Designing Dream Spaces
We caught up with Jennifer Lane, a Senior Designer at Meridith Baer Home, a luxury home staging and interior design studio located in Los Angeles, California. One of LA's top home stagers, Jennifer shares her interior design tips with us and takes us behind the scenes of one of her latest projects, a historic 4500 square foot Spanish Estate nestled in the hills of Los Feliz.
The home features sweeping views of downtown Los Angeles from every room, original period details including Ernest Batchelder tiles, hand-carved beams on double height ceilings and hand-painted sconces, but also features modern comforts with updated systems.
Jennifer’s challenge? To update every room in keeping with the Spanish thematic, but to add a contemporary flair and make it livable for new tenants. She takes us inside her thought process to achieve this interior design aesthetic.
THE LIVING ROOM
“In staging a room, the first thing you need to think about is how you live your life. Some people like a television in the living room, and some don’t. I always think about how you’re going to use the space for entertaining and conversation,” says Jennifer.
“I also look at the size and direction of the living room, which you always want to follow. This room is essentially a big rectangle, and the couch I chose maps to that. It’s a focal point and grounding element and my rule of thumb is to always start with the sofa, because it’s your biggest piece in the room,” she says. “Also, I almost always go with a white sofa. It’s like wearing white jeans. It’s a great basic and everything goes with it.”
Jennifer loves swivel chairs because of their versatility. They were also perfect for this room because they frame the sofa, but also swivel to face the piano when someone’s playing it. “I finished the look with black leather chairs because they’re cool and contemporary, and also match the hardwood floors.”
Pillows tied the look of the room together. “The pillows I used are oversized, which I really like, and are on-trend right now,” she says. “I typically stage with 22x22 inch or 24x24 inch square pillows. It updates this room and makes it more contemporary.”
Her advice on pillows? “They’re great to refresh and uplevel a room. I’m judicious with pillows though; I only used two for this sofa and one for each swivel chair. I don’t like to crowd a sofa too much. I usually like no more than three pillows on a sofa, but that’s just me.”
Spatially, the side room also played a part in the overall design aesthetic of the main living space. “The side room to the left was actually quite dark, so I added a mirror that reflects the amazing view and lightens up the room,” says Jennifer. “Mirrors are a great way to draw more light into a room and brighten up a space. I also like mixing and matching pieces, so you’ll see that I’ve mixed a more traditional cabinet piece with a contemporary mirror.”
Anchoring the room - and tying in the warm wood ceiling beams - is a richly textured Lemieux et Cit hand-knotted Tiala rug in dark orange. “The rug really makes this room special,” she adds.
THE SITTING ROOM
How to Frame A Bookcase
In the back of the room there is a small sitting room, which features an aesthetically pleasing bookcase that centers the room. “The key with bookshelves - and décor on shelving in general - is symmetry,” notes Jennifer. “You’ll see that the books on top are centered and pull the eye there to start; then as your eye moves down the shelves, the books and décor pieces are symmetrically placed and vary in sizes to create a look that’s pleasing to the eye.”
“Don’t be afraid to mix and match,” Jennifer advises. In the sitting room, I added a contemporary chair in deep olive green that leans into mid-century modern, but still also works with the Spanish thematic within the room.”
THE MASTER BEDROOM
“This is an eclectic master bedroom that I really love,” enthuses Jennifer. “I love the shape of the room and the light that fills it from the picture window.” She chose a shorter headboard to make the room more interesting. “The magic number in design is three,” she says. “So, as you can see, I used three pictures above the bed and three pillows on the bed to frame the room.” In Los Angeles, she cautions to be mindful about hanging art above your bed because of the city's propensity for earthquakes.
Jennifer thought about framing elements when she designed the sitting area around the picture window. The elegant curves of the chairs complement the curvature of the room; the pillow gives the space a pop of color and the high vase with branches add interesting height and texture. “This is an area that we call ‘having a moment,’” she laughs.
“I’m a huge fan of branches. They add a little bit of texture, and I like the way they look. I recommend that you always put them in a tall vase because you want to vary the heights to create interest in a room where you can.”
This house was staged in a head spinning two days, with Jennifer and her crew of five movers. Her advice when deciding to stage your home for sale? “In cities, and especially in LA, be sure that you secure parking in front of the house,” she says. “We have a 26-foot truck and it’s critical to get as close to the house as possible for accessibility.”
JENNIFER'S ADVICE IF YOU WANT TO BREAK INTO THE FIELD
“I was an Art History major at the University of Maryland, and don’t have formal training” she says. “But in my mind, you either get it or you don’t. I recommend getting a job in interior design and/or home staging to learn from there. I’ve been staging homes for five years and I learned on the job from some of the most incredible interior designers,” she says.
“I used to own a furniture consignment shop and an interior designer came in and said she was a home stager. I saw photos of staging homes and just knew that I could do it, and it has become something that I really love,” she says. Jennifer started contacting real estate agents to stage their properties; work that eventually led her to joining Meridith Baer Home.
Be open to feedback. You'll always be balancing the input of the homeowner and the real estate agent, so know when to take in their feedback and when to speak up and educate them on why you made the design choices that you did.
Mix and Match. Mix furniture styles, textures, colors and use a variety of sizes in your home decor to create interest in a room.
Paint & Mirrors make the biggest difference in a room.
Prioritize your health. “Staging is very physical,” she says. “I’m often on my feet all day, walking up and down numerous flights of stairs and scouring our warehouse for furniture and home décor. So you need to be able to physically make that work.”
INTERIOR DESIGN TRENDS
Jennifer sees a move towards earth toned colors for fall. "A lot of people are talking about the color olive green right now," she says. "Jewel tones continue to be popular, such as plum, mustard yellow and burnt orange. Wallpaper is also having a moment."
You can see more of Jennifer's work on her Instagram: @jenniferlanela