How Banko Design Sets Up Your Project for Success

As we continue the adventure of designing and developing hospitality, senior living, active adult, and multifamily communities, Banko Design recognizes more than ever the importance of your projects receiving a high degree of attention – from conceptual design all the way through installation. Try as you might to protect yourself and your company, there may have been disappointments that left a sting. Several of our clients come to us because they appreciate the level of attention and experience our team brings. They’ve gone to pricey, big-name firms in the past (not to name names) and did not receive the same Principal-level engagement and input – our boutique-level of service – they find at Banko Design.

Though standard questions around our team’s bandwidth have always been a part of a potential client’s due diligence, we have noticed (perhaps in part due to current headlines surrounding shifting hiring practices and increasing layoffs) this line of questioning has become more intensive, evolving from, “Do you have the bandwidth?” to in many cases, “No really, WHO exactly on your team will be working on my project?” 

At Banko Design, we are your partner, and the success of your project is critically important to us, too. Let us show you how we set up your project for success by diving into the who, how, and why behind our staffing process.

What you need to know? We take a “boutique” approach to design. To us that means from concept to installation and every phase in between, we offer best-in-class customer service, a thoughtful design approach curated to the project’s specific needs, and a level of documentation unseen elsewhere in the industry. Your design team provides you with quick and consistent communication, presents solutions instead of challenges, and we guarantee that our interior design leadership works on your project through all phases of design.

When a project is officially kicked off, we introduce our client to their Project Lead. This talented team member becomes the primary point of contact, and they are responsible for spearheading the design and managing communications from start to end, including through procurement and installation with our sister company, Red Pen Procurement. Because we’re hyper-focused on making your project a success and the design completed in the time you need it, we also have a well-established review process in place before any deliverables ever leave our studio.

Something unique about us? We’re not afraid of tight deadlines, thanks largely to our depth on the bench. All our designers on staff are trained to work cross-functionally across all the verticals we service – senior living, active adult/55+, multifamily, and hospitality. No silos here. This difference allows us to staff more readily, instills more creativity in our designers, and creates stronger projects by implementing best practices from a variety of markets. The cross-training also helps should a project’s tight timeline require additional support to meet an aggressive deadline. Further, our leadership team here is constantly forecasting workload to determine whether hiring additional team members to accommodate an anticipated workload is warranted. They are entrenched in each phase, providing constant guidance and mentorship.

Between our Founder, Melissa Banko, Principal, Betsy Distler, Studio Director, Jamie Culpepper, and other leaders, we have a whopping 104 years of combined design experience (though they’d kill us if they knew we published that number.)

To give a sampling of just how deep our leaders’ “bench strength goes,” let us give you a peek into their well-established experience:

Our Boss Lady: Melissa Banko

Melissa, THE dreamer, is a graduate of The Art Institute of Atlanta where she earned a BFA in Interior Design. Prior to founding Banko Design, she worked in the interiors department at prominent firms in the industry. Melissa’s passion for interior design has distinguished her as an industry expert and advocate. As an avid supporter of Alzheimer’s causes and Autism Awareness, Melissa prioritizes community outreach and giving back. She mentors interns and serves as an advisor and juror for interior design students at various universities.

As Founder and Principal of Banko Design, Melissa oversees the day-to-day operations of our team of designers, interior architects, purchasing agents, warehouse staff, and office personnel. Under Melissa’s guidance, Banko Design provides an unparalleled level of design, service, and efficiency for our clients. Since Melissa has such strong relationships with our clients, she builds teams to fulfill the client’s vision and assembles the team that fits your project type best. She has her eyes on everything and is heavily involved in every phase of the design process to make sure we are meeting our client’s expectations. Nothing leaves without the head honcho’s blessing!

Our Principal Extraordinaire: Betsy Distler

As an Interior Architect with 25+ years of experience, Betsy’s expertise bridges the divide between architecture and interiors. With experience at large and boutique design firms, Betsy brings a wealth of design and studio leadership knowledge to the Banko team. Betsy is a professional and positive mentor to younger staff and her in-depth technical knowledge and passion for great design allows her to bring a unique perspective to each project.

As principal, she supports overall project health. If you don’t know it, then Betsy does! With her robust architecture background, she is a great resource for our design team for all questions about construction and coordination with fellow architects. She is a CA guru who implements quality standards, project procedures, team communications, and technical detailing across our senior living, active adult, multifamily, and hospitality projects.

Our Dedicated Studio Director: Jamie Culpepper

Coming in hot with 18+ years of experience is our studio director, Jamie Culpepper. Her extensive portfolio ranges from international work with world-renowned hotel brands to domestic projects with independent ownership groups. Jamie’s degree in Interior Design from Florida State University, NCIDQ certification, and her comprehensive experience has made her instrumental in leading the studio.

As Banko’s Studio Director, Jamie manages quality control of others, mentors the junior designers in best practices, and guides projects from beginning to end. Jamie helps oversee all things in the studio and those that make up our amazing design team. Jamie is the team builder, the team supporter, and the team cheerleader. She redlines all our drawings and supports designers to help them maintain internal and external deadlines.

Our Passionate Project Manager Director: Alexa Blackwell

With expertise across a range of verticals, Alexa is the eyes and ears of our timelines and an interior designer proficient in project planning, scheduling, and oversight. She reigns supreme in our studio with a decisive leadership style and creative approach to solving problems. As Project Manager Director, she uses her 20+ years of experience and knowledge to provide unique leadership and skills to the design team.

Our Devoted QC Manager and BIM Specialist: Christie Berkowitz

Having worked across Georgia in a variety of studios, Christie lends great knowledge and background to the Banko Design team. In her role as QC Manager, she helps to manage construction documentation, review drawings for quality assurance, and supports staff in consultant coordination while mentoring team members on company standards, codes, and ADA guidelines. She is also responsible for managing Banko Design’s BIM template.

What makes so much of the work by our leaders and day-to-day team even more special is our in-house procurement agency, Red Pen Procurement. How this helps you? Working closely with preferred vendors allows us to provide the best pricing, passing the benefits of BIG buying power back to our clients.

As the industry continues to struggle with longer lead times and construction timelines, our procurement team is equipped to handle the headaches for you. The Red Pen Procurement team shares an open studio space with our designers, which allows us to check in on items early and often to ensure the delivery timeline fits your project schedule.

So, there you have it. We mean what we say when we tell you we’ve got you covered. You can count on us to provide you with an experienced team who will be with you through the entire project, with multiple quality checks and clear communication along the way.

What you need to know? We support you every step of the way through your project.

Have a project that needs a dedicated staff of talented team members? We have the bandwidth and would love to work with you. Reach out to us at to get started!


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