Tricks of the Trade: Amp Up Tired Design

When you combine the talents of one of Chicago’s up-and-coming design stars with the vibe of a former creative in LA’s film and music industries, you are bound to see chic, hip and timeless interiors.

Friends and partners Cari Giannoulias and Melissa Lewis founded the interior design firm Lewis-Giannoulias (LG), and together they’re proving that by mixing high and low, old and new, with a disregard for rules, casual elegance can get a whole lot hipper. 

We asked them to share a few of their trade secrets.

Stretch your style with art. Always looking for young, up-and-coming artists, LG sources artwork that offers a fresh perspective and energizes a space. Don’t get mired in the idea that traditional design mandates traditional artwork. Buy art that excites you, in colors that you are drawn to, and never try to match it to your design palette.

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Design and create your own furniture pieces. LG likes to transform traditional, sober case pieces, like buffets and console tables, into something unique and personal with hip hardware and bold accents. Don’t be afraid to throw in strong elements from nature, such as an exotic accent chair or flea-market find.

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Introduce bold punches of your favorite color. If lime green is the hue that makes you swoon, LG will add it into the décor with accent pieces like pillows, vases, even bookbindings, while keeping the background palette timeless and neutral. That way, when the client tires of lime, it’s easy to swap it out.

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Drapery can change an entire room. Timeless and elegant, drapery adds an appealing vertical design element, as well as femininity and warmth. Keep the overall look simple and clean, but don’t be afraid to add a little flair or frill.

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Choose lighting that is unique and interesting. Rather than sourcing retail fixtures, LG will often repurpose an object with an interesting patina or off-color metal into a focal point light. A favorite? An old timpani drum transformed into a large pendant lamp.

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Wallpaper can be transformative. LG swears by wallpapers from Maya Romanoff and Phillip Jeffries for adding texture and warmth. And for the pattern-averse client, they’ll often introduce a wild print in a powder room or smaller space for added punch.

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Choose accessories that are personal and meaningful. Anyone can buy tchotchkes at a big-box retailer. It’s the trinkets collected over your lifetime (travel and sports memorabilia, your children’s artwork, old family photos, a prized collection) that add a genuine freshness and flair to your space. And when it comes to the coffee table books, explore your own interests—not what’s expected.

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