Lauren Liess Interiors
luxury interior designer

As a decorator & a textile designer, this is my place to muse... Reality and charm fascinate me; perfection isn't really my thing. Fresh floppy flowers from the garden over long-stemmed roses any day, I love it when things are slightly off and tell a story.

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As the months & weeks fly by, our baby's due date looms closer & closer and I'm feeling the crunch!!  On one hand, I'm dying to hold out newest little love and I am ready to run & move about like a normal personal- actually even walk normally at this point- & fit back in my old clothes, but on the other hand I have SO MUCH to do before he/she gets here.  

We're installing some really special projects over the next few weeks and on through March, which is always satisfying.  I love finally seeing our plans fall into place:

[The backsplash in an almost-finished kitchen}

We have photo shoots happening through Feb & March for the book and my fingers are crossed that these snow days don't throw us too many wrenches.  (We had to move one today!)  One of the projects that we're installing at the end of March is incredibly different from anything we've ever done yet - A 1930s home that's colorful, gutsy with lots of antiques, modern pieces & vintage sparkle throughout- and I've planned to have it in the book so we're installing & actually photographing it that same week to meet our deadline.  (I got word yesterday that we now may not be able to include it to stay on schedule with our publication date so am on pins and needles until I hear that it will work out because I don't feel like the book will be complete without it.)  We're also installing my dad's lake house mid-March and are shooting it around the same time too.  (Again, fingers crossed that this project can stay in the book!)  We've been approaching it similarly to how we did my cousin's mountain house and have been amassing things in a storage unit and in our house and garage for the big day...  I have random lake house things eeking into everything.  I cannot wait to go spend the night there and cook and eat and relax!!!

[New doors are in at the lake house....  they made SUCH a difference replacing the upstairs windows which were three different sizes.  The upper doors will open onto three small Juliette balconies.}

We're working on a few new exciting projects that I'll share more details about soon.  You will LOVE!!! 

I'm also working on a new fabric collection for Fall.  Doing the fabrics is like this little outlet for me that just helps me exhale and  I often do it at the table with my boys as they work on "designs" too.  (It's a "challenge" to draw on a table shaking from little boys bouncing all over it, to say the least ;)  

{Playing around with drawings of "Frond," my newest design.}

We visited NYC last week and I had a great meeting with the team at Abrams Books , who's publishing my book,  Habitat: The Field Guide to Decorating.  (Feels surreal writing that - eek! )  Everyone is so nice and seems really determined to make this thing amazing!!  I also got a preview of the general book design and couldn't be more in love with how it's looking!!  The book designer is so on it's not even funny.  She got the book (and me!) 100% without us even talking beforehand.  When I opened the PDF of the book design, I was speechless it was so perfect.   I'm dying to see what she comes up with for the cover.  

{The Abrams Office}

Also- a bit of good news- we received a portion of the video that we had made when we installed my cousin's mountain house!!!  We're still missing a lot of footage- like the "afters" and my family's reaction to the situation-  so the video's a bit confusing at this point but I'm hopeful that the videographer might get it done!!  (It's even complete with the "drama" of a forgotten load of furniture ;) ;)

Anyway, I'm off for the day but hope you have a great one!  

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

The built-ins are finished in our family room/ future nursery sometimes office!!  (To view the original plans & thinking behind the room, go here.) They made SUCH a difference!!  WARNING: There is no pretty styling going on over here right now... I literally just moved some books in because I was running out of space upstairs and laded the shelves with what had been in the old room... so don't judge. ;)  But here they are:

Getting organized just feels so good... I love new storage!!! For now, the drawers and cabinets are empty, waiting for baby things.  I've put most of my design books on the shelves to make more room for kids' books in our upstairs loft, along with stationary and some art supplies.  We'll bring out the baby goodies- books, toys, baskets, etc. and get it looking more presentable in a month or two.  Like I mentioned before, we're not really going baby crazy in here and are attempting to keep it part-nursery / part-family room.  We'll see how that goes.

The cabinet doors are magnetic (the push kind) and the drawers are still waiting for their hardware.  (Translation- I have to pick it out and buy it.)  I'm doing the small tab top kind you barely see to keep the look seamless.  

As the room was dismantled for the job, a few things got piled on the dresser by Dave & the guys and I snapped a quick pic because I thought it looked good:

They'll hang there for now until the crib moves in and we take out the dressers (off to the lake house! :)

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little peek into our place!  I'll be sure to post pics of the whole space once the crib is in!

On the book front...  Our final title is HABITAT: The Field Guide to Decorating. 

{The oak leaf hydrangea from the mountain house shoot, which is in the book}

I got feedback from Abrams, my publisher, that The Field Guide to Decorating sounded more like a subtitle and that we needed something stronger in front of it for the title.  As soon as they said it, I completely agreed and started brainstorming at like 5 AM with Dave one morning.  After a couple of hours, HABITAT finally came to me and it just felt totally right.  I was actually shocked that there aren't already decorating books with the title and really love how it intertwines both home and nature which is what the book is all about.    

{Behind the scenes at our clients' kitchen shoot, featured in the book.  Pretty soapstone counters....}

I also just found out who has been hired to do the book design  and I LOVE her work.  I CANNOT WAIT to see what she comes up with!!  The actual look and feel/ attractiveness of Abrams books was a major factor in my belief that they were the publisher to go with.  The night before the auction, I went to our little library and pulled out all of my favorite and the prettiest books we had, across genres -without looking at the publisher- and piled them on a table to see who most of them were by....  My stack was OVERWHELMINGLY Abrams and the answer could not have been more clear.  So, I have no doubt that something really beautiful & unique is going to come out of this partnership.  We head to NYC this week to meet with the team there and I'm really looking forward to digging into the PR/ marketing end of things.  I CANNOT WAIT until I have a cover to share with you!!!  Will keep you posted!!

{Another, older project, that will be featured in the book.}

ps- to anyone with little kids right now-  have you seen the Avatar shows? (what's on the screen in the pics)  We love them & that's rare for kids TV.

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

We're getting closer and closer to being finished with my dad's lake house project!!  I wanted to share a bit of the plans with you.  We're in the process finalizing architectural details, ordering hardware, plumbing, lighting & furnishings.  I'm on the hunt for a few more vintage items and art.  I'm using a lot of my favorite things from our studio and am getting really excited!!!

For anyone who this is new to, my dad - who lives in IL- recently bought a lake house only a few hours away from our house so that he could be closer to us and so that we could all have a fun place to hang.  He's not planning on living there full-time just yet but is hoping to eventually retire there.  We plan to spend a lot of time there on weekends and during the summer.  My dad's a big fisherman and loves taking everyone out boating, fishing, and skiing.  (Speaking of, has anyone heard of flyboarding?!!!!  AM DYING TO TRY IT!!!!!! )

For an introduction to the project, click here.
For details on the kitchen design, click here.

So anyway, here we go:  
The great room of the house is where almost everything's at.  Getting the details right in here is really important because it sets the tone for the whole place.  The railings in the great room are a major feature and so I wanted them to be really special and to feel really different from what we have at home.

Doors and windows line the back of the house for a view of the cove.    The three awkward "stepped" windows in the photo below are being replaces with three sets of french doors that open to teensy juliet balconies.   

After mulling it over and looking at hundreds of photos of stairs, and trying to come up with a solution that would least hinder the views and make everything feel as open as possible, I settled on railings with horizontal cables similar to this:

It will really expose that loft space above the great room and I think the horizontal lines feel a bit coastal.  It's SO different from our iron railings at home and I love that when we visit, it will feel like such a different place.

The house's new color scheme is primarily whites, grays, blacks and blues.   This rug sort of epitomizes it:

After ruminating more on the kitchen- plan below-  I decided to go with bluestone countertops and backsplashes.  

The more I looked at the fireplace stone, the more I knew I needed to pull in a gray stone for a happy relationship between the LR and kitchen.  I'm also loving the idea of having something really different from what I have at home.  I like trying out new materials and always feel best about it when it's for a family project so I can give real-life experience feedback to clients considering it.   The blue stone is extremely dense and though honed, isn't quite as smooth feeling as a soapstone or marble.  I'll be using it in a master bathroom too.

