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“High End Residential and Hospitality Interiors that Promote Health & Well-being” With Laurence Carr

The new trends and techniques to build the homes of the future are in relation to human health, planetary health, and community.There are several different trends: compact, fast cost-effective, multi-generational, multi-purpose shared, eco-friendly (zero waste, carbon neutral), prefabricated and modular construction, futuristic, unique, and aesthetically pleasing, with built-in elements of wellness for health.There are also […]

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The new trends and techniques to build the homes of the future are in relation to human health, planetary health, and community.

There are several different trends: compact, fast cost-effective, multi-generational, multi-purpose shared, eco-friendly (zero waste, carbon neutral), prefabricated and modular construction, futuristic, unique, and aesthetically pleasing, with built-in elements of wellness for health.

There are also noteworthy changes in homeowners lifestyles, life stages, and habits that contribute to the evolution of designing homes.

As a part of our series about “Homes Of The Future”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laurence Carr.

Laurence Carr, a leading voice in the field of Holistic Interior Design is known for her application of wellbeing principles and ancient techniques mixed with contemporary design. She is the CEO and founder of award-winning New York City based lifestyle and design studio, Laurence Carr — which specializes in creating environments that promote health and well-being in high end residential and hospitality interiors.

Through her appointment as brand ambassador for the Sustainable Furnishings Council, and through her work, Laurence aims to shift the industry standards and normalize sustainable and circular design methods as part of her mission to contribute to the greater good. For her efforts, she was nominated by The American Society of Interior Design (ASID) for the 2019 National Awards: “Design for Humanity”.

Born in France, raised in Europe, educated in Paris Sorbonne University and Parsons The New School in New York City, she is a GREEN Leaders Accredited Professional and a member of the International Living Future Institute, the National Kitchen Bath Association, IIDA and ASID NY chapters.

Laurence is shaping the cultural dialogue of the design world through her work, her blog, Beyond Aesthetics, her speaking engagements, and soon her furniture and product designs. She is passionate about educating the design community on the importance of a circular economy and the industry’s role in the betterment of our environment.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My approach to work has been shaped by my worldwide experiences and determined sense of exploration.

Raised in France in the world of performing arts, I learned the history and aesthetics of ballet, music, and fashion — imbuing me with a sense of poetry that remains present in everything I do. My journey through performance, from choreography with Merce Cunningham, to stage direction in Europe, taught me how to conceptualize and design for the theater.

I view travel as an inherent part of the creative process and personal growth, so next, I ventured to Australia. Witnessing the stunning raw beauty of its landscapes, and working for the Olympic games gave me confidence to lead any project anywhere. This mindset led me to Asia — to Korea, Japan, and China, where Zen garden landscapes steeped me in ancient wisdom.

Upon moving back to the US, I landed in Chicago — where a passion for modern architecture was ignited, fueling the pathway toward interior architecture and design. I returned to school, graduated from Parsons The New School, and worked alongside the esteemed Mica Ertegun, at her design firm MAC II in New York City.

All these experiences and more inspired me to innovate the foundation of my own design firm.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One day, while working with legendary interior designer Madame Mica Ertegun at MAC II on the Upper East Side, we ventured out on a day trip to a few luxury furniture, lighting and art galleries. Mica is well known as one of New York’s most enduring tastemakers, so I was eager to hear her reflections on the work we viewed. As we observed a few stunning and unique art and furniture pieces from renowned artists, she smiled and said to me: “It either speaks to you or it does not!”

It was an inspiring moment for me, and the lesson since then has always been to follow my personal style, no matter what.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

Deciding on my direction and launching my new business alongside my blog, “Beyond Aesthetics,” created abundance and success. The key was to stay true to my authentic beliefs and unambiguously express the concept of designing at the intersection of wellbeing and sustainability. Back in 2017, these concepts were not commonly found in the language of architecture, design, and mass media.

My blog gave me a platform to express my perspectives about artfully weaving holistic wellbeing principles and ancient techniques together into my signature contemporary design sensibility. It led to further speaking about evidence-based design, using approaches such as Biophilia, Wabi Sabi, Vastu Shastra, Feng Shui, decluttering, and diving deeper into sustainability and circular design which are now mainstream topics.

Listen to your intuition, be bold, be fearless. If your voice needs expression, find ways to have it heard whether in writing, speaking or through your work. As long as it is authentic and aligned with a true mission that serves the greater good, in service of people, the planet or of the universe, it will be heard.

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

I am incredibly grateful to a few people. It is too difficult to reduce it to one person.

In 2017, when I launched my business, I created an advisory board composed of successful business women that inspire me. Each of them has generously donated their time, challenged my perspectives, and guided decisions relating to priorities and strategies for success.

