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Melding Modern and Historic Design with Lorraine Liste

Van Vorst Resident Interior designer/stylist Lorraine Liste arrived in JC in 2005. After opening Maximilian’s, a children’s boutique on Grove St. and Christopher Columbus Drive, Lorraine opened two more retail shops before switching gears to fully focus on her biggest passion – interior styling and design.

How did you get into design?
Besides being a boutique owner, I had experience in the corporate world. I made the decision to go full-time into design because it’s what I love, and I can get to draw from my past work to help run my business.

Are you self-taught, like so many designers?
Mainly, yes. I have always worked for myself. Though I did do a two-year certification program at the New York School of Design. I had already been in business and designing so it was more just something to check out.

Do you work mainly in Jersey City?
Jersey City and Hoboken. When I started out, I was doing a lot of work in Manhattan, designing commercial spaces. But now I’m mainly focused here which I love.

Do you focus only on historic brownstones?
No, in Hoboken it’s many condos and new buildings on the water. But I do love historic and historic brownstones, it’s such a passion.

How did you grow your business?
It’s actually been completely under the radar and completely word of mouth. I am lucky in that I have this really good network of people of people in my life from the past 20 years or so. Friends, neighbors, work colleagues who share recommendations and it’s just been very easy and I am fortunate, in that sense. What is the process like when you start working with someone? My style is very collaborative. I always start with just sitting down in a room and chatting for a few hours about anything they want to focus on that inspires them – travel, photography, personal interests, work. On my side, I am constantly inspired every day and bring that to design. Walking, nature, trees, the City, looking at art. I am constantly, constantly inspired and drawing ideas from what I encounter.

Historic houses can be so tricky for people to set up as a home. Often they are beautiful but can be impractical for how people live.
Absolutely. But you can make it work. We all want to preserve history and that beauty, but with a modern twist. You want to live comfortably, which can mean updating your kitchen and bathroom while preserving some of the original beauty in these rooms.

Is there one central design trend or issue that you encounter a lot?
There is something I hear from so many clients. They tell me that they just don’t get a good feeling from a room, and that they don’t enjoy themselves in it. And that’s where getting to know them is so helpful when I begin to design. When it comes to brownstones, the living has to be seamless. And it can be, that is how it was intended to be. It helps to keep one historic element in each room. It draws the eye and tells a story throughout the house, as does using design pieces or objects that have personal meaning to you.

Do you hear a lot about lack of closets and/or awkward storage space?
Well, yes, but I always ask people to pause before they start ordering custom pieces. For that, I love the Container Store. It’s amazing. They have the most useful, easy software for creating and designing your own closet and it really allows you to maximize your design for exactly what you need, and it’s this great process of stripping down to exactly what you need, and you can really fit so much stuff into this perfect closet space.

How about mixing design periods and styles within a historic home?
Absolutely, in every project. Mixing eras and styles is so key for designing the interior of a brownstone! And the feeling you get when you walk into each and every room. It is a seamless transition of design from one room to the next mixing old and new.

That can get intimidating.
It’s all about approaching this with creativity and fun, and being assured you can use what you like. You don’t need to rip everything and start over. Keeping an original element in each room while adding modern or eclectic or any other styles is perfect. And if there are traditional features in the house that are in disrepair or missing, you can have it restored. There is so much salvaged art in the City, and things like original ceiling medallions and hinges. There are local woodworkers and artisans who can re-create or restore original features for you. As an example. In my own home, for example, I kept the clawfoot tub in my son’s room, but polished and repainted it, and then added beautiful brass fixtures I found online. And look at other little details, like original light fixtures that you may want to restore. There are many great resources to update the original details in your home.

We’re listing your sourcing suggestions below – thank you! How can people reach you to discuss a project? and lorrainelisteinteriors@instagram. My pleasure!
Lorraine’s List
“ For door knobs, hinges and other hardware elements for brownstones.”
“Olde Good Things is a great store with a few locations in Manhattan. They have vintage furniture pieces, chandeliers, doors. They specialize in reclaimed building materials and antiques. I have this enormous art deco chandelier in my living room that I got there. They claimed it from an old bank down on Wall Street where the interior was being demolished and repurposed.
“ is a great source for lighting and hardware for brownstones. They focus on creating pieces with a past and mixing eras and styles. They are based out of Oregon but have a store in Tribeca.”

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