Thursday, September 29, 2016

Designer Lanier Gupton: When Passion & DNA Meet...

Unlike most of us who live here, Lanier Gupton is actually from Atlanta, born and bred. She went to the Lovett School and later ventured off to the University of Georgia – by way of Old Miss - before finding her way back home… But not only is Atlanta in her blood, her vocation – interior design – is almost in her DNA. Her mother is an interior designer… her father designs commercial kitchens… her grandfather was a part time artist with leanings towards Impressionism – which he might have picked up while working for IBM in Paris for a few years. And her husband is a general contractor to boot!

Like Mother like Daughter...
All of this to say that she knew she wanted to be a designer from the time she was a child. As a matter of fact, as a little girl Lanier and her grandmother used to do mockups of designs by putting cut-outs of furniture and furnishings on rooms drawn on posterboard. (An activity she engages in with her daughter Anna.) So obviously she went to school for a degree in design… or not. Actually Lanier studied art history. After graduating from UGA she moved back to Atlanta and worked for designers Ferry, Hayes & Allen focusing on country clubs. The design bug from her childhood bit her again, and after talking to her mother she decided to head back to school. This time to the Art Institute of Atlanta, where she earned a BFA. Unfortunately for Lanier, virtually none of the credits from her BS applied to the BFA program so she ended up taking almost the full complement of classes to earn her degree. And when all was said and done, Lanier spent about the same amount of time in college as doctors do!

But it was worth it! She’s now been at this interior design thing for almost a decade. During that time she’s done quite a bit. Early on of course she worked at Ferry Hayes & Allen focusing on country clubs. Later she worked at PFVS where she focused on working with architects and builders on the basics such as plumbing fixtures and electrical placements. Later she was an assistant project manager at Liza Bryan Interiors where she worked the spectrum of residential projects. Today she spends most of her time working directly with residential clients, although she does occasionally work with builders who are building houses on spec.

Usually her engagements start out small, with one room or one section of a house to begin with. Lanier actually likes that because it helps her and the client(s) get comfortable with one another. With one room a client might have some reservations that a designer can create the atmosphere and function that they are looking for. Once they are happy with the first room the relationship gets more comfortable and trust level increases. From there the clients can feel more at ease because they know their designer is on the same page as they are. And that’s normally how it works. One room today turns into a couple of rooms in a few months and the whole house next year.

And of course once that relationship is there, it usually lasts. Lanier is currently working on a whole house project for a client whose house she decorated a few years ago a couple of rooms at a time. Now trading up to a new home the client wants Lanier to jump in with both feet and design everything!

Grandmothers aren't the only ones who are
sometimes enlisted to help!
This room plus strategy is particularly valuable when clients aren’t certain they want to use a designer in the first place… after all, how hard is it to buy a sofa or pick out a chandelier? Well… that conundrum that some clients wrestle with is easily allayed when she explains that while anyone can fill a room with furniture, the differences between a do it yourself and a professionally decorated are usually significant. There are subtleties that can make or break a room, such as proportions, upholstery and even patina. That last characteristic sometimes comes into play when a client – often a husband – asks why they should buy a 19th century dining table for thousands of dollars when they could easily go to Pottery Barn and get something that looks similar for a fraction of the cost. She tells them: “Similar is not the same, particularly in furniture.” There is an issue of quality and durability, both of which can be questionable with some contemporary furniture but are likely not an issue with 200 year old furniture. Antiques frequently have a patina or luster to them that exudes history or consequence, something that is difficult to manufacture on command.

Lanier’s favorite pieces are pretty much anything French… something she likely picked up on her European travels during her semester studying in Innsbruck with the UGA International Studies program.

It’s been a great adventure thus far… and it’s just getting started! She’s usually working with half a dozen clients simultaneously, and one of the great things about having a mother in the business is that you can reach out to her for some advice, perspective and sometimes some heavy lifting. Of course the really heavy lifting sometimes comes in the form of babysitting so that Lanier and husband Craig can find a little bit of serenity, maybe even in a room she designed!

This is a kitchen Lanier designed from the ground up working with both the builder and the owner.

This living room is an eclectic mix of the old (antique armoire) with the new (contemporary acrylic coffee table) and shows that it's possible to harness elements of disparate periods to create a unified, coherent and welcoming setting.

Designers often focus on the big pieces because they are... well, big, and often expensive, and draw much attention when a room is being set up, but... accessories can make or break a room because they can enhance or detract from the whole room or individual pieces... And of course, lamp shades are SO important and can make a lamp really stand out. (compliments of Edgar Reeves lighting).

If you'd like to see a bit more of Lanier's work you can visit her website here: