Memphis interior designer and former Atlantan Lisa Popwell Mallory remembers sitting outside her family’s new home when she was a kid, waiting for her first design project to come to fruition. “I got to pick out everything for my bedroom,” says Lisa, who owns Lisa Mallory Interior Design, a full-service design firm with a shop and showroom in Memphis. “All the draperies, the bed … I was only 13 years old, and I can remember sitting on the steps waiting for it to all be installed. From then on, I just loved color and pattern, and I love working with people.” Lisa has turned her passion into a productive and prolific career, working with hundreds of clients across the Mid-South and beyond to create the spaces of their dreams. Join us for a Q&A with Lisa to learn more about our latest Interior Designer Crush!
How did you know you wanted to become an interior designer, and how and where did you study?
I’ve just always loved pretty things. My father always worked with architects and designers, and he inspired me, so I took art classes and drafting classes in high school and then went to college for interior design. After college, I went to Paris and studied at the Louvre in a program through Parsons School of Design in Paris — it was just a fun summer. And then I came back, and I’ve worked in design ever since. I worked with John Isbell and Roland Gerhardt for 13 years, and then I opened my own interior design shop 20 years ago, in 1997.
Where and how do you find inspiration for your work?
The inspiration for my work comes from traveling, and I love the camera — I would be a photographer if I wasn’t a designer. We travel a lot for our clients — New Orleans, Atlanta, Seaside, North Carolina. I’ve also done a lot of work in San Francisco and Napa, and every time I go somewhere, I go to every store I can find that would have something that I would be interested in for my shop. And I get a lot of ideas doing that — traveling is where I get a lot of my information.
I don’t read many magazines and no blogs — I really don’t have time. But I do love interior design books from interior designers all over the country, and we carry them in the shop for inspiration.
Which designers’ books are your favorites?
What is your latest obsession?
My latest obsession would be lamps. I cannot resist buying beautiful lamps for the shop. Almost every day for the past month we have received new lamps! It has sort of become a joke when FedEx arrives with more lamps!
What’s been your favorite project to date?
It’s very difficult for me to choose a favorite project — it’s like choosing a favorite child! I love working with all of my clients, and I love every project I get involved in. There’s something very gratifying when you see a project go from its beginning to its completion. Every project is a challenge, and I try to have a lot of different looks. I don’t have one look that says, “That’s Lisa Mallory,” because I feel like it’s the client’s house, not mine, and they’re the ones living there. And I design for my clients.
Tell us a little about your own home. Do you find designing your own space easier or harder than working with a client?
Designing my own space is much harder. I see so many different styles, and I have so many different likes. My own house is always a work in progress. I’ll finish one room and then an idea kind of pops into my head for how I can make another space better. I’ve probably done at least 19 renovations on my home, which I’ve lived in since 1992, on a golf course in East Memphis. I have a large yard and a rose garden, and I work on the rose garden in the afternoons. I’ve just finished a beautiful loggia that runs across the back of my house with large windows so I can see the entire backyard. And today, as we speak, I’m having new laundry room cabinets installed. Also, since we’re so into bedding at the shop, I change my bedding at least once a month.
What are some of your top pieces of design advice for readers?
The first bit of information that I ever give a new client is to buy quality pieces that will last forever. Never finish a room just to finish it — always wait for the perfect piece, and always buy something that you’ll keep forever. It’s better to have one nice piece of furniture than a whole roomful of non-quality pieces. Also, always look for good lamps. A lot of times when I help people, they don’t have any lamps. We redo all the lamps, and it gives the room a much more updated feel. And then, of course, there’s the bed. You spend something like a third of your life in bed, and the bed has become a very important part of our business. And so we’re working on building a perfect bed — the pillows, the mattress cover, the mattress, the sheets.
What local design resources are your go-to sources?
I use my own shop. I use my shop almost as my warehouse, because I go to Atlanta or Dallas or North Carolina and shop for pieces, and I come back and put them in my own shop, and that’s my resource, along with all of my trade resources. And the shop is just so beautiful — people need to come in! I hear people say all the time that there’s no place like it in the South. Everything in here is just a feast for the eyes. It’s so big, and we’re so lucky to have found this spot. And everything in the shop, I would take it home for myself. I wouldn’t buy anything that I wouldn’t have for myself.
How do you incorporate art into your projects?
Art is one of my favorite parts of an installation. It adds life and personality to a room. I am so fortunate to work closely with David Lusk on all of my projects. My clients understand the importance of quality artwork, and most of them have become collectors over the last 20 years! Some of my personal favorites are regional artists Jared Small, Carroll Cloar and Freida Hamm. Memphis boasts an inspiring community of artists!
What has been the most challenging project to date?
My most challenging and rewarding project has been working in Wilson, Arkansas. I have had the privilege of helping my clients develop and create an early feel for the town. This has involved residences, offices and surrounding projects that comprised the community of Wilson. This was not just the projects involved but the culture of a revitalized rural Arkansas town. I not only listened to my clients’ taste but also what they wanted the town to become. I had to focus on the town’s small details for the large picture to take shape. There are many architects, designers and other professionals who are collaborating to make Wilson a thriving cultural destination. With the Wilson Cafe, The Delta School and Hampson Museum, it is going to happen sooner than later! Everyone should visit Wilson, Arkansas!
Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your insights, inspirations and impressively diverse design portfolio. To contact Lisa Mallory Interior Design, visit lisamallorydesign.com.
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