Interior design graduate Courtney Michaels blogs her way to home improvement

When Courtney Michaels graduated from Seattle Pacific University with an interior design degree in 2013, she hoped to find work in the Seattle area. Little did she know the role of her dreams would emerge close to home — her family home, in fact.

Courtney and her sister, Kylee Michaels Palazzo ’11, together with their mother, Melissa Michaels, comprise the creative team behind a popular interior design blog, The Inspired Room. It was voted Better Homes and Gardens’ reader’s choice favorite decorating blog in 2014 and 2015.

Courtney, 27, is the site’s creative director and a regular contributor. Kylee, 30, works by day at Amazon and assists the blog in her off-hours as its brand coordinator.

the inspired room blog sisters, courtney and kylee
Courtney Michaels ’13 (left) and Kylee Michaels Palazzo ’11 help run The Inspired Room blog.

Melissa started the blog in 2007 while Courtney was still in high school. It began as a supporting element to her new home decorating business, but as blogging evolved, Melissa’s readership grew and the blog became her main focus.”

“When she first started The Inspired Room, I didn’t even know what a blog was. Blogs were definitely more of a hobby than a career back then,” Courtney says. “We had no idea that it would become such a big part of our lives.”

Courtney initially pictured herself working at a design firm as a residential interior designer after graduation. But seeing the blog’s growth, she started dreaming more seriously about it becoming her full-time job.

“A year after I graduated, we signed a contract for The Inspired Room to publish eight books [including Love the Home You Have, which became a New York Times best-seller]. That was when I came on board full time,” she says. “The fact that I’m doing this now is a total dream for me. It’s better than I could have hoped!”

Two more books are in the works, and the trio also produce their own products and curate an online shop. The women recently started a wellness brand, Pure & Lovely.

“A year after I graduated, we signed a contract for The Inspired Room to publish eight books.”

Interior design has long been a family pursuit: “My grandparents and parents have always been really into homes, decorating, and art. I grew up going to open houses as a pastime and decorating my childhood rooms like it was my job,” recalls Courtney.

While she appreciates quality, high-end design, Courtney also brings practical, 20-something sensibilities to her decorating advice in the form of simple DIY projects, Ikea hacks, and workarounds for small spaces or limited storage.

And she finds inspiration everywhere. “I look at design books, magazines, and websites,” she says. “I notice color palettes and texture combinations in artwork or stationery or food.” Courtney is constantly observing interior design styles and looking for pieces that resonate in her favorite coffeeshops and retail stores.

Courtney enjoys the unpredictability of her role. On a given day, her job might include writing for the blog, working on a book, photo shoots, coffee runs, home design, social media, and more. “I’m involved as a partner with my mom in all aspects of the brand, so I do a little of everything,” she says. “There’s always something new, unexpected, and exciting going on, so it never feels boring or repetitive.

“I also love getting to see things come to life — from the initial vision, to all the hard work in between, and then seeing it all come together in the end. That has been extremely rewarding,” Courtney says.

She credits The Inspired Room’s success to her mother’s down-to-earth, relatable approach. “She doesn’t have a humongous budget and isn’t a super skilled DIYer. She really values and promotes simplicity and contentment, which I think is refreshing and encouraging for her readers,” says Courtney.

Courtney also brings practical, 20-something sensibilities to her decorating advice in the form of simple DIY projects, Ikea hacks, and workarounds for small spaces or limited storage.

Courtney chose SPU for several reasons. “I knew several alumni who were succeeding in their interior design careers after their training at SPU,” she says. “And the location of the school was really exciting to me — I knew there would be a lot of adventures and fun experiences in the city of Seattle.”

SPU also felt “right-sized” to Courtney. “While it wasn’t the tiniest school in the world, it was still small enough that I didn’t feel lost in a sea of students. I really appreciated the smaller size of my interior design classes because I was able to ask questions and connect with the professors more closely,” she says.

“I had an absolutely wonderful SPU experience,” Courtney says. “In addition to the excellent education I received, I met lifelong friends, felt safe, welcomed, and valued, and learned a lot about myself.”

And team projects in school paved the way for her family’s common creative pursuits: “We definitely produce our best work when we are able to collaborate together and bring our unique ideas to the table.”

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