“Bring joy.” With Candice Georgiadis & Lisa Queen

I would love to create spaces where we can return to community and find unity again. I love the idea of a return to communal living — making structures with a central hub of shared space and peripheral spaces for our individual spaces nearby. This would bring back extended family or co-locate friends with common […]

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I would love to create spaces where we can return to community and find unity again. I love the idea of a return to communal living — making structures with a central hub of shared space and peripheral spaces for our individual spaces nearby. This would bring back extended family or co-locate friends with common needs like childcare so that our homes can be a vehicle to support a re-integration of time with family and friends. I visualize shared mortgages and shared kitchen duties! It would be the creation of family campuses!

As part of my series on the “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Queen. Queen’s first design project was her own home in Kansas City, MO back in 1995. It was a five-story brick house with a steel metal staircase winding up the center. She combined her love for edgy architects like Frank Israel, with her enthusiasm to use cutting edge material selections. Before design, her career was (surprisingly!) in aviation. Queen was a corporate pilot, flying across the US for private clients. This aviation history comes through in her ability to think on her feet, an acute attention to detail, and a better than average understanding of the mechanical side of the business. Besides that, it makes for fun conversations! Queen created Lisa Queen Design after relocating from the Midwest to California near the millennial change, some 18 years ago. She welcomed her daughter, Sara, into the fold in 2016 to deepen the offerings and to share the fun of making this a life calling.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It was a circuitous route, that is for sure! My first career was as a corporate pilot. Bear in mind that it was the early 90’s and I was a lone female in a male-dominated world of aviation. I wanted an exit strategy after realizing that aviation alone was not fulfilling my intellectual or creative needs. I wore multiple hats for a startup venture and as we rolled 9 acquisitions together, 3 of us, in two years, we needed someone to take the helm of branding and all that went along with that. We flew all around the country in our efforts and the properties we were acquiring had a truly diverse market face and very diverse physical location aesthetics. The CEO and general counsel were busy with other matters, as you might ascertain, so it fell on me to be pilot in command of all things aesthetic for the company when I was not in the cockpit. We eventually took that company public in 1995. By then, I had designed and branded 11 locations across the country as well as our corporate headquarters using natural inclinations with textiles and color and learning the business of design on the fly. Shortly following the IPO, I married the CEO! As you might imagine, there is a lot of story and love drama mixed up in this launch to a career in design, but I eventually handed the cockpit duties to a former student of mine and focused full time on personal residential ventures. Thus began more focus on residential design projects while starting my family.

My husband and I bought a 15,000-sf contemporary home in Kansas City that needed a full remodel and I worked together with Tracy Sterns, an extraordinarily creative space planner, and we created a residence that was a showstopper.

I was highly influenced by Frank Israel at the time and loved his creative use of materials. Since it was our personal investment and no one could hold me back, I went full out on that first major residential project.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

My most interesting story as a designer would have to be the free rein I had on the remodel at 56th St in Mission Hills, KS. The house was built like a commercial building with interior brick and mechanical chase ways on every floor (4 floors, plus an upper mezzanine and finished rooftop). I sandblasted all the white paint off the interior brick, leaving a distressed red brick on several of the 19’h walls throughout. I stepped up the center portion of the floor plan so we could bring in wood flooring on that section and keep the brick flooring on other adjacent areas; this began to define “spaces within spaces.” I found an old tobacconist and used it to create a partial wall to break the space between the kitchen and dining area. I had custom stainless-steel shelves created to break between traditional stained mahogany columns in the library “space” to create yet another nested area. All of this was done to use materials and space layout to turn “echo acres” into a cozy series of spaces that integrated and gave the larger space a sense of comfort and coziness.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My funniest mistake was in this same project — I had designed the master bedroom and bathroom to be split into separate spaces using the master closets and a central axial layout very similar to what I.M. Pei had done several times in his career. This effort makes it so that the closet buffers the bathroom noise from the bedroom, which is often needed when the two people sharing this room might be on different schedules. The master suite area was just a box space with high ceilings and brick walls, so I stepped up onto a semi lofted area (again the wood flooring transition to soften all the brick flooring and break up the space). At this stepped-up area, I had two partial walls on either side of the axial center that I wanted to be able to close off. I wanted to use custom “barn type doors” but use a steel I BEAM as the header. The door was large, so I kept it from getting heavy by using FLAT fiberglass for the center of the frames, also creating a bit of a shoji screen aesthetic. The funny mistake was that this I BEAM was huge…but then so was our front door and 5 story stairway…but the steel beam was just too long to make the turns required to make it up one floor from the front door. So, we had to bring in a CRANE to lift the I BEAM OVER the master balcony to get it into the bedroom. This mistake was COSTLY! That I BEAM design element was the costliest industrial design element I ever used. We had cut circles into the I BEAM and painted it eggplant, so it was already expensive even before we had issues with the installation.

