, it’s a step up from the kitchen. You want gorgeous fabrics and great materials but a hint of casualness, so it’s more comfortable and more approachable than the 18th-century-style dining rooms we used to do, with Chippendale dining sets and silk on the walls. Today’s chandeliers, for instance, are equally stunning, they’re just different. They have an artisanal feeling.”

Another element important to luxury interiors is the environmental footprint, says Rohrer-Lauer, a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council. “Our homes are a place of refuge, happiness and peace. Our planet is our home. I feel compelled to participate in the fight to save it,” she says.

Eco-friendly design is an incremental process, according to Rohrer-Lauer. “Small steps can make a big difference,” she says. “It is all about improving indoor air quality, rebelling against our throwaway society, protecting our natural resources and reducing the world’s carbon footprint. Eco-friendly design makes everyday life better for all of us, everywhere. I call it a life insurance policy for the future. It is my way of giving back.”

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