Jim started in the construction industry as a carpenter while studying fine arts at Evergreen State College. In 1975, at the age of 21, he started his own small construction business, doing repairs and remodels. By the end of the 70s, Jim had five employees and a full service construction company, Merrill Construction. Through the 80s they grew to focus on remodels, while still building up to three custom homes a year. By that time Merrill Construction was one of the largest residential remodeling firms in the Seattle area with 20 employees.
As a contractor, Jim designed many of the projects that Merrill Construction built. He also worked with and learned from some of the best architects in Seattle. Of his remodeling experience, Jim Says, "Remodeling gives you a chance to see all the mistakes that were made by previous builders and designers. Some of these mistakes were caused by bad workmanship, but most were caused by the architectural design itself or by use of poor materials."
During his 20 years as a contractor Jim was active in a local trade association, the Seattle Master Builders, and was involved on a national level with the National Association of Home Builders. At various times he served on the board of directors of both groups, chaired Seattle's local Remodelers Council, and participated in many committees locally and nationally. In 1992, Jim was honored to be the national chairman of the NAHB Remodeler's Council, the voice of the remodeling industry.
In 1995, Jim made the career shift which allowed him to delve fully into his passion for design with the creation of Merrill Design. Though it was initially a hard decision to leave contracting behind, it has turned into the successful synthesis of Jim's long acquired construction knowledge and his keen aesthetic ability. Jim's unique skill and perspective, in turn, greatly benefit Merrill Design's clients. Although Jim does not have a degree in architecture, he prides himself on having a degree in the real world, based on two decades of hands-on experience.
Jim recommends that anyone seeking to create a wonderful home become fully involved in the design process, while keeping an open mind to out-of-the-box solutions. He invites all of his clients to read over the informational sections of this website to hear more of his perspectives on design and construction.
Jim's persuits outside of design range from mountain climbing and telemark skiing to sea kayaking and sailing. He also teaches mountaineering and hiking skills with the Bushwhacker Climbing Club, of which he is a founding member.
Jim lives outside of Issaquah, Washington with his wife, Peggy, and is visited often by his three grown daughters. His daughter Kate works on the Merrill Design team, helping keep the spirit of this family business vibrant.
Jennifer Creson, lead designer & interior designer
Jen's natural talent for design is complimented by with a four-year degree in Interior Design from Marylhurst University, in Oregon. She also studied Biology at the University of Oregon and Portland State University. Her role with Merrill Design is to aid with design development, as well as lighting design and space planning.
When asked about her design inspirations, Jen says, "My inspiration comes from designers looking to the future. Green design and Aging-in-Place design are two passions of mine. I plan to complete the CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist) program through the National Association of Home Builders and also would like to become LEED accredited in the future."
Jen has learned through her involvement in design industry that, "Bigger is not necessarily better. Even if you live in a small home, with the right changes, you can make every inch of space more livable. When designing a new home think about what you want now, and what you will want 20 years down the line. Do you plan on having kids? Plan on entertaining a lot? Plan to pursue an art or hobby? Plan to grow old in your home? There are things you can do in the design process that will allow you to have room to live (and love) your home through different life phases."
Her recommendations for building a great house are simple: "Instead of over-building or adding on a lot of unnecessary space, work with your designer to determine what you will be using your spaces for. Keep spaces flexible. It will help you stay happy in your house for years to come or will add to resale value. A thoughtfully designed house should be tailored to fit the way you live."
Recently Jen has applied her design and drafting skills to the remodeling of her own home in Samammish, turning an outmoded space into a bright contemporary masterpiece.
Kate Mallahan, interior designer & project manager
Kate comes to Merrill Design by way of an interior design background. She persued her education at Washington State University, which she chose for its well-respected Interior Design program. After three years of studying Interiors, she desired more knowledge about the textiles industry and changed her focus to Apparel Merchandising where she graduated with a degree from the college of Apparel, Merchandising and Interior Design. Kate spent several years after university in the apparel and merchandising industries, were she honed her skills as a project manager, while maintaining her passion for interiors.
As the Daughter of Jim Merrill, Kate found a welcome venue in Merrill Design for applying her training, while maintaining the strength of the family business. She brings her personable style to the role of project manager for the company, and also finds opportunity to excersize her level-headed approach to interior design. Kate's flair for choosing the perfect color and texture is one of her many strengths.
Kate's advice on creating a beautiful home is "Spend a lot of time early in the process thinking about what you want. Cut out pictures in magazines that inspire you, even if it is just a small feature or piece of furniture. Think about how you will use the space on a daily basis and what features are essential to you. Look ahead to how you think you might use the space with lifestyle changes down the road to ensure longevity in all of your hard work."
Having remodeled her kitchen with design help from her dad, Kate will testify that Jim always thinks of things that you might not, and that navigating the sometimes challenging process of a remodel truly pays off in the end, when you are able to enjoy your creation.
Kathy Cook, administrator
Kathy started out working for Jim at Merrill Construction in 1989 and has been an integral part of the Merrill Design family for over 18 years. She comes to us from Northwest Allied Trades, a company that she and Jim started together in 1996 after seeing a need for small business bookkeeping in the construction industry. Kathy's skill as a bookeeper and receptionist is highly valued by everyone at Merrill Design.
Being involved in the residential construction and remodeling industry, Kathy says "I have learned that I love everything about construction from the thought that goes into the design to deciding what color to paint each room. There are so many things that have to come together in order to build a home; it really takes patience and organization to achieve the final outcome. I also have great respect for the people that I have had the privilege of working with in this industry. Over the last 18 years I have met some of the most kind, caring and down-to-earth people who have taught me so much."
Kathy's recommendation for building a great house is to "Look at your current living space. For instance, if you find that you pay your bills sitting at the counter in the kitchen, then build an office area in your new kitchen. The way you live your life can help you design your home."