Thursday, February 11, 2010

Q+A UBH Designer Lynnea Schwieters

Unit 102 at the Upward Bound Shelter was the first room I viewed but I knew instantly it would be a favorite. Greeted by the warm smile of designer Lynnea Schwieters and the soft palette of greens and grey, I was instantly calm amongst all the flutter of the opening reception. Like a yellow brick road, the plume of red lept off the wall and invited me in to explore! Each room had corporate requirements the designers needed to fulfill and Lynnea abided without omitting any of the personal touches the space needed to feel like a home.

With so many aspiring interior designers out in the world today I thought it would be enlightening to interview Lynnea, a newcomer in her industry, about the journey that got her here.

Annie Crowninshield: Before we get into your room, tell me a little bit about where you grew up and how you chose Interior Design as your profession.
Lynnea Schwieters: I was born in Minneapolis, MN. At the age of nine, my dad sold his company and moved the family to Texas. I remember thinking that Texas was going to be all desert with cactus and people running around on horse back :)
I first remember being interested in interior design while living in Waco. For my 15th birthday I wanted to redecorate my room in zebra print! My dad took me to Target and I bought all white bedding (because i couldn't find the zebra sheets i wanted), a zebra throw, and wrought iron lamps with basket weave shades. I think we were there for almost 3 hours.
Since then, interior magazines have always been my favorite. In college, I started out as a business major and found no passion in that field. My dad always told me to love what you do, so I tacked on an extra year of college in order to graduate with a degree in interior design and marketing.

AC: How did you get involved in such a great project?
LS: I found out about the project from Erica Islas. She and I had talked about how great it would be to work on a women's shelter or some kind of shelter a few weeks prior to learning about the Culver City UBH. I am also friends with lead designer Vanessa De Vargas through DNG.

AC: How would you describe the vision for your U.B. room?
LS: My vision was of a peaceful oasis for the families to come home to and relax. They have been through some trying times, so I wanted to create a space that soothes the mind and body. My goal was to surround the families with a well-designed environment which would inspire and allow them to experience what they can have and work toward. I want them to believe that anything is possible with hard work and determination. I said to myself, "if I can move to a new state on my own, start all over, and be standing here today, working for a shelter, donating my design talents, they can do it too." At this point, they have made it to the shelter and have been blessed with a beautiful place to live, now is their chance to create that life of their own.
Within this concept, I tried to focus on choosing inspiring art. The open gate by Gray Malin, the "There is always hope" graffiti compilation from Bad Art, and of course Jays mural. He is just starting out in his career, and I think it shows that you live a healthy life doing exactly what you love to do.

AC: What went into making your room? Hours? Man Power?
LS: First came the calls, and the leg work. asking for donations, pleading for free furniture, and hounding everyone I could think of for money/donations. Once donations started rolling in, the scheme/concept could really take shape. This project was different from other design projects in that you can't be too picky about what you put in the room. I had a loose color concept and tried my best to stay within that. But for example, the red pillows on the twin beds were donated by Steve at The Living Room inSilverlake . Quite honestly, I hate red and would have never chosen it as my accent. But when he gave me those pillows i said "well i guess red it is!" And it all worked out so perfectly. It really was a blessing :)
I worked on the room mostly on my own. In the midst of working as an assistant, my second part time job, and donating to the shelter, I hardly had time to coordinate help! A few of my dear friends and roommate came on Saturday and Sunday before the opening and helped. I also had help from the crew at UBH. Jake, the project coordinator was always checking in with me. He has such a kind heart! Also, my wonderful boss and her husband were there to help out when they had the time. Erica, of course, was just as busy as I was!! If i took a guess at how many hours I spent at the shelter, I would say between 125-150 over the course of two weeks. It was a serious time commitment and I loved every second of it, but I was happy to have my life back afterwards :)

AC: Where did you acquire your furniture and accessories and what is your favorite detail in the space?
LS: I had art donated from Karen Silkie of Paper Mosaic Studio, Gray Malin photography, and Bad Art on Venice Boardwalk. That story is kind of cute, I saw him at the flea market on Fairfax for the first time and I gave him my "speal" and asked if he was interested in donating and he bluntly said "yes." Later in the conversation he looked at me and said, "I trust that this is going to end up in a homeless shelter..." It was interesting to see peoples reactions when you ask them for free stuff!! A lot of people were very receptive, like Neal from Bad Art, others gave me the run around. But i just figured their loss!
The mural in my room was donated by Jay Doronio. He is an art student at Otis College of Art and Design. I was passing by Samosa cafe on Washington Blvd. and saw him painting a beautiful mural on the wall. I went the very next day to track him down. I presented the project to him and he agreed to do it! His mural is what really made the room special and I can't thank him enough for donating his time and talents to my room!
I had one piece donated from Environment furniture on Beverly, The Living Room in Silverlake, Rug from Stark in the Helms Bakery, custom console and bedside table from Eclectics, Lighting and accessories from Accessory Preview and Zia Priven. Red Bull also donated to my space. My kitchen was purchased from Ikea. Bedding and accessories all came from Kohls, Ross, Target, and Ikea.

AC: This was your first project as a solo designer. Who have you worked for in the industry?
LS: I am currently working as an assistant for Erica Islas of EMI Interior Design. She is wonderful and is teaching me SO much about running my own business. I have also worked for Wilson & Associates, a successful hospitality firm based in Dallas. I also worked for the retail side of interior design while living in Waco after college. I was a sales associate/design consultant at Honey's Home + Style, an amazing little find if you are ever in the area.

AC: What have you learned from these employers?
LS: Working for Wilson and Associates during school was a great experience, I learned so much about the industry. I also learned that I did not see myself working for a large firm. There is something about the personal relationship and creating a space for an individual that really appeals to me. That is why I have taken the residential design route. But, I am always open to new experiences.
Honey: Don't put scented candles on your dinner table, it messes with your senses.
Erica: Confidence.

AC: How would you describe your personal design style?
LS: Simple, Classic, and Elegant
I like softer colors on the walls so that I can have more fun with the fabrics and furniture, although I am learning how to use color on the walls. I love the character that antiques bring to a room. But I also love to design modern spaces. I like clean lines and spaciousness, not a whole lot of clutter. I love architecture. Flooring, tile, moulding, and built-ins are all very important in making a space really shine.

AC: Where are your favorite places to shop in LA?
I love love love the Fairfax flea market. I go almost every Sunday. I love 45 Modern on Fairfax, Danish Modern in Silverlake, Hernandez Brothers on Santa Monica Blvd. 'The Open Door' on Melrose also has some interesting things. I also love Anthropologie. They have an artsy/romantic vibe that I love.

AC: Who are your current style icons? Fashion or Interiors.
LS: I love Darryl Carter's aesthetic. Simple, classic and beautiful. I also love the daring edginess of Kelly Wearstler.

AC: What three things can you not live without?
LS: My cat, Mango. My iPhone, it makes life so much easier. Vanilla Latte from Starbucks, it brightens my morning :)

I am really looking forward to following Lynnea's career to see where her giving spirit and talent for creating interiors takes her. You can view her portfolio and design ideas on her blog at

Thank you Lynnea!

images 1&4 Grace Hilton, 2&3 Laure Joliet


EMI Interior Design, inc. said...

Beautiful! Great Job Lynnea. Great Story. -Erica Islas

Ethan Smith said...
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