Early on in her time as a construction project manager at global commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield, Natalie Myers, who has a petite build, earned a nickname for herself. "Little Hammer," she says, laughing lightly but with no hint of bitterness. The name stuck. "I had to learn how to be firm with contractors to drive projects," she says. "And they respected me for it." That experience has served her well in recent years, as the Los Angeles-based designer set out on her own and founded Veneer Designs, her one-stop shop for homeowners looking for a firm that could provide skilled interior design and architecture, sourcing, and execution on projects at a variety of scales.
Though there's the potential to cause offense with a nickname like "little hammer," considering the gender-imbalanced environments that construction sites can so often be, Myers seems to have taken it in stride. After all, she's the boss. "As an interior designer, you lose a bit of power on construction sites if you don't know how those things work," Myers says, referring to the world of material specification, subcontracting, and equipment management. "Now, when I'm on a project with a bunch of players, it helps me establish my position."
Photo by Austin Nelson.
A hard-earned, do-it-all confidence seems to be a major motivating force for Myers, but she points to other sources of ambition, too, including a desire at a young age to combine a love of artistry with a will to use other, more quantitative parts of her brain. So, Myers went on to attend Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York, where she earned a Bachelor's of Science degree in Interior Design and the dream she had at three of becoming a professional artist—"my mom saved all my paintings and I thought 'wow, that's cool!'"—blossomed into something altogether different. (Myers is also a LEED Accredited Professional, certifying her knowledge of sustainable practices in design and construction.)
Myers began her career as an in-house interior design consultant for the privately-owned Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain in Los Angeles and cites the enterprising, familial spirit of that company as a model for Veneer, which, for now, she happily operates as a one-woman atelier. "It was a very nurturing, kooky, L.A.-ish place to work," she says.
A private residence in Playa Vista. Photo by Amy Bartlam courtesy Natalie Myers.
Learning the trade in that kind of environment also led to an aesthetic sensibility that's less straitjacketed than what one may expect from someone with a background in corporate interiors. Her work with clients at a diverse range of budgets is refreshingly eclectic. You won't find a Myers interior that looks like the set of a home goods retailer's catalogue shoot. Instead, as in her Castle Heights Residence, completed for a young couple awaiting their first child, midcentury furniture classics cohabit harmoniously with vintage poufs, sleek brass lighting fixtures, and the bric-a-bric that makes a house feel like a home.
The offices of Pegasus Investments in Century City. Photos by Amy Bartlam courtesy Natalie Myers.
In addition to providing a rare full-service experience for clients on a budget, Myers sets herself apart from the pack by offering a flat-fee pricing structure. That's right: no mark-ups. "We didn't charge a mark-up on furniture or hourly in corporate interiors," Myers explains. "The fee covered floor plans, renderings, construction management. I'm applying that to the world of residential interiors." She charges a minimum $2,500 fee for a project and also offers a one-time, 90-minute consultation service for $250. This pricing structure means Myers can pass on savings from to-the-trade discounts she's able to receive. It's a win-win for clients.
Photo by Austin Nelson.
On the subject of this Instagram-fueled era of interior design, in which photographs of glamorous finished rooms become a commodity all their own, Myers is positive but practical. She speaks admiringly of her fellow interior designers' endless inventiveness—especially the creativity and skill of her fellow Angelenos—but says she's glad she can fall back on the experience she gleaned during her time spent toiling in more conservative, corporate work environments. "I'm just surprised more interior designers don't [learn a bit about construction project management]," she says.
Inside the Santa Monica vacation home of a British pilot. Photo by Amy Bartlam courtesy Natalie Myers.
When asked what the future holds, Myers points to three residential projects in the works, among them a "dream home" for a couple in Redondo Beach, California, inspired by the desert modernism of Palm Springs, and a new-build home for a middle-aged couple in an on-the-rise "pocket neighborhood" in Los Angeles. The budgets and clients vary, and so, naturally, the finished products will, too. Though she acknowledges that some designers build brands on creating a signature style, "I'd feel like a sham if I gave people the exact same design each time," she says, and, adds, if she were providing only style advice. "The value-added part of it is sourcing tile, finding a contractor, overseeing installation. And that's what I love."