Luxurious Moments Happen in the Details
Lori Dennis was aware of her passion for interior design from a young age. Raised by a struggling, single mother and grandmother, she was taught early on to conserve energy, never waste and recycle; all the ethics that her design practice works by today.
What inspired you to become an interior designer?
Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money; my room was small and sad – a cot for a bed and a few second-hand toys. One day I had a defining moment. My aunt gave me a set of colourful Popeye sheets for my bed and it totally transformed my dreary room into something bold and happy. I’ll never forget it. From that day on, decoration and design captivated me. Everywhere I went I examined details of landscape, architecture, fabrics and wallcovers dreaming of the day I could be a part of these creations.
Years later, I built a dream for myself. I married the idea of green living with designing sustainably and wrote the book on it, “Green Interior Design.”
As a specialist in ‘green interior design,’ how important do you feel it is for interior designers to be environmentally-friendly?
Let’s face it, interior design can be extremely wasteful; build-up and tear down. Being a sustainable design firm means including an aspect of green in every project we do. It’s our holistic mindset of how we use resources, where they come from, who is making them, do we need to completely demo something, or save it from the landfills and repurpose?
Luckily, our society is becoming more conscious about environmental issues, and our firm also throws in health awareness in our designs. We spend most of our days indoors, breathing the air, drinking the water and absorbing whatever we’re sitting or lying on. We try to make these elements as toxic-free as possible.
Where does your inspiration come from?
This might be cliche, but it’s true, nature is the ultimate designer and it’s found around the world, in every shape and colour, sometimes both perfect and imperfect. of course, we are all products of our environment and I try to change it up as much as possible. The Mexican Riviera or South America has been pulling at my heart strings over the past few years and now I’m heading to Thailand in the fall. The relaxed indoor/outdoor lifestyle and colours are what draw me in.
Do you have a favourite aspect of your job?
I love the diversity of a variety of tasks and challenges with each project. I’m never stuck in groundhog day. One day I could pick out fabrics or be sketching, and the next I could be on a job site in the middle of construction, or staging a bookshelf for a photoshoot. One year I’m working on a modern Mediterranean scheme, and the next on a contemporary French farmhouse. I get to be creative and use both sides of my brain. Working in a relaxed environment is the bonus.
Do you have a design style?
We don’t really have a quintessential style. We play off the wants and needs of our clients and their space, so we create something special and unique for them.
What do you believe is key when designing for high-end interiors?
We consider luxury to be comfortable furnishing made with quality materials. There are things you touch and feel. There also needs to be something that is one of a kind, be it an antique or piece of art. There are wonderful conversation starters. Another aspect of luxury and comfort is the ease of technology – remote-controlled window shades, sound systems, lighting and media centres.
What has been your biggest accomplishments to date?
I’m grateful to have had my project profiled in multiple magazines, website and books. I founded Design Campus, the country’s largest design summit and online educational website, and starred in HGTV’s The Real Designing Women. But, I’m most proud to have created a successful work and life balance. My family is the most important thing to me and I cherish every moment with them.
What advice would you offer newly-qualified interior designers trying to break in to the high-end industry?
Any designer trying to break into the high-end industry might focus heavily on marketing and getting their work out there. Study other successful designers and see how they present themselves. Get inspired by them and add your own special touches. Have an online presence – people can’t find you if they don’t know about you.
How would you define interior design?
Interior design is a marriage of form and function. Beauty and practicality. Personal expression and personal behaviour.
Can you please explain the brief that you received for Bond at the Beach?
Our client for Bond and the Beach was a bachelor who held a high power position in a financial institute. This was his second home and he wanted it to be calm, cool and collected.
His home was steps away from the beach, which inspired our neutral colour palette of various shades of browns, greys and warm whites. We incorporated elements like wood, glass, metal and live plants. Some rooms, like the living room and bedrooms, are very ‘zen,’ calm and chic, while others like the sitting nook or the dining room really give off a lustrous vibe.
Can you please explain the brief that you received for Villa del Sur?
Our clients for Villa del Sur originally hired us for a newly-constructed home in Virginia. We selected all the finishing materials and purchased a whole house worth of furniture, when they decided they wanted to move back to their old Mediterranean house in California and remodel it.
How did you fulfill this client’s brief?
This was quite a puzzle! We started by giving the old house an upgrade to make it feel contemporary and fresh for them. Luckily, we were able to place all but a few pieces of furniture and lighting that was already purchased and it worked out perfectly. Some of our favourite moments are the pool house turned gentleman’s lounge and the transformation of the master suite and the bathroom.
What do you feel makes a luxury bathroom scheme?
Again, it’s a balance of being able to comfortably use the space coupled with beauty. In the bathroom at Villa del Sur, our clients’ heights were drastically different. She was close to 5 ft and he was a big man at 6 ft 5. Two shower bars, that were adjustable, were added and a stick step was incorporated for her to stand on at the vanity while she got ready. Those functioning items aside, luxurious moments happened in the details, like the jewellery-inspired vanity hardware, billowing soft drapery near the freestanding tub and the layers of glass and marble throughout.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career?
I would say Villa del Sur – and it was worth every minute. Each year presents us with a new challenge, so we have to remain resilient and think outside of the box.
What can we expect to see from Lori Dennis over the next year?
We are in the midst of designing a lighting collection and branching out to work on a commercial space for a well known athlete’s fashion line.
Are there any particular schemes that you would like to work on in the near future?
We’ve recently completed a contemporary French farmhouse, a blue and white transitional Georgian-style and now we’re designing a modern Americana-style home. What’s next? Anything is possible! Perhaps a fresh take on the contemporary hip hacienda.
Above: Lori’s client for Bond at the Beach was a bachelor who held a high power position in a financial institute.
Left: Lori Dennis owns a sustainable design firm which includes an aspect of green in every project.
Above right: Some rooms in Bond at the Beach are very ‘zen.’
Right: The sitting nook and dining room in Bond at the Beach give off a lustrous vibe.
Left: Lori gave Villa del Sur an upgrade to make it feel contemporary and fresh.
Below left: Luxurious moments happened in the details at Villa del Sur, like the jewellery-inspired vanity hardware.
Below: Villa del Sur’s clients decided they wanted to move back to their old Mediterranean house in California and remodel it.
Top: Lori incorporated elements like wood, glass, metal and live plants into Bond at the Beach’s scheme.
Above: Villa del Sur was one of Lori’s biggest challenges through her career.
Left: Some of Lori’s favourite moments from Villa del Sur was the pool house turned gentleman’s lounge.