This 'Sexy French' Interior Designer is Redefining the Traditional Man Cave
Interview by Ross Vernon Dias
Lori Morris has been a designer for 30 years. Her truly global design house works in four major cities in the world including San Francisco and Toronto, but foremost, Morris is an artist. She credits herself with developing an original palette based on the design histories of French and modern design. "I basically fused together the two genres in a harmonious balance, I refer to as "sexy French" - a design style which I invented on my own to basically marry those two styles together." Here, Morris talks about the practise of interior design as art, luxurious man caves (she prefers the term 'men's lounges,' it's sexier) and carving out your space in your home.
Who are some of your collaborators?
I work closely with Julie Ballard who is a designer that I met in design school many years ago - we run the creative department and the company together. Her speciality in design and space planning [combined with] a true artist like myself, create a perfect team of a design vision that we create and make into a reality.
How has art informed your work?
As a true artist to the core, you're always creating, you're always designing. For me, the inspiration of European architecture has a huge impact and influence on my design creation, along with the fashion industry. The fashion industry is definitely fused within the design industry. I think both architecture and fashion design create the interior design.
What inspires you?
Every project is different and every project is unique. We actually build houses, we renovate houses, we design all the interior details for the housing, we pick all our finishes and we also design all our furniture. We really encompass the whole gamut of your house from its inception, interior design, and architecture, right through to the end. For me, design is based on a feeling, not really a style or a colour. So, when a client approaches me, I like to always ask them: what's the feeling of the space? How do you want to live? What is your lifestyle like and what do you want the house to feel like? We marry [that vision] with the landscape and architectural flavour that one might be interested in so everything flows organically and naturally throughout that.
What's the process like, from start to finish?
Sometimes, a client may come to me and say 'Lori, I love deco and I love black.' That's all I need in terms of enough information for me to design them a stunning house: sophisticated, original with a deco-inspiration and accents of black. Some people might say to me, 'I just want my place to feel like nature. I want it fully zen and totally tranquil. I want the landscape to enter my place': that's all I need. For me, it's just a matter of describing the feeling they want in their house. We did a place in a big high-rise downtown where they wanted it to feel like Versailles in the sky. Again, that's all the words I needed. Another client, a woman, asked for a castle for one. To me, sometimes it's just words, sometimes it's just a feeling, and from there I create the masterpiece.
What is a mancave?
There's always a space for a woman and there's always a space for a man. I think the term 'mancave' was coined many years ago but I like to refer to them as men's lounges. Some men want their lounges to be in the garage surrounded by their stunning car collection or we'll do a men's lounge where he wants it like a library with a humidor or an area to listen to music. The colour palette isn't necessarily the priority for us in the room, but it usually tends to be on the dark side. We use different layers and different textures of wood, whether it be a high-polished, finished wood or French-polished, and matted and burled in between. More importantly, it's whatever the man is interested in - whether it be sports, cigars, cars or music - that sort of interest will be the focal point of the space.
What are some key elements that carry through these spaces?
In terms of finishes there's a lot of wood, suede, leathers; there's different combinations of textures. That's usually the common thread; the finishes. But with the utilization of the space, we get a lot of requests for cigar and cognac lounges, or places to play and listen to their music. A TV is of course is always a given, I'm not mentioning it, but it's a given.
How do you merge coziness with high luxury?
I always pride myself on making rooms stunning and beautiful, but, at the same time, they need to function. If something is beautiful and gorgeous but it doesn't work, it doesn't count. You need to understand the size of the man: is he a big man or a small man? The furniture will need to be custom designed to fit him comfortably. Is he private in there? Does he want to have meetings in there? We need to understand the full functionality of the space before we design it. The finishing process is just putting it all together after understanding the functioning of the space. Then, you've succeeded.
Do you incorporate a lot of what the room used to be?
Normally, we're building new houses so of course a place can start from scratch in terms of what it needs to function as and what it needs to be. If we're renovating a house and taking a previous room that now is going to be redirected into a men's lounge, then we'll understand what he wants this room to function as and what to feel like and we'll start the process accordingly. Whether it be a renovation to add different layers and decors on the wall to create that sexy, lounge-y, kind of palette of textures or whether it just be a redecorating process. Every job is different.
Once the project is complete, how can the client maintain the beauty of the space?
Once we've designed it in terms of the functionality and the finishes as to what it meant to look like, then we add whatever it may be: his own personalized sports memorabilia, any of his awards, signed guitars by rockstars, signed jerseys from their favourite player, possessions from the family, kids or ancestors. Whatever it may be that he wants in that space.
What are some tips for every man to elevate their own spaces in their home?
It's important that they find the right space in the house When it's building the house, renovating the house or changing an existing room in the house, you have to pick the right space in the house that he's going to feel [good in] and it's going to be his own personal lounge. Once we find the right location for this space, then he really has to understand what it is that he wants the room to be for him. A TV is a given, we all understand that. We have to move beyond that and find something else that really appeals to them if there's a hobby, an interest or a special interest. Once you answer all the questions, then the design part is easy.