Lisa Palmer is building a regional reputation as an interior designer based in Jackson, Miss.
With two locations of her retail store, SummerHouse, Palmer and her team are making a name for themselves with clients as far away as Houston and Kansas City.
Palmer is showing off her less-is-more design sensibility through May 14 at the Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Southeastern Designer Showhouse & Gardens at 3740 Paces Valley in Buckhead, where she re-created the look of the playroom, transforming it into an adult sanctuary for reading and relaxation.
The AJT caught up with Palmer to find out her secrets to successful interior design.
AJT: How did you begin your career in interior design?
Palmer: I was an art major in school and started out at Ole Miss. They didn’t have a design major, and they didn’t have a program. I didn’t want to be a starving artist, so I transferred to get a degree in interior design.
AJT: Were you predisposed to furniture design as an art major?
Palmer: I didn’t have a huge passion for interior design. It intrigued me, and I was just wise. The passion grew, especially when I started taking fabric classes.
AJT: The fabric classes always do it.
Palmer: Yes, they do. I also had professors who were very passionate and passed that passion on to me. But there’s only so much you can learn in the classroom. I really got to love it when I got out in the business and started using it with people.
AJT: What made you open SummerHouse?
Palmer: When I first opened, it was a boutique showroom, but I found there was a need for soft modern furnishings because everything in Jackson was a little too traditional, and I had to go out of town to places like Atlanta to find the pieces I needed.
AJT: Is there a high demand for good interior designers in Mississippi?
Palmer: We had a fire after three years in business, and I had to salvage everything. Within a week, my two assistants and I were working at my computer in my dining room. I had two attorney friends that said they wanted to be a part of whatever I was doing, and so I designed a new space and built it from scratch. It’s really beautiful, and we’ve been here for 13 years.
I have four designers plus myself. At one time I had eight designers. I have design projects from Houston to Kansas City and a huge social media presence. We opened another location in Oxford, Miss., because it’s a big second-home location with the college there, and it’s only two hours away, so it’s a no-brainer.
AJT: What is your secret to being a successful interior designer, and what do you advise your team of designers to do in order to complete a project successfully?
Palmer: We ask a lot of questions. When the job is complete and we clink the glass, mazel tov, we want our clients to be happy. We have a big interview process. It’s not just about creating a beautiful space because ultimately it’s their home. We ask them, “How do you live?” and “Do you want it light and airy or rich and cozy?”
AJT: How do you work with varying budgets?
Palmer: The budget is actually the last thing we ask about. A lot of people don’t know what their budget is, but they know who we are when they come here. They know we have high-end furniture, and they’ve done their research. We try to meet realistic budgets, and we don’t have big trade-show-only showrooms in Jackson, so we work as retail. We also don’t charge for design time.
AJT: What is your personal style as an interior designer?
Palmer: I’m not a super fussy designer. I’m kind of a less-is-more girl. Our lives are busy, and I don’t like to put a lot of things in a home, so editing is important. When I’m done with a home, I stand there and take away things just to make sure all the right things are in the space. I love masculine. Everyone says my favorite color is black, and I also use cream and green. I like the room to have a global feel, and that involves having a mixture of old and new items because it has to look and feel collected.
I also like good art. I always tell young people it’s important to start collecting art that means something to you, not just art that looks good over a sofa. I often start a room with a good piece of art. I also get inspiration from the architecture of the home. I really do like when I’m working with clients and I can give them their vision they’re looking for.
AJT: What was the inspiration behind the playroom at the showhouse?
Palmer: I didn’t want to do it as a playroom, so I did a lounge/reading room. Pantone’s color of the year is fern green, so I went with a palette of green and cream. Of course, I had to add a little black. I knew I wanted to showcase Mississippi artists because we work with these artists all the time. We have a lot of art from Mississippi artists in the showroom.
I also wanted it to be fun, colorful and comfortable. I chose fabrics that were kind of fun and a little modern. You see a combination of traditional pieces mixed with modern pieces, and there’s a global feel.
AJT: What was essential in creating a lounge or reading room?
Palmer: Seating that lends itself to conversation and good lighting. It just needs to feel good and comfortable.