White Hot + Blue


Photography by Paul Aizaga

It is one thing to be fully aware of the enduring genius of Jack Lenor Larsen – the single most important textile designer of all time, and quite another to be fortunate enough to be included in one of LongHouse Reserve’s mid-summer events.


I recently returned from a party that was like none other  I have been to, heard about,or seen. Winged creatures, synchronized swimmers, an outdoor sculpture collection that is phenomenal.


It was not the glamour of the evening, it was not the casual luxury of the moment, it was the awe-inspiring coming together of so much creativity and those who recognize it, participate in it and support it financially. No one that attended will ever be quite the same .



Photography by Paul Aizaga

Thank you again Jack.Your event was an inspiration.

Michael Merrill ASID, CID, NKBA

Jerry Smith – Artist, Friend, Colleague

It is with great sorrow that I learned of  the untimely passing  of my friend and colleague Jerry Smith. Jerry was the eldest of 3 brothers born in Philadelphia on November 3, 1965.  He attended the Tyler school of art for his undergraduate degree and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for his graduate degree.  His paintings were shown at the Carl Hammer Gallery in Chicago as well as the Bucheon Gallery in San Francisco.  He co-founded Connell-Smith Fine Art Services in 2001 with his wife and business partner Laurel Connell. He was an amazing painter, an avid reader of literature and newspapers, a lover of music, and most of all,  a great friend. We will all  miss him dearly. Contributions are being accepted in his honor to the California College of the Arts and the Langley Porter Psychiatric Care Institute at the University of California San Francisco Campus.

 Jerry Smith

Langley Porter Psychiatric Care Institute at the University of California San Francisco Campus : nextmission.ucsf.edu and hit Make a Gift button

California College of the Arts: Contact Emily Major at 510-594-3784 or emajor@cca.edu.

Technology in a Design Firm Pt. II

Accurate, instantaneous communication and transparency are vital in today’s complex design projects. How can a boutique design firm – like most residential firms – answer these demands?

FEBRUARY 2012 – Project Specific Websites

Recently we found ourselves in a position in which we are working on four projects in varying locations that have extensive construction components. Construction requires drawings, changes, challenges and perpetual communication. Obviously we can’t be everywhere the very minute we are needed.

We create and control the sites. BC ImageThey are private and accessible by invitation only. We define and upload all of the information. The sites include but are certainly not limited to: job site photography, the complete drawing package, building material specifications, furnishings, fabrics, budget analysis, maintenance instructions, contracts, invoices, payments – the options are endless! Any changes are updated immediately and each of the relevant parties is notified via coordinated email alerts. To-do lists and calendars are included as you might imagine.

So far the response is very positive. I am sure with experience we will be able to improve on our current test sites. One challenge that has presented itself is for people using smart phones to access the site – the drawings aren’t large enough to be legible. We don’t have an answer for that yet, but you can be sure we are working on it.

Mach 2014 – Digital Client Sample Files

Digital 1 copyPermanent, accessible and accurate information is key in all industries. Nowhere is this more vital than in a database of existing and proposed elements in a physical environment. Currently, we are planning and testing new ways of documenting these details digitally. Finishes, textiles, flooring, stone, furnishings, accessories, and other important elements will be included along with written specifications.  We are developing  another section that will hold images  of items  under consideration. As always,  we will test these new digital resources on a limited number of our clients prior to offering them more widely.

I encourage each of you to try new ways to use technology to advance your firm. You never know, unless you try, what you have to gain. The future is really yours to imagine – yours to create.



Technology In A Design Firm Part I



Michael Merrill Design StudioIt is my firm belief that digital technology plays a vital role in our industry today. Here are a few examples of how and why we have used technology in ways that were new to us.

MAY 1998 – Design Concepts

_MG_4309I was pondering how to best file and access images that I had torn out of design magazines. I could never find them, they were damaged when I eventually did find them, or worst of all, and they were so ugly I couldn’t imagine why I had selected the image in the first place.

