Steven Starr is an award-winning designer, published author and sought-after speaker. After working in New York City with renowned designer David Rockwell, Steve became a nationally-recognized industry leader in restaurant and retail design. In 1996, Steve moved to Charlotte and started the restaurant and store design studio at Little Diversified Architectural Consulting. Growing it into a retail design powerhouse, he worked with some of America’s most recognizable brands, including Planet Hollywood, Krispy Kreme, and Dean & Deluca. Realizing that he desired a more hands-on approach to design on a daily basis, Steve created what is now starrdesign in 2007.
And, while all that is completely accurate…… who are we kidding? This is Steve we’re talking about! Steve is a self-professed nerd. Especially when it comes to lighting, marketing, entrepreneurship or organizational behavior. He’s a sucker for anyone asking him to be on the board for almost any non-profit organization, and he has a tendency to read a new book and turn the entire office upside down. We’re quite used to hearing him walk in the office and exclaim, “So I was reading this book, and I think...” But his passion is contagious.
Steve has a high standard of excellence that influences all of his decisions in the office, although he’s often a little impatient (with a dash of ADD) to be a perfectionist himself. His energy is dynamic and abundant in excess – we tend to blame the (what seems like) dozens of cups of coffee he drinks every day, which often leads to him misplacing his coffee mug. Don’t worry; we’ve picked up the habit of hiding it around the office, just to make it harder for him to find.
Steve is a total foodie. But not just for any kind of food – Steve likes exceptional meals. From cooking at home to dining out, he won’t settle for anything less than the best. If you even need a restaurant recommendation in any iconic city across the US – he’s your man.
Finally, Steve is always talking to people. Whether it’s in person or on the phone, he has the ability to turn a 5 minute meeting into 25 minutes. Seriously, though. We’re pretty sure he could talk to a wall. One of his passions lies in helping people make connections, and he sincerely enjoys mentoring the younger staff in the office. Steve is a genuine leader. His decisions revolve around what is best for the team. And we truly appreciate that sense of care and leadership every day.
Mimi loves to juggle. Unfortunately we haven’t convinced her to take up actual juggling yet – but she’s always working on multiple things at once. She is an eternal multi-tasker. But she says she likes it that way, and would be bored otherwise. When it comes to work, Mimi enjoys getting in the trenches and not just being a spectator. Creating, designing, collaborating ideas – she’s there. As an Associate Partner, Mimi is continuously putting others before herself, and her selfless nature is evident in everything she does. She thrives on mentorship, and constantly helps support the rest of our team. Mimi is a true leader.
Mimi graduated from the University of Tennessee with a bachelors of architecture, and has been working in the industry for over 20 years. At this point, she’s touched almost every sector type. The wide diversity in her portfolio was completely intentional, as she enjoys the innovation and creativity in dealing with different types of projects. Mimi works hard and laughs often. She’s always encouraging others, and even when she’s stressed, she doesn’t let it affect her demeanor. Joy seems to come natural to Mimi. Sometimes we think she might be wonder woman. But her inherent humility would hate us suggesting that.
Mimi is married to an architect and together they’re raising their two sons. She enjoys spending time with all three of her boys – from biking and camping, to playing with legos. Apparently her kids love legos. We guess they can’t help it, architecture really runs in their genes. Mimi and her husband are eternal designers, and are currently renovating their new home in the woods. Mimi says it feels like they’re always camping these days – and she couldn’t be happier. With her busy life at home, Mimi is constantly keeping her work-life balance in check. What can we say – Mimi just has that natural tendency to continuously juggle.
Brie’s life currently consists of two themes: diapers, and the never-ending quest for sleep. Brie is a new mom, for the second time around. Her and her husband are getting used to juggling two little boys, in what she’s sure is about to be a noisy household. However, Brie also enjoys going to the mountains often, which balances out the hectic, demanding day-to-day life in the city. She welcomes the quiet, surrounded by just bugs and owls.