BUT it was a great lesson…check scale!! Not only on the final design but all scale on implementation. No one in KC had done any type of installation like this before, so the builder did not see this one coming either. OUCH. Of course, it was stunning once installed. And it was a lifelong lesson that stays with me to this day. A great idea must be well thought out from concept to execution.

Most mistakes still tie to scale. Right fit, right size, right proportion to other elements and overall story and lastly, scale to install. Doors do not bend; sofas are often deeper than door widths…!

Since we are talking mistakes…I have more than one to share — so let me indulge in a second one — a few years after the KC venture, we decided to take the kids while they were young and move to the sticks in Colorado. My husband is an avid fly fisherman and I am a reasonably decent cowgirl on horseback, so we left the city and bought 7 acres in rural Colorado near Carbondale. We, of course, had to DIY a remodel there over a few years that involved converting the barn to an office, adding a glass garage door, creating a bunkhouse for guests and an outdoor horse arena, plus make the usual decorative cosmetic upgrades to the main house. Makes me tired now just thinking of all we did in those two years while our 2 and 7-year-old girls were riding ponies and driving Barbie cars!

We painted the exterior of the house which was natural cedar (ouch! Should have left it alone!) and I must have been too influenced at the time by all the John Deere equipment, but I chose a John Deere GREEN for the exterior color. From afar across the ranch, this color was so vibrant and beautiful, but it was really a huge mistake to paint the house that horrible strong green tone. It was too late once we realized it was too green. The pain did not last too terribly long as we had a walk-up buyer who drove down our long driveway and asked if the house was for sale. He absolutely LOVED the John Deere GREEN. He saw the glass garage door to the barn office, and he did not even walk through the main house. He put an offer out to us that day and we closed 72 hours later.

So, the GREEN mistake was only a mistake in this designer’s eyes — one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I have a few outliers that are we are working on right now like restoration of a fabulous mansion on a hilltop in Los Angeles and refurbishing a private premier golf and tennis club — beginning with the 7000 sq. ft spa. But mostly we help people just like us — well, maybe with a little more disposable income! It is our intention to bring a piece of the family or individuals we are blessed to call clients to their “space” and make “home” for them. The value in that is something I have always had to reconcile. We don’t cure cancer or explore outer space for any greater good — but I find that my heart is satisfied by how I see the world of my client change and how they feel embraced by their new home or office. Honestly, the best compliment we get is, “this feels so much like an extension of who I am!” Especially in this time when we need psychological advantages in our homes, we need them to service us not just practically and by being aesthetically pleasing but by really honoring the inhabitants!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Well, this one is funny because as much as I would like to quote Marcus Aurelius and pitch a stoic quote to you (“We don’t control what happens, we only control how we respond.”), what I really love and think offers similar wisdom is from Pixar’s The Incredibles, Edna Mode — “I never look back darling, it distracts from the NOW.” It is all about being present, which ties to a passion I have for studying Eckhart Tolle — but it has my sense of lightheartedness to it. I am an enneagram 7 and need the humor woven into things that give me energy!

I adore the double entendres woven into the Pixar films — Brad Bird is amazing! I often take these characters with me into tough situations and hear quotes coming from characters who keep me company in times when I need encouragement but with a light touch of humor. This is relevant to me in that it balances my desire to go deep, look back, analyze, and over-contemplate things. We all need to stay focused and present but balancing with humor is my challenge!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Yes…would have to be Windsor Smith. Where do I begin with her? She is genius and so full of energy and vision. She is a friend and a former client of mine from more than 12 years back. Our story is long and fun, but I will tell you she taught me so much by observation — I watched her take her crazy ideas and believe in them. She met so many challenges and just kept on keeping on with humor and continued drive. She hired me as a business consultant to launch her brand and line when she was just starting out. She was a freight train going 100 directions and we channeled her energy in a few focused directions to really start her path to designer stardom. What an honor to have been a part of her journey, and she still weaves back into my world and acknowledges my part now and then, reconnecting despite her demanding schedule and lifestyle. She is just an amazingly creative visionary in our industry.

