The Expert - After Many Sit Tests, Lauren Liess’ Dream Sofa Is “Extremely Nappable”
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After Many Sit Tests, Lauren Liess’ Dream Sofa Is “Extremely Nappable”

Words by Gabrielle Savoie
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Photo courtesy of Lauren Liess.

The term “multihyphenate” is often overused, but it describes Lauren Liess to a tee.

After pivoting to design as a young graduate—“I realized I loved decorating my apartment more than I liked doing my actual job,” she says, laughing—Lauren dipped her toes with a staging business and a blog, Pure Style Home, before taking on full-scale renovation projects, eventually getting published in House Beautiful, Architectural Digest, Domino, and landing an HGTV show, Best House on the Block.

“As the firm grew, my husband quit his job teaching high school English to come work with me full-time,” adds Lauren. They’ve been navigating business and life with five kids ever since. Early on in her career, the creative leaned into writing books (she has three under her belt) and designing products, eventually opening a retail shop, Lauren Liess and Co., and a real estate brokerage called Property Collective in her hometown of Great Falls, Virginia.

There’s even more in the works: a new TV show, two new books (one about design, the other for children), a new lifestyle website, and ground-up architecture projects. She chatted with us about her recipe for an “extremely nappable” sofa, why she doesn’t believe in trends, and how she’s finally getting to work on her dream project.

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Photo courtesy of Lauren Liess

Photo by Helen Norman

What architectural style or design era is inspiring you right now?

I’m so inspired by old European country houses… I love gardening and growing my own food and I’m always blown away by charming European gardens and the beautiful indoor-outdoor way of living these properties encourage.

Name an architectural pet peeve that always needs fixing in any project—big or small?

Often “trends” have gotten a hold of a house and you have to get rid of any out-of-place architectural details that were added because it seemed like the “in” thing to do at the time. 

You’re designing a room—where do you start?

I generally start with picturing an overall desired “vibe” and then create a material palette from there… It might include samples of fabric, plaster, wood, or metal. I compile it all together and keep adding to it until I have a beautiful mess all over my table. I leave it out for a while (a few weeks if I have the time) and mull it over, adding and subtracting to it until it’s just right.

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Photo by Helen Norman

What are you dying for a client to request?

A glass house (a client recently requested this and it had been my “dream project” for years).   Next up, I’d love to design a modern castle.

Which design trend needs to be retired and which should make a comeback?

I’m not generally very aware of trends… If you truly love something, you should have zero care for whether it’s in or out. So one trend I’d love to see even more is a personal expression of unique passions and interests. A “letting go” of sorts. 

How do you make the most of a budget? Where to save / where to splurge?

Save on anything you can get at a second-hand store or flea market and fix up (end tables and old lighting are favorites) and splurge on upholstery and wall treatments such as plaster, paneling, or wallpaper. Rugs can go either way but you can really save by going with natural fibers like jute or seagrass… That said, I’m also a fan of splurging on vintage or antique rugs when the budget’s there and it makes the space.

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Photo courtesy of Lauren Liess

Photo courtesy of Lauren Liess

What should you always buy vintage?

That’s a tough one… I love vintage lighting and case goods in particular, but if I had to pick just one thing I’d say objects. I also just bought a Swedish Midcentury upholstered chair in its original overscale brown floral linen for my daughters’ bedroom in our under-renovation house and I’m in love.

Describe your dream sofa: what does it look like, how is it built, and how does it feel?

It would have to be the sofa collection I designed with Taylor King. We did so many “sit” tests to get the seat exactly as I wanted: on the lower side but not too low, deep enough to spoon on, down-wrapped, soft but not too squishy, and extremely nappable.

Each sofa is made in North Carolina by some of the nicest humans I’ve ever met and they’re all 8-way hand-tied with kiln-dried hardwood frames. I have the “Lady” in my living room, which has a sleek bench seat and a white, waterfall-style machine-washable linen slipcover that I don’t need to worry about—even with 5 kids and 3 dogs in our house!

Coffee table or ottoman?

Coffee table

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Photo courtesy of Lauren Liess

Formal dining room or eat-in kitchen?

Both!

What are your go-to finishing touches that always elevate a room?

Big ol’ vases with branches, vintage or one-of-a-kind art, and accessories.

What hotel anywhere in the world represents ultimate luxury to you and why?

Monteverdi Tuscany… It’s the epitome of natural, rustic luxury: textural, soulful, and beautiful Italian villas with plaster walls, old beams, and history with a completely modern sensibility. The grounds and the crumbly stone walls look like heaven to me.

What’s next for you? 

We’ve branched into architecture, which is really exciting—we’re in the middle of designing our first ground-up home on a property with a gorgeous meadow.  It has a “fairytale modern” type of architecture that I can’t wait to see come to life. (I designed it with arrow slit windows which my six-year-old fairytale-loving-self is enjoying!) We’re moving into a new (old) house next year and I’m telling myself it’s for “forever.” And I’m dreaming about that upcoming glass house project!

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Photo by Helen Norman

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