In 2018, I met Leslie Carothers, co-CEO of marketing consultancy Savour Partnership with Sam Henderson, she has been very generous with advice on building marketable digital assets and always keen to introduce me to different valuable contacts in the industry.

In 2020, I met Kerrie Kelly, a successful industry veteran and CEO of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab, at a national trade showKBIS (Kitchen Bath Industry Show) run by the NKBA (National Kitchen Bath Association). She did not know me well, but referred me to a national interior design magazine, to participate on a prestigious panel.

Kerrie took a chance in referring me, and introducing me to a number of key contacts in the industry, all of which have brought wonderful opportunities my way.

I don’t take these people or their time and their generosity for granted. Business is about relationships and building trust. No one can be successful by themselves.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I am a lifelong student and I am very in touch with what I don’t know, so I am an avid reader and truly enjoy listening to podcasts.

One of the more influential authors and podcasters who I have followed for years is leading business coach, Tony Robbins — in particular his entire series dedicated to entrepreneurs and business owners. His own advice, as well as the guests he interviews, have been a rich source for business development and ideas. For example, he had a great podcast in April 2020 on small business resiliency.

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

Merce Cunningham, the gifted and one of the most influential American modern choreographers and longtime partner and collaborator of avant-garde composer John Cage, taught me this when I was dancing with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in the 1990s in Greenwich Village: “There is always a way.”. This simple, yet powerful message sits at the base of my heart to buoy my confidence and ignite my fighting spirit in the face of any adversity or struggle. It inspires me to see opportunities in the obstacles of my life, and I credit much of my success to the tenacity this quote has inspired in me.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Homebuilding in the US has grown tremendously. We’d love to hear about some of the new trends and techniques that are being used to build the homes of the future.

The new trends and techniques to build the homes of the future are in relation to human health, planetary health, and community.

There are several different trends: compact, fast cost-effective, multi-generational, multi-purpose shared, eco-friendly (zero waste, carbon neutral), prefabricated and modular construction, futuristic, unique, and aesthetically pleasing, with built-in elements of wellness for health.

There are also noteworthy changes in homeowners lifestyles, life stages, and habits that contribute to the evolution of designing homes.

Can you share with us a few of the methods that are being used to make homes more sustainable and more water and energy efficient?

As there is a greater appreciation for sustainability, and energy standards and regulations become more elevated, there is more production of eco-friendly housing.

Thanks to global pacts such the 2015 Paris agreement, climate change awareness has accelerated the growth of green developments and passive housing, and always ensures compliance with local and national building codes. Increased awareness of embodied carbon, carbon footprint, and offsets keep people healthy and improve their positive impact on the community

There are a growing number of energy-saving products that are made with nontoxic and recyclable materials, such as recycled cotton denim insulation or high performance windows made out of wood and vinyl with double or triple panel glass.

As for water, the use of water conserving faucets, dishwashers, toilets, and showers are essential. Maximizing daylight, windows on exterior walls, and tall cabinets on interior walls help with reducing lighting energy consumption.

Products that incorporate post-consumer recycled content (such as used bottles) are generally considered more eco-friendly than those incorporating pre-consumer recycled content (such as manufacturing waste).

By promoting users’ autonomy and catering to individual needs, smart technology provides a desirable service, yet it can also help conserve energy with intelligent sensors and automations. If technology is designed in service of people, we can become a driving force for efficient, livable, and sustainable cities.

There is a lot of talk about Smart Homes. Can you tell our readers a bit about what that is, what that looks like, and how that might help people?

Technology will continue to drive the future of our global communities — our cities, our buildings, our workplaces, and our daily lives. It is evident to see that integrated smart technology, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are all part of our present already.

Smart home components are technologically able to automate actions that are typically handled by human hands. They streamline processes and increase efficiency by removing friction between you and the task at hand. For instance, smart plugs allow you to control a room’s lighting or music with your voice. Smart thermostats optimize your home’s use of heat or air conditioning. These elements can be built-in to a new home or during a remodel, or they can be applied to your existing space with minimal trouble.

For example, kitchen appliances can operate by voice control and link to a number of smart devices, including Fitbit, Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and others. For instance, you can pair a steam oven with your smart home system and receive notifications as soon as your meal is ready to serve. This technology gives personalized and customized control, allows to do things like preheat an oven from a tablet or phone and send recipes to the appliance directly.

Such components not only make life at home easier and more hands-off, they can also save you time and money, help reduce environmental impact, or even improve home safety.

Aside from Smart Homes, can you talk about other interesting tech innovations that are being incorporated into homes today?

Connected living is going to be amplified as technology evolves. This means more cameras, more mics, more sensors at home.

