Some designers don’t think of interior design as an architecturally intensive field, but Lena Munther begs to differ. As the owner of Munther Design, she’s a practicing interior architect who enjoys challenging the status quo of what her profession means to others.
After receiving her degree from the Chelsea School of Art and Design in London, the Swedish designer lived in Italy, Norway, and France, designing everything from cruise ships, hospitals, offices, and salons to restaurants, retail spaces, residential homes, and more. Her client list includes companies such as Levi Strauss, McCann-Erickson, and the Norwegian Military Services, as well as establishments around her local community in Maryland, USA like Ranazul Tapas & Wine Bistro, Veterinary Orthopedic Sports Medicine Group, and FX Studios Salon & Spa and Life FX, all of whom depend on her vision and understanding of their specific branding.
One example of Munther’s impressive scope of work was her development of a concept for Levi Strauss Headquarters and Levi’s Store, which was then implemented in all major cities in Sweden, Norway, and Finland during the early 1990’s.
After moving to the United States in 2000, Munther and her small team currently operate out of her office in Fulton, Maryland, which is just a short trip away from Vectorworks’ headquarters in Columbia, Maryland. And as a fan of Vectorworks software, she recently invited us to explore her creative space. Upon entering her office, it’s easy to let one’s imagination wander amid walls adorned with color swatches, photos, blueprints, laminates, and other design materials.
As we got to know Munther, she shared her four phases of project completion with us, shedding light on the source of her success.
Phase 1: Concept
“It’s important for me to understand what the clients’ needs are and what I can contribute to their main idea,” begins Munther. After assessing her client’s preferences and suggesting a particular direction, she sits down with them to determine how she can help translate their business ideals into the aesthetics of their interior spaces. She believes that the Concept Phase is absolutely critical to the success of a project.
To ensure the clients’ wishes are balanced with her own creative touch, Munther provides frequent visual feedback throughout the design process. As a result, it’s crucial that her tools accurately portray her visions. Munther notes one tool that has helped her immensely. “The reason I bought Vectorworks Architect software was for the 3D tools. When I’m working through projects, I can see everything in 3D during the Concept Phases so that I can get a feel for proportions,” she says. “As long as you put all the information in there, it’s automatic.”
One example where the Concept Phase played a key role for Munther is a recent project for the new Chesapeake Veterinary Referral Center (CVRC) at the Columbia, Maryland location. CVRC serves as an extension of a veternarian’s primary care, offering patients who need advanced referral, emergency, and specialty care a space to heal, all in one convenient location. During the ribbon cutting ceremony this fall, the Vectorworks team was able to see how an earlier vision board of beautiful color swatches and materials they’d seen in Munther’s office was brought to life with gorgeous and functional Solid Surface countertops that were not susceptible to stains, as well as eye-catching and varying blues showcased in the paint, chairs, and more.
During the concept phase of the CVRC project, Munther used 3D drawings to not only develop her designs and detailing, but also to present her ideas to the client. Additionally, by submitting 3D drawings, she was able to effectively communicate with construction managers. “They came back with very few questions on the construction drawings because they were able to see my intent in the 3D drawing and easily understand my plans, so this turned out to be very helpful,” said Munther.
Phase 2: Team Building
In the Concept Phase, the clients’ desires are of utmost importance, but in this next part, there’s a shift in focus to the project’s needs. After all, there is one constant with Munther’s line of work: each and every site requires a different approach.
“With each new project, I need to think about both what style I want to bring in and brainstorm how to ensure we are meeting the clients’ needs in regard to their company and marketing profile, as well as lighting, ambiance, and even sound,” she said. “For instance, when designing a restaurant or any larger space, I ask myself if the entry to the kitchen is too close or shielded from the dining room, or if the concept materials chosen for a larger office space will make sound bounce off of every surface.”
To tackle these different components, Munther often teams up with outside architects, other consultants, or marketers to create something unique while ensuring that the concept meets the right specifications.
For Integrative Medicine at Crossroads, a primary care and wellness service provider for adults and young adults, Munther’s team was tasked with the refurbishment of the Physical Therapy at Crossroads suite in the medical building. Before they knew it, the single project grew into not only a more comprehensive redesign of several major suites, but essentially a rebrand, as they were enlisted to create a holistic design concept for the five entities within the practice: Integrative Medicine, which is the “umbrella entity,” Physical Therapy, The Apothecary, Wellness Arts, and Medical Skin. Munther and her team first helped revitalize the logo, giving different color codes for each entity. The designated color dictated the interior color choices of the different clinics, along with marketing materials such as brochures and business cards, which also impacted the website design. While a marketing rebrand project isn’t a typical challenge for an interior architect, Munther demonstrated her versatility in projects she and her team can take on.
Phase 3: Design
The Design Phase builds from the earlier Concept and Team Building Phases to produce the final design before construction begins. This is the time where a client is given answers to their questions and when Munther goes into more detail on the needs of each project, and custom-built designs are implemented whenever feasible. Her team almost never uses the same idea twice; they strive to provide something unique for each project. They search for lightbulb moments everywhere — a magazine or newspaper, a new store opening, or even a random conversation with a stranger. Once an idea is brought to the table, exploration follows.
Phase 4: Construction and Completion
During the final phase, Munther Design always follows up to the end of the building cycle to ensure that the agreed upon concept is executed to the fullest. Communication throughout the construction process is vital to eliminate problems that stem from a lack of understanding, allowing the team to catch problems at an early stage that might go unnoticed.
Learn more about Munther Design’s phases of design and see other inspiring work from the firm on their website.