Five Minutes with Jessica Lagrange

6th August 2020

Jessica Lagrange has excelled at luxury interior design for over 20 years. Based in Chicago, Jessica leads a team of interior designers and architects to work on a wide variety of residential projects throughout the US. It’s not difficult to understand how the JLI team has gone from strength to strength – Jessica’s incredibly affable personality and her passion for carefully considered interiors is evident immediately. We find out more about her career and her design must-haves – including her own bedroom and bathroom, of which she says, “They make me feel like I’m in a luxury hotel. The only flaw is there’s no button on my wall to call room service!” …

Jessica Lagrange Interiors
We focus on luxury residential interior design and work all over the country, usually focusing on 15-to-20 jobs at a time. Right now, we have a really varied project roster that ranges from a rustic lodge in the north woods of Wisconsin to a historic Georgian on the Intracoastal in Palm Beach. We’ve worked on everything from significant historic mansions by some of American’s most renowned architects to contemporary apartments where the views are as important as the interior design. We love the diversity of projects we have; it’s not only interesting, it pushes us creatively and keeps us versatile.

It’s hard to pick a favourite type of project.  But typically, we like to do entire projects—the American saying is “from soup to nuts”—to ensure a home is cohesive and everything in it really plays to its owners’ wants and needs.

Signature style
So many designers are known for a signature style, like East-meets-West, Boho chic or country modern. But we think it’s important to put a client’s style and comfort first. Decorative trends come and go, and they pigeonhole you.  We all fall in and out of love with things.  It’s human nature. But good design that’s cohesive, comfortable and functional never goes out of style. The trick is to meet all those benchmarks and make an interior fabulous for the client. We really spend a lot of time going over every single detail of our client’s lifestyles before we begin the design process, and base everything on our extensive intake process.

There are a few things we always like to do in every home we design.  We’re big on statement pieces, such as an incredible chandelier or an adventurous colour palette.  And we always mix pieces of different provenances and periods so each home we design has a collected look rather than feeling like everything is brand new.

Interior design journey
I always laugh when I hear that saying “sometimes you don’t find a career; it finds you.”  It may be cliché, but in my case it’s totally true.  Halfway through college, I still hadn’t picked a major so I decided to come home and get a job for a year.  My cousin, an interior architect at SOM, helped me get a job there. They put me in the resource library, and I fell in love with the colours, textures and finishes of all the materials—especially the textiles. So, I went back to school at the School of the Art Institute Chicago for an interior design degree. After design school, I worked for two large commercial architecture firms. But all my commercial clients were asking me to help them with their homes, and all my friends were telling me I should do it.   So, I did, and the first thing I did was hire someone with the skills I didn’t have.

Advice for aspiring interior designers
Everybody thinks being an interior designer is not only so much fun, but also pretty easy to do.  Not true!  Just like accounting or law, it requires technical knowledge, credentials and licensing exams. And luxury interior designers do so much more than design—from sourcing, sales and staff development to project management and execution—not to mention knowing how to run interference if anything goes wrong!  And I speak from experience when I say that mistakes are expensive. There are often thousands of details that go into the design of a home.  So, anyone entering this field has to develop their business skills along with their creativity, and build a great team that has skills they don’t have. My team is outstanding. Together we’re organised, disciplined and have great business skills thanks to our business manager.

Favourite room to design
Powder rooms.  It’s the one place in your home where you can be outrageous without a lot of risk.  For example, you can use an expensive wallpaper or paint treatment because you don’t need a lot of it.  Or you can use a daring colour palette and not have to worry that you’ll get sick of it.  You can’t do that in larger rooms.

Pieces that inspire
Your alabaster collection has already inspired us; we’ve used the collection throughout entire homes to give them cohesion, elegance and understated glamor. We love the fact that they’re timeless and can be customised to work with any style. Your scallop sconces are equally versatile for the same reasons. We’re excited to consider using these for a Palm Beach home to give it a tropical theme that’s cohesive and elegant instead of kitschy.

Palm Beach
We’re currently working on my Palm Beach home.  It’s a very traditional 1930’s Georgian Colonial, but it needs a lot of routine updating and some strategic upgrades, to make it suitable for our family’s lifestyle. We’re trying to bring back some of its historical design elements without making it seem too fuddy-duddy. We love your hardware and lighting, and anything with shells, sea urchins and starfish.  They’re on our radar as we develop a program to make the house not only more stylish but also more exciting.

Favourite room in your home
My bedroom and bathroom because they make me feel like I’m in a luxury hotel.  The only flaw is there’s no button on my wall to call room service!  Maybe you can design one for me; I’m partial to anything shaped like a shell and that’s clearly one of your strengths!

Favourite item in your own home?
I have a Hervé van der Straeten chandelier in my dining room—the Lustre Volubile 306 from Ralph Pucci.  It’s an exquisite and significant work of art in its own right—yet also very practical and playful. The word volubile means changeable in English, and it looks like a shooting star on an unpredictable trajectory, which makes it a very dynamic piece.

Home comforts
I’m a firm believer in luxury mattresses, especially since we spend almost half our lives in bed reading, watching TV and relaxing and studies show 75% of Americans don’t think their beds are comfortable enough. And that was before the pandemic, when we weren’t home all the time! Plus, people spend thousands of dollars on furniture, so why wouldn’t they spend what it takes on their most important and critical piece given the significance of a good night’s sleep to our health. It’s really important to have a fabulously comfortable bed that helps you get the best night’s sleep possible.

While away the hours
I love to rearrange the art and accessories in my place, which comes from being an interior designer. I’m always experimenting! But I make it entertaining by turning up the Aretha Franklin Sonos station and adding a glass or two of a great Chardonnay to the equation.

What’s next?
We’re doing such a broad range of projects right now. They range from a contemporary cabin-style home that will be three stories tall in the north woods of Wisconsin to an 8,000 square foot new construction home in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. We’re excited about working on such diverse assignments.

Bespoke
Bespoke pieces give projects individuality; our clients really like that. So, we’re devoted to commissioning bespoke pieces, and that’s one of the reasons we’re so delighted we found you.  Molly Woodin, a senior interior designer on our team, suggested we customise your picture rail system and your hardware when we were renovating my home. We used everything from picture lights and speciality hardware to drapery rods—and your Scallop Mirror, which I love. Once we saw how easy your company is to work with and realised your technical capabilities and creativity, we were hooked.  Since then, we’ve really relied on you for custom lighting, accent tables, étagères and more for so many of our projects. One of our favourite things about Collier Webb is the high quality, premium metal finishes used to create all of your products. We love nothing more than a naturally aged patina and that is one thing that Collier Webb has certainly mastered. In addition to your fine finishes, we are always so impressed with your ability to take on any and all of our requests; you always find solutions that are efficient and exquisite for every request we make.

Made in Britain
The English have been known for their exquisite craftsmanship and devotion to beautiful design for centuries, and your company truly upholds that tradition—especially the bespoke pieces.  Your pieces are so finely made and truly one of a kind thanks to your ability to customise anything. Your work represents British design at its best.

Favourite Collier Webb pieces
That’s hard; we love so many of your pieces. But right now, we’re enamoured with your leather-wrapped Salon Étagère. It’s amazing; what incredible workmanship.