Text: Franki Durbin | Photos: Traditional Home | December 8, 2014
Can I just say I love Lonni? Popularly recognized for her appearance on Design Star and her nursery furniture & bedding line PetitNest, this Los Angeles designer is one I always look to when I need a dose of West Coast inspiration. Perhaps inspired by the laid-back California lifestyle and all that sunshine, this LA designer manages to effortlessly balance glamour and a “come on in and take your shoes off” air of relaxation in their work. I admire that skill greatly.
When Lonni’s smiling face appeared on Giuliana & Bill it was a welcome surprise. As the celebrity couple’s designer, we saw her navigate the needs of these two very different personalities and the usual (and occasionally opposing) husband and wife desires in terms of interior design. The results (and broad client smiles) speak for themselves.
The beautiful images seen here show her ability to balance the needs of a young family with those of a professional couple that loves to entertain. It’s chic, it’s pretty and yet it graciously lends itself to that laid-back vibe we all crave. Mom to twins herself, Lonni is a natural at serving up that special blend of glam-meets-casual. The result is a warm and inviting suburban pad with a generous helping of up downtown high-rise elegance.
Design fans will note that the feature in Traditional Home appeared last fall. but I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Lonni, so it seemed apropos to showcase her work for the celebrity duo again.
I am excited to share my interview with Lonni below. Suffice it to say this talented designer is just as lovely as her work. Read on to gain insight on how you can channel that West Coast cool into your interiors, relate to her love of wallpaper and learn how a good blowout can make a busy modern girl’s life easier (and decidedly more fabulous)…
Between Design Star and Giuliana & Bill, television has played a very positive role in expanding your fan (and hopefully client) base. You are such a natural in front of the camera. Since you’re based in LA, is being on air a natural extension of your brand building strategy – or were these happy professional surprises?
The shows I’ve worked on were really not part of a strategy. In fact, I was very reluctant to audition for Design Star but was called several times and asked to send in a tape. I finally did and as difficult as that experience was I’m glad I did it.
For Giuliana & Bill, someone involved in the show’s production saw a house I had designed and recommended me. Their show has definitely expanded my client base. It’s amazing how many people watch the show! It’s also been such a great experience.
The Rancics are definitely the same people on and off camera and it’s been such a pleasure getting to know them and their families. We have become close friends over the last few years. They are very supportive of me and truly want me to succeed.
PetitNest: It has always been very difficult to source great nursery furniture. Your line is modern, cool and yet somehow classic. As your twins grow are you looking to expand into beds and “young child” furniture?
Thanks so much! My twins, Jett and Sophie both have PetitNest dressers in their rooms. Jett has the Odile, and Sophie has the Sophie of course! I designed a bed for Sophie’s room as part of a young child’s line for PetitNest. I haven’t put them into production yet but it’s in the works!
How else do you see that line evolving over the coming years?
I’d love to design a line of PetitNest accessories and a party line too!
Tell me about LA style. Your work has such an effortlessly chic vibe to it. Nothing is forced and yet everything is fabulous. How would you describe your approach to interior style? How does the laid back California lifestyle reflect itself in your work?
Wow! Thank you so much for that! That’s what I strive for so I’m happy you see it that way. I think LA has such a relaxed atmosphere because the weather allows us to be involved in an indoor/outdoor lifestyle! My approach to design is to sit down with my clients and really have a conversation about how they live.
What do they do when they wake up? How do they spend their weekends & evenings? How do they entertain? Do they have kids, dogs, parents that visit often or live with them? So I take the clients lifestyle and put together an interior that works for the lifestyle.
I love so many different styles of design. I like modern design but I also like classic. So my designs usually lean toward classic with an updated feel. It’s funny, I was just in Chicago at a dinner and someone asked me “what is your style”? I said ‘it’s whatever the client will love for years long after I’m out of there’.
A contractor at the dinner said “oh no, she figures out the style and before she’s done she convinces you it was all your idea!!” I thought that was very funny but maybe true. It’s important to not only give your client a home they will love and feel comfortable in but to educate them along the way with ideas to make it even better than they were expecting. Everybody needs somebody to help them push outside of their comfort zone a little!
Let’s talk balance: We all know work/life balance doesn’t really exist. How do your lovely twins influence your work? Are they quick to offer input on your designs or do you compartmentalize those portions of your life?
You’re so right! It really doesn’t exist. No matter how hard I try it’s such a hard line to walk. I don’t always do the best job at it. I travel a lot so when I’m home I definitely try to have alone time with each of them individually and together too.
I chose to work from home (I have two separate offices there) so that I would be there when they come in after school before their activities start and then when they get home in the early evening. It isn’t a perfect situation though.
