Mitra designs with detail, art and intuition

When you walk into your home what does it feel like? Are you overwhelmed by the piles of shoes in the doorway, laundry heaped in the corner, dishes stacked in the sink and monster dust bunnies hiding all over the place? Those pesky cosmetic things, that with a good cleaning will disappear to reveal your beautiful, well-designed and thought-out living space? Or, perhaps it feels more like no matter how much cleaning you do, the space is just dysfunctional, poorly designed and frustrating?
Unless you’re one lucky duck who has managed to put together a home you’re 100 percent satisfied with, the reality for most of us is that there are spaces we live in that we love, and others that we tolerate (or avoid all together). Mitra Samimi-Urich, a local architectural and interior designer, has made it her job to help clients achieve a living space they are proud to call home.
“For me it’s never been a formula,” Urich explained. “It’s always been intuitive.”
Urich found herself interested in architecture as a young child growing up in Isfahan — a city in central Iran known for its Persian architecture. “I remember this meeting my parents had with an architect,” she said. “And thinking, ‘how cool is it to do this for a living?’”
Urich began her education in art and architecture at the Isfahan School of Art and Design in 1978. But architecture wasn’t the only thing that caught her interest. She was also intrigued by gardening, theater arts and mass media (TV and radio).
She attended the University of Massachusetts, where she studied — surprise, surprise — architecture, interior design and mass media. After graduating in 1983, she got a job at a design-build company in Hadley, Mass., and was working on more corporate projects like store offices and malls. She and her husband Gary (who she met in school) bounced around the Boston area for several years, until Urich got a teaching job in Rhode Island. She taught architectural design, interior design and drafting for three years.
By 1991, the couple decided to move to a quieter, more rural life to raise their newly born daughter, Sierra.
In Vermont, Urich worked as an independent consultant / architectural designer and interior designer at Bread Loaf Construction (in Middlebury), and then at TruexCullins Architect (in Burlington). Urich realized early on that she wanted to be involved in all facets of the project from “layout to doorknobs, to lighting and colors,” which paired well with her consulting work.
She established her own studio in the Bread Loaf office space in Middlebury, where she operated her business Mitra Designs Studio Collaborative and offered services from simple conceptual designs to taking full control of a project and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. As you might imagine, Urich took on some long hours and high stress.
“I found that my creativity comes when I can relax and focus,” she said. And for Urich, there’s no better place for that than her own old farmhouse in Bristol. So 20 years ago, she closed her Middlebury office and moved home, where she has a studio in the upstairs of her renovated barn.
“I always had a dream of owning an old home and fixing it up,” she said. And she did it — with the help of her handyman husband, of course. “My style is simple, artistic and DIY — that’s what I choose.”
That style is quite at odds with some of the modern homes she designs for her clients with perfectly straight and clean lines. But that works for Urich.
“My home is a place I experience freedom from that kind of perfection,” she said — uneven floors and all. “We’ve done a lot of massaging of this house to achieve our goal… every corner is molded to our needs. And you could never recreate the emotional ties I have here.”
Home is also where Urich practices her art.
“For a long time I just focused on details, details, details,” she said, which has helped her achieve such success in her design work. “Now, I’m trying to let go and do so freely.”
You can see the switch in Urich’s art, from her early precise line drawings in pencil and ink, to her more current sweeping Persian calligraphy.
“Calligraphy art is enabling me to pull everything together and is a way to express myself through my life experiences,” Urich explained. “It offers a good blend of culture, poetry, art, eastern philosophy, and my experience in the field of architecture certainly is influencing the shape and structure of my art. This is where I am at this stage of my life and I am really happy with the blend of both of these worlds.”
Urich also has dabbled in acrylics in more of a romantic impressionistic style, pencil and wax drawings, metal sculpture, landscape design and more.
“My style is dictated by what I’m trying to convey,” said the artist. “But overall there’s a sense of surrealism.”
Urich takes this fluid approach with her clients too. “To me every person has a story,” she said. “What is their life like? How do they want to use the space? Then my job is to create an environment that fits.”
She does this with a pencil and Mylar paper. No help from a computer program like CADD (computer-aided design and drafting). “I’m an artist,” she explained. “I like to work by hand… every movement of my pencil goes with a thought, a concept.”
Urich doesn’t see this as a limitation. She says she is quite fast at hand drawing and if her clients need the drawings to be transferred to CADD, she can have someone do that for them.
“I like to think I can do anything,” Urich continued. “When I start drawing concepts it just happens… it’s like painting, you never know where it might take you.” 

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