Lauren Nelson on What Trends are Here to Stay


We recently talked with Lauren Nelson, an interior designer from San Francisco who owns and operates Lauren Nelson Design. We love the spaces Lauren designs for the classic yet modern feel and richness they have. Lauren gave us insight into what trends she thinks will never disappear, how she balances color in spaces, and what it’s like to run a business while being a mother, hint: it’s not easy.

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You own and operate Lauren Nelson Design, specializing in high-end residential design. Tell us a little about what the road looked like to get where you are today.

My road to design was a serendipitous one. I made a career shift in my late twenties,  switching gears from my corporate job at Williams-Sonoma Inc. to dive into the interiors world.  But it didn’t happen overnight or come without sacrifices. I studied Interior Architecture at UC Berkeley while working a full-time job, and then left my comfortable job to apprentice for an interior designer in Los Angeles and soaked up as much knowledge as possible.

I worked as a prop stylist for various commercial clients and publications in New York while taking interior design jobs simultaneously on the side. It was the most creative I had even been in my adult life, and I kept pinching myself that I was able to make this new living out of work I enjoyed so much.

After moving back to San Francisco, I got married, started a family, and hired an assistant as more jobs kept coming. Fast forward 7 years, and we are now a studio of 4. I grew my business very slowly and intentionally, as it was my first baby and never wanted to get in over my head. I also love the idea of a small intimate team that works collaboratively. It’s my second family.

The spaces you design range from classic to eclectic and modern. Do you have a favorite style or do you like to mix it up?

I love mixing it up. I think that’s what makes this job stay interesting and not copy/paste. I adore mixing genres and periods of design - Japanese influences mixed with Scandanavian and Spanish and French. I love that many or our clients have a point of view and add to our design vernacular, making each project unique to them.

You live in the Bay area! Tell us what you love most about living there.

There are lots of reasons why I love CA, but the biggest one is the natural beauty.  Since moving to San Anselmo (a small town in Marin County) I’m even more enamored with our surroundings - the mountains, hillsides, lakes, and beaches right in our backyard.  The Northern California lifestyle is also a big draw for me. It’s as casual as it gets, and there is a collective consciousness here that you don’t get in many other places.

What is a project you are most proud of?

That’s a hard one. There are so many projects I feel proud of. Recently we completed a remodel of an 1895 Queen Anne Victorian in San Francisco and it was remarkable.  The transformation alone was astounding, keeping as much original architectural detail while modernizing the finishes and furnishings. The client was a 2nd-time client who had an inherent trust in us, so that’s always a great start to a project. 

Is there a trend you think will never go out of style?

Vintage. Lately, there’s been a love affair with vintage, but then again it’s been a trend off and on for decades. I think mixing in vintage pieces will always make a space feel more special.

Let’s talk about color. Your spaces are rich yet still pulled together and modern. How do you achieve balance?

I adore the color.  I think color is what activates emotions. But I also think it’s important to use it selectively and intentionally.  Meaning, don’t go overboard with too many colors or it’ll feel like 5 different bands playing at one time. Choose a foundation color and build around that. Make sure the colors complement each other and don’t take attention away from each other. 

What’s your favorite room in your home and why?

This one is easy since our home is not a big one. Our Living Room is my favorite because it’s where my family spends most of our time together. A typical night involves putting on a record, lighting the fire (in the Fall/Winter), drinking a pot of tea, and having a dance party or doing a puzzle or snuggling to up watching a movie. It helps that this space opens up to the kitchen, where I spend a lot of time too. 

Tell us about a few of the most challenging aspects of owning your own business.

The motherhood/work balance can be challenging.  Any working mom has to juggle quite a bit. And when it’s your own business, there is a level of ownership that makes unplugging even more difficult.  Your work brain doesn’t turn off as easily, and there is a connectedness to your business as if it’s another one of your children, especially when you have a team of people to think about.  

What are a few things you could not do without?

My family, my dog, and a tape measure.

What is next for you and your business?

I just turned 40 and so that comes with reflection and goals. So far, we’ve focused on high-end residential projects, but looking ahead, I would love to design a boutique hotel and/or a winery. I think that would be so fun and come naturally to us.

All photos provided by Lauren Nelson Design
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