While scrolling through Instagram one day, we just had to stop and look again when this photo came up on our feed:
Wait…what?? With a look so bold and vibrant, it was no surprise to quickly discover that the kitchen belonged to the home of our dear friend Lori Paranjape. As talented and down to earth as they come, Lori is a Nashville designer with projects across the country. At the Kuotes, we’ve always been fans of how fun and personal Lori’s projects turn out, so it was a pleasure for us to chat with her and get an inside word on her approach to interior design. Here’s what she had to say!
The Kuotes: Last week we interviewed Matthew Caughy, who walked a traditional path to becoming a designer. What was your journey like?
Lori: I like to say that I’m a designer without the pedigree papers. I went to school for English literature, but my house growing up was always beautiful. My mom is an artist, and I have very clear memories of her redoing our house when I was in high school. It really influenced me growing up in a space that was designed and beautiful—and that’s maybe where it all started for me. From then on, I wanted all of my spaces to be beautiful, and it just sort of blossomed into a career. After I had kids, I started doing interior design as a hobby, but the business kept growing and growing, and at one point I had to make a decision whether or not to give this a go full-time. That was nine years ago, and I’ve never looked back.
K: Since you didn’t take the traditional path of design school, how did you learn about the industry and its more technical aspects?
L: Well, my business definitely started small. People would just hire me to come over and do simple styling, like pick paint colors. And then eventually friends needed help with furnishing, and then window treatments… so I basically learned and grew as I went along. Eight years ago, I partnered with my current business partner who had her own design shop and furniture boutique in Nashville. We did a model unit together in Nashville, and that kind of put my name on the map. It’s funny actually because we have an upcoming project in that same building for the running back of the Tennessee Titans, and we’ve been hired to do his condo. So I kind of feel like I’ve gone full circle.
K: How fun! What’s the design direction for that project?
L: Well, he’s young. He’s 21, and this is his first real home as an adult, so we’re going very bachelor. It’s going to be kind of sexy with lots of moody grays and deep colors for a very sleek look.
K: We actually have a modern bachelor pad lookbook. Do you have any bachelor pad tips?
L: Well, I like to keep a neutral palette for men, and then I’ll bring in deep colors. We’re using marmara marble, a gorgeous crater marble that’s very striped and very clean. It comes out of the ground that way, and it’s stunning. We’re doing all of his counters, including a waterfall countertop, with that. Another tip to keep in mind is scale. Furniture typically needs to be bigger for guys. For example, my client is a football player, so he’s HUGE… so the sofa is huge and the chairs are huge and everything is scaled to an NFL player, which is sort of fun.
K: Talk to me more about your personal design style. How do you adapt to your client’s style and needs?
L: Helping my clients discover their style is my favorite part of being a designer. My personal style is very casual, it’s clean, and there’s a little punch. I like to keep things fresh. And it’s very representative of who I am and the casual way that I like to live, so that idea is exactly what I try to replicate for my clients. So for me, it’s a whole lot more of “who are you?” and “what is your family and home like?” than it is “what do you want your space to look like?” I’ll think things like, you like dinner parties for twelve and you have a French influence… so then that guides exactly what the home is going to look like. That space just by nature will look different than the same space in which the client likes to spend time at home resting on the couch or eating dinner in their PJs. Each design decision for me is driven by who the client is and how they want to use the space. So my style isn’t exactly a part of it. I’m offering my clients instead a way to interpret who they are into the space where they live, as opposed to walking in and painting myself all over their house. I absolutely reject that idea.
K: What is your design process after you get a good sense of the person?
L: Once I get a vibe of who the client is and who they are and how they’d like to use the space, I try to live and breathe them. And when I’m looking for inspiration, I always think of it as, “Oh this is perfect, WE would love this.” It becomes a we, and it’s like I’m wearing them when I’m looking through tile options or swatches. I’m thinking, “Oh, she would love this because I know she has a French influence,” or, “Oh, he would love this bathroom idea because he mentioned how much he loved the shower when he stayed at that one hotel.” I channel my clients to give them as much of themselves in the design as I can.
K: On a more technical level, how do you present your ideas to your clients? Do you use a board, or do you mock things up on Photoshop/AutoCAD?
L: I work for a design collective (Redo Home and Design). We have several designers there, and my operations manager and I work very closely together. So I’ll present to her my ideas and what I’m thinking, and she’ll create a mood board in Photoshop and present it to our clients. I try not to rely too heavily on things like boards though. I feel like once people see an image like that, it’s difficult for them to understand the nuance, and it feels too concrete for me. So I might choose to present something more along the lines of a piece of fabric, or a rug sample, or a wallpaper sample, or an object that gives the vibe of the room that we’re going for. And then once they’re in on that and they approve that, then I move forward and start to get specific.
K: Your design process is so focused on building relationships. Do you ever have challenges relating to certain clients?
L: I think the challenge really comes when you don’t allow the beginning of the process to fully develop. Maybe I haven’t taken the time to know them fully or we haven’t had that moment of deep connection. Once I was speaking with a client going through samples, and I was asking, “What do you think of this or this?” …and their response was, “Well, we don’t really like blue…” In that type of situation we clearly missed something and needed to go back to the beginning… Go on another first date before we move forward. That connection is everything. It’s what allows the space to come alive.
