DESIGN SCHOOL: Lauren Nelson

October 28, 2018

Welcome to another edition of DESIGN SCHOOL. If you are new to the blog DS is a question and answer interview series with design firms and artists I find particularly inspiring. I ask them to share sound bites of advice, the kind of tips you don’t always get in design school. The type of tips that only come from years of experience!

This month, I am featuring Lauren Nelson, a Bay Area interior designer, is known for her clean, curated interiors that reflect California ease. She is guided by the philosophy that when our surroundings are sources of comfort and inspiration, we lead happier lives. I came across Lauren’s work, more than a year ago, on Instagram and was drawn to her down-to-earth sensibility. Her account wasn’t filled with over the top, highly decorated spaces. She showcased gorgeous, but livable textured rooms with warmth and a chic aesthetic. I was hooked, plus she has two adorable girls and lives in beautiful CA (the nature photos always get me!).

It has been fun watching her design firm grow. Lauren was recently part of the Sunset Magazine Idea House 2018 team and the finished home looks STUNNING. Here’s the Q+A with Lauren Nelson Design (all photos provided by Lauren Nelson Design).

Kitchen from Sunset Idea House 2018

My secret styling trick:

  • Off-setting art in a room. Don’t place it perfectly centered above a couch or console.  Place art off-liter and allow for beautiful ceramics or negative space to give it purpose and interest.

My childhood bedroom would have this:

  • Snoopy paraphernalia. I grew up in the age of The Peanuts – the BEST!

One of the hardest things for new designers to learn:

  • Scale. After innate taste, I think it’s what separates the good from the excellent. It’s a hard thing to grasp since we often work on two dimensional forms and drawings.  But the balance of scale and proportion is such a learned skill.

The biggest misconception about what I do:

  • That we pick pretty fabrics & light fixtures and sofas all day. Every day. I wish! We love doing that and do it. But not every day. This business is hugely reliant on the non-sexy, time-consuming things like research, project management, vendor correspondence, client management, bookkeeping,  purchase orders, paperwork…. you get it. It’s very much a business that’s HUGELY reliant on fine details and attention to detail on the business side. And it also requires BIG people skills. So it’s likes being a salesperson, and psychologist, and business professional all wrapped into one big happy egg roll. 🙂

When I’m uninspired, I turn to:

  1. Instagram (it’s become such a targeted space of inspiration for fellow creative and new sources)

  2. Traveling – always inspiring

My favorite part of a project is:

The installation phase – seeing everything come in the flesh, coming together.  There’s nothing like it.

My most prized possession:

  • Drawings made by my 5 year old daughter. Every time she gives me one she says “because I love you mama”.  This for me is even better than a piece of furniture.


The paint color I’ve used more than any other:

Benjamin Moore’s Simply White & Benjamin Moore’s Silver Chain – my favorite white and soft grey.

My favorite person to follow on Instagram:

@NeveandHawk – because she’s a force.  A creative, a mom, a business owner, an honest comedian.  Her personality shows through so much and she leaves me in stitches.

I dread when a client says this:

  • “I know it looks like shit and doesn’t work in the space, but can we keep it?” NO!!!!

My all-time favorite clients are:

The ones with the biggest hearts. I value heart and kindness even more than a savvy design aesthetic. It makes all the difference working with people that value your time and connect with you on a human level. Thankfully, we’ve found the clients that give us joy and purpose and respect for what we’re doing to enhance their lives.

I always encourage clients to get rid of:

  • Things that don’t give them joy and meaning

The best advice I’ve ever received about maintaining a work/life balance:

  • When you’re working, work hard, and don’t feel guilty about it. But when you’re not working, be present and fully focused on who you’re with. I’m really trying to do this. It’s so hard now with the connectedness of technology. It takes extra effort. But worth it.

The project I’m most proud of is:

The pattern that I’ll never tire of is:

  • Stripes because there are so many variations on a stripe pattern. One of my favorites is Kufri’s Sanjana Stripe

  • *Editor’s note* – Read past interview with KUFRI LIFE (I have her textiles all over my bedroom!)

My favorite up-and-coming designer:

  • Katie Martinez – she’s talented, approaches each project with a unique point of view, and happens to be a friend of mine.

One question you would like to ask your favorite designer:

  • Wanna grab lunch? 🙂

Ah! Lauren we need to know who your favorite designer is, right?! Thanks for reading along, hope you enjoyed the interview – stay tuned for next month or read a few past interviews and glean more tidbits from these talented people.

Many thanks to Lauren Nelson for participating and sharing with us!


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  1. […] Lauren Nelson shares a few things about herself and tips as an interior designer in this post. […]

  2. […] Source: Design School: Lauren Nelson – Centereddesign […]

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Meet Claire

Claire’s creative energy comes from her unique perspective on the world as both a trained interior designer and a passionate yoga teacher. Her affinity for kitchen design, timeless style and eclectic decorating are shared here, along with lots of interior design education and tips. Thanks for being here, please enjoy!

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