Michele Araquette is an interior designer, artist, and professional vocalist residing in Westminster.
Araquette grew up on the water in Essex. Always passionate about music and art, when she wasn’t rowing on the river, she was drawing, singing or playing the piano or flute.
Araquette graduated from Towson University with a BS in Finance. Though she entered college focused on getting a fine arts degree, lacking confidence and fearing there would not be ample job opportunities, she switched to finance, and put her art on the back-burner. Upon graduation, she landed a job at T. Rowe Price Services and worked her way up through the ranks, eventually becoming an assistant vice-president. During her 10 years at T. Rowe Price, she began singing professionally with a local band and got married, then left the company to raise her children.
Though Araquette was a stay-at-home mom for 17 years, she never stopped performing and took every opportunity to create art. Whether it was painting wall murals for her children’s bedrooms or face painting for parties and events, Araquette found ways to be creative.
When her daughter, Natalie, was 11, Araquette enrolled her in a sculpture class at the Zoll Studio of Fine Art in Timonium. Wanting to make good use of the time, Araquette decided to take an oil painting class at the same studio when her daughter was taking the sculpture class. The pair did this every Saturday for several years. Taking these classes reignited Araquette’s passion for fine art and refined her skills in painting in the neo-classical realism style (think old masters). It also built her confidence as an artist. Today, Araquette creates custom artwork for her clients.
In 2013, Araquette moved from Finksburg to Westminster. A friend visiting her new home was so impressed with the décor, she asked Araquette to help her with the interior design of her home. Araquette had no idea then how that moment would change her life.
Upon entering her friend’s home, Araquette intuitively began asking questions like: How do you use this room? Tell me about this piece of furniture. What do you like about this space? They went from room to room discussing furniture placement, wall color and picture placement. She recommended what to keep, get rid of, and replace.
To Araquette, the two hours spent going through the home felt like 5 minutes and she was full of energy. It was a revelatory experience. On her drive home, Araquette decided to quit her part-time job and go back to school for interior design, and that is exactly what she did.
In 2015 Araquette formed House of Araquette Studios to provide residential interior design services in Carroll, Baltimore and Howard counties. Not knowing how long it would take her to build her business, Araquette began working part-time at Gardiner Wolf Furniture in Westminster designing the showroom floor.
“It was a very physical job," she said. "They are constantly getting in new furniture which needs to be placed on the floor. It was typically two or three of us doing the moving but there were many days I was moving sofas on my own. It was not glamorous but it was a good learning experience with great people.”
Miraculously, within 3 months Araquette had to leave Gardiner Wolf to sufficiently service her interior design clients.
Today, Araquette has expanded beyond residential interior design to include small commercial design, home and event staging, and custom artwork. She has a large commercial client, Springwell Senior Living, where she stages model apartments, maintains the décor in their public spaces, and decorates for all of their events. She is currently working with two restaurants and still has her residential clients, many of whom have been with her from the very beginning.
“I keep up with trends but I don’t focus on them when I design," Araquette said. Most "of the time you are building on what a client already owns. It’s not very practical for homeowners to throw everything out and buy all new, so you find ways to update their look while working with existing pieces. My first goal is to make a space function, and then to make it beautiful in their eyes. I really try to put their personality in the space,” she said. “I am very conscious of a client’s budget. I like thinking outside the box to find ways to give them the look they want without breaking the bank. I enjoy saving them money.
“There is a lot of problem-solving involved in interior design.”
“I look at every room like a painting. A room needs good composition, a focal point and places for your eye to rest. An artist uses form and color to guide the viewer’s eyes. A good interior designer does the same thing," she said. "It’s not just about gathering pretty objects and putting them in the room. When someone walks into a room do you want them to immediately notice the oddly shaped corner or heating duct placed at eye-level? No, you want to design the space in such a way that these things fade away.”
Moving forward, Araquette hopes to have more commercial clients, particularly doctor’s offices and restaurants.
“When my kids were growing up we spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices and I always wished I could redecorate them," she said. "Now I can.”
She also hopes to do more event staging because it "really allows me to be creative. I have a highly creative team who typically create everything by hand and we love every second of it.”