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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The renovation has been moving along quickly at my dad's lake house and we're getting so close!!  This past weekend, Dave and I took a drive down with the boys to drop off a truckload of furniture.  We planned to stay one night but ended up staying a couple nights because of the weather/ bad driving conditions on the road.  

{the view off the back deck}

The pre-finished wood floors in the basement had been installed but the floors on the main levels of the house were in the process of being finished so we hunkered down in the basement.   The showers and sinks hadn't yet been hooked up (thank goodness for a toilet upstairs!!) and baby wipes were key on this trip.  (I didn't know this until after we were already halfway there, but oh well.)  It reminded me a lot of when we lived in our house during our construction... dusty & dirty but so exciting.  Peanut butter and butter and jellies and trash bag picnics.  

The boys slept in the new bunk room and loved it.  (They've never slept in bunk beds before and are ridiculously excited.)  We had them sleep on the bottom bunks because the safety rails haven't yet been installed on the top bunks but they were still thrilled.  Louie (our two year-old) slept in our bed- horizontally, kicking us all night of course.  (I'm nearing the end of this pregnancy and am a that stage where you start to wake up in the middle of the night and can't go back to sleep- so the toddler kicks are awesome for that. ;)

Dave was super-sweet and set up a bed for us in the basement guest bedroom- after unloading the moving truck on his own late the first night- which is turning out beautifully!!  It's an incredibly sunny room now which is A-MAZING.  We added a wall of doors and some windows above the bed.  As much as I love one of the upstairs bedrooms, it's so convenient to be on the same floor as the boys, and I'm guessing we'll be in there a lot when we visit.

{This is an older photo... the floors have now been installed and the doors have been painted.  Our phones ran out of batteries so I didn't get as many pics as I wanted to!}

On our second day there, we got fancy with a table & cold cuts at lunch in the boys' room:

I attempted to finish up the most recent round of (copy) edits on the book and the boys read and played with toys we'd brought down to keep there.  They were so proud of the "Storm Trooper" suits we made out of packing material one night: 

The basement, which was previously so dark, is bright and airy now.  Swapping out standard doors for eight foot doors made such a difference.  The fresh white paint really helped too.   

{the basement family room: currently a dance floor}

We met with our contractor, Sid Cutts of Corbitt HIlls Construction, and squared away all of the last-minute details.  Whenever I do a personal project or a project for a family member, I have to do it on the side during off-hours because we can't afford to work it into our work schedule so there's a lot more flying-by-the-seats-of-our-pants going on.  By this point, I've learned to trust in my decisions and not look back, but I have forgotten so many of the late-night decisions I've made on this project.  (When our contractor was asking us about where certain hardware or light fixtures went, it was hard to jog my memory...  thank goodness for our excel spreadsheet!!!) It's all looking good though, and I'm really happy with how it's turning out.  

{I'm loving the river rock floors in some of the bathrooms!!}

{the master bathroom on the top floor is almost finished!!!}

I had all of the doors and windows painted black to accentuate the views and add more contrast to the house.  The walls are all painted in Benjamin Moore's Swiss Coffee, a fresh white with a little bit of depth to it.  (Except for the shiplap in my dad's bedroom, which I had painted a deep-to-medium gray to warm it up some. ) The house is in my dad's favorite colors- blues and grays- and if the modern touches don't scare him, he's going to love it.  The bluestone countertops are going in the kitchen and one of the bathrooms tomorrow.  I'm really excited to try them out as I've never used them on a project before.  They're a bit rougher than most stone countertops.    

After that, the kitchen will be pretty much finished!! wohoo!!! 

It was fun to go visit such a cool palette and then come home to my ivory-sepia one.  The change feels so good and it makes me really appreciate both places.  (To anyone who doesn't care about decorating... I realize how ridiculous this sounds, but it has such an effect on me and makes me really excited.)  We don't have a ton of stuff in our house but after visiting the empty lake house all weekend and coming home, it made me want to get rid of things!!   (I'm definitely jealous of all of the storage at the lake house... something my house is lacking in.)  

The crow's nest is AWESOME.  

{This is a pre-painted pic from a few days ago}

We're installing all of the furniture in a couple of weeks and shooting it for my book right afterwards.  (We only have two shoots left-including this one- until we're done!!)  The book is going to print soon after the photos come in so I've had to pre-write all of the captions for the final shoots.  It's a little crazy having to make all of the styling decisions on these two huge projects before construction has even been completed!!  I walked through the house to make sure I thought all of the art work and accessories would still work as planned and tried to perfectly envision every shot to make sure each one would be interesting enough to include in the book and that nothing was redundant.  I've triple-checked all of my captions for these final two projects and now, just have to pray that everything is completed exactly as planned and on time, and looks as good as I'm picturing it will.  fun stuff!!   

