If there’s one thing we learned about Lauren Servati when we talked with her, it’s that she’s a woman who sets her mind to something and gets it done. Whether it’s doing interior design for hotels, creating her own textile designs when she couldn’t find just the right thing or room by room setting out with her husband to lovingly (and patiently!) restore their Victorian home -- Lauren is up to the task. Her secret? A cup of Harney tea and a chocolate chip cookie at the end of every task-filled day!
Harney: Tell us a little about you. Where are you from, educational background, where you live, family, etc.
Lauren: I grew up in Florida, where most of my family still lives. I went to school at Florida State and graduated with my bachelors degree in Interior Design. After graduating, I moved around quite a bit. My first design job led me to Seattle, then Chicago and then to New York, the city that will always feel like home. I also briefly lived in Paris, Los Angeles and Miami before finally settling down in the Atlanta area.
Harney: You’re both an interior designer and a textile designer... and an artist. Where did your interest in all things art come from?
Lauren: I love cultivating beauty. I think I got that primarily from my mom. From an early age, I was my mom’s design assistant. She worked as a graphic designer and did floral design on the weekends, and she’s also a fabulous painter. I can also see my Dad’s influence in my love of flowers and gardening. He shares my love of roses.
Harney: You’ve written that when you were seven years old, you told your mom that you wanted to be “an interior designer of hotels, resorts and spas.” Talk about your early career as an interior designer and how that morphed from what your seven-year-old self envisioned.
Lauren: I’m not sure where that phrase came from, but it definitely set my course. I subscribed (my mom subscribed) to a hotel design magazine shortly thereafter, and I remember being mesmerized by all of the gorgeous spaces. When I was 16, I started working after school with two residential interior designers to begin learning the craft. Then in college, I did an internship with a hospitality design firm in Orlando and had the chance to design some beautiful hotels and restaurants. My first few jobs after graduating were also in hospitality design, primarily designing branded environments like Marriott and IHG hotels, before transitioning to residential design (and textiles!). I still have a passion for hospitality design and would love the opportunity to design a few more boutique hotels, restaurants and cafes.
Harney: Your textile business was born out of an “ah ha!” moment. Share that with our readers, please.
Lauren: It’s true...I was living in New York and had just started my interior design business (Frances Lauren Interiors). I was working with a client designing window treatments for her home, and she had requested a specific fabric. So I went to the D&D Building to source it, spent a few hours looking, and then had to return a second time to look again. I felt bashful, so I only charged her for half the hours it had actually taken me to source the fabric. At one point in the process I remember thinking, ‘I could just sit down with my watercolors and make this fabric for her.’ So that is where my first textile design (myGraceful Vinespattern) came from. Ironically, she didn’t choose my fabric for her project, but it started me on a multi-year process of creating my own textile collection.
Harney: What is your process for creating your textiles?
Lauren: Most of my designs begin as watercolors and pencil sketches. I keep my ideas in a sketchbook, and I’ll start thinking about how the different designs might work together for a collection. Next I digitize my artwork and start to build the pattern. I think about the repeat, and whether it will be a block print or a seamless pattern. I consider whether I’m primarily designing the fabric for upholstery or window treatments (or both), and I’ll stand back and look at the design from a distance to see if I need to make adjustments based on how the pattern falls or drapes. Of course there’s experimentation, and there are a ton of revisions along the way which leads me to the final design.
Harney: We learned that the Belgian flax weaver you use for your fabric-- in operation since the mid-1800s-- read on social media about your frustration over not being able to source the kind of fabric you wanted for your textiles. How crazy is that? And what makes their fabric right for your designs?
Lauren: Quality is a top concern for me, and I also love anything that recalls the romance of old-world Europe. After testing several different printers and sources for ground cloth, the partnership with my Belgian flax weaver just felt natural. I love the sense of history that this weaver imbues to my brand.
Harney: Where do you get the inspiration for your designs? And how can people purchase your fabrics?
