MLTWY: Malcolm Simmons

Mornings Like These With You
April 27th, 2014
Malcolm Simmons

I've known Malcolm since high school. After graduation, we lost touch for a few years and thanks to the wonders of the internet, we crossed paths again not long ago. I quickly learned that Malcolm has stayed true to his roots and got a job in the creative field. Malcolm is a Graphic Designer who runs a fun DIY themed blog called masmeansmore. He was kind enough to share a morning with me and answer some questions about his creative process, his advice to DIY newbies, and his favorite hidden gems.

All photos by Emma McAlary 

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MLT: So hopefully this wasn’t too early for you, Malcolm! I know it's an early Sunday morning. What time do you normally get up?
Malcolm: Pretty early because of the way the sun comes up in my room. I do get up generally early anyway. I used to work a schedule where I worked thirteen hour shifts three days a week so on those days, I’d get up at 7, get back here at around 10 at night and then do the same thing the next day. I'd say I'm used to it.

MLT: Are you a full time graphic designer right now? What’s your work schedule like?
Malcolm: Now I work just a normal 40 hour work week with 8 hour days. I used to have to stay late at night until a project was done because it was highly time-sensitive. Now I am off every Tuesday and work roughly 7:30 AM - 6 PM everyday. 

MLT: A good majority of the graphic designers I know are very hands on. Is that something you’ve always done from the time you were younger?
Malcolm: Yeah. I’m a very tangible learner so I have to make or do something by hand to truly understand the craft. I can’t sit through a lecture or anything like that to truly learn something. When I was younger and in high school, I did a variety of art things around school. Since then, I’ve been very much a “doer”. In school, I got to take studio classes. The painting and sculpture and ceramics kind of lends itself to the DIY projects and random stuff I like to do.

MLT: Right. And you blog at masmeansmore. I like that! I'm assuming those are your initials played on mas literally meaning more?
Malcolm: Haha, yeah. I’m glad you get that! Everytime I look at that, I always hope people understand because honestly, it’s not that relevant to the content but it’s catchy. 

MLT: That’s your outlet from the day to day work that you do. Where do you get your inspiration for a lot of your DIY?
Malcolm: Weirdly, most of it comes from the apartment itself. I lived in a complex down the street before and I was there for a year. It was newer and I didn’t feel inspired at all by the space while I was there. It was new and nice but it had no character or unique qualities. So when I moved here and there are hard wood floors, moldings, cracked floors and walls… it forced me to think differently about space. I had always had an interest in Interior Design because of my background so trying to find ways to make the space more unique and finding the things that fit inspired me. 

MLT: For people who have never done DIY or have an interest in DIY, would you recommend that be a starting point for them? Just looking at their space, seeing what it needs and go from there? Because I know a lot of people just see DIYs on the internet and think they’re cool but they aren’t necessarily practical for their space.
Malcolm: Totally. Especially if you’re designing FOR that space. I would recommend sitting in a corner of the room you don’t normally sit and view the space from a different angle. Imagine how other things would fit well. Get to know your space. Figure out what the space needs and go from there. That’s the best advice I could give.

MLT: I have to admit your DIYs are very practical. I kind of despise how I get an idea from pinterest but it just doesn’t work for my home. You see something someone else does, like a banner or a shelving unit and it isn’t always appropriate for your home.
Malcolm: Yes, I wanted to stay away from that. I don’t like frivolousness, I like being practical. I do have ideas that are outside of the box but if they don’t fit, I don’t want to have it around. I already have a small space so it’s important what I do have around is appropriate for the space I’m working with. A lot of what you’ll see on my blog will be useful things. A shelf or a bookcase. 

MLT: What sort of project is a good starting point for someone new to DIY?
Malcolm: I think it depends. If they want to build furniture, start with floating shelves or something simple, not too intensive on geometries of shapes or anything like that. I find if you make a gradual progression from  something very basic like a shelf then congratulate yourself by upgrading to a ladder or a nightstand… something so small but you’re working your way up by learning as you go. You’re developing supplies overtime instead of buying up a bunch of tools at once. If you slowly progress, it’s a much less stressful process. My goal is to eventually renovate a home.