I CANNOT WAIT for my dad to finally see his house for the FIRST time ever!!!  He's seen pictures of the house "before," but not much else.  (You've probably seen more progress photos than the has!!)  He's really been through a lot and we have always halfway across the country from each other- my parents divorced when I was two years old and my mom moved to Virginia from Chicago- so to finally get to be this close is surreal.  We're not sure how frequently he'll be at the house, but I'm hoping that he'll love being there so much that he doesn't want to leave.   It's still crazy to me that he hasn't ever set foot in the house.  This past summer when he said he wanted us to help him find a place on this lake, I wasn't sure it would actually happen, but a few weeks later, we were house hunting for him in North Carolina and he was making an offer on a place.  I still kind of can't believe it.   

Anyway, hope you enjoyed this little progress tour.  It should be one of the last!!  The next time we visit, it'll be mostly finished.  I CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS BOOK TO COME OUT so that I can share the final "afters"!!!  (BTW- Abrams is still working on the cover and they came up with one that I'm IN LOVE with but they're undecided on what the final cover will be so keep your fingers crossed!!)  

I'll be back soon with updates on another project I can't wait to share with you.  Have a good one!!

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

I am SO EXCITED to share a recent project with you- Varnish Lane Nail Salon which JUST OPENED on 44th St. in NW DC!!

We've known our client, Carrie Dunne, for a few years now and were so excited when she called us this past summer to tell us that she was opening a new nail salon in the city with her daughter, Lauren Dunne, and their family friend, Chad Stebbins.  Carrie, Lauren & Chad have such vision and passion for their business and put so much thought into how they wanted their salon and brand to look and feel.  They're the type of clients who come to you and you think, "Are you sure you need us??"  

{Lauren, Chad & Carrie}

They saw a need in the DC market for a nail salon that was beautiful & chic and that could be a full-on luxury experience.  They're so incredibly friendly. warm, and thoughtful that I know everyone who stops in will feel like they're getting the royal treatment.  They have ipads stocked with e-zines at every seat for clients to use while they're getting their nails done and offer coffee. Prosecco and tea.  Their products - used during waterless treatments- are locally-made and 100% natural, and they offer over 500 polishes. 

When we first visited the space, it was an old bank in need of a complete renovation.  Carrie, who has a background in home building and has done many renovations throughout the Chevy Chase area had the vision to know the space could be something special.  

{our site visit}

I was giddy after leaving the meeting and had gotten chills more than once at how special their vision was.  This company has the potential to be really big and it has the team behind it to get it there.  As much as I love design, I ADORE business.  I love talking to other business owners and I love seeing the entrepreneurial spirit in action.   Watching an idea and a little spark grow into a creative, concrete, viable business that meets a need in the market is fascinating.    

The original space was very dark and commercial-feeling, and the floorplan needed to be entirely reconfigured.  Carrie, Lauren, and Chad had already worked with an architect to rearrange the space so they brought  us in to help with the overall look and vibe of the space.  

They were looking for Varnish Lane to feel light, open, airy, relaxed, natural, modern & a bit glam.   To read about the initial launch of the project click here.  As we worked on the design, we decided that adding shiplap to many of the walls throughout the space would add needed texture, warmth, and architectural interest, and aid in creating a signature look for possible future spaces.  A palette of white, with warm brown, black and brass accents runs throughout.   

{The massive marble-topped pine island is custom.  Sinks flank both ends with a large central chandelier.  I love the round knobs on the unlacquered brass faucets!!! }

The glass behind the welcome desk is etched with the Varnish Lane logo and aided in keeping the sunlight flowing throughout the space:

Open shelving above the bar holds glasses and mugs with the VL logo:

{love the branding!!!}

A custom (long, narrow)table towards that back of the space is set for manicures:  

We're still on the hunt for the perfect art for the waiting area, below:

Carrie, Lauren and Chad are so creative and took many of our original ideas and ran with them.  Some of the original vintage pieces - like the seating and lighting- have been swapped out with newer just as beautiful ones.  (Like I said when we first met, I'm not sure they needed us at all they are so good!! ;)

Simple white shelving displays the natural products they carry...

...and of course holds the nail polish...

Reclining caramel leather chairs with individual wall lamps and ipads and side tables for each station ensure that clients are completely pampered and comfortable:

Even though I've gotten less than a literal handful of manicures in my entire life, I CANNOT WAIT TO to visit!!!  (I've also never tried waterless!!!)  

