November 14, 2022

The Magic of Decorating

The majority of the projects we work on at Lauren Liess Interiors are either ground-up new builds or major overhaul renovations but I have to say, I still love me a good ol’ fashioned decorating project. We recently completed some work for our good friends, Mike & Tara Carr. Mike runs CarrMichael Construction and has done all of our personal houses along with many of our local design projects for clients. (You also might remember seeing him in our HGTV show Best House on the Block!) Tara and I became close way back when we first met- 10 or so years ago- and our kids are all around the same age.

As is the case with a lot of people in the design/ build industry, Mike’s personal home has been on the backburner for years as he’s focused on client work. We’ve taken Tara through house after house of “finished” projects of ours and every time, she talks about how we need to do their place. Let me be super clear here: their place has great bones as you can see from the “before.” Mike & the CarrMichael Construction team did a beautiful job renovating it years ago… but it was never decorated. They brought over furniture from their old place and left some rooms empty, waiting to finally get it right.

“We’re finally doing it!” was the text message I got one day. Woohoo!!

As with most old-school strictly decorating projects, we met Mike and Tara at their house to assess where it was at, what they wanted to change, what they were willing to change (often a big discrepancy with clients once budgets, timeline & reality set in) and to discuss style and vibe.

I’ve known Tara for so long and have noticed what she likes from our client projects that I think I knew what she wanted more than she did. I love her and she let me do my thing- ” Do whatever you want,” was her main directive. (As any designer knows, those words are the first indication you might be working with a dream client ;)) Tara is sweet and warm yet blunt. She’s a cool girl who needed a cool house to suit her. She’s funny and she laughs at my weirdness, not understanding it yet totally appreciating it. I’ve helped them do little things throughout the years but this time we knew that we were going to do it all the way. Tara was fine with some of the quirkier things coming into the design that might have once scared her. You don’t get soul if you don’t get a little weird.

We tackled a couple of rooms- finishing out some spaces with pre-existing furnishings and doing some from scratch. One of my favorite rooms we did was the front living room- it’s a sunken living room in the front of the house that had been left empty for when the time finally came to do it. (shown above & right) We took the house’s existing palette of blues and whites into account, but I wanted to add some depth and patina. A vintage rug from the Lauren Liess & Co. vintage rug shop was the starting point for the new palette. It was deep and moody with greigey-teal, chocolate browns & charcoal.

We wanted to add some warmth and architectural character to the room so we reworked the existing fireplace and planked the ceiling. Our original design included some stonework but Mike modified it in the interest of budget and I absolutely love how it turned out.

We pulled a dusty teal from the rug for the walls and a slightly deeper teal for the velvet curtains. This room feels like a hug when you’re in it. It’s a touchable space with both natural and man-made textures. The vintage forest scene tapestry was probably the thing that pushed Tara the most in the design planning phase but I honestly don’t think she worried and just let it go.

Four philosopher’s chairs (in belmont- dark amber leather) from my collection with Taylor King anchor the space and create one of my favorite go-to furniture arrangements for more intimate spaces. Mike and Tara already have a large family room off of their kitchen so here we had the chance to create a cozy, smaller space for fires and long conversations. (I’ve asked if the room’s gotten any use yet and it sounds like Mike works/ takes calls in there some afternoons and there are Christmas tree plans on the horizon.) There’s nothing like a four-chair room.

A concrete cocktail table reminiscent of a column adds a hint of classical modern. The central lantern is also a modern take on a classical form and is one of my favorite things in the room. All of the art and many of the accessories are vintage and/or from our shop Lauren Liess & Co. A console on one side of the room is a spot for drinks & curiosities.

My favorite types of spaces are the ones you can sort of just sit and think in… the kind of room that’s just as good if not better when you’re alone in it. It’s so rare these days to have time to sit and think and maybe dream a little that I love designing spaces to encourage that mind wandering we used to do so much of when we were kids. This is one of those spaces to me. Enjoy the peek!

Though we did tweak some of the architectural elements in the room, it didn’t need to undergo major construction and I absolutely love seeing the power of fabrics, furniture, and paint on a blank slate space like this. We’re working on ranch house in Wyoming right now where we were brought into the project later in the process than normal- after all of the bones had been designed and the house was already being built- and so we’re having so much fun layering in the soul and character through textiles and furnishings. Everything needs to be so thought through and needs to really be able to carry itself and do something for the space. When the balance is just right, the results are so. dang. satisfying.

SIDENOTE: I often get inquiries about taking out of state projects and the answer is YEP! We travel all over! (Approximately 2/3 of our full-service interior design projects are in other areas of the country and about 1/3 of our projects are in the VA/MD/DC area at this point.) Another portion of our projects are parcel projects (e-design) geared towards smaller projects where clients are taking it one room at a time. You can read about both services here.

We’ve got a few other spaces we’re working on for the Carrs and I’ll be sure to share when we’re all done! I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the process!


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