Lauren: I love florals and botanicals, so many of my designs are inspired by flower and leaf motifs. I also love old ironwork, like the sort that you see on balconies in Savannah, New Orleans and Spain. I’m also increasingly inspired by my own home. There’s such a level of intricacy and detail on the door hinges and hardware, and patterns found in wood carvings. I only have to open my eyes and look around to be inspired. My textile collection is available for purchase through my website.
Harney: On your interior design side, you talk about designing for “unbuttoned elegance.” What does that mean to you? And how do you achieve it?
Lauren: Elegance is an idea that has interested me for a long time. When you think about a time-worn French estate in the Burgundy region, or a classic manor house in the English countryside, there’s a sense of classic, understated grandeur. That’s the sort of elegance that I’m aiming to achieve. I also like the idea of livable luxury...special items that you’re permitted to enjoy.
Harney: You’re applying your approach to interior design and “easy, elegant interiors” to your latest undertaking: the restoration of the 1863 Queen Anne Victorian home outside Atlanta that you and your husband bought last year. Take a deep breath and then tell us: how’s that going? And how are your nails?
Lauren: Haha...well my nails are stained a lovely shade of brown at the moment. I’ve been working on stripping layers of paint and varnish from our staircase to reveal the old heart pine wood beneath. One thing I’ve realized is that there aren’t any shortcuts in historic restoration, which is the way that we’re approaching this project. If it’s original, we’re keeping it! It’s long, hard work, but it keeps you grounded. Also, every project seems to take 3-4x longer than you originally planned. I guess that’s part of the fun.
Harney: What advice do you have for folks who want to renovate a 4000-square foot, 157-year-old home sitting on three acres?
Lauren: I think that it starts with passion. It’s slow going, so your commitment to the end goal has to outweigh the challenges you encounter along the way. It also helps to have a few guides who can help. My mom has been phenomenal about teaching my husband and I different building and restoration techniques. We’ve also had wonderful neighbors and family members who have been so generous with giving us advice and loaning us tools for different projects. My husband and I have joined a few Old House/Victorian Restoration groups on social media, where we ask questions and share results with other homeowners. Old house lovers seem to flock together!
Harney: Spoiler alert: we already know you’re a Harney fan, since in your 12.14.18 blog post entitled “Friday Favorites” you said: “I truly adore Harney & Sons tea... I made a stop by their Soho location during our trip to NYC...I’ve previously gifted their Capri tea, and this time I got some for myself...It’s absolutely delicious, and my favorite nightcap right now.” First of all, thank you!! Second, what role does tea play in your life? Do you have any rituals?
Lauren: I first discovered Harney & Sons several years ago when I stumbled across your Soho shop. I loved how it felt like a tea library, with a rolling ladder and beautiful canisters of tea stacked to the ceiling. I even remember selecting five different Harney & Sons teas as gifts for my bridesmaids when I got married. In terms of rituals, I’ve managed to turn my husband into a tea drinker. Each night I brew a big teapot of Harney tea, and we sit down and drink tea and eat homemade chocolate chip cookies. It’s our nightly ritual. Since the weather has gotten warmer, we’ve also started enjoying iced Chocolate Mint tea on our front porch.
Harney: Besides Capri, do you have any favorite flavors or types of Harney & Sons tea (or anything on your list to try?)
Lauren: Absolutely! I always keep Florence and Chocolate Mint stocked. Those are my husband’s two favorites, so if he’s having tea with me, he requests one of those. Pomegranate Oolong is my current obsession. I also love Paris, Tower of London, Birthday Tea....I could go on! I’ve been wanting to try Victorian London Fog, so that’s next on my list.
Here’s hoping the work Lauren and her husband are doing to restore their home is going well, and that she gets to enjoy a manicure when it’s all said and done! We appreciate the glimpse into Lauren’s work and life and thank her for her time. If you’d like to see Lauren’s textiles and more, visit her textiles website and on Instagram or see the work of her interior design firm, Frances Lauren Interiors. All photography was provided by Lauren.
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