It looks like the type of salon you'd want to go to with a group of friends... 

...Would be amazing to start a fun night out there!!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little tour of Varnish Lane, and if you're in the area and are into nails, please call them for an appointment...  I guarantee you will be a VL convert!!!  Along with knowing their stuff about nails and all of the best techniques & products, Carrie, Lauren & Chad are truly some of the warmest, kindest people I've ever met and I know they'll make everyone feel right at home.  (Click here to head to the Varnish Lane site.)

Have a great week!!

*photos by Kate Headley

And here's the contact info for anyone who wants to visit:  (enjoy!!) 

5236 44th St. NW Washington, DC 20015


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

This week has flown by!!   I CANNOT believe we're almost through February.  Craziness.  Anyway, I'm off for the week but wanted to share a pretty little Friday pic with you that I snapped on our photo shoot for the book yesterday.

{the table in our clients' newly renovated kitchen}

Wine & cheese are two of my loves (one of which I'm missing right now with the pregnancy!! ;) and coming home on cold days and setting out a little spread for the family makes me so happy.  With a bowl of soup and some fresh greens, I'm in heaven.  Hope you get some time this weekend to relax and eat something good.

Cheers to Friday!! 

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

I've been knee-deep in everything having to do with my new book lately and we're getting close!!  The final title is HABITAT: The Field Guide to Decorating.  I think it's turning out to be everything I hoped it would be, which is really exciting!!    

{Our living room a few weeks ago with some leftover photoshoot goldenrod...  This is more what it looks like over here on a daily basis...  coffee table a bit of a mess and like a little whirlwind of boys just swept through.}

I've always felt like if I can be 100% happy with the book myself, then I'll feel like it was worthwhile.  I have this desire to put something out there that is helpful, interesting, entertaining, and beautiful.... and above all, to excite other people.  Everyone has a different vision of what an ideal book might be like, so of course I have my own.  It's sort of a list of what I think the book needs to do, how it needs to look and feel so that it's "good."  I feel like if this book can meet those stringent expectations, then readers will hopefully love it too.  

What started out as a book proposal last spring and a book deal with Abrams last summer is now becoming a reality.  I'm not quite sure what I expected from the process but it's definitely been eye-opening.  As of right now, the manuscript has been edited and went gone to the copy editors on Friday.  (woohoo!!)  (I think the technical term is "went to copy"?  all very new to me ;)  My editors have done a beautiful job of cleaning up the manuscript, asking pertinent questions, and of course, making the book the best it can be.

When I originally came up with the idea to write a decorating book in the form of a field guide, the table of contents and subsequent proposal just sort of flowed out.  The proposal ended up being a massive outline from which I wrote the book.  Things like word count, page count, and the number of images needed to write a book of a certain length were complete unknowns to me.  Only a few days after I actually sat down to write the book this past summer, I could see that I was well on my way to reaching my minimum word count even though I'd barely scratched the surface.  Months later, I ended up handing in a manuscript that was basically double the minimum, a "tome" as one of my editors called it.  

{Queen Anne's lace I came across last summer...  reminds me of the feeling I'm after for the book}

I, surprisingly, really enjoyed the actual process of writing the book.  I expected it to be a sort of procrastinating/ teeth-pulling type process, but the manuscript weirdly came out fairly easily.  Rather than write a little bit of it every day all along, I dedicated full, multiple days in a row to it, and tried to block of certain weeks of my calendar to focus on writing.  I found it seemed to take me a day or so to get back into the manuscript and write easily.  (I'm sure that's because of the way I wrote, often with weeks between writing to keep up with client work, and needing to sort of "get to know" the text all over again before making a lot of headway.) 

The book has ended up being a massive brain dump in which I've tried to share everything I can about the decorating process, and the logic behind it all.  It's easy to reference, including charts with information being broken down on specific products and materials where I felt like it was helpful, mixed in with small bits from my life and home.  I hope that when people read it they feel excited to work on their homes and feel like it's something they can tackle, be it on their own or with help from a decorator.      

{our kitchen & Louie}

I wrote the book similarly to how I write certain blog posts, where the photography is intertwined with the text and illustrates what I'm talking about, so as the book grew, I felt I needed to add more projects to keep the text flowing properly and making sense.  (I've read design books where the photos relate to what's in the text and I've read other ones where the images & captions don't seem to have a direct relationship and when I set out to write the book didn't know which way I'd be going, but I guess because I'm so used to blogging and using photo & writing in tandem, the captions and photos have ended up being a key parts of the book.)  Currently, there are about 260 images slated for the book- which I now know is a LOT- and Abrams is working on the book design- by Sarah Gifford = who is brilliant!!!- so we can determine the final number of images and amount of text needed.  Hopefully we're close at this point but it all depends on how many images are used per page/ size of images etc.     

