As a well known, award winning L.A.-based interior designer, Lori Dennis heads up her own design-build firm, Lori Dennis, Inc., with design teams located in major cities as well as internationally. As a star of HGTV’s The Real Designing Women, co-founder of Design Campus, author of Green Interior Design and a recipient of multiple design awards, Lori has been profiled in various magazines, websites and TV. Recently we caught up with this entrepreneurial powerhouse and industry leader to introduce her to our Balanced Babe readers.
BB: As an award-winning designer, and well known in your industry, was there a particular project or event that catapulted you to this level in your career?
I think each step along my career path (and a lot of hard work) has brought me closer to where I am today. It may have started with my book or a few local TV appearances. That gave me more exposure and led me to bigger and better projects which allowed me to be published in national design magazines. That then could have led me to my show, The Real Designing Women, on HGTV, then to be included in the top echelon of designers at the Maison de Luxe Greystone Mansion Showcase House. Now that I’ve been running Design Camp, the #1 Interior Design Educational Seminar, I’ve met so many incredibly inspiring people, including designers, builders, manufacturers and business leaders. Building these connections and strengthening the design community has been so rewarding for me. With more time and life experiences, I grow, learn and expand not only professionally but personally. I feel like the best is yet to come
BB: We noticed you also have a “LEED” designation. What is this and why is it important?
Being LEED Certified means I am a green building and design leader. LEED certified buildings and homes have been proven to save money and resources and have a positive impact on the health of our clients, while promoting renewable, clean energy. As a LEED Designer and author of Green Interior Design, I knew at the beginning of my career the enormous impact that green design and sustainability would have at every level.
Although not all of our projects are registered and certified as a green building, we always design with Green in mind. We have a responsibility and an opportunity to make a difference in what we do daily. We think in a holistic way and ask ourselves about each phase of the design, construction and maintenance. What will be the environmental and health impact? How is the source production and life cycle of these materials? Are the people, animals and community who make these products treated humanely? How will the water and air quality be in this building? How can we reduce waste or toxic off-gassing? There are so many aspects to creating not only a beautiful home but a healthy home.
BB: We love your portfolio! Can you tell us about one of your favorite design projects, past or present?
Oh, thank you! It’s hard to pick just one project when they’ve all been so different and each client, so special. A few years ago we worked on a project with a very colorful, world inspired, boutique hotel flair. We had a lot of freedom to play and be creative. We designed a Hip Hacienda style that would later inspire our new collection of fabrics, rugs, furniture, tile and wallpaper called Casa Catorce which we’re developing now. It’s comfortable, encourages an indoor outdoor lifestyle and takes a modern nod at the pre-hispanic past of South America.
BB: Any advice for designers just starting out who want to build their own business?
I would suggest they start with an internship at a small firm in order to see every aspect of what it takes to run a business. We do much more than design and shop for pretty things. We do marketing, social media, accounting, sales, research, administration, purchasing, coordinating a variety of teams, installation, and networking. Oh, and we vacuum and take out the trash too. It’s never boring and never the same Groundhog Day, and that’s what I love about it.
Another tip would be to start making connections with everyone because you will need to know someone at some point who does blank. You may know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone that does…drapery, upholstery, carpentry, flooring, branding, publication, white glove delivery, you name it. There are so many players in this game and building a good team brings everyone to the top.
BB: With such a busy life, do you have any go-to healthy snacks or meals that you prepare regularly?
Each morning I start out with a glass of room temperature lemon water and freshly ground turmeric/curcumin. There are countless benefits of doing this, which include flushing out toxins, strengthening the immune system and protecting against inflammation and many diseases I’m not interested in having. It’s easy and packs a punch! Another power-house vegetable I eat daily is steamed organic broccoli.
We have our own garden in the backyard where we grow fruits and vegetables, herbs and 2 happy chickens – whose eggs are so fresh and delicious. In maintaining our own food supply, we not only reduce the time it takes to go shopping, but we know what is in our food and where it comes from.
As a time saver, I like to make a big pot of quinoa in the beginning of the week and keep it in the fridge. I can add it to anything (salads, eggs, veggies) to make a bigger, healthier and faster meal. When I’m on the run or feel stuck at my computer for awhile, raw almonds and water are my go-to. They fill me up and keep me moving. If I have more time in my day, I love to make a kale and quinoa salad with tangerine slices, chopped red onion, sliced almonds, oil and vinegar topped with feta (or not).
BB: How do you maintain the Balanced Babe lifestyle?
My core life philosophy is all about balance, and I can’t have a happy life if all I do is work. Life is so short and I want to enjoy myself. I make time with my family a priority, without question. I love living in LA because there’s always so much to do. We love going to the beach, seeing concerts at the Hollywood Bowl or visiting any of the museums like The Getty, LACMA or MOCA. Taking time for a vacation is also a high priority, not only for downtime, but inspiration. I always come back to work feeling refreshed and incredibly grateful for the life I have.
For exercise, my husband (who heads our construction wing SoCal Construction) and I work out together either in the morning or night. Lately we’ve been into Focus T25. It’s a super intense workout that only takes 25 minutes. That’s another time saver with a huge payoff! My husband is younger than me so I want to work hard to look smokin’ hot.
Our entire office of designers get monthly massages to decompress. We also see a holistic doctor who we like to call The Wizard because he works magic and keeps us all healthy. I like to stay away from pharmaceuticals and his herbs and lifestyle alteration advice are fantastic. Overall, I feel like we keep a nice balance of hard work and hard play.