I'm on the fence about what will be flanking the back window on the walls.  Originally, I was thinking shelves but the angles somehow make the walls feel closer to your face when you're in the room and we have enough storage that it doesn't need to be functional.  A wall light will be centered on each of the back three walls. (above the window and blank walls.)  I'm playing with lots of ideas for different types or racks and of course possibly old paintings because, though I have that in my kitchen at home, I really love it. 

Throughout the house, there will be lots of polished nickel with zinc and some iron, and brass thrown in. (We pretty much have it all, shocking, I know ;)

These fun striped sconces by schoolhouse electric will replace the existing sconces going up the stairs and will also flank the new french doors in the loft overlooking the LR:

And, thanks so some amazing readers, in particular Jill Danyelle, I settled on a large arc'd floor lamp in lieu of a chandelier over the dining table.  I just couldn't get on board with how long the chain would need to be and also wanted the flexibility of being able to move the table.  (I can't thank you all enough for your suggestions and help!! thank you thank you!!! :)

I decided on a long banquette slipcovered in black linen to go on one side of the table with its back near the stairs at most times:

[This is the main reason a hanging chandelier wouldn't work.. it would be too tight against the stairs.}

A set of vintage rattan chairs will go around a long custom trestle table by the Lorimer Workshop.  
Bar  stools and an old sculptor's stand:

This leather and rattan vintage rocker and my grandparents' Mid-Century cocktail table will find a home there:

In my bedroom, I found a large  indigo batik tapestry for a throw on the bed.  I'm mixing warm woods with jute, whites, blues and charcoals throughout the room:

The crazy pebbles you see above on the right will be on the floors in our bathroom.  They're set in this smooth glossy resin. So excited!!!

Here's a little sampling of some of the lighting throughout by Barn Light & Schoolhouse, and some of the plumbing and hardware:

In the walkout basement, we've turned a tiny office into a bunk room for the boys with built-in bunk beds and shiplap walls.   Their room takes a warmer turn than the rest of the house, inspired by a green vintage educational chart of fish.  Mossy green US army blankets and navy star sheets for the beds... and I'm working on a new fabric design in blue for pillows.  The vintage rug I found just fit in the room and I love it!!  (I have a vintage/ antique rug problem.)  We have a vintage yellow lamp at home (not pictured, but same color as lamp pictured by West Elm) which will add a little jolt to the room.  

So the craziest things about this project is that my dad has seen NOTHING.  I mean literally nada.  He's never even stepped foot in the house.  It's hard for him to get away from work and so Dave & I house hunted in person and facetime'd him and sent photos.  He decided on this house and I was thrilled!! (It was my favorite house we looked at- and the very first one- but I'd strongly urged him to get a different, newer house that was completely "finished"  so that he could start enjoying it right away...  That house would have killed me because I would have wanted to trick it out so badly & we wouldn't have been able to, but I thought it would be less stressful on my dad if he bought something that was "done."  But us Maestranzi's seem to do nothing the easy way, and he bought the fixer upper.  WOOOHOOOO!!! ) 

My dad's been too busy to be involved in the process at all and so I've taken the lead.  The entire thing will be a surprise to him- unless he checks my blog which I'm doubting he'll get to- when he sees it this Easter.  I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE HIM WALK IN TO THIS HOUSE!!!  I've pulled a little bit more modern in than he might be comfortable with, but he says he's open to it so we'll just have to see.  Hie bedroom is slightly more traditional and I think he'll love it.  He wants it to feel "nautical" so I'm doing my best to go there without the cheese.  This type of project is incredibly satisfying.  We'll be shooting the house in March,  just in time to make it into my book, due out this Fall!!!  The thing I love about having a deadline like this- the way I do on work projects-  is that I'm forced to dedicate the time to the project.  No loose ends and you just get to go there and "be" and relax because it's all done.  I can't wait!!

