For Maegan Blau of Blue Copper Design, interior design and advocacy work go hand-in-hand. She established her business on the principle of barrier-free design, working to serve her clients’ accessibility needs without compromising their distinct style. Maegan’s passion is fueled by her personal experience, and she’s become a leading voice for accessible housing within our industry. Note: her #DisabilityPrideMonth content on TikTok is not to be missed.
We’ve had the pleasure of working with Maegan at IDCO Studio and are thrilled to invite her on the blog for an in-depth conversation. Maegan shares about her career journey, how she customizes barrier-free interiors, and five actionable ways every designer can consider accessibility in their work.
Maegan, we’d love to hear your story and how Blue Copper Design was born.
Blue Copper Design was born through my personal journey with finding housing that would work for my physical needs. I have a spinal cord injury and have used a wheelchair for 13 years. When I was looking to move out of my college housing, I quickly realized how hard it was to find an accessible place to live. All of the ADA-accessible apartments had at least a year waitlist in my area, so I took on the responsibility of homeownership when I was 21 years old.
I had a specific vision for my renovation and had to be a huge advocate for myself when dealing with contractors and vendors. People kept trying to push me into ADA guidelines for my home, which wasn’t what I needed or wanted, and I had to explain my vision for a customized design plan over and over. It was exhausting, but I fell in love with the messy process and was good at it. I had always been obsessed with interior design but never thought of it as a career until that first project. The wheels in my head started turning, and I had the idea of creating a traditional interior design firm business model with the niche of applying barrier-free design and advocacy to our work. After a wedding, some traveling, going back to design school, and working for other design firms, Blue Copper Design was founded in 2018.
Your firm specializes in barrier-free design, including adaptive, accessible, ADA & Universal Design. How do you approach your client projects with these priorities in mind?
Barrier-free design is just as it sounds, removing barriers. Though we are well versed in ADA requirements, we use practices that come from a clean slate each time we start a new project. We have a balance between applying what we know from our experience with a fresh set of eyes and ears to find the best solutions for our clients. We ask extensive questions on how a person or family needs to utilize their space, how their diagnosis affects their physical and mental state, and how they intend to grow in their space. It is really what any good designer does when getting to know a new client; we just apply a lens of accessibility.
More to Read: What to Include on Your Inquiry Form
What do you wish the industry understood about accessible design that’s often left out of the conversation?
It is not hard to implement. There has been a myth that barrier-free design is too hard, too expensive, or too niche to even consider, and that is just not true. It is a matter of simple shifts that can make all the difference. Ideas to implement are one curbless entry into the home, at least 30-inch doorways, a bathroom and bedroom on the first floor, curbless showers, and drawer storage, just to name a few. And to be honest, those features benefit everybody.
Anyone at any time can become a part of the disabled community. Yet, we operate as if a tiny group of people are the only ones who could ever be affected by disability. There are such shortages for accessible housing, so creating homes with a minimum amount of accessibility features will actually increase the desirability of your home.
So many times when scrolling Pinterest and Instagram, I see luxury homes with these exact features, which tells me that accessibility is desirable; it is just misbranded as a “luxury” and therefore unattainable. As designers, our job is to bring those everyday luxuries to our clients at whatever budget we are working with. With the lens of high design and intentional accessibility, we can create some really stunning interiors.
How would you describe the Blue Copper aesthetic?
Describing our aesthetic has been a journey. When I started in 2018, I hated getting asked this question, and after almost four years, I am a little more comfortable with it. Some designers have a really narrowed-down style, and I so admire that, but I have learned that I like to work more with themes and feelings than specific styles. We describe our vibe as Effortlessly Western. We keep our design philosophy true to casual West Coast living while incorporating natural textures and color palettes that remind us of Arizona. We consider ourselves style chameleons with a consistent thread rooted in creating the ethos of the new west.
More to Read: How to Make Your Website ADA Compliant
“There has been a myth that barrier-free design is too hard, too expensive, or too niche to even consider and that is just not true. It is a matter of simple shifts that can make all the difference.”
– Maegan Blau
Do you have a favorite project thus far? We’d love to hear about it!
Yes, actually, our Oak Hill Project is in Austin, Texas (shoutout to the IDCO hometown). We are so stoked for this project; it is a 3 bed, 2 bath home that needs a full renovation and furniture, which will be our very first entire home top-to-bottom, stud-to-pillow project. The clients are just amazing; their style is described as “we trust you,” and they have the goal to be our favorite clients ever. It doesn’t get any more perfect if you ask me.
More to Read: 7 Business Goals for Interior Designers
What daily rituals help you thrive as a designer?
Oh, this is a good question. This is an area I have worked hard on and did a lot of trial and error to perfect. First, every Monday is an office day. I know that’s not a daily ritual, but it is crucial to my operations, and without my Mondays, my other work days would not be as productive. That day we do not take appointments, and we just focus on admin stuff, business growth, content planning, etc. On the daily, we check our email only 3 times a day, use Asana to manage our tasks, and use time blocking to plan out our workflow. I always take a break to eat lunch, even if it is just 15 minutes, and when I am done with my workday, I do not look at social media or email. I also have a separate business phone and phone number, which is the only number my new clients have, and that has been a game changer!
How do you navigate advocating for your client’s accessibility needs without compromising your design vision?
That is the easiest part of my job. For example, if our client uses a wheelchair and only has access to lower heights for storage, we will maximize the space planning for the lower areas and use the unreachable areas for a big design impact. We always say, “if you can’t reach it, let’s make it cool.” The finishes, materials, and concepts all start with good design practices, and then we build functionality and beauty from there.
Coffee or tea?
That’s a hard one…tea.
Book currently on your nightstand:
Atomic Habits by James Clear
– Maegan Blau
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
+ my friends
Go-to inspiration source:
Old design books, vendors/products, and my clients.
A recent trend you’re loving?
Bold & colorful tile.
How about a timeless one?
Matching wallpaper and window treatments.
What’s next for Blue Copper Design?
Finding nonprofit organizations to partner with and give grants to provide barrier-free design to more people.
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IDCO Studio is a boutique creative agency specialized in beautiful and unique marketing solutions for interior designers. Focused on branding, web design and Instagram marketing, IDCO Studio is a woman owned and operated team of creatives based in Austin, Texas. The Identité Collective, which began as a business blog quickly grew into a collaborative community focused on providing business strategy and visual inspiration to the interior design community.
Now you can find our shop of resources, templates and custom branding and web design work over at IDCO Studio – leaving The Identité Collective as a permanent resource for our beloved design community.