Interview: Ren Miller, Design NJ Magazine

Ren Miller, editor-in-chief of Design New Jersey magazine.
Ren Miller, editor-in-chief of Design New Jersey magazine.

For 13 years, knowledgeable and sophisticated homeowners, designers and home decor enthusiasts have turned to Design New Jersey magazine to provide beautiful design, quality information and fantastic imagery. The staff at Design New Jersey is comprised of New Jersey natives, who are intimately connected with the tastes, trends and desires that dictate New Jersey home design.

Over the last 8 years, the guiding hand of Design New Jersey has been its editor-in-chief, Ren Miller. With an impressive background in both design and editorial management, Ren has proven his worth by leading his magazine into the present (and often beyond). His taste for classic design and sophistication is well-known, but we at Peter Salerno Inc. also value Ren’s ability to look into the future of home design.

We sat down with the talented Ren Miller for our Summer 2013 blog cycle to discuss Design New Jersey, the relationship between himself and Peter Salerno, and the very latest trends in beach house and vacation home design.

Peter Salerno Blog: So, Design New Jersey is celebrating 13 years in print.

Ren Miller: Our 13th year is coming to a close, and Year 14 will begin with our February/March 2014 issue. We have great readers. It’s a smaller niche, but a loyal niche.

PSB: Not to jinx you, but a lot of magazines – especially niche ones – fold rather quickly. How have you managed to build 13 years of success?

RM: We try to change with the times; as a result, we re-designed the magazine two years ago. We started with highly traditional homes, but in the last few years we’ve expanded to showcase condos, apartments, and transitional design homes. Baby boomers are “downsizing” in non-traditional fashions – owning two homes in different locations, and so on – so we’ve felt as though our magazine should cater to its readers, not vice versa.

PSB: So it wouldn’t be our blog if we didn’t ask – how have you come to view Peter Salerno?

RM: Peter’s projects usually come through photographer Peter Rymwid, who will submit the project to the magazine. Peter’s very approachable but not always on our backs – he’s not one to blow his own horn. And he’s a very nice person, very easy to work with. He’s a quiet giant in the industry. He’s not big on self-promotion; he’s big on promoting good design.

His design sense and the quality of what he does is something we think our readers want. Beyond focusing on looking good and working well – from a business and personal standpoint, he’s always accessible to us, always has the details ready. He’s excited to talk about what he’s done, even after the projects have been completed. The fact that he’s excited about the homeowners’ use of their new space shows me that he really cares about the design and its function.

PSB: So our Summer 2013 theme is “The Beautiful Beach Life”. You’ve probably seen many changes in beach home design in the past few years.

RM: Oh, absolutely. After the 1980s when there was so much dated furniture and decorations, people are trying to get away from that. As a result, the designs are becoming cleaner and becoming more sophisticated. People are trying to make their beach homes more like their regular homes, just with a bit more color.

PSB: So color is making its way into beach homes?

RM: Absolutely. Navy blue and white is a popular combination, but rather traditional; in the past few years we’ve seen combinations of two shades of blue – navy blue and aqua, for example. It provides freshness. Navy and orange is a bold combination as well. Be creative with patterns and colors – area rugs, throw pillows.

PSB: Peter Salerno and his staff are renowned for beautiful kitchen designs. How does that play into the modern beach or vacation home?

RM: Even if entails taking down a wall, it’s important to have an open kitchen. It’s important for the cook or people utilizing the kitchen to be involved with the rest of the house. Also, your kitchen should accommodate a large group. What good is a family vacation home if you can’t share it with a big group of family and friends? If it’s a small kitchen, I’d take an adjacent room and incorporate it in the kitchen.

PSB: What about vacation homes in general? Any tips to fully realize those spaces?

RM: Views, views, views. Views are important – get some big windows in your vacation home! Also, you need to make the most of your space.  Every vacation home should have a sizeable entertainment center and/or chest to store games, media, etc. There will be rainy days, and you need to stay entertained!

PSB: What about some tips for vacation or beach home owners who want to “spruce up” their space without spending a bundle?

RM: A not-too-expensive item I think is a great option for vacation homes are throws – especially in the mountains or lakes. Also, look into weather-resistant fabrics;  they look and feel like regular indoor fabrics now, so why not use them indoors? Especially recovering a chair or sofa.

PSB: What about flooring for a vacation home?

RM: In a vacation home, any shore houses in particular, you don’t want wall-to-wall carpeting because you’ll never get all the junk out of it. Tile or wood makes more sense, and then soften that look with smaller area rugs.

PSB: Overall, what is your message to designers of beach/vacation homes – and to their owners?

RM: Don’t be afraid of color, and don’t be afraid to have a little fun. Because it’s a vacation home, you can definitely be more free with design spirit.

Ren Miller is the editor-in-chief of Design New Jersey magazine. For more about Peter Salerno and his award-winning design firm, please visit our website.


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