MEG LONERGAN: a day in the life of a passionate interior designer
A designer that likes to guide her to think out of the box, Meg Lonergan tells me about starting her namesake company, a tented ceiling that she created in her own home, and how to create a curated interior.
Q: How did you become an interior designer?
ML: I have been interested in design since I was a child. My aunt is an interior designer and I can remember going around with her to tile shops and carpet stores and watching her sketch curtain orders late at night. I was always around it, interested in it, and picking my own colors for my bedroom. In 2009 my husband and I moved to Houston from New Zealand where I worked for a well-known designer. I was then approached by some family friends to help them with their house and so I started my business!
Q: So, it all happened very organically?
ML: Yeah, very organically. I always thought I would just help friends and be a mom and work a little bit out of my house. Now, we’ve grown and we’re in our second office already. There are four other women that work with me and we have a huge client load and it’s exciting. We love what we do, we’re excited by it; so, that makes it easy.
Q: Do you have a specific style that you work in?
ML: I can really say I’m rooted in tradition. I was born in south Louisiana where the style is quite traditional, however, I have moved around a lot through my life and so I have been exposed to a lot of different styles. From simplistic and modern to very colorful, and very neutral. My personal style is probably quite English: Very layered and colorful. And also a little messy and unorganized. That’s the look I like in a house: to look collected over time and not perfect. However, we work in all different styles. We want our clients’ homes to look like them, not like us. I like to incorporate items that they already have or unusual things that are special to them so it doesn’t look like everything just arrived from the showroom floor on the same day.
Q: How do you make it look like it was collected over time?
ML: I really do try to use things that people already have. For one project, we didn’t have a piece of art above the fireplace and we ended up framing one of the woman’s mother’s Hermes scarves as the artwork. She never thought that we would use that as the main focal point in her living room but it looks amazing and it’s very special and outside the box.
Q: What do you have in your own home that is out of the box?
ML: I have a tin cupola that I found in Charleston, South Carolina. I fabricated it into a light fixture that has an almost chinoiserie-feel to it. It’s quite big, between 4 and 5 feet diameter and over the round table below it’s like you’re sitting in this little tented room. It’s very cozy and architecturally it looks amazing. Not your normal light fixture!
Q: How do you go about sourcing art for your clients?
ML: That’s the thing I’m really passionate about. I love discovering new. Art doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive or by someone famous to be impactful. I source a lot of vintage things but I also work locally with an art dealer who helps me collaborate with artists who aren’t necessarily represented in Houston. In a recent project, we commissioned 2 pieces by artists that are in Brooklyn and the Carolinas and it was amazing because no gallery in Houston represents them. Now we’ve got these incredible pieces in our city by these amazing artists.
Q: Do you have a favorite project up to date?
ML: Probably my favorite project is the one we’re working on right now. It’s been really creatively exciting. The client is really willing to try new things. It’s an older, stately home that was built in 1940 and we’re filling it with modern furniture out of Europe. So, it has this wonderful juxtaposition of parquet floors and paneled walls mixed with very high-end Italian and European lighting and furniture. We also have a really great use of color in the house. The dining room has a mint green ceiling and the powder room is clustered in Klein blue. So, there are some really interesting and unexpected pops that are thrilling.
Q: Do you have a favorite color?
ML: Oh, it’s always changing! As a child, it was yellow, like a saffron kind of yellow – very saturated. I rebranded my business like a couple of years ago and my business colors are Ballet Pink and what I call New Orleans Green: in New Orleans, a lot of the homes have their shutters painted in a very dark green. Those are probably 2 of my favorite colors right now.
Q: What’s the one thing that makes the biggest difference in a room?
ML: Draperies. I find that drapery really adds a lot of warmth to a space. They immediately make you feel at home.
I also like to use at least one antique piece in every room. It could be a mirror or I use a lot of French Louis Phillipe commodes. I think it’s important to have things of age. investing in a beautiful antique is always going to serve you; they were built with purpose. Whether it’s an armchair or a chest of drawers you can always get good use out of that.
Q: What would your ideal project be?
ML: My ideal project is actually for myself. But it’s hard to design for yourself if you’re exposed to so much. My husband is from New Zealand and we have this pipe dream that we’ll build a little beach house in New Zealand. That will be my dream project one day.
Q: Tell me about Meg Style.
ML: That’s an online journal of things that I like. It ranges from clothes and furniture to art, jewelry, books… just things that I’m doing or liking or noticing right now. It’s sort of an inspiration page and a diary for myself really.
Q: How would you describe an Interior Designer’s day to day life?
ML: Chaotic! On any given day, I will leave the most gorgeous art gallery or show room in the city to a muddy, dusty, messy, filthy job site. We will sometimes be wined and dined by vendors at lunch and then the next minute I’ll be on a ladder installing books, adjusting shelves, and sweating. It’s just a little bit of everything.
I always tell the new girls that contact me that want to be a designer that it’s 10% design and 90% business. Of course, we love the design part but it’s just like any other business, there is a lot of work behind the scenes that isn’t necessarily glamorous.
Q: What is your favorite part of the job?
ML: For sure it’s surprising my clients by creating a space for them that exceeded their expectations, that’s just so much fun! Often people hire a designer because they have difficulty visualizing what the space should be or could be. We have that skill. So, we know what it’s going to look like and when it finally gets installed it’s so much fun to see how happy people are with the result. When they tell us “We could have never done this without you…” it’s just really exciting to create a home for someone. It’s an intimate relationship that we have with our clients. They trust us a lot to allow us into their personal space and to give us control in helping them achieve what they want.
Q: One of your recent blog posts was on Liberty’s collaboration with Anthropology. What do you think of that combination of modern furniture and traditional patterns with updated coloring?
ML: I just adore it! I’ve always loved Liberty since I was a child. My grandmother would go to London and bring back material and have dresses made for us. I can spot a Liberty print from miles away. I even dress my daughter in Liberty. And recoloring the patterns are just another way for them to be used more in 2017.