MLT: You post How-To’s on your blog, right?
Malcolm: Mhm. As much as I can. I’m still learning and I’m certainly not an expert. I’m just showing my creative process and how I figure things out as I go. Just doing it and getting my hands dirty.

MLT: I know you also go into businesses and restaurants and take photos of their unique interiors. Do you get a lot of inspiration in those places of things you can do in your own home?
Malcolm: Definitely. I have started this series on the blog where I take inspiration from these places I visit and find accessible items that are relevant to a particular place that inspired me and source items out that are similar. I go into restaurants that have a very interesting branding and story and I ask if I can shoot in their space. Those kinds of spaces people generally like to be at. I shot at Blue Jacket recently and loved that space. People go to these places and they like being there, but a lot of guests can’t really put their finger on why they’re drawn to a space… so showing people through photos the details that make up a nice environmental design makes it easier for people to conceptualize why they like the business based off the different attributes present in the space. 

MLT: There have to be some websites where you get inspiration, too. What are some of your favorites?
Malcolm: My favorite is Manhattan Nest. It’s this guy in NYC named Daniel Kanter and he writes about how he and his fiancé moved into this really old house that they’re renovating from the ground up. It’s a really cool story. The way he writes about it, almost sarcastic, and how he shares the whole process is really interesting. Do you know of Door Sixteen? Anna Dorfman is another one in New York that I like. She posts a lot of inspiring DIY posts. Apartment Therapy is another one of my favorites. Mornings Like These, of course. Haha! I also like this blog/store called Trunk NYC. It’s more to the masculine end of the aesthetic spectrum. It’s kind of like what you do where they interview people, discuss their inspirations, etc. They also have a store. 

MLT: Do you have any favorite spots where you get your materials or reclaimed items for your projects?
Malcolm: If I don’t need anything generic like basic hardware, there’s a place called Community Forklift in Maryland that I love. They have all kinds of salvaged goods. Wood, appliances, light fixtures, vintage finds, hardware, radiators, all kinds of things. Just going there is inspiring enough but finding things I can use feels amazing. That’s one of my favorite places to go. There’s also a lumber yard called ABC Distributors not far from here. That’s another one. Then there’s this little town called Ellicott City and I love it there. Especially Old Ellicott City. Going there on a Sunday morning is probably my favorite thing to do. You never know what you’ll find there and it’s an experience. Those are definitely my top three places.

MLT: What’s next up on your list of DIYs?
Malcolm: I have a shelving unit in mind. It’s a bit more difficult because it’ll be in the closet and no one can see it, haha. But the more pieces and tools I accrue and the more I do, the easier it will be. I have a project right now where I’m redesigning my parent’s guest room. I’ve got a headboard design in mind and I’m really excited about that. I’ve had to branch away from too many DIYs right now because I’m branding my sister’s wedding and that’s been fun, but it’s lengthy and it takes up a lot of time. I’m also doing a logo for a photographer. It keeps me busy but it’s all part of the creative process so it’s equally satisfying. 

MLT: What can readers expect to see next on your blog?
Malcolm: On the blog, I’ll be posting about El Centro in Georgetown. Have you been? I went and shot their interior there for my next “Inspired:” post. There’s one near U street, too. That’s next and hopefully the headboard DIY goes up soon. I’ll be doing some accessible design posts where I source some of the items you see in the restaurant design posts. I will eventually have a huge post about my sister’s wedding and the branding project behind it. That’ll be awhile from now but it’s in the works.

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I really had to pare down this interview. Malcolm and I had so much fun talking and catching up that picking my favorite parts to share was almost impossible. I thank Malcolm for allowing us in his home and sharing with us some AMAZING doughnuts from GBD. If you've made it this far, THANK YOU. I can't tell you how much joy I get from spending time with people, learning their creative process and having others read about our time together. 

Coming next week: Our visit to Old City Press & Co!