#4's due date is looming closer and closer. (3.5 months to go and time's flying.)  I've been feeling pretty good but have PGP which is so not fun (but totally normal for me.. I've had it with all of my kids and it's nothing to worry about) and definitely slows me down a bit.  The only thing that seems to help is staying off my feet and that just isn't going to happen.  We have a crazy schedule ahead of us up through mid-April - with installations, photoshoots, book editing, and some cool projects in the works- and then I'm OUT with the little one for a few months.  I'll be back at work in Fall with the book coming out and then back to "normal."  Am really enjoying all this mayhem right now but am definitely going to be ready to exhale when the time comes.  Dave has been seriously amazing like usual.  (I know no one wants to hear about mushy stuff but he's honestly the reason things actually get done...  he just seems to make things happen and gets things done.  It's awesome.) And Meghan, my #2 our & other designer, has also been crazy amazing at work.  (also, like usual)  Don't know what I'd do without these two...  They definitely make fun of me more than anyone I know- we're like a weird little family- but their support and hard work are what keeps me going.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this peek at what's to come in the lake house!! Will keep you posted!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Because I'm due with our 4th this Spring, we did a lot of thinking about our house when we first found out.  Our bedroom is on the first floor and our boys' bedrooms are on the second floor, but we knew that walking up and down the stairs multiple times a night for the new baby just wasn't going to work.

We thought about doing an addition that would add bedrooms & bathrooms above our garage, existing, family room, and new lower level mudroom/conservatory so that we could be on the same floor as the kids and of course gain more bedroom/ closet space.  (Their current bedrooms are approx 9x10 & 9x12 and there will be 2 kids in each room.  Works for now, but when their clothes are man-sized, it's gong to be a challenge.)   I also did a smaller plan that would add only 1 bedroom & bathroom above the garage. (Our house is currently around 2300 square feet btw.) We were totally on the fence and our (very patient) builder quoted it all out for us.  The smaller addition wasn't much less than the larger one, and in the end, we decided we couldn't justify spending the amount of money on our house because we don't know if it's permanent.  (It hurts to type that!!!)  

When we first moved to our new place, we'd planned to send our boys to the nearby Catholic high school when they were old enough but found out this past year that it might be moving 40 minutes away from us.  (SO bummed.) Supposedly the final decision will come this year, but at this point, we don't know.  If the high school stays and we decide to stay for the long-run, an addition is a strong possibility, but we just can't make that kind of decision right now, especially when all sources are pretty much pointing to the high school moving away.

When we realized how much an addition would cost, we perused real estate listings closer to work and to the Catholic High School I went to (yay DJOll!!!) "just for fun."  We checked out a few places online and in person, and -if you're familiar with Northern Virginia at all you'll know this- just couldn't justify paying so much money for places we didn't even like.  But randomly one weekend I found a listing for a gorgeous old saltbox in Great Falls a few miles down the road from our studio (on a few acres!!) that had been gutted and was in the process of being redone inside.  Over our budget but a possibility...  We met with the builder and timing seemed perfect... we'd shown up the day before he was ripping out beautiful old beams in the kitchen and he would let us create whatever floorplan we wanted & pick out every single little thing.  (I was in Heaven!!!)  This place was amazing.  I reworked the floorplan and reviewed the plans with the builder who was so nice.  But of course, when everything that needed to be done to the house was factored in, and when reality set in for us, we just knew we shouldn't make the move financially.  I really liked the house - and the land- but I wasn't as in love with it as I am with our place.  I could picture an A-mazing home and life there- complete with kitchen garden just outside the back door- but the style didn't feel quite right for us.  I came home from our meeting at the house and as we were crunching numbers, I just looked around our house and realized that as excited as I was about the new house, I didn't love its feeling as much as our house's...  it would have been classic and natural and relaxed, but it didn't have any bits of modern or fun.  I need my walls of glass and the openness that only a more modern place has.  (And of course, the saltbox would cost a lot more, which I guess is fairly important when it comes to things like college tuition and retirement ;) ;)    We'd decided we's sit tight and keep our eyes peeled.