At the end of the day I can be on the phone with a client and hear someone bounding up the stairs yelling “MOM”! I used to worry it came off as unprofessional but I’ve never had a client have a problem with it. Anyone who’s a parent gets it! And those that don’t are also understanding when I let them know my reasons for working from home.
Recharging: The west coast offers so much visual inspiration. What are some of your favorite spots to catch the sunset or get out in nature to unwind?
The ocean has always had such a calming affect on me, as I’m sure it does to most people. I love to go down to Santa Monica or Malibu and watch the sunset from the beach. I also love to try different restaurants with friends. I love the food and the ambience! I have a client from England who comes over several times a year and I think we spend more time eating than working!
Beauty: You manage to stay so gorgeous while chasing twins and rocking it out for celebrity clients. Are there any beauty tricks or special products you’d love to share?
Oh wow!! You’re so kind to say that! You haven’t seen me at the end of the day or when I drag myself out of bed! ha! I can’t stand to spend time on my hair or in front of the mirror. I can put my face on in 5 minutes flat. I’m really lucky that I have thick hair so it doesn’t show easily that it’s dirty.
I love DryBar. It would take me twice as long to do it myself and it lasts over a week! (unless I go to the gym—so I use it as an excuse—I can’t go to the gym and ruin my blow dry!) My beauty regime is really simple.
I use Clarins tinted moisturizer with sunscreen, Clinique blush, Clinique eyeshadow and Revlon mascara. Oh, and Chanel lip gloss. I do the same when I’m shooting but I just darken everything and add lip pencil, eyeliner and powder. I don’t wear powder in the day because I hate that dry feeling. I have a lot of allergies so I’m very limited in things I can use. I wash my face with Borage cleansing gel and moisturize with Borage sensitive skin lotion from Whole Foods!
Let’s talk shopping! LA is known for amazing boutiques and legendary flea markets. What insider sourcing favorites would you say are a “don’t miss” for a designer visiting Los Angeles for a week?
I love finding going down to the La Cienega Design Quarter on La Brea. There’s some great shops there. I love the Pacific Design Center to shop for fabrics and wallcoverings. Beverly Blvd near Robertson is great for a more modern vibe and design inspiration.
Your design for Giuliana & Bill’s Brentwood home was every bit chic, but definitely family friendly. That’s no easy feat. As a mom yourself, you must love designing for families. What are some of your favorite design strategies when creating a home for adults and children?
I do love designing for families. When I first started PetitNest I made all my gliders in fabrics that were normally used outdoors. People thought it was such a good idea! I thought it was common sense. The glider in my twins’ room was heinous after a couple of years so that’s where it started for me. I think an investment in a piece of furniture should last longer than that. There are a lot more indoor/outdoor fabric choices now and more designers are using them indoors. I just think about practicality.
Depending on the home I like to have a casual family room that never feels off limits and then use the living room as more of an adult space but still doesn’t feel like it shouldn’t be used. What’s the point of a room you can’t live in?! In the family room I love a deep sofa so the family can spend time together watching movies.
I also like to use a fabric ottoman because it’s much better for kids that are running around but I always add a big tray in the center for snacks! When space permits I always put a small sofa in a nursery along with the glider so the dad and/or siblings have a place to sit when mom is feeding the baby.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE wallpaper. I really explain that small hands with chocolate or a sharpie is a death sentence for grass cloth but when people are fine with it, I use it in the living room and master. If kids are older it’s great everywhere. Many now come with a wipeable sealant on them!
You’ve really mastered “calm sophistication” in your work, yet you are not afraid to throw in some fun patterns and bold color. It is truly an art! What are your secrets for mixing patterns while still maintaining your signature sense of luxe zen in a space?
I think it’s important to go neutral with your big investment pieces like sofas, but I love to bring in color and pattern on pillows, walls, accessories and even a chair. It’s easy to change the look of a room with new pillows. I always change my rooms up for fall and summer and then at Christmas it’s a whole new thing too!
And finally… What’s next for Lonni Paul Design?
Right now I’m working with a production company on a new show. I’m also working on Giuliana and Bill’s new Chicago home and I’ve fallen in love with the city and the people. I’m planning to open an office there next. I work all over the US so it’s a good location for an east coast office. I’m designing an adult line of furniture, a lighting line and fabrics! I always keep myself open to new ideas and opportunities. I feel fortunate to be doing something I love, so I’m really grateful everyday!
Don’t you just love her? So refreshingly candid and so at ease doling out sage design advice. Hopefully we’ll be seeing much more of Lonni and her work in print and broadcast. Her natural warmth and expertise comes through in everything she does. I’m sure her clients (celebs and otherwise) truly enjoy the process and find they’ve made a friend during the design process as well as a sensational living space.
Thank you for reading! For more of Lonni’s insights and inspirational design, find her on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter. Until next time… live stylishly!