When the Turkish carpet Arriving for the first time at the salon, Mia Malave remembers, “I hated it”.
Its designer, Colton Dixon Winger, insisted on coming and unfolding the large low-pile rug properly. Its expansive size formed a connection between the living room and the dining room. Malave’s vintage sofa needed to change four inches. Next, Winger moved a side table to form a small moment of interest.
“And now I love this rug,” says Malave. “He created a story in space. Before, it was just a couch and a rug.
Winger has been helping customers shift their perspective for years, but especially when it comes to their closets. As co-founder and now owner of the styling agency cuniform, Winger displays an uncommon ability to capture the essential personalities of her clients and a knack for making their wardrobes do the same. Cuniform’s signature moves involve finding new ways to style your existing clothing and favoring sustainable brands or second-hand clothing. In 2020, he extended this philosophy to the design of the house.
Winger’s foray into this world began with what he calls “remodeling services,” taking stock of someone’s existing furniture (and lamps, books, candlesticks, and other decorative items), then rearranging them into something much more cohesive. He once considered the school of architecture; “I was that kid who constantly rearranged his room.” Today, Cuniform has a real design lead, Bethanie Jones, and the ability to create 3D renderings, knock down walls, and oversee the entire kitchen remodel.
Working with what a client already has — and finding what they don’t have via sustainable resources — has proven to be the biggest learning curve, Winger says. “With clothes, it’s a little easier; you can just fold things into a bag, put the bag in your car, and just show up.
Malave, a longtime stylist client, became one of Cuniform’s first home design projects when she transitioned from a small West Seattle bungalow to a mid-century modern home closer to the water. Winger asked him the residential version of a question he usually asks new clients: how do you want to get around this space?
“I want to sit down and have dinner and be able to have a conversation with someone across the room,” Malave told her. “I want someone in the living room to be able to talk to someone in the kitchen, in the dining room,” she says.
Unfortunately, her kitchen was tucked into a corner, with a door, cupboard, and pony wall seemingly installed for the sole purpose of separating the space from the living room. Low cabinets further obscured the view. Winger enlisted local design-build firm Casual Surveying Co. to open up the space and fill it with mid-century elements.
compatible walnut cabinets and an oak island.
Winger moved a rug, table, and other items Malave already owned to fill his new guest bedroom, complementing it with a vintage metal ladder from Epic Antique to hold blankets. Then he took care of finding furniture for the rest of the ground floor. Almost all the objects in these rooms are vintage or recycled.
Local antique magpie Kassie Keith provided a Paris office for Malave’s office. Craigslist isn’t part of Winger’s usual repertoire, but in this case it provided a massive bamboo dining table for $100. Refurbished chairs from Germany make unexpected but striking companions. After a few false starts on a really big couch, Bethanie Jones suggested an investment-grade 1970s number by designer Milo Baughman she had in her warehouse. It’s the one that moved a few inches to make the new carpet look like home.
Malave is still looking for a coffee table. Being intentional can mean long waits for the right part, rather than rushing to buy something that’s readily available and good enough. “The most difficult thing, she says, is not to do everything at the same time.
Without Winger’s influence, she’s not sure she’d ever embraced the vintage aesthetic. “But I loved the patina of having old stuff that looked and kept really well. It looks so timeless and special. Plus, in a mid-century home, “it would be weird to have a lot of new things”.