Q&A with Mark Cheeks, Interior Design Manager

Q: What drew you to architecture?

Mark Cheeks (MC): My maternal grandfather was a carpenter. He built houses for a living and constructed millwork. Once I started junior high school and wanted little jobs to make money, he would take me to his jobsites to help out. I would do framing and helped install millwork; a lot of things I don’t do anymore. Just doing things that I couldn’t mess up. That was my “fun money.”

After I graduated from Mississippi State University, with my bachelor’s degree in Architecture, I was living in Memphis, Tennessee. For four years I worked for an architecture firm focused on military work. We designed barracks, airplane hangars, airplane engine test facilities, and a myriad of other projects. I had top secret clearance because I had to go to Navy bases to measure the sites. That’s where my career began.

When I moved out to Denver, Colorado in 1997 I thought I would continue in architecture and one of my classmates was working at an interior design firm and I applied. That firm was mostly landlord-focused interior architecture – carpet and paint. It was a good place to learn the business of interiors. Working on larger projects gave me the desire to work on more creative tenant representation focused projects. Then I got the opportunity to work at Ware Malcomb where I was the Studio Manager of Interiors. I helped to build their interiors department and I worked on many commercial and industrial projects.

Q: Tell me about interior design.

MC: I like it because it gave me the opportunity to improve the office environment for people. As many working adults, pre-pandemic, we spent more time at the office than at home. Even if I’m able to do an accent wall in the right place or get the right carpet so it’s not a sterile environment, that makes it better. It makes me happy to have a positive impact on the spaces where people work. It affects your mood. Great interiors provide an opportunity to make environments better and more collaborative.

Q: How can interior architecture have a positive impact on people’s lives?

MC: I would like to think that architecture and interiors can inspire people—even create a sense of wonder at times. It can be a safe, secure place for someone. It can be a place for contemplation or a place for playfulness. Now that I’m at BRS, I’m learning a lot about playfulness—not just through the community recreation work we do but the culture at BRS as well.

Architecture is responsible for bringing together people that maybe aren’t from the same backgrounds or cultures and giving them a common place to be. I like the public-facing projects we do because it is an opportunity for people to raise the bar in their lives whether it is a health-related goal, or gaining knowledge. At least that’s what I hope happens. In the commercial world, you see the breadth and depth of people working in large corporate offices. And they have different ideas of how the space is used, where you sit and places where you can get away from your desk, where it’s more social. It can promote collaboration, camaraderie, and hopefully respect.

“Architecture is responsible for bringing together people that maybe aren’t from the same backgrounds or cultures and giving them a common place to be. ”

– Mark Cheeks

Q: How would you describe “community design” as it pertains to what we do?

MC: Our focus at BRS is elevating the user experience and making the connection to people, place, and pace.

It makes sense, our job is to get as much information from community members in the beginning phases. We draw information from the community in town meetings, workshops, and open houses. I think we do an excellent job of collecting as much authentic information as possible and using it to improve the spaces and experiences of the people using those spaces.

As part of my onboarding here at BRS, we toured three different recreation centers and what stood out to me was that it was clearly three different responses to three different communities. Each one serves their respective community well. As architects and interior designers, we are problem solvers. To solve the problem, you need the meat and potatoes of it. The information you don’t get is just as important as the information you do get. Then we synthesize all the information into a cohesive solution. That comes with patience and years of practice; you must read between the lines sometimes. It’s nice when you get it right.

Q: What updates should we know about in the Interior Design department?

MC: My team is Rylie, Wendy, and Jesse. Carmen and Amanda are on the edges. We are making interiors an integral part of our architectural design services. We will put a few more tools in the architect’s toolbox to help them design for interiors. The level of detail can be intimidating but we want to give them confidence, guidance and be a resource to them in a non-judgmental way. Interior design raises the bar on every project.

Q: What are you excited about for 2023?

MC: I’m excited to learn more about recreation centers. My goal is to make interior design a vital part of the BRS process. I don’t only want to think about it at the end or to fix a budget. It’s a culture shift. It involves us from the beginning with the onset of the design threads and the first pricing exercise. By the time you get to DD it’s already too late, then it’s an afterthought.

In my personal life, we are going to try to take the barbeque sauce to the next level. That means getting it FDA tested to get a nutrition label and partnering with a group that can produce it at larger quantities. We’ll see where it goes but the prospect is exciting! Hopefully one day you’ll see Cheeks Sauce at a grocery store near you!

Click here to contact Mark.

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