Profile Piece on Design Manifest

Recently my dad and I were featured in a great article in Inside Magazine.  I was so happy for my dad to share his story and get a little bit of the glory around here.  My father is so humble and generous that he is perfectly happy for me to prance around in the spotlight like some kind of puffed up peacock.  The fact of the matter is that we are team and each project we create is a collaborative effort.  Without him there would be no Manifest in Design Manifest.  Our pairing is complex: father/daughter, contractor/designer, traditionalist/innovator,  old/young (sorry Dad!) but I truly feel that together we are able to give an excellent service to our clients.    I’m so lucky to have Andrew Stein in my corner.  Love you, Dad.

Below is the article, originally published in Inside Magazine and also viewable Here.

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As far as Andrew Stein knew, none of his four children were anxious to join him in the family business.

Stein, who was born and raised in Lower Merion, founded Design Manifest, a full-service residential contracting firm with a specialty in artisanal craftsmanship, in 1974. Stein and his wife, Carol Parker Stein, always encouraged their children to follow their dreams, which led his oldest daughter into fashion design, his youngest to teaching and his middle daughter, Naomi, into the mortgage business. Their son is still in school, but other than working summers, he isn’t planning on following his dad’s lead. “It’s a tough business,” said Stein. “It’s dirty and very physical — it’s not for everybody.”

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So it is easy to imagine his surprise when Naomi, the middle daughter, came to him “completely out of the blue” with a written proposal in May 2004. “She was doing well selling mortgages, but she didn’t love it,” recalled her dad. In the proposal, Naomi outlined what areas of the business needed improvement and why she should be the fixer. “She even proposed how much I should pay her. Turns out, she was right about everything.”

“I didn’t want to rest on my laurels and join my dad’s company right away,” said Naomi, 32. “But I found the mortgage business stressful and boring. I wanted to get my hands dirty.” Although her idea was to “turn the business around in a year or two,” Naomi found it took more like six or seven — not to turn the business around, but to learn the necessary skills and make her mark on the company.

Dynamics between fathers and daughters are always interesting. Add working together on a daily basis into the mix, and there can be challenges. The road’s been a relatively smooth one for this family duo, though, with Stein leading the charge on the construction side, working closely with Naomi as she’s gradually taken over and developed the design aspect of the business.


Stein’s own parents weren’t thrilled when he informed them that he was pursuing construction as a career. “They’d been grooming me to be a lawyer or something like that,” he recalled. His dad was in the financial business, and tinkered around the house as a hobby. “Growing up, I was always helping him. He was always building something and I took an interest in it. By the time I was 13, I was better at it than he was.” What his folks considered a temporary summer job as a teen turned serious when he apprenticed with Otto, an old-school, Old Country carpenter from Czechoslovakia.

“Otto taught me some of the old methods of working that a lot of people aren’t doing anymore,” said Stein. While he is constantly staying up to date with new advances in his field, knowing traditional methods is something that has set his career apart for more than four decades. Stein, 60 (“Sometimes at the end of a hard day I feel 80!”), is a veteran carpenter, as well as a skilled tile-setter, cabinetmaker, craftsman and designer. The company maintains a wood shop to handle custom work. Recognized by the National Kitchen and Bath Association as a certified kitchen and bath designer, Stein works primarily in the Main Line and takes tremendous pride in personally overseeing all projects.

Like virtually every other contractor, Stein said that working on a renovation while the clients are living in the home is especially challenging, with the care and management of the construction dust the No. 1 concern on all sides. “It’s very important to communicate to the client, prepare them for what to expect and how to live most comfortably through the project,” he elaborated.

Job costs include equipment and time to set up exhaust fans to maintain negative air pressure and prevent dust from migrating. Main Line clients have a reputation for being particular, which suits Stein just fine. While working on a full-home mold remediation job in Gladwyne, the crew covered all of the house’s beautiful wood floors with 160 sheets of 1/8-inch Masonite, a steam-cooked and pressure-molded hardboard. “The floors were perfect at the end, and that cost just got built into the job,” Stein explained. “The end result — a happy client — is paramount to us.

“Everybody is in such a hurry to get things done with a close eye to costs,” he continued. “Obviously, I’m in business and I’m conscious of costs, too. But there’s a way to do a job properly without cutting corners. It’s about educating yourself, knowing what works and giving a damn.”

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When Naomi first approached her father, the idea was to put her business degree to use by managing the office. “She wasn’t a great office manager,” her father said. “Both of us are creative — we don’t like doing the paperwork. Naomi found her passion with design, and I hired an office manager. It was the right move.”

Unflappable in the face of the problems inherent to construction, Stein considers himself a practical contractor at heart. Although trained in design, it isn’t his favorite flavor. “It turns out, with Naomi’s talent with design, we make a great team,” he said. Naomi jumped in with both feet, learning skills like CAD on the job and taking classes through the National Kitchen and Bath Association and Moore College of Art & Design. “I trust my dad completely,” she said. “If there’s any way to make my vision a reality, he can do it.”

As is the case in every successful family business, keeping home and work separate is critical. “We’ve always gotten along well,” said Andrew. “That being said, there’s a built-in tension between designers and builders. Builders always want to build and get it done efficiently; designers want to elaborate with detail, to pursue all options.”

Longtime clients get a kick out of the father-daughter dynamic at meetings. “We sometimes bump together in a good way even if we don’t always agree,” he said. “It produces the best compromise between design and practicality.” Now the company’s vice president and principal designer, Naomi admits that sometimes she finds her dad set in his ways. “The problem is that a lot of times, his ways are right. I bring a different energy into the mix, though, which is good.” One area of disagreement has to do with the locations of the company’s jobs. Her dad doesn’t like commuting past the Main Line; Naomi is interested in working in Philly. “I sometimes take on design projects outside of our usual area if the job is really special,” she said.