We're constantly looking at properties and houses for sale in the area, but we decided we won't do a thing until we know what the high school situation is for our boys.  A couple of months later, I found a crazy house in Leesburg- I LOVE IT!!!!- near the site that the high school has plans to move to.  We checked out the house during rush hour, though, and realized it just wouldn't work for us because the commute to work/ the city would be too long.  It's an old stone schoolhouse with additions- from the 50s- added onto either side.  The views are STUNNING and the house is huge and of  course needs to be gutted and redone- a plus!- and the price is awesome so there'd be room for all of the renovations- both interior and exterior.  Check out the views out the back of the house:

I seriously LOVE this place and of course, began reworking the floorplans immediately.  (Floorplans honestly keep me up at night.  They're a like a big puzzle and I can't rest until I've figured them out perfectly.   It's not even something I really enjoy doing but more like someone set me in front of a big equation I just can't help but doing.  I have issues.  I know... )

The stone is gorgeous but I'd want to rework the entire exterior:

I love that is used to be a school.  The road is names after it!!  But for us, it's just too far away from where we need to be.

And since I've been sharing some of my favorite finds with you, I may as well show you the one I've been drooling over for months that is nowhere near our budget in McLean.  I like to look at it every month or so...  Waiting for it to drop a couple million ;) ;)  


I ADORE this glass house (though sadly would want to change many of the interior finishes because I'd need more warmth & patina, so even if it were remotely in our price range, it would be wrong to redo something so good just because it's not my style.).  

 Seriously, one day, I'd love to have pure glass walls....

How amazing is this shower?!!!  (I hope the neighbors are faaaar away.)...

But anyway...  after our whirlwind of running through other possibilities, we've come right back to where we'd started, which was to sit tight in our place and make it work.  (We do this A LOT & probably always will.)  The thought of leaving our house kind of makes my chest tighten.  I love it.  We poured so much time and energy and thought into it and we live in it exactly how we thought we would and have a sort of easy simple way of living here that I don't ever want to change.   I've always dreamed of building a home from scratch one day, but to be honest, right now, it doesn't AT ALL appeal to me.  Building or renovating something else for myself would be too much of a re-creation of what I already have right now because it's just right for us right now.  I would want to put in the same kitchen, same bathrooms, same floors, same paint, same furniture, same EVERYTHING into the house and that's just boring.  Maybe one day when I'm looking for a change- not more bedrooms for babies- I'd be excited about it.  (And then I'll get those solid walls of glass ;) 

SO... to make room for this new baby -and more importantly, to avoid having to walk up the stairs at night- we've decided to turn our family room/ kids project/ craft room/office into a temporary nursery/family room for a year or so until the baby's sleeping through the night.  At that point, the baby will share a bedroom with Louie (now, 2) and we'll also know what the deal is with the high school situation.  We're planning on converting the room back to being a family room / multipurpose room for the kids/ sometimes office.  Here's a photo of the room when it was our office...


It's now rearranged with the table against the wall and the green velvet sofa on the wall with the fish print (above.) The walls are covered in the boys' artwork & random things:


Sadly, the big project table has to go to make room for storage.  

We're bringing in Lou's old crib and putting it where we currently have a couple of dressers that hold random things like wrapping paper, games toys, books, etc:


When the baby moves upstairs, we plan to put a second sofa in that spot so that there are two sofas facing each other.  For now, though, the floorplan will look like this:

It will be a nice big room with lots of room for the kids to play in.  And also, there will be a massive TV in our baby's nursery.  Above the changing area.  (Reminds me of Sweet Home Alabama... "You have a baby.  At a bar."  )  Yeah, we'll see how that goes.  (I was thinking we'd wait until the baby had moved upstairs to bring in the TV, but Dave really wanted one now and he rarely cares about how we arrange furniture or what we do in our house, so when he says he wants something, he gets it.)  None of our children have ever really slept very much at night either when they're babies so we end up watching lots of late night movies...   I'm positive the gilder & TV will see lots of use.

Here's the design I came up with last night for the built-ins, going in tomorrow: (yay!)

The changing station will literally be in front of the TV.  Like I said, we'll see how that goes.  Worst case, we use changing pads on the floor or couch.  I'm not picky at this point.  The entire built-in will be similar in style to the built-ins in our upstairs loft in that it will look as if the frame is made from drywall.  The cabinet doors and drawers will be set right into it.  

