My dear and hilarious friend, Lorri, is incredibly talented. A graduate of Stanford undergraduate *AND* Stanford Business School (don’t you hate her already), she worked in the corporate world for many years, had two kids, and then realized that she needed a change in professions. So here she is now, a blogger and a “decorating enthusiast.” She writes a fabulous blog about decorating and home inspirations AND has her own decorating business.
Lorri believes that by creating a beautiful home, we return to our best selves. So that’s how Return To Home was born – Lorri personally feels creative, comfortable and liberated (her best self!) when her surroundings are beautiful and organized. So interior design it was! She soon discovered that many people felt like her, especially overworked professionals or parents of young children, who already feel overwhelmed and anxious and then come home to surroundings that add to the stress. So basically, Lorri created a business where she helps people take their homes to the next level, but without the decorator fee or minimum!
Tell us about yourself and your career PRE-design?
My blog Return To Home and subsequent interior decorating business is the result of a life-long passion for interior design. But it took me a while to get here! Among other things, I’ve been a foreign policy aide in the US Congress and was an executive recruiter for nearly six years. I also picked up an MBA along the way. I’m so happy to have had these experiences – but nothing compares to the creative thrill and satisfaction I get from the world of interior design.
What is the difference between you and a decorator?
I suppose I am a decorator because I help people make decisions about their decor! But I’m not what people often assume I am in the traditional sense of the word. Often, traditional decorators are perceived as being super high end and they go custom on everything, which I don’t do. I also really try to respect what you already have in place in your home. Not that another decorator wouldn’t respect someone’s space! – it’s just that often decorators are brought in to completely overhaul a room. I don’t necessarily do that. I work with what you have and then add new things in if necessary.
How did you put this business together? I mean, obviously you knew you wanted to switch careers and design made you happy, but how did it become THIS?
It started with my blog. I just wanted a voice, a place where I could say, “look at this room! isn’t this AMAZING?” It was a creative outlet for me. And then, in terms of growing out my client-facing business, I kept thinking what would *I* want if I were hoping to better my space? I personally would want someone to come for a few hours to brainstorm with me, to give me some killer ideas, and then to follow up with specific colors and items of furniture that I could then purchase if I wanted. I still want that for myself! I think it really resonated with other young professionals and moms who have a great eye but not enough bandwidth (or confidence!) to do it all themselves. The rest is history – one client has led to another and another. It’s been very organic.
How did you develop your eye for decorating without any formal training?
My mom always had a decorators license and she was forever decorating our houses. We moved a bit when I was younger, so she decorated seven homes over my childhood! I was always her eager apprentice. I got bit by the bug early – I was redecorating and moving furniture around my room when I was nine years old, and drawing endless pictures of floor plans with my colored pencils.
How do you find your clients?
It’s all word of mouth and traffic from my website. I have a suspicion that Pinterest helps! People find me and they say “oh I like that aesthetic!”
What is your decor style?
Down-to-earth, accessible, clever, beautiful, the best-that-you-can-be home decor.
HOW do you do your work? What is your process like?
In terms of the HOW, I do what is basically called “Decorating Light”. I spend anywhere from 1-3 hours with a client in his or her space, or we have a Skype date if the client is long-distance, and then I provide thorough “follow up” afterwards:
1) step one is about taking stock: During our consultation we talk about what works, what doesn’t work, how you USE a room, how you WANT to use a room, etc. This is also the time to dream – we create a vision around all that is possible for that space.
2) step two is about using what you already have – sometimes it just takes a fresh eye to help you see your belongings in a new light! During our consultation, I will often move furniture around then and there, or I’ll convince a client that the lamps in the master bedroom would look much better in the family room, for instance. I also find I spend a lot of my time “editing” – I find if you remove 50% of the stuff from someone’s bookshelves, it’s like an automatic makeover.
3) step three is about developing a punch list – together we decide what needs to happen once I leave the premises. Punch list items can include “paint walls new color” or “move table to other side of room”. Often, new items also need to be purchased like new throw pillows or a coffee table. I believe in down-to-earth, affordable decor, so while I will recommend something that’s expensive if I think it is really unique and worth it, I’m much more likely to recommend budget friendly ideas.
4) step four is my follow up phase. After our meeting, I will use the punch list to create a vision board of ideas plus instructions. My “master bedroom perk up” is a great example of this. Along with the vision board I included specific instructions like “buy THESE pillows from THIS Etsy vendor” and “paint the walls THIS color”.
What magazines and blogs inspire you for your design aesthetic?
I pour over Architectural Digest, House Beautiful and Elle Decor every month for highly creative ideas and jaw-dropping spaces. HGTV Magazine is by far my favorite – they have tons of snappy, useful articles. And their aesthetic is right up my alley – cheerful, colorful, vibrant spaces. Lots of DIY which I love! The list of blogs is endless – there are SO many talented bloggers out there. I always read Little Black Door, Emily A. Clark, Little Green Notebook and Milk and Honey Home.
What stores do you love to purchase things from?
Amazon.com and Etsy for throw pillows. Home Goods for random clearance furniture finds (my entry demilune table is from their clearance aisle). I love Ballard Designs for their sturdy sea grass rugs, and Overstock.com has the best flat weave kilim rugs out there. Oh and IKEA of course – my favorite finds are their faux sheepskin rug, their incredible Expedit bookshelf and their “tulip table”. IKEA never ceases to amaze me.
Is there a certain piece of furniture that you see yourself using with ALL of your clients? Like a go-to stool, or a must-have rug?
I ALWAYS say you can never go wrong with a bamboo shade or a sea grass rug. Can’t go wrong, I’m telling you! I suggest a sea grass rug at least half the time, like a sisal rug or a jute woven rug. It introduces fabulous texture to the room, and it makes a room feel fresh and young and clean.
What colors do you gravitate towards?
Do you miss the corporate world?
I thought I would – I was really worried! But I don’t at all. I’m living my dream. My biggest fear about leaving the corporate world was how I would be perceived by my peers, specifically other professional MBA-type women. I was afraid they would think I was a “fruitcake” – that I wasn’t serious or that I was a silly housewife who decorates on the side because I have nothing better to do or no ambition. In the end, I just had to take the risk – so what if some people judged me? I knew inside that this was a creative leap I just had to take or I’d never really be happy.
What are your go-to decorator secrets?
One is swapping out knobs on any possible piece of furniture. Literally it can transform furniture, and it’s so budget! My favorite places for knobs? Anthropologie, Land of Nod and House of Knobs.com. I’ve also found some great knobs on Rejuvenation.
My other go-to secret is swapping out the coffee table. I just wrote this on my blog, but I’d say MOST of my clients have a conservative, large, dark wood coffee table. It’s fine, but *boring* and that kind of coffee table can really make your room feel dark and clunky. Swap in an upholstered ottoman, a fake lucite table (like CB2’s Peekaboo coffee table), and get ready to be amazed!
Here are some examples of Lorri’s work:
Master bedroom before:
Master bedroom after:
So if you are interested in a “touch up” on your home, get in touch with Lorri at Lorri@returntohomeinteriors.com. Or simply follow her blog for some witty interior design tips (she is one of the funniest people I have ever met. Hands down.) and looks that inspire her! Thanks, Lorri! Have a great start of Thanksgiving week.