Designer Helps Clients Know Themselves
authors Autumn McGarr
Los Angeles, CA — For Tanya Griffin, owner and designer of Lotus Designs, her path to kitchen and bath design began during her childhood, with a weekly family outing.
“We always had a Sunday tradition where we would go have brunch at different hotels,” Griffin recalls. “And I remember, as a kid, loving to go see the bathroom. So that became my thing – I [would] have to go see what the bathroom looked like because I grew up in the inner city of Los Angeles, and [loved to] see these really nice hotel bathrooms, where everything was always marbled and mirrored and the fixtures were fancy. So it’s funny that 20 years later, my favorite thing to design is kitchens and baths.”
Since those early Sundays spent admiring beautifully appointed hotel baths, Griffin’s career has run the gamut from commercial design to home staging to residential renovations. Still, she always finds herself returning to kitchen and bath design.
“[I’m drawn to kitchens] because, growing up, everyone congregated in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter how big the house, how many people are there – if one person is in the kitchen cooking or doing something, everyone tends to migrate that way…so I think it’s always a comfortable feeling to walk into a nice kitchen,” says Griffin. “People relax in the bathroom, whether it’s in a nice shower or a soaker tub or even if you’re in there bathing the kids, that’s where you’re released from the day and you’re able to relax. So I find that those are the two most important spaces in the house.”
Based out of Los Angeles, CA, Lotus Designs mainly works in the South Bay area, which has led Griffin to work primarily with a very specific sort of clientele. “A lot of our clients are either executives, extremely busy professionals or entrepreneurs who want a space they can come home to and infuse with a piece of their own spirit,” Griffin relates. “They have a very public image – perhaps the way they are in the office, or who they are on TV – but when they come home, they need to detach from that and they really need to feel like this is their private space. This is really who they are versus who they need to be out in front of everybody.”
According to Griffin, with this type of client, teasing out the heart of who they are can be a challenge, and communication is a necessity. “We’ve had clients say, ‘Oh, we worked with a designer and we just did our home maybe a year ago.’ And I’ll walk in and say, ‘Why am I here? This is a beautiful home.’ And they’ll say, ‘Yeah, but it doesn’t feel right. It was beautiful on paper.’ The design is great, but it isn’t them. They created a beautiful design for everybody but themselves.”
Griffin views her task as a matter of figuring out where her clients will be most comfortable. “The most important thing is, who is [the client]? How do they function? What’s going to allow them to rejuvenate and regroup for the next day?” she says. “I ask them to think about at what point in their home they suddenly feel detached. Is it right when they walk in the front door? Is it when they come into the kitchen? And I also have them think back to a point at which they really did love the space they were in. Was it a hotel room? Was it at a friend’s house or a vacation home? And then we incorporate those feelings into their current space in order to recreate that.”
For many of Griffin’s clients, this means designing with an eye toward aging in place. “We try to make the space as comfortable as possible – widening doorways, raising countertops, lowering the microwave…even if it’s simple things like brightening paint colors and adding transition areas near the stairs so that, in the evening, it’s easier for them to be mobile.”
A Helping Hand
Griffin is not only focused on fostering productive connections with her clients, but with the design community, as well. “When I started out, I happened to [connect with] some really wonderful people who helped me out with my contracts and getting started as an entrepreneur, so I’ve always wanted to give back,” she says.
One of the ways Griffin pays it forward is through mentorship. “I’ve always had interns working with me or some type of mentorship program, either through high schools or just with young designers – people just trying to navigate their way,” explains Griffin. Additionally, she has partnered with the West Coast branch of the Certified Decorating Professionals organization to become an instructor, giving aspiring designers hands-on experience on job sites and crucial feedback.
Creating community doesn’t end with teaching newcomers. “I participate in an organization called Brunching with the Experts, which is a simple series in which [professionals from different backgrounds] meet once a month and a guest expert comes in and shares their knowledge.” By keeping the events casual and intimate, Griffin believes that it makes people more willing to ask questions and share information. “We’re having great food, and it’s just a camaraderie of individuals and entrepreneurs who are sharing their knowledge. Because no matter what industry you’re in, as a business owner, you all go through the same trials and tribulations.” ▪