5 minutes with Mari Miller Lucci


I actually don’t remember what class I first met Mari in but I do know that I remember her the most from Portfolio class my last year of college. Her branding was great (branding is something I STILL struggle with), driven, talented and I hated her in the best possible way. I mean seriously, this woman is a FORCE to be reckoned with.

Mari graduated, like the rest of us here at Chic Toro, with her B.F.A. in Interior Design and got married to a man that would give her the name Lucci. This might be slightly random but I love people with three names. Mari Miller? Yeah okay. Mari Miller Lucci? HECK YEAH!  Anyway,  Mari later applied for a freelance position for a model apartment in Chicago’s South Loop. She interviewed and presented a “hypothetical project that never came to fruition”. After completing the space, Mari was offered a full time position. So now she lives and  works in Chicago with her husband a one darn cute kid. 

Mari and her son

1.       Describe your personal style in 5 words

Collected. Androgynous. Textural. Tonal. Diverse.

2.      How do you start your design process? Drawing, shopping, color, etc..

I have a cork board in my office that I pin magazine clippings onto. At the start of any project I grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and gaze at the board. These coveted items, ripped from the likes of Elle Décor or Interior Design magazine, are where I begin. I select one splurge and build from there.

3.       Who and/or what Inspires you?

I am immensely inspired by Jenna Lyons, creative director for J. Crew. She is fearlessly herself and I cannot help but be impressed by that. Her style, her vision, and her leadership have been at the helm of the brand’s successful evolution – proof that being different is far superior to being the same.


4.      What was your biggest design mistake?

Ironically, one of my most successful projects is also a project that I consider to be my largest design mistake. The end result is admittedly attractive and was well received, yet it is not even a sliver of my original intent. I allowed the opinions of many others to cloud my vision and sway my decision making, resulting in a space that says nothing of who I am, and to a certain extent, garners slight resentment from me each time I see it.

5.      Give us 2 tips for up and comers. 1 Do and 1 don’t

DO know who you are and what your aesthetic is.

DON’T second guess your instinct. Each designer has their own look, their own idea of what is beautiful – stay true to yours. Don’t give into pressure to conform or mimic the work of someone else. Once you find your stride, and become comfortable in the work that you do, you will experience the career bliss that eludes so many.

6.      What is the best design advice you have received?

In 2011, I had the honor of spending a day with architect Michael Graves at his office in Princeton, NJ. I was a senior at the time, overwhelmed with my Thesis project and desperately searching for my dream job.

I had a concrete, and unshakable, career path mapped out in my head and I made sure to tell Michael all about it. I would be a designer that specialized in ADA compliance. I would only work for firms that focused on healthcare projects. I would sit on the US Access Board by the time I was 40 (elected by the United States President for excellence in my field, of course). This was my plan and nothing could force me to deviate from this plan.

Halfway through my spiel, Michael interjected with what I know now to be great wisdom. “You haven’t done anything yet. You can talk all of your life about what you are going to do but you won’t do any of it if you don’t do something. Get a job – any job. Design something – anything. Then worry about what you want to do.”


7.   Where’s your go-to shop spot?

I love Jean de Merry, Room and Board, Arteriors, and Global Views.

For personal treasure hunting, I can always count on Randolph Street Market to have something unexpected.

8.      What are some of the perks of your job?

My job is a perk in itself! I travel from coast to coast working on projects of all sizes. I am part of an amazing team of people who acquire and manage one of the most impressive real estate portfolios in the nation. I have been entrusted with the task of elevating the aesthetic of each of our properties.  Being in charge of every phase of our projects has forced me to learn and grow as a designer, an individual, and a professional and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

9.  What’s your favorite current design trend?

In general, I don’t consider myself a designer that is heavily influenced by trends. I am aware of them – I take note as they emerge and skeptically decide whether or not I enjoy what I am seeing. Recently however, traces of the organic modernism movement (such as reclaimed wood pieces) can be found alongside sleek mid-century selections on my office cork board – a silent nod to my awareness of the constant evolution of design.


10.  What’s your guilty pleasure? 

I have two, and I spend far too much on both.

Magazines. I have stacks of them all over the house.

Pinot Grigio.

You and me both Mari, you and me both. Next up, Mandy is interviewing the talented Lindsey Sulski. Stay tuned.

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