February 11, 2017
Q&A with Interior Designer Laura Michaels
Formerly a fashion designer, Laura Michaels exhibits a deft hand at creating uniquely chic yet timeless interiors that are serenely beautiful.
by New York Spaces
NYS: What does your firm specialize in? How would you describe your aesthetic?
Laura Michaels: My firm specializes in high-end residential interior design projects that are driven by youthful contemporary interiors. My clients want livable interiors for their young families that are fun and unique, punctuated by bold statement pieces. I pride myself in reading a client's style, whether or not they are aware of what their style is. It is my job to analyze the client, the home, and the lifestyle, and then to fit the aesthetic into the design. Often clients do not know what they are looking for and it is my job to lead them in a direction that they would go themselves if they had the background and resources. My aesthetic is large-scale, uncluttered, with layers of texture. It is clean and contemporary and as individual as my clients. I add custom pieces as often as the budget will allow. Frequently, more than 80% of the room can be completely filled with custom products made globally.
NYS: Prior to starting your full-service design firm, you were a fashion designer! What made you decide to make the decision to interiors and what was the process like?
Laura Michaels: I tried to continue working as a fashion designer after having my son but found my desire to spend time with my son all-consuming. I lacked the focus and dedication that I previously had. However, being a full-time stay-at-home mom was not for me either and I continued to search for creative outlets. After moving to Westchester, I was always called upon by friends to assist them in design decisions and selections. I started an accessory company called Vignette and had home accessories, which lead me to styling homes. After a while, a friend asked for me to help her with her home she was building on the lake and insisted that she "hire" me. That house led to other recommendations. It was a slow process to find contractors, cabinet shops, and furniture resources, but my passion and drive made me persevere. My business grew and grew from there.
NYS: How was fashion influenced your approach to design?
Laura Michaels: Fashion will always have an unconscious influence on me. I am drawn to trends usually before they become trends. I am drawn to good design and am always looking for what is new and exciting. I am constantly searching for new fabrics, metals, wood finishes, novelty glass, or anything that is uncommon. My process has always been the same, when shopping, look for what is interesting. It's not that I am searching for trends, it's that I am drawn to the newness. Even if the material isn't new, it might be combined in a way that makes it new. It is that never ending search and passion that keeps my designs fresh. I think that, as a designer, the need to design complete collections allows me to see the room as a whole—I never think about one piece at a time but the whole concept. It is the fashion designer in me that is never satisfied with what is available when something unique can be created instead.
NYS: How do you feel about layers and textures? Does your past in the fashion industry influence your gravitating to tactile and visual elements?
Laura Michaels: My clients are bold. It takes a bold person to see a flat sketch and allow a product to be
developed. It is typical for a client to recommend me to someone, usually because they have seen something I designed. I don't know what exactly they say, but I do know that often they have had prior experiences with designers and have been frustrated by their lack of creativity. So I believe it is this that drives clients to me.
NYS: Where are most of your projects based? Do they have unifying theme? If so, what would it be?
Laura Michaels: I have projects scattered throughout the tri-state area. Since I am Westchester based, I tend to have the most projects in Westchester, but I have many projects in Greenwich, Manhattan, and Long Island. I am very lucky I also have projects in the Hamptons. The similarity is generally that they are contemporary. I like textured walls, large-scale light fixtures. I love plexi, snake, and metal. It would be unusual for one of my projects not to incorporate all of those materials.
NYS: IF you could design your dream home anywhere with unlimited resources, where would it be and what would it look like?
Laura Michaels: That, of course, would be any designer dream. My house would be an open plan overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It would be a series of large rooms connected by glass walkways, all with large windows or Nana walls. I would have long, linear fireplaces and as few walls as necessary. Any walls would have large-scale art. It would be a neutral palette and filled with contemporary furniture with midcentury overtones. The outdoors would blend with the indoors and the outdoor space would be as livable as the interiors. It would be divine.
NYS: Do you have any design influences? If so, who and why?
Laura Michaels: My design inspiration is Kelly Wearstler. I think she is amazing. I love her bold use of materials and her constantly evolving style.
NYS: What are you working on now?
Laura Michaels: Right now I am working on building a new studio space in Greenwich, CT. I wanted a new space to house my own upholstery collection and more space for accessories and art. I am expanding the space designated for tile as well. Along with that, I have a variety of projects, but what is really exciting me these days is metal. I am using metal to face cabinet fronts, walls, doors, and even platform beds. I have this client in Bedford who needed her son's room redone and I am building a platform bed out of metal and facing the walls with it as well. Then above the platform, I have a metal tile. The window treatments are leather shades and the rug is hair on hide. I love the combination of materials. I am combining these sheet metals with cerused wood finishes as well and pairing with great hardware that I found in the UK. It is layers of textures and materials that make it new and exciting. I love how adventurous my clients are...with a huge helping of major trust! That is what makes my job exciting; I get to explore, create, and invent—what better way to spend a day!
NYS: What do you foresee for the future of L&L Designs?
Laura Michaels: I am developing a line of upholstery. I have been doing my own upholstery for my clients, but they have been one off's. The quality and contemporary styling is usually only found in really high-end showrooms. I am trying to make my collection high-style but with a lower price tag. I am trying to find the voids in the market and then make them in yummy fabrics. I am doing a lot with faux furs; the material is so soft and luxurious and is also very much on trend. I am also having a graffiti artist paint chairs, pillows, and mirrors.
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