    {Books designed by Sarah Gifford}

The images in the book are mostly (about 75-80%) of projects completed in the past year or two, ones that I haven't shared before.  The other 20-25% consists of projects/ my older work that I felt like I couldn't write the book without, including photos of our house.  I'm so excited to be revealing so many new projects!!  There are around 30 different projects being featured, some more heavily than others, depending upon the number of rooms we photographed and if the project was new or old.    

We have seven projects left to photograph -with my good friend, super-talented Helen Norman- by the end of March (8 days of shooting) and then we're done!  (I'll be taking a BIG break from photoshoots for a while, I hope!! ;)  This week, we're photographing three very different kitchens- one more classic-relaxed- light airy & a bit English in feeling, another warm, earthy & cozy, and another which has a sort of simplistic European/ Belgian vibe- so I've got to get my styling pants on.  It gets tough for me- I am SO NOT A STYLIST!!- to keep the photos looking fresh and varied and not rely on the same 'ol styling tricks.

{playing around with styling on a past kitchen shoot... Don't think the artichokes made it in the final shot so maybe I can use some this week??!! ;) ;) } 

About  a month ago, I got an email from my editor with the the preliminary book design by Sarah, and as I waited for the PDF to open, my heart was beating like crazy.  It was that sort of "and the moment you've been waiting for..." / baited breath feeling.  As soon the first page opened, I just exhaled.  I think I was literally teary at how good it was.  She nailed it.  I am absolutely IN LOVE with the book design.  It somehow polished all of my texts, charts, and photography into something truly beautiful and meaningful.  The design is clean and fresh, and has a sophisticated simplicity to it that I really love.  When Sarah created the book design, I felt like she'd read my mind on what I was looking for, though we'd never even spoken.   

Next up is the cover design and I'm nervous.  There are SO many different types of projects in the book- from modern condos to traditional formal DC places to a farmhouse in the country... from completely neutral rooms to those totally saturated color...  Every space in the book still has my look, yet the style of design is ALL OVER THE PLACE.  My clients all have such unique styles and different taste and live in so many different type of homes, so naturally, many of their homes look very different.  

{Close up of a dining room table setting we did recently...  there aren't really any shots like this in the book- mostly whole rooms- but I thought you might enjoy seeing some close-ups on here.}

So the big question that we're all pondering now is: what to put on the cover?  It needs to be a shot that doesn't pigeonhole the design and that will entice readers enough to open the book, whether they're a fan of modern or traditional, neutrals or colors, and so on and so forth.  I'm not a big fan of covers with multiple images because I like a clean, simple look, but the "chosen" image needs to be just right.  I have one in mind but we'll see what happens.  Not only is the image itself a big consideration, but so is the color of the book itself, the spine, the material, etc.  I want it to feel like it could be a field guide yet still look like a decorating book.  I want it to be beautiful when it's just sitting there on a table.  I want it to feel good,  I have SO many opinions about this stuff but it all has to be in line with what the publisher is thinking too.  So wish us all luck and hopefully I'll be able to share the cover with you soon!! 

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

WARNING:  Non-design related pictureless post!

I'm not quite sure what I'm setting out to say but I've been thinking a lot lately about how we have so much more control in our lives than we might think.  Yes, things "happen to us," but how our life goes is really about how we react to situations.  

I can't help but notice how I've changed as I get older.  I remember the life-or-death and end-all-be-all days of middle school and high school, and the range of emotions I might have felt during any given week.   (I was lucky enough to have steady, fairly drama-free friendships, so I think my mom got the brunt of my teenage years' angst.)  As I've gotten older, things seem to bother me less and things don't seem as dire as they once might have.  

I got married at twenty-three and had a five month long engagement - soon after those reality wedding and bridezilla shows came out- and remember making a concerted effort to keep my cool during that time.  I remember being shocked at how these truly normal people acted so differently because they were planning a wedding.  It's weirdly fascinating to me.  It's like this free pass or something.  Anyway, as I went about planning my wedding, I was so aware of this bridal phenomenon that I tried really hard to keep myself in check and not turn into a raging bridezilla.  I can't be the judge of how my attempt actually turned out but can say that I really enjoyed the process and had fun planning & making decisions.  (I am so happy pinterest didn't exist at the time btw!!)  Dave & I were a team and we got everything done pretty quickly & efficiently.  (So much so that I know certain family members even felt left out because we'd done everything and made all of the decisions on our own.  Sorry about those flowers ma!)  I remember crying once- and think now how silly it was- just before the wedding at some hidden expense that had popped up because I was feeling so strapped.  