If you need just one story…I would say it was when she was on day one of the Veranda Home Tour event for the house on Mandeville that Gwyneth Paltrow eventually purchased. She had given me a private tour a week or so prior to thank me for helping her achieve a milestone with Century Furniture by becoming an Icon for them. On this particular day, though, I arrived about an hour before the tours were to begin and encouraged her to give me a personal tour so the Veranda PR point person could take notes. Just as we finished, she snuck us off out a back door and we caught a ride into Santa Monica and began drinking martinis mid-day, not checking phones or responding to all the plethora of folks trying to reach her as this big day launched. It was like a little vacation in the middle of a storm and I will never forget it. I hope I am this kind of light to others. I love to mentor and coach and find that each person I partner with in this regard becomes a teacher to me as well.

Thank you for that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Living Space Spark More Joy” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Bring joy..!! My favorite word shortly followed by savor. As we look to our homes to provide us protection, we also want our homes and workspaces to “nest” us — to honor us in a psychological way. Let us look at how that translates into actionable items for anyone to employ to bring JOY to their spaces.

Begin with a scavenger hunt — look at your collections, favorite book(s), photos (loose is sometimes the best), and go outdoors if you want to and bring some elements inside if they won’t impede any of nature’s flow to do so.

Identify what makes you feel most at ease with who you are. Bring some physical elements of that to your environment: your desk, front porch, kitchen table. It could be cookbooks, art/coffee table books, or a small black and white photograph simply leaned up against another element or two. It could be a small indoor plant or fresh flowers, of course, but refresh the water and pull any wilting blooms; augment with some lower limbs of small shrubs or trees to boost the arrangement without adding cost.

Create/collect an ensemble of feathers and fossils, crystals, leaves or shelled acorns. The spoil of this “hunt” could be a piece of art by a child, by you as a child, or that makes you feel connected to the child side of yourself.

If your space is small, butt a table up to a wall and anchor a small collective of these things to the end to place a signature of you, just a small nod to something that settles you or stimulates and excites you if you are in a space that needs energy.

Use scarves or jewelry to dress a lamp or a water goblet to bring a personal element and dimensional texture to that object.

Natural light is a booster for the mind and soul (unless it is bedtime!) so scout the best spots in your space at different times of day and create “nests” of space to suit your personality type. If you are a morning person that needs a few minutes to meditate, read the paper, or sip on a chai tea or pour over coffee, then set a “nest” with elements that are nurturing in the zone where the light comes in the morning, even if it is in a secondary area. If you are allergic to the morning, then perhaps drive a similar “nest” in the area where you can see the late afternoon sun or rising moon by a window.

Small lamps are great for unexpected places, especially on a bookshelf or on the counter in a bathroom to create ambient light.

Once you have added a few of these spaces, then do as Coco Chanel encourages… remove one thing before you leave the room because having a bit less can be the key to having a bit more.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to create spaces where we can return to community and find unity again. I love the idea of a return to communal living — making structures with a central hub of shared space and peripheral spaces for our individual spaces nearby. This would bring back extended family or co-locate friends with common needs like childcare so that our homes can be a vehicle to support a re-integration of time with family and friends. I visualize shared mortgages and shared kitchen duties! It would be the creation of family campuses!

One hub could be all about business so any home office needs would be there and one hub for shared kids’ space. It might be preferred to share a nanny or personal teacher or tutor, toys, books and so much more with friends over being alone and isolated or in a group with other daycare families.

The house would not be empty when you leave for vacation — someone would likely still be there and can rotate care of the pets and plants. I think of all the clients of mine who have support staff that come in and perhaps that is perfect for many, but wouldn’t it be a fun model to create to bring some further integration of others into our spaces?

If you are sharing a mortgage, then perhaps you can find that you can either travel more or take those additional funds and invest in a second property. This would be especially valued if you are WFH or mobile in your work tasks so you can have the luxury of two different physical places where you call home.

The intended good would be to bring people together again using living spaces and design. Unity…we need more unity!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I would like to have lunch with Brene Brown; I want to bring vulnerability into how we LIVE. I think she would be the most likely person to “get it” without too much esoteric hyperbole. I mean, get the psychology of our lived spaces and the power space has on our ability to connect with ourselves and others.

I would want to explore how to bring ourselves “home.” Creating “home” for ourselves and, if you are in my business, for others, is not really about buying “stuff” or acquiring product per say, but about curating an environment that brings a part of you to life, in your world, in your space. Asking our homes and offices to bring us joy is about asking ourselves to bring a sense of vulnerability, our softer selves, to our work, home, and play spaces. Making “home” is not necessarily making “pretty”, but rather bringing an essence of the personalities into the space to make it feel like it is an extension of you.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow us on Instagram @lisaqueendesign

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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