In our monthly Interior Designer Crush series, we talk to an interior designer we are crushing on and ask them 10 questions we’re dying to have answered. Today, we visit with Lisa Flake of Caldwell Flake Interiors. Lisa grew up around her designer mother, playing with samples and swatches, and watching her mother work magic on her clients’ homes. In 1998, Lisa joined her mother’s design firm and, since then, has grown into an exquisite interior designer in her own right. Lisa is unafraid to use bold pops of color, to mix materials, to intermingle old and new, and to embrace a clean, monotone palette. She is eager to push her creative boundaries and take exciting risks but she is most excited to create a home that reflects its owners’ individuality and meets their functional needs in an elegant form. We asked Lisa to describe her aesthetic, let us in on her favorite local home décor spots and give us a glimpse of some of her favorite projects. We hope you enjoy!
What is your design aesthetic, and how do you translate that to a client and his or her home?
I like to define “the feel” my client is looking for and then start with one beautiful, important piece and work from there.
Where are your favorite local spots to find décor for your clients’ homes?
I am a firm believer in supporting our wonderful interior décor stores here in Birmingham and we are so lucky to have so many fabulous options. I make my rounds weekly looking for wonderful finds and have become friends with all of the shop owners. My favorites are Circa Interiors & Antiques, Richard Tubb Interiors, MCJ Co Interiors, Hiltz-Lauber, King’s House Oriental Rugs, Soho Retro, Details by Liz Hand Woods, Patina, Antiquities, Trouve, Gallery 1930 and Paige Albright Orientals.
Are there any trends you’re loving at the moment and, alternately, any timeless aspects of design that you cling to?
I love all the unlacquered brass and white marble of the moment. That is such a timeless look. I love that people are enjoying wallpaper again, although I have never stopped loving it or using it. I will always love dark ebony hardwoods and black hardware because I feel they stand the test of time.
What has been your most challenging project to date and why?
The most challenging project was also by far the most rewarding and fun! My mother and I were honored to be selected as the designers for the new 40,000-square-foot Kappa Delta house at the University of Alabama. We were both KDs, so this was obviously something close to our hearts but it was like doing a hotel because of the size and scale. We had a fabulous committee and, luckily, one of the committee members worked in commercial design. There are so many rules and regulations when building a structure of that size on a university campus that residential designers do not always have to deal with. The other challenge was trying to please KD pledges and alumni, ages 18 to 80, and making the house something that all generations loved. I will say the response we received has been so fulfilling because we can tell everyone is genuinely pleased with it — and there is no bigger reward.
What brings you the most professional joy?
The people I deal with, both vendors and clients, are a pleasure. I have become close friends with so many people that otherwise I would not have crossed paths with. You get to know your clients so well because you have to learn how they live and what makes them happy.
How does Birmingham’s design scene differ from the rest of the country?
Birminghamians are traditional by nature — that’s our Southern heritage. But many clients are willing to break through those confines by mixing the heirloom antique with a more modern piece.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I am old school and still love pulling magazine pictures. I then take photos of them and put them in files on my phone. I also get inspiration through travel and from all the beautiful architecture we are so blessed to have in this area.
Who have been your industry mentors and role models and why?
My mother has been the most impactful mentor and role model because she has taught me so much! She saw my talent, hired me, helped mold me into the designer I am today and supported me every inch along the way. She is my sounding board and cheerleader. I truly do not know what I would do without her.
One of the reasons I love this industry is that all the designers are truly supportive of each other. It is not a cutthroat industry but one of respect for others. And it shows by the designers along the way who have taken an interest in me and offered their advice and insights. Three that come to mind are Richard Tubb, Jane Hodges and Mary Evelyn McKee. In the broader world, I would say that my “designer crushes” are definitely Kelly Wearstler and Lee Kleinhelter, who owns Pieces in Atlanta. I love both of them for their bold use of color and the risks they take.
What are your predictions for interior design in the next 10 to 15 years?
Less is more — stay sleek and simple. And I definitely think technology will continue to transform this industry. That is why I am so glad both my daughters have expressed interest in majoring in interior design. I need them to come work with me and keep me up-to-date with this next generation of great designers!
If you could squeeze your design philosophy into five words, what would they be?
Every room needs a “WOW!”
Thank you to Lisa Flake for sharing her design talents and insights. We can’t wait to see what elegant yet bold interiors she comes up with next! To view more of her fabulous work or to contact Lisa, visit Caldwell Flake Interiors.