Brie got her bachelor of design in architecture from Clemson University and her masters of architecture from Michigan. But she’s still more likely to sport orange and purple on office collegiate days – Go Tigers. We don’t blame her. Michigan was just too cold. Brie’s previous experience is all over the map, and she now works as our Project Manager for Zoës Kitchen. Brie thrives on the challenge of a fast-paced client, and she enjoys staying busy. Her favorite part of the restaurant industry is the level of creativity brought to each project. She loves being able to push the envelope – but she loves even more working for a client that supports and embraces that sense of design exploration.
With two young boys in the house, Brie has a lot of aspirations for hobbies, without actually currently having time for those hobbies. She is thinking about picking up running again, though – in the past she’s run a full marathon and a few half-marathons. Yeah, we were impressed, too. Brie has also been rediscovering her joy of legos with her son. Do you know how many different vehicles you can build with one set? They don’t either. But they haven’t hit the limit yet. Brie is happy to be back in the office during the day and spending time with her family in the evenings – still balancing her sleep with those diaper changes.
“starrdesign – this is Alexander!” If you’ve ever called our office during off-hours, chances are you’ve heard this phrase rattled off like clockwork. Alexander is our trusty phone guy. After interning with us for three summers while still in school, he inadvertently took on the responsibility of answering general calls. We guess old habits die hard – especially since he never really seems to leave the office. Although, with his extensive collection of oversized watches, we’re not quite sure why he can’t remember when it’s time to head home.
As one of the few native Charlottians, Alexander wandered down to New Orleans for Mardi Gras – we mean, an education at Tulane University. In only five years, he earned a Masters of Architecture, Bachelors of Architecture and Bachelors of Management with a focus in Marketing. Combining these fields helped him understand how architecture can be used to create a strong brand with committed customers. Apparently he didn’t spend too much time enjoying Mardi Gras.
Alexander has created a network of friends all over the world and is zealous about travel – which has led to him spending many a night on people’s couches. After exploring places like Israel and Southeast Asia, he now has his sights set on Costa Rica. Until then, he can usually be found in the office… often answering the phone.
If our office had its own background playlist, the top tracks might include: Whirlwind of a Plotter Printer, The Hustle of Making a Deadline, and The Ever-present Hiccups of Ashlee Jones. We can’t explain why this is (we’re architects – not doctors), but a day doesn’t pass without a chorus of hiccups sounding from Ashlee’s desk. Don’t worry; we’re all used to tuning it out by now. One thing you can’t ignore: Ashlee’s high sense of fashion. She’s constantly sporting the latest clothing and accessories – complete with designer purses and chic heels. Ashlee always looks stylish.
Ashlee originally wanted to go to med school, but quickly realized that her heart was in design. However, after graduating from SCAD, she became immersed in healthcare design. It’s funny how things work out. After a few years in the industry and knowing she needed some creative change, Ashlee switched to the fast-paced world of retail design. With a confident personality and willingness to share her opinions, Ashlee thrives in interior design.
In her free time, Ashlee enjoys hiking the NC Mountains, trying local craft beers, and eating fresh foods. She’s a bit of a health nut, and is regularly seen carrying her sleek water bottle around the office. Although Ashlee detests typical exercise, she’s recently taken up barre ballet classes to stay in shape. Ashlee also enjoys singing and creating music. If you don’t believe us, just listen for the next round of her hiccup chorus– we’re sure there will be another one within the hour.
With a love of exploring new places, Brenna has lived in a collection of cities around the US. After growing up in Birmingham, AL, she moved to upstate NY to attend Skidmore College. Through her travels during college, she was astonished at the varying architectures around the world. After graduating with a degree in studio art, she moved home and helped her dad remodel his new house. Her interest was piqued, eventually leading her to the University of Miami where she graduated with a Masters of Architecture.
Looking for a new place to settle down, Brenna discovered Charlotte and fell in love with the city. From its growing population to the differing cultures of the neighborhoods, she knew it was the perfect place to call her new home. While Brenna’s friends might describe her as meticulous, she claims that she’s just particular – she simply likes things to be done her way! And we appreciate that sense of perfectionism, especially when it comes to her work. We know we can rely on Brenna to get the job done well.
