10 Questions with Interior Designer Lisa Davis

The designer dishes on her favorite vendors for custom work and talks about her revolutionary program, ‘Design by Post.’

Lisa Davis

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Lisa Davis is the talented designer behind a Back Bay Mansion’s makeover featured in our recent Boston Home magazine story, “Return to Glamour.” Now, she takes the time to chat with us a little more about her favorite places to shop for clients, her go-to people for custom work, and her ‘Design by Post’ virtual design program that makes interior design more accessible. Here’s what she had to say:

1. When did you know you wanted to be an interior designer?

Early in my career, I worked in fashion/retail merchandising and always loved doing displays and shop design. I left my career when I started a family since [my career] came with so much travel. I wanted to transfer those skills to interior design and decorating, which are two different things. RISD offered classes in interior design, so I took classes in color theory, drafting, and history of architecture, and more.

2. Where are your favorite places to shop for clients?

We are so lucky in Boston to have the Boston Design Center. In one building, they offer just about every fabric, furniture, kitchen, floor coverings, and more. It’s truly international and invaluable. Also, Donghia for fresh, modern, and elegant fabric, wall coverings, furniture, and lighting. Schumacher for fabrics and wall coverings that bridge between traditional and contemporary styles. Stark Carpet and Steven King for the best variety of floor coverings from sisals to hand loomed fine carpets.

3. What is a design element you cannot live without?

Color. There’s something miraculous when you look at a beautiful object in the natural world—a shell, a flower. Color is truly an individual experience. When I start a project, I always ask my client what colors they want to see in their lives every day, and we start from there.

4. What inspires your designs?

Travel inspires me. Each destination I’m lucky enough to encounter provides visual experiences that build a design consciousness. It’s like a design education. I just returned from a trip to Iceland, and I consider it one of the most beautiful natural places I’ve seen. There’s a raw, dark, somewhat somber look to the place that is as much about texture as it is about color. Colors have so much depth—the waterfalls, the hot springs, the geysers—it feels like you’re seeing those colors for the first time. The lighting, too, is ethereal. In winter, the sun stays on the horizon, creating a kind of shadowy dusk for the few precious hours it’s up, but the lighting is nothing short of amazing.

5. What is your personal design aesthetic?

I love to mix old and new, worn and fresh, smooth and textured. I also adore texture and patterns used subtlety and with class. Animal prints always were, always will be timeless ,but please, only one species per room…no zebra and leopard print…it’s bad karma if one eats the other.

6. Tell me about your Design by Post virtual interior design service.

I think interior design should be more easily accessible. As much as I love the exclusivity surrounding the “to the trade only” status of our industry, I do think there needs to be an easier way for people to access the beautiful things they see in shelter magazines. The concept is a simple service-based program where people can ask for design help in the virtual world. They supply me with the dimensions, measurements, and design concept, and I can assist by laying out floor plans or suggesting color schemes, specific furniture and fabric choices, window treatment design selections, and floor and wall coverings. Alternatively, people can request any trade-only fabric samples and place orders through me with or without my design input. This program is very new, and I plan on developing a full website around it.

7. How do you handle custom work to fit? Do you have a go-to roster for support?

Oh, no! Now I have to give up my secrets? Designers are notoriously well guarded when it comes to sharing our good sources, but here goes, my secrets revealed…

  • Franks Custom Draperies: A trade-only, soft treatment workroom that I’ve known and worked with for 15 years. [He has] amazing attention to detail with great pride in his workmanship.
  • PHD (Paperhanging and Design): For wall covering installations, Greg Kahler is a master at the trade. He does a “you need a magnifying glass to see the seams” great job every time.
  • Partners in Design: Re-upholstery and custom upholstery that is masterful and quick when you want it yesterday.
  • Art Applications: These people can build and paint anything. They’ll take that tired old fauteuil you’ve owned for 20 years, give it a brand spanking new coat of green paint, add some zebra printed fabric, and voilà: fabulousness in a chair.
  • Boston Binding: The best in carpeting installation and area rug binding and serging. He’s a genius!

8. For people who are decorating without professional help at home, what are some easy DIY tips for transforming a space?

Take the time and choose well, not often. Quality and craftsmanship means a lot, and I would encourage everyone to buy the best they can afford and work on a decorating project over time, adding fewer, better pieces. That way, in 10 years, you will have amassed an amazing collection of things that will last a lifetime rather than throwing it all away just to be replaced with more low-quality stuff.

9.  Out of the many services you offer—interior decoration, construction, renovation management—which is your favorite?

My favorite project is one that starts down to the studs with hard surfaces—floors, kitchens, bathrooms—and see it through to picking out the trim on the valence of a window treatment. I get to use every part of my designer brain: color, paint, wallpaper, living space, electronic placement, lighting and lighting control, furniture, upholstery, and even the tossed pillows on the sofa.

10. What are you working on now?

Im working on an office space on Boylston Street. Sometimes, when you are given limitations on budget, it forces you to think a bit outside the box and maximize your creative thought process. Here I had the chance to work with Ikea cabinetry, and I have to say I am thoroughly impressed by how versatile and great looking it’s turning out. I would highly recommend their Besta wall units for offices, media rooms, wardrobes and dressing rooms.

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