Designer Lauren Meichtry on ‘making it home’

(This is part of an occasional series of conversations with interior designers around the country about what’s driving their success, their favorite trick of the trade and what they’d like to be doing more of in the coming year or two.)

Having moved a staggering 29 times in 40 years, designer Lauren Meichtry knows how important it is to create a sense of home wherever you are living. Two years ago, she made another big move — this one a shift in her career as she branched out from her pillow and home accessories business, opening an interior design arm and expanding her e-commerce shop Elise Home to Elsie Home + Design.

To launch her interior design business two years ago, Lauren Meichtry created Elsie Home + Design, an expansion of her original pillow and accessories business, Elsie Home.

The firm, a long-time goal of Meichtry’s, provides residential and commercial design, with many of its current projects in and around Manhattan Beach, California, outside Los Angeles.

Meichtry’s own style is “balanced, playful, livable and comfortable,” she says. “I would call it elevated casual. I don’t like rooms that have furniture that you aren’t supposed to sit on — or don’t want to sit on. I want every room of the house to be functional, and it’s really important to me that the design connects to the people who live there.”

Home is where you are

Her parents’ divorce, their new jobs and other changes in family circumstances prompted many of Meichtry’s early moves from place to place and honed her “make it home” mantra. “Every single time we moved, I had this strong desire to make it feel like home, and my mom was the same way. Even if we didn’t have a lot of money, we’d make every place nice. We’d buy rugs to make it cozy, and she would let me pick the paint and we might sponge paint a room — it was the ’90s,” she says with a laugh. “So, I think that’s where it really started for me was this constant movement — and finding a way to make a space feel cozy and warm, no matter how long you were there, and no matter what your budget was.”

Meichtry describes her own style as ‘balanced, playful, livable and comfortable.’

When her children were young, she inherited an old Kenmore sewing machine from a relative who could no longer use it and began making baby clothes, turning that into a small business. As her children grew, she made her first move into professional home design, creating pillows and launching Elsie Home, and building up a nice customer base of interior designers and casually consulting with her friends on their interiors.

Her “abrupt” divorce in 2021 was the impetus she needed to finally launch the interior design division of her business — well, the divorce and a friend who wanted help picking a paint color.

“I was on my own now with two kids and thinking, ‘You have to make enough money to be able to live.’  And literally at that exact same time, a good friend of mine said, ‘Could you help me pick paint for my kitchen?’ She knew I was in a really, really tough mental space. So, I went over to help her pick paint. And that project turned into, ‘Well, we’re going to gut this entire kitchen and we’re going to move everything around. And I’m going to design all your new cabinetry on a paper towel.” … That project got me through the hardest months of my life. … I would show up to meet with contractors with red eyes, and they’d be like, ‘Are you OK?’ And I wasn’t, but I poured my heart and soul into that kitchen, and when the final result was done, they were so happy.”

Meichtry’s been busy with design projects ever since. Given her own experiences, Meichtry understands clients who have smaller budgets, especially women going through divorces and single moms.

“I like focusing on how to problem solve with a slightly smaller budget and working with existing things within the home … because I think everybody deserves to have a space that makes them feel good,” she says. “And I don’t think it requires the biggest budget possible to make that happen.” As her business grows, Meichtry wants to continue to set aside time in her schedule for such projects.

She’s also making it a priority to employ women in all aspects of her business who are working moms or who are returning to the workforce after an absence.

“I have a really strong desire, maybe because of my own divorce, to embrace women,” she says. “That’s sort of the ethos of who we are: Strong women who can literally do anything.

Here’s more from our conversation:

Design News Now: Do you have formal interior design training?

Lauren Meichtry: I wanted to study design, or film, or to do fine arts at USC but my dad said, ‘No. You need a degree in business.’ And because he was paying for it, that’s what I did. But I’m grateful I did that because so much of interior design is running a business. Sometimes I feel like design is a small part of what I do, and business is the huge part. But design is something that’s always been in me and something I’ve always wanted to do.

See Also

DNN: Have you had a mentor who has helped you along the way?

Meichtry: Ali Faulkner of AEF Interiors. We became friends during Covid when she was buying a lot of pillows from me … and I would talk to her almost daily about wanting to start my design business. I had so many questions — not about design; I was confident about that — but about the nitty gritty of the business. It’s been immensely helpful to have someone who’s gone through all the hard things and who was willing to help me.

DNN: Where else do you turn for tips and recommendations?

Meichtry: I’m a member of (several) Facebook groups. That was one of the things Ali, my mentor, recommended, and I find them so helpful. When you face a challenge, why spend hours trying to figure it out when you can just pose the question to 1,000 people? And, no doubt, at least five of them are going to have helpful input. It’s much more efficient. And I find that this industry is really helpful. There’s enough business to go around, so it doesn’t feel overly competitive.

DNN: What are some of the questions you like to ask potential clients during the initial consultation?

Meichtry: I think the most important thing when I walk into a client consultation is understanding if they have an open heart and an open mind. … I find that when someone is hiring a designer, if they know exactly what they want, I don’t want to work with them because then I’m trying to design for exactly what they are picturing and it’s like trying to read someone’s mind. … I want to open them up, show them other photos, other ideas, and ask, ‘What about this space feels right to you?’ I like to try to push them a bit outside their comfort zone. … Then we can work through to create a result that they’ll love.

DNN: What are some of the tools that make your professional life easier?

Meichtry: I don’t know if this is an unpopular opinion, but I really love Houzz Pro. I use it for invoicing, time tracking, pulling together a room floor plan, but it also does a really great job of 3D scanning space. Especially now that we’re doing residential and commercial spaces, we may be walking into a dental clinic with 19 different rooms and odd angles and we’re trying to measure around patients, so the scan tool is literally my favorite thing. … I also use SmartDraw because I don’t have a background in CAD, and it is very user friendly. I also like Spoak because it has a pretty neat 3D room planner and it’s very accurate. … I use it to create not just a mood board but to create a 3D space for my clients to envision side by side with a photo of the actual room as I present the space.

DNN: What are some of your go-to home furnishings brands?

Meichtry: We do a lot with Four Hands. For a good-quality product at a great price, it’s kind of unbeatable, and Arteriors has beautiful lighting and a great offering. … And I like local brands … so I can try to offer things to my clients that they haven’t seen everywhere. But at the same time, if they have a tight budget, I’m not above going to Ikea, painting a console and adding cool hardware. It gives them a custom console no one else will have.

Among her goals for 2024 and beyond, Meichtry would like to take on more commercial projects.

DNN: What would you like to be doing more of in the coming year or two?

Meichtry: More commercial work. What I really love about it is, of course, that the people who own the business want it to be perfect, but there’s slightly less emotional attachment on their end. It has its own challenges and complications, but I love to solve for those.

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