It will be flush in the front but have varying depths.  The shelves will be 13" deep but the cabinets and changing area will go the full 24" deep:

I'm not really doing anything cutesy or nurseryish in there and might just stick the the boys' art work hung all over.  I have to be honest, I looked at nurseries the other day on pinterest and I'm just really over having one.  I think I started sputtering out on my last little guy's nursery - he has dinosaurs and jungle things and lots of green- but I just sort of threw it together from things we had after he was born.  The reality is that nurseries are for parents and knowing that this one is so temporary, I don't want to put together a bunch of random "nursery" things that I don't really feel like looking at.  (hahah I hope I don't sound bah-humbug!!)

Anyway, I should have some pics to share of how the built-ins look next week!  In a month or two we'll break out the crib and start unpacking baby clothes!!!  Cannot believe it.  Will keep you posted!! 

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

I hope you've all had great holidays!!  Christmas just seemed to fly by this year for us though I'm loving the week of nothing we have planned ahead of us.  I thought I'd share a few snippets of our place decorated for Christmas (and by "decorated for Christmas" I mean we have a tree up, set  tables for a family Christmas Eve party and put bits of greenery around) and of what we've been up to.   

This Christmas felt more last-minute than usual.  (We started shopping on the 23rd.  Not recommended.)   Hence, the completely unironed linen tablecloth in the pic above... don't judge ;)  

And yet another year has gone by where I missed the Christmas card window.  I have to say, seeing so many Christmas pics the day after Thanksgiving on instagram and on blogs, I felt behind from the very beginning of the season, which I know is ridiculous.  It's kind of like the retail timeline has pushed us all forward a little and now with social media doing the same, everything seems to go by even more quickly.  I know feeling on top of things or behind is totally within my own control but I have noticed a subtle change since I've been more synched up with social media.  I'm trying to work on not getting swept up.

Like most kids, our boys are obsessed with Santa.  When we saw him at the mall, Christian, 7, was so excited - which means lots of bouncing for him- and couldn't stop laughing- like out of control giggling- when he looked at Santa from the line.  I loved it.     

We ate waaaaay too many of these this year:

And I'm feeling great with baby #4...

... though he/she is probably having trouble finding room in there with all the FOOD I've been consuming.   I'm at the 5 month mark today and I can't believe we're going to have another one in a few months!!  (We're going to start converting our family room into a temporary nursery soon...  Nesting is NOT kicking in for me this time; I feel SO done with projects.)  

We're loving all the downtime with the boys.  

{Lou, 2}

I attempted to make shapes out of pb&j's for them the way my grandmother used to for me when I was little...

I love Christmas break because I feel like I finally get the time to slow down and do stuff like that with the kids.  We even did "Chistmas craps" (Christmas crafts as said by Louie, 2) which really just consisted of paper, crayons, markers and lots of glitter and whatever we felt like doing with it.  (Of course forgetting to give out the "craps" at Christmas.) I'm also attempting to have photo albums printed from 2010 on this week... I've been behind.  (iphones really messed me up because in the past couple of years I pretty much switched to them for pics and the quality just isn't as good and I'm not as organized with the photos.)

Here are a few more pics of our Christmas Eve table:

It's a little "cuter" than I normally like things but I couldn't resist the little German glitter houses/ churches that were on sale at Pottery Barn and that remind me so much of my Grandma Maestranzi's vintage Christmas town out of glitter houses and "snow" and trees...  Nostalgia is weirdly irresistable for me.  

Tea lights and evergreen branches from the yard were simple and easy:

 Our pup/ old girl has been spending her days snuggling in all of the blankets and sleeping bags that have been out in front of the fire:

...And we've spent lots of days and nights of reading and doing nothing in front of the fire. (We've also watched more "Reign" episodes than I should admit.... LOVE the costumes!!!)

Anyway, I'm off for the evening but have a really happy New Year's Eve & I'll be back next week!!  Hope you're getting lots of quality time in with the people you care about!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.



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