Designer Crush Q&A: Courtney Lake

Since our own Editor in Chief is also a Joy & Revelry style maven, we figured it was a great time to sit down with Courtney for our Designer Crush Q&A!

1. Where do you currently live in CA and what's special about how you've designed your personal space?

The edge of Oakland is where we call home. We are literally the last street in Oakland before you enter Berkeley. After doing an extensive (and exhausting) home search in 2008, we came across our three-story loft built by local architect Mike Pitler. After seeing so many homes, we loved that the home was an infill project in an emerging neighborhood. Additionally, we loved all the features that the architect included in the space such as multiple skylights, solar panels, and an urban garden.

After spending a majority of our nest egg on purchasing the home, little was left for actual decorating. We invested the bulk of our decorating budget on maximizing storage with built-in shelving for display and my ever-growing shoe collection. We then focused on purchasing foundation pieces that we could easily upgrade when we had more money, such as a sofa with great bones. With large expanses of white walls, we splurged on art. We started collecting pieces we loved by artists discovered during Oakland’s monthly First Friday festival. Like most designers, our home is a work in progress, and it has evolved into a modern and warm mix of mid-century modern and ethnic treasures.

2. What's your dream design project? Who would it be for (dead or alive)?  

I know this may sound cheesy, but I would love to design a dream space for my mother. She has always been my biggest supporter and didn’t blink an eye when I told her I was leaving my secure 9-to-5 to pursue a career in interior design. She loves clean, minimal spaces, which is a departure from my normal eclectic and layered approach I take on most of my projects. It would be interesting to see how I would interpret her style.

3. In real life, what's your favorite design project you've completed to date?

I had the opportunity to work with a couple that recently purchased their first home in downtown San Francisco. The project was a case study in downsizing, melding two very different décor styles and ensuring that the final product could withstand the fury of two adorable (but at times destructive) cats. The final project was a beautiful combination of over-scaled patterns and muted colors that suited aspects of each partner’s aesthetic.

4. You've been gifted a fabulously furnished dream home but can only bring one item from your current space. What would it be? 

It would be the photograph that my partner’s father took of a geisha while on vacation in Japan. It’s a beautiful shot that touches upon tradition and modernity at the same time.

5. What's your creative process when designing a space?

I focus my creative process around three pillars. We first discuss how the client will use the room. I want to ensure I am creating a space that fits with the lifestyle of the client and their daily activities. Second, I work with how the client wants to feel in the space by having them list adjectives that they would use to describe their “dream space.” It’s a great exercise, especially with couples because it forces them to articulate their vision for the space. And only after we discuss those two things do we discuss furnishings and spatial requirements. Clients are normally surprised by how much time we actually spend talking about their space before they actually start to see designs. However, many clients have come back and said that those early conversations reassured them that I was listening to their needs.

6. Where do you score prized interior design items? Any shopping tips?

I love The Other Shop in San Francisco for mid-century accessories, Urban Ore in Oakland for architectural salvage, and I am mildly obsessed with going to Clars Auction Gallery to score vintage art for projects.

7. Ever had an epic DIY disaster? What project would you never take on again yourself?

Oh my goodness, yes! In my own home, I wanted to do a trompel'oeil version of wall panels in our library. I taped everything off and finished the project - or so I thought. I went to peel off the tape and ended up removing the drywall, leaving large grooves where the tape was previously. We needed to call in a handyman to skim coat the entire room! After that point, I decided that hiring an experienced painter was a good investment.

8. What new design trend are you excited to integrate into your next project?

I am excited to design some projects so I can use Porcelanosa tile. It has a wide range of uses ranging from kitchens to fireplaces. But what's most exciting is that because many of the tiles come in large slab formats, almost like natural stone, you can do a variety of interesting applications from laser cut to slab application. We are pitching it now to be used as a wall covering, backsplash, and fireplace surrounded in three different projects!

9. Lightning round!  

Beach or mountains? 


Twitter or Facebook? 

Neither - Instagram! 

Architectural Digest or Wallpaper? 


Should you spend money on a fabulous bathroom or kitchen?

Kitchen. No one ever wants to stand with me in the bathroom but I can’t get people out of my kitchen.

Would you rather shop new or vintage?

Vintage - so much more character

Great view or perfect pool?

Great view (I can’t swim)

SF or LA?


10. What's one tip you wish someone had told you when first starting out in the design world?

Don’t design a room and then present the entire space to a client. You are bound to paint yourself into a corner. I have found that when I used to present a fully-flushed out design to a client, they became fixated on having that exact concept recreated in their space, even if circumstances dictated otherwise. Now I present the basic framework of the space, which allows me to incorporate new or unexpected treasures I may find during the course of the project.

Want More Courtney?

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