Lauren Reyes Lim on the Fluidity of Interior Design and Working as a Filipina American Creative

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L.A.-based interior designer Lauren Reyes Lim comes from a family lineage of Filipino architects. Inspired by her relatives' legacy, and a gifted illustrator since childhood, Reyes Lim naturally gravitated to design from a young age.

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Reyes Lim decided to move to New York City from New Jersey — where she grew up — to study and pursue interior design professionally, a field she's been devoted to ever since. After earning a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and with several years of design experience under her belt, Reyes Lim switched coasts from N.Y.C. to L.A. and founded LVR—STUDIOS, a multi-disciplinary design firm established in Downtown Los Angeles in 2016.

From residential to commercial and hospitality design, Reyes Lim envisions and juxtaposes interior architecture with various types of materiality, focusing primarily on creating spaces and furniture that are sophisticated, functional, and timeless.

Alongside her team of mostly Asian American women, Reyes Lim builds projects from concept design to construction administration and installation. Hunker chatted with Reyes Lim about architectural approaches to interior design, cultural representation, and following a calling.

Hunker​: What motivated you to study interior design?

Lauren Reyes Lim​: When I was around seven or eight, I actually taught myself how to draw by copying other forms of media. Eventually, my teachers entered me into competitions, and I started winning first place and it became a talent that my parents really nurtured throughout all of my adolescence.

Through my teen years, I made a very early decision that I wanted to have a [creative] profession. I grew up with architects [in the family]. I actually thought I was going to jump into that direction. But what really drew me to interiors ... [was] that you can be as technical as architecture — it's really interior architecture — but you can bring in color and textures and pattern and dig deeper into what makes a space very unique. That felt like much more my avenue, to create an environment for people to enjoy.

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Hunker​: What led to your decision to switch coasts to establish LVR—STUDIOS?

RL​: After spending almost a decade in New York, I needed a new environment, and I felt like Los Angeles was the next step in my life. I moved here seven years ago and started working for Kelly Wearstler as a member of her senior design team. That was my first job out here. It was an amazing experience. Her work [is] so beyond creative — it's beyond anything I would have ever imagined interior design could ever be. I reached a period where I was like, I think I can do something else and be a bit more creative outside of this space. So I wrapped up a few projects of mine that successfully ended and I decided just to take the leap and start my own company.

Hunker​: Congratulations! That's incredible to own your own business in this competitive field. How does LVR—STUDIOS conceptualize multidisciplinary interior design?

RL​: Interior design is a very fluid term. If anything, I'm more formally trained in the technical aspects, which is what I pride myself on. In Europe, they actually call our profession interior architect. What I really do is look at everything from the flow — sometimes even the energy — when we walk into a space, how it's making the client feel. We'll look at how we can restructure their day-to-day, literally, with the way their space is supposed to actually work for them. We coordinate with so many trades, meaning I'm the liaison between the contractor and the client and the architect, so we're kind of project managing. When I say that we're multidisciplinary, it really means that we're trying to cover all bases when it comes to a project.

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Image Credit: Edgar Lim

Hunker​: What projects are you currently working on?

RL​: We are working on a lot of residential projects, currently in Los Angeles, as well as some franchise build-out [with] Junbi. And most recently, we announced that I'm working as an art director with the Property Brothers, doing a couple episodes with them for their show on HGTV. It's all been super exciting.

Hunker​: Amazing! So, how do you decorate your own home?

RL​: [We] actually just purchased our first home. My husband absolutely refused to buy a turnkey house, because he knew I was gonna change everything. We only looked for fixer uppers — places that needed a lot of love and care. I'm completely taking it down to the studs, everything about it will be very custom. For the most part, my aesthetic is very timeless. I try to bring in pieces that are thoughtful and don't evoke clutter. I feel like we could bring everything over to the new house and I know it's still going to work. I'm planning to document it for personal reasons, but I'm hoping to share it with anyone who needs sound advice on how to do your own house.

Hunker​: What's it like to be a Filipino American working in this industry?

RL​: This is an important time. With everything that happened last year, [tension] has been culminating. My team is mostly Asian American women. They're amazingly talented. I haven't [worked] in an office like this — as diverse [and] strong — especially on the Asian American side. I'm hoping we'll be able to make small waves and I hope those waves create a ripple effect.

I think that's also what really attributed to me wanting to start my own firm. You don't see Asian [women in] top management and leadership in these roles, so I strive to make that really clear when we're bringing on more staff to our team. I'm fortunate enough to work with amazing clients here in L.A. who are so progressive and who appreciate the team that we have. They've made that really clear. It's been a really different type of movement I'm seeing.

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Ivanna Baranova is a poet, writer, and editor. She is the author of CONFIRMATION BIAS (Metatron Press, 2019).