Brenna loves spending time with her dad, from hunting in South America to going on a safari in Africa. They take any chance they can to go on adventures. She’s a self-proclaimed daddy’s girl. Brenna adores animals and openly admits to having a mini zoo at her home, complete with three cats and a dog! She also has an affinity for zombie shows, or really anything zombie-related. Her dog even has a “zombie hunter” tag on her collar. In her free time, Brenna enjoys training for and participating in half marathons and triathlons. Yep, you read that correctly – we were impressed, too. That’s just like Brenna though, always exploring new things!
Jay’s typical communications can be described in three ways: short, sweet and to-the-point. That is, unless you get him started talking about backyard grilling, barbecue or trying out that new local restaurant in town.
Jay started his career in art with a focus in graphic design, which influences his approach to projects today. His desire to see everything blend together in a space led him to the field of architecture, where he believes in providing the total package to clients. Jay enjoys travelling to new spaces and appreciates functionality in design. His background in graphic design brings a unique level of innovation in his work.
Jay is a passionate traveler, photographer and self-proclaimed foodie. Not to mention a gourmet cook in his spare time. His favorite dish to prepare would have to be his fall back: baby back pork ribs in the smoker with pineapple upside-down cake, baked fresh in his Dutch oven. Jay often uses his talent in the kitchen to raise money for the Lupus Foundation of NC, organizing a new fundraising event each year. We might not always hear his voice around the office – but our noses can always tell when he brings in a hot breakfast to share.
What do you get when you combine eight siblings, one cattle farm and the freedom to explore hands on projects for fun? Well we can tell you what we got – our dedicated and passionate architect, Jeff! Ever since building his first model in 7th grade, Jeff knew he wanted to be an architect. In high school he started a business building gazebos with his twin brother, who he’s still close with today. Jeff brags that they often communicate without saying a word – we guess that sharing a bedroom with someone for the first 18 years of your life can do that!
Jeff graduated from UF with a Masters of Architecture, and worked for the university for a number of years during the recession. One day he decided to pack everything that would fit in his car and drive to a new city. We didn’t believe it either! But he wound up in Charlotte, NC – and we are so glad he did. Having both design and construction experience has significantly shaped Jeff’s career. Seeing projects being built helps him understand how his drawings can best reflect the realities of construction. With 8 years of experience in the industry, he is a vital asset to our team.
You often don’t hear Jeff in the office, but he explains that he’s just laser focused. Combine his strong work ethic with his love for architecture, and he tends to get absorbed in his computer screen! In his spare time, Jeff enjoys spending time outdoors. Whether he’s hiking the Appalachian Trail with his Jack Russell or riding his motorcycle through the city, Jeff loves a new adventure. During his career, he once spent a number of months in India designing an IT complex. From horseback riding in the Himalayas to exploring Portuguese settlements on the Southern tip – Jeff was sure to see it all while he was there. And we wouldn’t expect anything less!
Laura’s contagious laughter can be heard throughout the office on any given day. Her stories – whether they’re past tales of life up North or daily antics of her two teenage boys – often have us laughing along, and we quite enjoy them.
Laura is our numbers person. She fits naturally into her role of caretaker here in the office –from reminding us to track our hours or submit expense reports to making sure we stay in the black. We’re probably giving her premature gray hair – but with her nurturing spirit, she doesn’t seem to mind. Laura likes working on the behind-the-scenes productions, making sure things are running smoothly. Her vibrant and outgoing personality makes her an entertaining addition to any discussion. Just don’t try to corner her into a long meeting with no end in sight; that would be her worst nightmare.
While much of her life revolves around caring for her family, Laura’s favorite spare time activities are reading, baking and completing crossword, mind bending and jigsaw puzzles. As a naturally early riser, Laura wakes up before dawn to drive her son to school, and is the first one in the office each morning. She’s an inherent caregiver. We don’t know what we would do without her fostering nature or easy-going laughter in our office each day.
LJ is our very own easygoing Midwestern girl turned Southerner. She loves to laugh and never seems to be bothered by much at all. LJ enjoys staying active, from running and playing tennis to spending time outdoors with her friends. We like to claim that it’s just our Southern hospitality that keeps her smiling – but she says that she’s always been that way.