From thermostats that heat up or cool down our homes; safety features in our cars, garages, and homes; wrist watches that monitor health, check temperature, monitor sleeping patterns; and lighting with circadian rhythm intelligence integrated is only the beginning.

Virtual assistants built into Amazon, Apple, and Google speakers, who respond to voice commands to play music, control light bulbs and activate robot vacuums. These capabilities will only increase over time. The range is ever-expanding.

Computers chips are making their way to ear phones to help control health, and they will find their way into homes in other areas.

Air purification systems will get more sophisticated as this technology will only amplify too.

Contactless technology such as touchless sensing doors, faucets with gesture recognition, and face recognition abilities will enter the home spaces. Imagine walking through your home and everything turns on to your desired presets: lighting, music, air ventilation, window coverings, and the steam shower turn on…These will add a layer of convenience and comfort we will all continue crave for as technology evolves.

Can you talk about innovations that are being made to make homes more pet friendly?

Pets greatly benefit from the increased connection of indoor and outdoor spaces, and the greater demand for comfortable outdoor spaces in which families can live and play. More emphasis is being placed on organization, which conceals more items away from eyesight and pet interference. Home monitoring devices help owners keep an eye on their pets even while away, and owners can even speak to their pets remotely through the microphones on these tech tools.

How about actual construction materials? Are there new trends in certain materials to address changes in the climate, fires, floods, and hurricanes?

Sustainable construction solutions and research on engineered designed construction materials and building practices are continuously being developed, as the notion of Resilient Design is growing. Some examples are: siding made from fiber cement containing more than 50% recycled content; metal gutters, insulation, consisting of dense packed cellulose or hemp crete made of hemp, linen and water; framing derived from lumber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council; green rooftops that absorb rain water and contribute to a cooler home and city; gravel around the foundation, devoid of combustible materials including plants. Flooring can be made of cork from cork trees or if the preference is carpet, GREENGUARD certification offers many sustainable solutions.

Rapidly renewable resources like bamboo, cork, wheat board, organic cotton, and wool are great examples of renewable materials and eco friendly solutions.

For someone looking to invest in the real estate industry, are there exciting growth opportunities that you think people should look at more carefully?

I would say the need for green housing, and compact Passive House is a niche worth paying attention to. Also, the WELL Building Standard® , a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and wellbeing, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, and mind, is third-party certified by the Green Business Certification Incorporation (GBCI), which administers the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) certification program and the LEED professional credentialing program.

The Living Building Challenge led by ILFI (the International Living Future Institute) , focuses on the relationship between impact and effort,specific to the place, community, and culture of the project.

These standards are in high demand, and this demand is expected to grow exponentially in the wake of COVID-19 isolation and upcoming pandemics. An increasing variety of green and healthy building features and standards resonate with home buyers interested in healthy and whole homes.

Let’s talk a bit about housing availability and affordable housing. Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

This is a challenging question, because so many socio-political, economic, and local governmental entities are involved.

Ultimately, in my view, a large part of the problem is the increasing sense of individuality in America, in which people tend to eschew a larger perspective of what’s right for everyone in exchange for what’s right for them personally.

On the whole, I feel that if people broadened their sense of responsibility outside of their own home and into the community at-large, more resources would be directed toward supporting our unhoused community and creating more bridges to success for them.

Is there anything that home builders can do to further help address these problems?

There is a growing trend of building cooperative living spaces, in which people can rent super affordable “pods” (or micro-spaces) and share community rooms such as kitchens, bathrooms, et cetera. These developments are a wonderful bridge for people slowly building up the resources and stability to own or rent a more private space for themselves.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂

My greatest passion is helping people align their home with their values in order to embrace more sustainable design and lifestyle. If I can contribute to the reduction of people’s global impact on carbon footprint even by a fractional amount, I will be deeply satisfied. I heard someone say: “Sustainability is the act of understanding how the individual decisions we make have an overall impact on humanity” and that concept deeply resonates with me.

I aim to help raise awareness about ways we can all, as citizens of the world, improve our daily practices for wellbeing and edge toward sustainable solutions that benefit the earth more than harm it, and a circular economy, which dramatically reduces waste and our carbon footprint. The wellness of the planet means the wellness of people. Health and comfort of the planet and people are inextricably linked.

I call this movement “Sustainability matters.” 🙂

How can our readers follow you online?

Please check out my website for more about Laurence Carr, and my blog, Beyond Aesthetics, for tons of inspiration and education about wellbeing and sustainability in design and lifestyle.

You can also find me on social media @laurencecarrdesign on InstagramPinterest and LinkedIn to stay up to date with my latest news and events and for collaborations.

Thank you very much for this interview!

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

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