Designer Crush: Laurie Haefele

1. Who is your biggest role model?

I was raised in upstate New York where the woman’s suffrage movement began and my grandmother, Doris Crego, who was very active politically and encouraged women to vote, was an amazing role model. She graduated from Syracuse University when not many women went to college yet. She won many awards for being civic-minded and always fighting for the downtrodden. It was because of women like her, that as a woman, I am able to have a successful business and that it was socially acceptable for me to adopt a baby as a single mother. I thank God for her influence in my life.

2. Which movie or play do you wish you could have designed the set for?

I love any movie that has Italy as the backdrop. I wish I could have designed the hillsides of Tuscany in Under the Tuscan Sun and the house that the main character fixed up. I also love scenes in Venice in the cheeky movie Only You.

3. What is the best way to gauge a client’s personality before starting a project?

I try not to gauge a client’s personality up front. I try to keep the process very fluid and be as open minded as possible.

4. What new design trends are you excited to integrate into your work?

I like to incorporate motorized movable parts in my kitchen and closet designs. I’m hoping these are not trends, but becoming the norm for the future. For example, pop-up appliance garages in kitchen islands, tilt-down hanging clothes rods, drawers, upper doors, shoe shelves…you name it.

5. How did you get into kitchen design specifically?

Oh by accident, for sure. I never in a million years planned on being a kitchen designer. I went to architecture school at Pratt Institute and literally fell into kitchen design by accident and fell in love with it. When I started, it was not as design oriented as it is today. It has been exciting to see the industry grow.

6. You recently branched out to luxury boutique closets as well. What inspired the new venture?

I did this kicking and screaming! Seriously, I resisted so much. I had clients begging me to design their closets and all I kept thinking was, “Do I really have to count peoples’ underwear?” But now, after designing large-scale luxury wardrobes, I absolutely adore it. The level of detail is immense and challenging, and the rooms come out beautifully. Right now almost half of my projects are wardrobes.

7. How do you completely unwind?

Funny you ask. Prior to adopting my son, I would have said, “A quiet room with a glass of red wine.” Now, I come home to complete chaos and all my work stress is relieved. It seems ironic, but the pure joy of a 4-year-old little boy jumping on me, so excited to see me and tell me all about his day, makes nothing else in the world matter.

8. If you hadn't become a designer, which career would you have pursued?

Jewerly designer. I took a jewelry design class my 5th year at architecture school as an elective, and am pretty sure that if I had taken it as a freshman I would not be typing this right now, sitting where I am sitting.

9. What’s the worst pre-designer job you’ve ever had and why?

I was a waitress in a cliché 1950s diner while at graduate school at UCLA. I only lasted a few days!

10. Who has your favorite client been and why?

James Magni of Magni Design is my longest referral client. We have been working together for over 15 years. I admire him very much. He also has an architectural background and I feel like we connect on a certain design level.

11. Create your perfect playlist for us.

I have a little soul! This was shockingly hard and slightly embarrassing. It tells way too much about me. I can see in hindsight that I am such a sap!

Lightning round!

12. Would you rather shop new or vintage?

As much as I love the look of vintage, I would have to say new.

13. First celebrity crush?

This will date me: Matt Dillon in Little Darlings. He was such a bad boy!

14. What’s your hidden talent?

Maybe it’s not so hidden, but I would say free-hand sketching. I present all first round design ideas to clients in sketch form prior to putting into AutoCAD.

15. Best restaurant in your area? Where is it?

Everyone tells me it is Rustic Canyon on Montana in Santa Monica. I have not been there and will go soon. I know for a fact that Melisse is amazing with chef Josiah Citrin. That is located on Wilshire in Santa Monica. There are many to chose from in Santa Monica.

16. SF or LA?

Apples or Oranges?