For illustrator Matt Miller, helping architects and interior designers embrace the look of a destination is key to bringing projects in cities like Washington, DC, and Tampa to life.
Words by Marc Graser Images courtesy of Matt Miller
After designing the interiors of luxury homes in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown and Tampa’s Hyde Park neighborhoods, it’s no wonder Matt Miller has a soft spot for historic architecture. His work mixes classic elegance with modern sophistication that preserves the past while welcoming in a bright future for its owners.
After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Interior Design, Miller spent eight years working as a lead designer and project manager on multiple residential and commercial interior design projects, he launched Perspective, in 2018, as his own art studio dedicated to providing high quality hand-drawn renderings for interior designers, architects, and builders in order to help sell their vision.
Naturally, travel has enabled Miller to appreciate how each city he visits looks and take in the differences—the little details—so that he can better understand the design projects he’s tackling, no matter the destination. Those have included detailed renderings for a modern estate in Nashville, a pool area in Los Angeles, and home in historic Charlottesville, Virginia.
Travel keeps my creativity fresh and inspires me to do new things.
— Matt Miller
“Travel keeps my creativity fresh and inspires me to do new things,” Miller says. “I learn about how other people in other cultures or other parts of the world live, and afterwards I’m inspired to try to incorporate some of those things into my own life at home.”
Miller’s been charmed by Cartagena, Colombia, and recommends everyone visit Paris at least once “just to see the city layout, monuments, and architecture. It really lives up to the hype.”
We connected with Miller after his second trip to the Côte d’Azur in the south of France with his husband, Bryan. “I’d happily move there if I could,” says Miller, who is drawn to sunny locales like the Dominican Republic, Bermuda and Puerto Vallarta when traveling. You won’t often find him without sunglasses to protect his eyes or cover them “when I’ve overindulged on food or drinks the day before!”
One of Miller’s vices is exploring a city through its culinary culture: “I love to eat good food and drink good wine or cocktails, and if they happen to serve that in a beautiful space, I’ll make it a point to be there,” Miller says.
I think travel inspires you to do more and change things up in your life.
— Matt Miller
“Not to be cliche, but my honeymoon with my husband had some of my favorite travel memories,” he recalls. “We were in the French and Italian Riviera for two weeks, and one of my favorite memories from that trip was stumbling on this super old villa that had been turned into a bed and breakfast with a restaurant on the ground floor. There was hardly any cell service and no WiFi. It was on Elba Island and overlooked the Mediterranean, and they served us the most amazing charcuterie board I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I’ve ever been so full in my life afterwards.”
Miller cites a move to Washington, DC, when he was 22 as one of his proudest moments. “I definitely could not afford it and racked up a lot of debt the first year I was there, but I think it opened so many opportunities for me in my professional life and in my personal life.”
In addition to successfully growing Perspective, he’s also become a children’s book illustrator.
He partnered with fellow LGBTQ entrepreneur Brandt Ricca on “Barris and The Prince of Rappa,” which debuted in October 2021, and will soon span six books. Travel, history, and discovery of new places are at the heart of the books’ story and characters that revolve around a boy and his three sisters who have just moved from DC to New Orleans.
Don’t they say to write what you know? For Miller, it’s also about designing through inspiration, and an appreciation for diversity and responding to adversity.
“I think travel inspires you to do more and change things up in your life,” Miller says. “After coming back from this trip to the south of France, I decided I want to get my boating license. I definitely didn’t really have that in mind before the trip.”
To gain further insight into his craft, we asked Matt about his approach to designing spaces in cities like DC and Tampa, where he splits most of his time.
When it comes to design, Tampa embraces its place in nature.
— Matt Miller
What does Tampa look like when it comes to design? What are its attributes?
Matt: When it comes to design, Tampa embraces its place in nature. When I first moved to Tampa in 2016, one thing that surprised me about the city was how much of its history is still preserved (Ybor City, Hyde Park, Downtown). You can find a sunroom and lots and lots of windows on almost every craftsman home in historic Hyde Park.
On new builds, outdoor space is almost as important as indoor space. We are in the sunshine state, and even on the new builds that I see and that I have worked on, letting the outdoors in is prioritized.
Additionally, natural materials like stone and wood are key for me when I’m designing a space in Tampa, and I like to tie it all together with organic shapes, a neutral palette with heavy textures (like boucle and sisal), and bold artwork.
DC is a sister city of Paris, and I think we like to emulate that in designs here.
— Matt Miller
How would you describe Washington, DC, in that same regard?
I would say DC is more eclectic in design. DC is a sister city of Paris, and I think we like to emulate that in designs here. At least I do.
There is so much beautiful historic architecture here and if it hasn’t been preserved, I try to bring it back as best as possible and have the paint colors, light fixtures, and some of the furniture be a nod to the space’s history.
To finish the space, I like to mix in modern organic shapes and pops of bold patterns or colors.
How important is establishing a sense of place in your work?
Matt: I think it’s incredibly important. I try to design a space that I would want to spend time in myself. It can look pretty, but if it doesn’t feel inviting and warm, I’m not into it.
I think including natural materials along with interesting textures and visual elements creates a rich and inviting space. When I’m finished with an install and I want to stay and hang out (or move in), I know I’ve done a good job.
What are some of your favorite projects and how do they reflect your work?
Matt: I worked on a rowhouse renovation in Washington, DC’s Logan Circle, in 2019, and I was so happy with how it turned out. The house had a lot of its history preserved, but some of it had been torn away.
We brought it back by opening up fireplaces that had been drywalled over (there were 11 in the house total), restored crown moldings and door trim that had been poorly altered or repaired, and brought back a color scheme that seemed to fit the style of the house, as opposed to the bright white that was everywhere.
The client also wanted to have some fun with the design by adding what he called “drama” so we gutted the beige kitchen and added in new, dark blue and gray cabinetry on a new black and white marble tiled floor.
We also had custom light fixtures designed to compliment the gigantic mirrors above the two fireplaces in the dining room and living room, and painted a diamond pattern on the foyer floor.
What would you say is your signature look?
I worked on another project (also in Logan Circle) last year that I loved. The clients were fun, young newlyweds and they wanted their first place together to reflect their personalities. It was a modern space but pretty dull.
To add life, we added a two-story Noir Blanc marble wall above the fireplace, installed two-story floor to ceiling sheers for the large windows, replaced the cable wire railings with glass, added a bar in the second floor den, and added lots of fun wallpaper in the bathrooms.
We also painted the kitchen floor to look like black and white tile marble, so I guess that might be one of my signature looks.