LJ earned a degree in Interior Design from Purdue, where she was a member of both ASID and IIDA professional student groups. After graduating, she began working for a small firm close to home in Indy that focused on corporate office design. Before moving to Charlotte, LJ was living in the house where she had been born. We weren’t surprised though – LJ loves routine.
Transitioning to the South was quite a big move for her. She says that she was simply ready for change. But don’t worry, she’s been busy settling into her new routine here in the Carolinas – and she’s been loving it. Little known fact: LJ’s full name is Laura Jones, and she typically went by Laura before moving to Charlotte. But since we already had a Laura on the team, she agreed to go by LJ instead. That just shows how easygoing she really is.
When asked what she likes to do for fun, Lindsey will quickly respond: ride horses. She was an active member of the equestrian team throughout college and still loves riding to this day. With her positive outlook and friendly nature, Lindsey isn’t easily angered. In fact, she’s often found around the office smiling. From kittens and ponies to glitter and heels, Lindsey loves everything girly.
Recently graduating from Appalachian State with degrees in Business Marketing and Management, Lindsey brings her organizational and social skills to the design world. Previously serving as the treasurer of the equestrian team and being on the executive board for App State Club Sports, Lindsey has extensive experience facilitating organizations and ensuring things are running smoothly.
Born and raised in Wake Forest (the town, not the University), Lindsey is a sweet Southern belle. As an old pageant girl, her outgoing and bubbly disposition shines through everything she does. We’re still trying to convince her to wear a crown to the office – at least for a day. Lindsey’s favorite part of pageant life was the community service aspect, and she used to volunteer with an equestrian rehab center. We weren’t surprised, either. There she goes again – talking about horses!
If Rachel is seen in the office before 9am, something must be wrong. Needless to say, Rachel isn’t a morning person. However, with a mind that runs a mile a minute, she tends to work hard and work fast. Rachel has a habit of completing numerous tasks simultaneously – which often results in a desk covered in post-its. That’s part of the reason we sat her in the back of the office.
Before joining our team, Rachel was active as a freelance journalist and the editor of a scientific research magazine. Mainly, she spent a lot of time reading and writing about how things work. Embracing her creative side, Rachel enjoys the excitement of marketing for a design firm. She thrives on facilitating tasks, and she always makes sure the job gets done – no matter how many times she may need to bug us. Rachel’s flexibility allows her to adapt quickly, and she openly embraces changes. Rachel graduated from Clemson University in biological sciences and communications, and she’ll always bleed orange.
Rachel’s private nature and willingness to try new things make her quite an enigma in the office. Believe us; we’ve been trying to figure her out for years – but at the end of the day, she always does something to surprise us. Rachel is an explorer at heart. Her constant yearning to travel has led her to visit places like Belgium, Singapore… and even Idaho. Her curiosity is never at rest. In her spare time, Rachel can be found working on DIY projects, volunteering with her church, spoiling her dog with long walks – and of course, sleeping in.
With a small farm outside of Asheville and a passionate love of the outdoors, Sarah is our very own hobby farmer. Her comfortable outfit of choice: blue jeans and muck boots. But don’t be fooled, she’s often seen wearing unique, handmade metalwork jewelry around the office. As a true nurturer, Sarah enjoys everything from tending to her lilies to volunteering at various organizations around town – although she admits she got a little over zealous in that area this past year!
Sarah joined our team with a diverse background. She began her education in fine art with a focus in metal sculpture, and later studied visual communications. Her combined education led her toward branded environments rather than the traditional line of graphics. Sarah has experience in web, print, illustration, branding, exhibits, environmental graphics and interiors. She’s done it all. As Art Director here at starrdesign, she especially enjoys working on brand development for new concepts. Sarah creates and manages many of our custom design features all the way through production.
Sarah is a creative explorer at heart. Her curiosity leads her to question everything – and she’s not afraid to offer a new thought or opinion. If there’s a problem, she’s right there trying to solve it. Sarah has two energetic muses, her children, Alice and Jasper. In her free time, she enjoys early morning boot camp, reading novels (although these days she’s more accustomed to picking up children’s books), and spending time in the mountains – recharging with nature.