Another way Naomi has impacted the business is through her design blog on the company website (, an approachable, chatty forum for her experiences with everything from rugs and color schemes to lighting and girly glam. “Both my dad and I like interesting custom details and beautiful finishes. We may have different tastes, but together, they mesh perfectly.”

Beth D’Addono is a longtime contributor to Inside. This article originally appeared in Inside Magazine, a Jewish Exponent publication.

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Design Manifest in Lonny Magazine!

Pinch Me.

Today one of my dreams has come true; a Design Manifest project is being featured in Lonny Magazine.  Last year Dad and I had the pleasure of designing and building a beautiful kitchen for the sweetest family ever.   Custom touches were used throughout and each detail was planned with care.  From the black and brass strapped hood, to the two-tone island to the custom cabinet doors, working on this space was truly a dream.  In fact, I shared a few peeks last year on instagram which I dubbed #projectdreamkitchen.  Today, finally, I am so thrilled to share the results.

You can see the article HERE.

design manifest kitchen in lonny magazine

(image via Lonny Mag)

I want to thank Lonny Magazine for the pleasure and honor of gracing their online pages.  Working with photographer, Genevieve Garruppo, art director, Wendy Scofield and writer, Mackenzie Schmidt was such a thrill.  I’ve never had one of my projects shot by magazine before so it was very very cool.

I hope you all love the space.  Kitchens are my absolute favorite rooms to build.


REVEAL: Our Chestnut Hill Project featured . . . on {Style Me Pretty Living}

I’m thrilled to announce that our Chestnut Hill Project is being featured today on Style Me Pretty Living!!  My client “A” was one of the very first people to hire me as a decorator and we have worked slowly and steadily on her home over the past few years.  It has been a labor of love that has pushed my design boundaries (neutrals!) and really helped me grow as a designer.   I absolutely love the home and I know the family of 6 does too.

Here is a peek of the living room featuring a custom designed ottoman.  I hope you will hop over to SMP Living to get the full tour and all of the details!

Design Manifest Chestnut Hill Project Living Room


Thank You, Thank You

No, this is not a post about the Oscars.  Instead, I hope you’ll indulge me while I toot our own horn just a bit.

Design Manifest has had the good fortune of receiving awesome local press lately!  We are always grateful when anyone features our work, but getting a little love in Philadelphia is extra special.  Just yesterday I rushed to the grocery store to pick up my copy of Philadelphia Magazine.  This month is their “Amazing Spaces” issue and features our Philadephia Modern Bohemian project.  I was standing there in the check out line grinning ear to ear just waiting for someone to ask me why I was so happy.  I would have non-nonchalantly pointed to the photo and said, “oh that’s my work.”  Alas, no one noticed or cared and I went home without bragging.  But that’s what the blog is for, right?

So here’s a quickie run down of where we’ve been featured…

The Philadelphia Inquirer included us in a great article about design trends.  That’s our Bachelor Pad dining room below.

philadelphia inquirer feature with design manifest(You can read the article and view the slideshow here.)

Here is Philadelphia Magazine‘s feature I mentioned above…

Philadelphia Magazine feature with design manifest

AND one of our favorite Philadelphia furniture stores, Host Interiors, is featuring me in their designer spotlight.  You can read the little interview and see sources HERE.

naomi picksI’m super excited for Host to open their new flagship store in Ardmore this spring!

The fact that it’s only just March and so far this year, the two biggest media publications in Philly have featured our work just blows my mind.  We are VERY grateful.  And if anyone is new to us from these source… welcome neighbor!  I hope you’ll stick around.  We have quite a few NEW projects we plan to reveal in upcoming months.

We also have a select few design/build slots open for the spring.  If you are interested in renovating your kitchen, bath, or living spaces, please feel free to reach out naomi (at)  We are already filling our summer construction slots.  It’s not too early to get planning.

Happenins’ 2/22/13

Exciting Week over here at DM!  Yesterday I get a little message in my inbox from Roxy telling me I’m featured over on Huffington Post.   Whaaaaaat?!?  Its crazy, exciting, flattering and I am thrilled.  If anyone has found me through Huff Post, welcome!  I hope you enjoy the Cottage renovation and I also recommend a tour of my old loft.  Stay tuned because I’ll be sharing a new project next week.

Here’s a little excerpt, but you can see the whole piece HERE.

huff post piece

Had I’d known the interview had been picked up by a major news source I may have used 6 less exclamation points.  Ooops.  Hehe.

Double Dose:  My work was also featured in this month’s HGTV Magazine!  If you see the March issue flip to page 69- Van Deusen Blue was my fun creation for a young client.

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Blog Highlights:  My DIY Curtains made me feel like a major success.  I’m still so pleased how a little greek key trim can add so much sophistication to a basic white curtain!

Sneakity McPeekity:  Speaking of curtains, we hung my shower curtains.  Yes I have two.  Still need to steam them.  More on those soon.  Other bathroom posts HERE.

shower curtain

Elsewhere:  Two great posts about blogging.  Manrepeller and Erin both made me think.  I have to admit that I often have negative and confused feeling about this whole blog world.  It’s still relatively so new… we are all pioneers in a way.  Yet I’m still so grateful for all the opportunities it has brought my way!

Off to a very busy day.  Have a great weekend All!