A year after we were married, we found out we were unexpectedly-expecting our first child.  I was 24 and was shocked.  We'd thought we had things all planned out and would start having kids around 28 or 30, but in hindsight I can absolutely say that having Christian then was the best thing that ever happened to us.   There were moments when I felt a complete lack of control and it was awful.  (Christian was colicky and would cry for hours on end sometimes...  I'll never forget his first round of shots...  After trying to feed him, walk him, comfort him and doing anything I could to do get him to stop crying or fall asleep, I sat on the couch and cuddled him and just cried along with him.  I was feeling so sorry for myself.  My mom got a call shortly after that and came over to fix things. ;)  It took a lot of adjusting and somehow in that complete turnover of our plans, we adapted and it worked.  As first-time parents we did our best and through the exhaustion and change, we realized we were pretty relaxed parents.  We didn't plan to be that way, but found we had to be that way to be happy and to stay sane.  

Soon after we had our first son, we sold our home-which was grossly depreciating- and got out just in time.  We went to live in my parents' basement where we were able to save and get the design business really going.  We did not want to be there - AT ALL- but really ended up enjoying ourselves.  We were so lucky to have had the option but we felt like we'd failed.  Although we longed for our own place again, we tried not to wish the time away.  It was definitely a lesson in trying to keep our heads up and deal.  We look back so fondly on that time now.  It was another time when we made a concerted effort to be "happy" even though we weren't where we wanted to be.  As crazy as it sounds, telling ourselves that we were okay made us okay. 

As we've gone through buying a house, and then selling it and buying another, growing our business, having a few more kids...  there have been high-feeling times and low-feeling times.  I have a lot of respect for emotional strength.  There are certain people I can think of that I refer to as having a "steel core,"  They're sweet, kind, loving people and on the outside they might seem all warm and fuzzy, but they have an inner strength that is unbelievable.  (My mother grandmother, and mother-in-law all have steel cores.)  It's funny, but when I look back through the past and remember the few moments when I cried - the moments where I feel like I "broke"- in parts of my life, I can look back now and see that it was such a small fleeting thing.  At the time, my situations felt so big, so difficult, so hard... yet they never really were.  It was all about my mindset and emotional state at the time.  Of course there were a lot of exterior factors at play, but ultimately, I felt a lack of control and such an extreme level of stress and exhaustion - usually to the point that I was physically ill- that I cried.    They were what people refer to as a "good cry" and, though I feel embarrassed that I cried about such silly things,  I look back at all of those times as turning points too.  It made me realize I needed fix something and find a solution.  (FYI- I'm not a frequent crier for myself- maybe every couple of years or so- but can cry on a dime for a touching commercial or a beautiful song...  seriously some of those Super Bowl commercials!!)  

About a year ago, I read a book, People Can't Drive You Crazy if You Don't Give them the Keys, and while it's not my favorite book ever, I did appreciate its general philosophy and tried to take it to heart.  The book, and other things, have helped me more consciously realize that we have a choice in how we react to life, how we view life, what "color" glasses we have on.  (And to be clear here, I'm very fortunate to not be touched by personal tragedy and am really talking about day-to-day ups and downs.) 

The other day, I was thinking about all of this and got weirdly excited about aging.  Because aging does make you better.  As sacred as youth seems to be to our society these days, I think we all value the wisdom that only age and true, life experience can give to our characters.  We come to learn that "this too shall pass" (my husband's favorite saying) and that we are the ones who control our emotions and our outlook on life.  I never want to lose my excitement for life and for the little things, and think that somehow that's got to be an important part of aging gracefully.   Optimism and wisdom together.

So, apologies for the long, rambling, non-design post, but just wanted to share in case it helps anyone.  There are only 11 weeks left until our new baby's due date and we've got more going on at work than ever to complete before then, but I feel really good.  There are moments when I feel the tinges of stress trying to get in, but being conscious of it has made it possible for me to accept situations more easily, problem solve, and not let my emotions be affected more than they should be.  I'm not saying there aren't good cries in my future because I know they're inevitable, but just that I can affect my own life and feelings more than anything else.

 I've realized that we choose what color our glasses are going to be on any given day or in any moment.  We make the choice to be steel or to be glass. 

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



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