Personality Profile: Mike Rataczak

Minnesota-based interior designer Mike Rataczak brings his own unique approach to contemporary design

Photos courtesy of Mike Rataczak

For most, life’s journey is not linear. For Mike Rataczak, owner of Mike Rataczak Studios, this notion rings true. “I took an indirect path into my design career,” he says. In high school, he found his love for art and design (thanks to Mrs. Jasper), but after growing up in Minnesota, Rataczak moved to New York City, where he earned his MBA from Columbia Business School. This degree jump-started a career in consulting and corporate human resources, but in the background, he continued to foster his love of design. He continues, “In late 2018, I left my corporate career to study at Parsons School of Design and then opened my own business.”

In the time prior to his design career, Rataczak worked for firms including Accenture, L Brands, and Nike, where he learned the importance of listening first—an approach he uses in his current design work. Fast forward to 2023 when Rataczak returned to the Twin Cities after 35 years of living in New York City. “It came to a point where, as much as New York engaged me, I missed my home state,” he explains. Here, he can spend more time with family, host gatherings, meddle in the lives of his niece and nephews, and continue honing his design prowess.

While confident the move back was the right decision, Rataczak is working toward reestablishing himself and his business in Minnesota. He states, “Over the last five years, I’ve evolved not just in terms of larger and more complex projects, but also in pushing for more creative designs in my work.” His passion lies in the belief that our homes should reflect the best of us. “You should meet yourself when you walk in your door, and I love being part of making that experience happen.”

Where do you start when embarking on a new project?

I work closely with my clients to understand as much about them and their lives as possible, and I ask questions such as ‘How do they live in a space?’ ‘What works and doesn’t work for them?’ ‘What inspires them?’ ‘How do they want to feel when they walk in the door of their home?’ Everything in the design process that follows is informed, first and foremost, by understanding my clients and how they wish to live.

How would you describe your signature design style?

I favor contemporary design as the basis of my work, and then weave in older pieces, such as furniture and artwork, to balance out my style. The clean lines and materials used in contemporary design lend themselves to pretty much any architecture, and I love the play of old and new when I see curated older items worked in alongside newer pieces. I have a personal passion for finding old pieces and restoring them to present-day use. Overall, I tend to favor clean lines and the mixture of different materials, such as wood, glass, and fabric.

Who (or what) is your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration is the natural world. My brother is Jim Rataczak, the nature artist, and he taught me decades ago to see the infinite arrays of color in nature—even on the grayest afternoons. Nature’s color combinations always work and never grow old. I’m also inspired by my exposure to art, architecture, and street life I experienced in New York and the Twin Cities. Those two areas, as different as they may be, share a bond in the passion their citizens feel for their cities. That passion creates an energy I find exhilarating.

What interior design features do you like to experiment and have fun with?

I love to experiment with bold colors, patterns, and artwork [while doing] them in a way that enhances the space without overwhelming it. In particular, I love designing a room to accommodate artwork, such as photography, paintings, or sculpture. Those pieces are extensions of my clients, and I love weaving them into the story of the space I’m designing.

Anything else?

Teachers matter. One of my Annandale High School art teachers, Kathy Roth Jasper, was a great mentor to me and helped me understand my own love of art and design. Over the ensuing years, I made a wholly different career but continued to nurture my love of design. Today, I’m fortunate to build a career around that passion, and I don’t know if that evolution would have happened without Mrs. Jasper’s influence and mentorship all those years ago. Kathy Roth Jasper, if you’re reading this, I am so grateful to you.

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