When Lori Wiles was growing up on her family’s farm, she loved to play with dolls. Her focus, though, wasn’t on the dolls’ clothes or how they wore their hair–it was the spaces they inhabited. She constructed cardboard rooms, painted them, sewed custom drapes, and set everything up just so. When her friends were ready to play she was already done, having created the perfect space. “That was the fun part,” she remembers. And it still is.

In an age when we are accustomed to meeting our needs with a few clicks, the sophisticated craft of interior design is often overlooked. We can all decorate our homes with help from online catalogs and Pinterest pages, we can research latest styles, we can visit showrooms and flip through fabric samples. But a relationship with a skilled interior designer provides an entirely different, and ultimately more satisfying, experience. An expert interior designer closely follows current trends and aesthetics. But they also have a solid foundation in architecture, construction, and art movements through time; understand line, color, weight, pattern, and texture; know available options in flooring, plumbing, lighting, furniture, finishes… the list goes on. In addition to this wealth of ever-changing knowledge, the best designer listens with a considerate ear, observes with a careful eye, and presents solutions that are not only beautiful but enhance the lives of the people who live and work in these spaces.

Interior designer Lori Wiles insists that every project meet these three criteria: functional, balanced, and emotionally satisfying spaces. Her formal background in interior design began after she earned a Bachelor’s in Art when she found an Interior Design program housed not in the Home Economics Department, as most were at that time, but in the Art Department. She excelled at art theory, eager to understand the human motivations behind artistic movements.

After college, she worked for a design firm that housed many custom services. The resident architect took her under his wing and while drawing for–and learning from–him, Lori’s sense of structural integrity and balance flourished. She wasn’t satisfied working for a firm, however: the sales-driven model of most interior design businesses didn’t fit Lori’s drive to create spaces specifically tailored to individuals.

Lori now owns her own company, Lori Wiles Design, and focuses on the craft and art of interior design without the limitations of sales expectations. She emphasizes relationships with clients as the most important facet of her work. “It’s about people, not things,” she says. She begins by asking a client what their goals are for a space and discovering what she is working with in terms of existing construction, budget, usage considerations (like pets for material durability or accessibility concerns for physical limitations), and if there are immovable items (like that favorite arm chair).

Soon Lori knows her clients’ tastes for line, pattern, color, depth, and texture to a remarkable degree. This kind of engagement and personal attention is unique in our point-and-click world; some clients have worked with Lori for decades because they so appreciate the way she knows them and honors their individual taste. Once Lori has gathered information about a client’s needs, wants, and considerations, she uses her knowledge of current options to present designs that do exactly what a client needs, are precisely balanced, and make clients feel excited about the space they inhabit. This, after all, is the fun part.