The solution I devised was simple, but definitely time consuming. After I selected every image I wanted from that month’s periodicals, someone in my office would scan the images, crop them as needed, and then file them digitally. I assigned each image to one or more categories based on what I found instructive about the image. Currently we are using 35 categories. Now it is very easy to look up kitchens, staircases, fireplaces and so forth.

This is a terrific resource for a design firm as well as a great selling point to a new prospective client. We found that it was years into the process before our firm really started using the database. Now it is invaluable in communication with clients, contractors and one another. It is also a great source of inspiration available to everyone in our office.

SEPTEMBER 2007 – Digital Product Catalog

Four years ago we were commissioned to specify seven distinct plans for all of the furnishings for 400 homes in South Korea, totally 1,600,000 square feet overall. I couldn’t imagine how we could select, let alone organize that many products. We began by taking all of our favorite catalogs and selecting the individual items that we thought might be suitable. Once we had compiled approximately 2,000 images, we then put them into manila folders marked in big letters “BEDS,” DINING TABLES,” “LOUNGE CHAIRS,” etc. The next step, the trans-formative step, was to scan each tear sheet and then prepare it for presentation by removing everything but the image itself. No text and no identification would remain. At the very last minute, I suggested that we keep the copies of the original of the original scanned tear sheets – their usefulness soon became apparent.

We had just been paid not only to produce comprehensive specifications for our clients, but also to create the beginnings of our very own digital catalog. There are so many reasons this works better than printed catalogs. I will suggest a few for you to consider. We all shop by product type, not by manufacturer. I am looking for a dining table – I am not just looking for ANYTHING by a certain manufacturer. Second, I no longer have a printed library in our office – I have something much more useful – my own edited selection of the products I would like to show and use. The savings in rent, the savings in time, and the accessibility to this information anywhere in the world are all powerful arguments in favor of this solution. Third, you no longer need to flip by endless items that you would never use each time you open a catalog.


Part II to follow next week!


‘I was getting more than I was giving’ – Article by The ReMarker

campus 2

“In giving to the people in your community, you will always get back, in my experience, as fast as I give.”

All of us have resources and strengths that we take for granted or even forget. Over the last few years I have been increasingly aware of the resources I have from the boys school I attended for ten years in Dallas. I have received numerous projects and been given many opportunities to help others in their careers. Recently the award winning  student newspaper The ReMarker  wrote a rather long article about this very matter. The following excerpt is especially interesting:

Michael Merrill Selfie

“A ‘no’ does not mean a ‘no’ forever or ‘no’ in ever way. It means ‘no’, not right now, not in that way, but maybe there is a way you could modify this to where it becomes a ‘yes’ or where it’s effective.”



To view the entire article please click on the link below




Clarellen Adams

Galleria Image-MMDSOriginally I visited San Francisco in the summer of 1977 as a young gay man in search of a happier place to live. At that time, the design district was located in the Ice House and in Jackson Square. They were wonderful and so was the city. I dreamed of living here one day and of having a design office in wonderfully sophisticated  Jackson Square. It certainly was a world apart from Austin, Texas.

As it turns out, the shift was premature for me. When I did finally make it here for good, in the summer of 1987, Clarellen and Henry Adams had turned the design industry on its ear – moving the entire district South of Market to the site it now occupies 30 plus years later. Henry Adams had already passed away, but certainly his memory and his accomplishments had not. 

Clarellen – well that is another story. She was as vibrant and alive as anyone I have ever known. We worked on many projects together and she was always there supporting every part of the industry. On the occasion of her 90th birthday party – beautifully hosted by Applegatge Tran Interiors – I remarked that I hoped that as many people would attend my funeral as were at her birthday party. Clarellen replied, ” Don’t worry honey, I will be there!”That is the kind of dear woman our Clarellen was.

Clarellen and  Michael Resto

Clarellen will be in our hearts & memories forever!