The Well Designed Life

Lisa Newman

Oscar Wilde once said, "To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect." For Warren’s Lisa Newman, it’s a philosophy that seems to sum up her design approach as blending …

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Oscar Wilde once said, "To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect." For Warren’s Lisa Newman, it’s a philosophy that seems to sum up her design approach as blending complex, unexpected colors and textures together is her signature. “For example, I love silk, stone, wood and velvet all in the same environment,” she says. “Their contrasts complement each of the other’s beauty and unique characteristics.”

Spaces should be as distinctive as the people living in them, she says. She aims for spaces to look loved and inviting, which is executed via family photos and unique art and artifacts meaningful to the clients she is working with. “On a practical side, I’m also a firm believer that form has to follow function, so I am very tuned in to how my client lives in the space. Families with young children require different things than a single professional who does an entirely different kind of entertaining.”

Lisa’s unorthodox path to interior design began at Connecticut College, where she studied everything from art and graphic design to color theory to painting, each of which she credits with crafting the fundamentals of her successful design approach today. “I studied color theory, which gives me an appreciation for the power and science of color, graphic design, which gives me an appreciation for proportion and scale, [and] collage, which gives me an appreciation for dimension and texture. It has been invaluable.

Learning the mechanics of the trade in the trenches is what helps her connect with clients who may have a great sense of style or impeccable taste, but are unable to translate those elements in a space. “Some clients have a very clear vision of what they want but don’t know how to execute, kind of like being a great lover of food but not knowing how to cook it. In that case, my role is to get from them exactly what their vision is and then actualize the vision… At the end of any project, my goal is to have my clients feel like it is their space and that it delights them to live in it and share it proudly with others.”

Lisa’s vision comes to life for shoppers at Homestyle, a fine art, furnishings and gift shop on Providence’s bustling Westminster Street that she opened five years ago. It’s where many go for inspiration and perhaps to seek some design advice, which she is always willing to share. She encourages people seeking an updated interior to take an objective inventory of what they already own. “Sometimes just moving things around and repurposing things can have major impact,” she says. Paint has the most inexpensive ‘bang for the buck’ in her eyes. Finally, she says, it is better not to look at decorating as a chore, but as a process. “New finds over time make a space much more interesting than walking into a store and buying a pre-packaged vignette or a suite of furniture. Collect art as you travel, pick up cool quirky pieces at flea markets, shop in your friends’ and family’s basements for treasure, frame your children’s artwork... and only buy what you love.”