K: How do you define success as a designer? What were some turning points for you in your career?
L: There have been a few projects in the past where my clients have said, “I believe in you.” They want me to pick everything for their home, from the door hardware, to the trim detail, to the wallpaper, to the actual build. That was just a big moment for me—that someone would trust their home in my hands. Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of whole homes, which is another step for me as a designer and looks to be the direction in which I’m going. I’ve started to do projects that begin in concepts, ideas, tear sheets… and then we start to refine it and draw it and sketch it, and then hand it off to an architect. One of my favorite things to do now is plan review and to manipulate a set of plans to play really well for the family that’s going to occupy the house. For example, I have a project outside of Lake Tahoe, and they sent over their really rough preliminary plans. The first thing the family said to me was, “We live in the mountains, so we like to ski and play hockey, and we have two dogs.” When I looked at the setup of the housing plans, I said, “Okay, we’re starting over.” A set of four cubbies in the hall was not even close to what we’d needed to cater to the family. They were going to have hockey sticks on the kitchen island if we didn’t rethink how they enter the house. And they were so happy that I made those changes, and we really drew a home that will live around their lifestyle. I adore that process. You asked about success, and to me success is people asking me to give them what they’ve seen me give other people. And then, of course, for them to be happy with their result as well.
K: So are your projects all over, or are they generally in Nashville?
L: Generally, Nashville, but I do travel. I have two completely different projects in Illinois currently. One in Hinsdale, a suburb of Chicago. And I have one in southern Illinois, which is an equestrian estate with a barn and lots of land. And then the project in Lake Tahoe. For me it’s not really that I want to travel. The goal is just to go where the spectacular work is. If it’s here in Nashville, then that’s great, but if it’s in Aspen, then that’s great too. I just have the splendid opportunity to take on projects that inspire me the most.
K: Do you find that design style changes greatly with geography?
L: Well the interesting thing is that the clients of the Lake Tahoe house felt like the design style they wanted wasn’t available to them there. They called and said, “We love your style, but we don’t have that here.” So they weren’t really wanting to hire a designer out of town, but the style they wanted happened to be out of town. So even if an area does have a particular style, it doesn’t always end up meaning it’s a match for the client.
K: You recently had your gorgeous kitchen shot for HGTV Magazine. Tell us a little bit more about the inspiration.
L: We did a major reno. We moved everything. We moved walls. We really opened up the space so that it worked for our family and how we like to entertain and hang out with each other. At first, a white kitchen was the goal I was working toward. But as I was going through it, I had this voice in my head saying, “It shouldn’t be this white. That’s not you.” The cabinet makers started asking me about paint colors, and I started talk to my family and I decided to just go for color. At first I thought navy, because I love that look, but then I thought about green. I’ve always been a green girl. I have a wingback with green Schumacher fabric on it that I really like, and I have little touches of green throughout the house. I’ve always just loved that saturated, full-bodied green.
K: Were you nervous about making such a bold design decision?
L: A little, but at the same time not really at all. After bouncing it off of my team, they encouraged it. After all, it’s just paint. So I decided to pull the trigger, and I picked out Benjamin Moore’s Jade Green. When I sent it to my cabinet maker, he called me and said, “…are you sure? The cabinets, right?” I had to repeatedly assure him. He sent me one sample, and I approved it right away. I think if you really, really, really, really, really love something, you should go for it. And as a designer, you can challenge yourself to make it work.
K: Do you like having an extra sink in the island?
L: It’s amazing! We designed the space so there’s a “kid” or “quick food” section of the kitchen. There’s the beverage refrigerator, the refrigerator, the prep tank, and the microwave. So the kids can come in, wash their hands, and grab a drink from the refrigerator without ever coming into the workspace, which is the center with the range and the large island. I have the freedom then to chop and prep and cook without leaving that space, and then there’s a third space for cleanup. So really someone can be cleaning up or unloading the dishwasher while someone else cooks while the kids are making a snack—and no one is in anyone’s way.
K: What was it like having your kitchen shot for a magazine?
L: Oh, it was so cool! Like a dream come true, honestly. The fact that there were people who flew in and there was a crew and a stylist was amazing. They were so professional, and my family was here for the day so my husband and kids got to participate. And they really went to work, did their styling thing and their photography thing. It was such a crazy experience but so, so cool.
K: Tell me about your newly finished construction project in Nashville.
L: I love this project. I had built a house for this client several years ago, and almost as soon as it was finished, they sold it and asked for another one… so I got a second take on creating a home for them. The floors throughout the entire house are imported French oak, Francois & Co. floors with herringbone details on the stairs and foyer. The floor had gorgeous Turkish antique rugs throughout. For the kitchen, which is a true all-white, we wanted that marble look, but instead of using it on the counters, we actually did a waterfall quartz and then used marble on the wall instead. Two gigantic slabs of Calcutta Borghini on those walls, then a custom hood. So the client got the look she wanted but will have countertops that are easy to clean and won’t scratch, which was very important to her.
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