Lock it Up and Throw Away the Key
PHOTOGRAPHED BY: MATT DOHENY | WRITTEN BY: GENESIS GONZALEZ
What do you do when you have it all? Designer handbags, luxurious dresses, suits, ties, endless scarves—and let’s not forget the shoes (oh, the shoes!), a beautiful pair for every day. The answer is simple. As Carrie Bradshaw would say: All you need is a really big closet. Every great label and member of fashion royalty deserves a space all its own. From Christian Louboutin to Dior, Alexander McQueen to Chanel, a sophisticated space filled with ease and functionality makes a closet a room to be admired. LA closet designer Lisa Adams knows the beauty of a truly great closet, from the inside and out. She has been invited to countless closets and has seen the good, the bad, and the downright unorganized. With her creative passion for all things sophisticated, she has created new and exciting rooms, turning something once thought to be just for storage into a space for relaxation and ultimate luxury. For Lisa, no handbag or shoe is left unturned when it comes to putting things in order and reinventing the beauty and sophistication that is the closet.
Originally from Honolulu, Hawaii Lisa first pursued a more scientific route, earning a Master’s Degree in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley. Her passion for research and education led her to earn an MBA from Southern California’s Pepperdine University. With an itch for a little more creativity, Lisa followed a new passion in design. She admired the flourishing and growing popularity of well-designed kitchens and asked herself, “Is there another room to explore?” This curiosity was discovered through the simple act of organization when it came to the closet. Lisa was determined to bring to life a room that could be more than just hanging clothes; it could display true art, beauty, and all things that are cherished by an individual. Lisa finds a true joy in her role as a closet designer. Each closet is a unique opportunity for a sophisticated and beautiful room.
Most recently, Lisa had the privilege of redesigning actress Jaime King’s closet. A smaller, more intimate closet provided a new challenge for Lisa as she strived to take a claustrophobic closet filled with an abundance of designer clothing and create a space that evoked the perfect balance of happiness and sophistication fit for a Hollywood actress. For Lisa, the first step in the design process begins by meeting her clients, taking the time to ask questions and understand who they are. It is important to fact- find as Lisa notes and takes inventory of what is around and begins to study what is needed to make a truly unique space. Visuals are important when it comes to sharing her design images with the client. In order to convey her vision, Lisa will hang inspiration images, put fabrics on the wall, and prepare samples for the client to see, touch, and hopefully be inspired by. As with every client, Lisa wanted to create a space King could call her own. To create the illusion of space, Lisa lined the walls with mirrors. She adorned the closet with glossy mahogany accents—in particular, Lisa’s u-shaped mahogany rods—to accent the mid-century white closet and emphasize its own beauty. The actress was overjoyed with the finished project and, in fact, was brought to tears.
There are no limits or boundaries to the creativity and passion that is designer Lisa Adams. With a little touch of order, a hint of luxury and all things sophisticated, Lisa creates the ultimate space for everyone.
Q: When you first step into a client’s closet, what comes to mind? Are you calculating what needs to go where or what has to go?
Lisa Adams: That can sometimes be very overwhelming. Even though I’m in a space that is completely cluttered and needs help, I really start by just asking a lot of questions—finding out from the client what they care about and what their buttons are. From there, that’s where we go. For some people, getting rid of the stuff and that purging process is entirely difficult and for some it’s really easy. I think it’s just fact-finding and asking a lot of questions, so I start off every project that way.
Q: It’s not always easy for clients to visualize the design. How do you reassure them of the positive and creative changes?
LA: That’s a good question. I think a lot of people do have a hard time visualizing, saying, “I still don’t understand what this is going to look like.” Not only will we do the drawings so that they really get a 3D feel of it, but we also spend time in the space—marking it, lining it up, putting inspiration images on the wall and putting materials on the wall. I want to make sure they understand exactly, because I think whenever I hear people tell me they’re confused, I think it’s all stemming from them not being able to visualize it. I try to get them involved in the process so that they can stay excited and so they can know what they are getting.
Q: Has there been a time where a client requested something out of the ordinary? If so, were you able to incorporate it into your design?
LA: I feel there have been times when we can and times when we can’t. I’ve done stripper poles that initially sounds like the craziest idea and will ruin the design, but it’s just taking that idea and still doing it in a very creative and beautiful way. I feel if it’s going to junk it up, I will be the first to say that’s not a great idea, but still take time to process it, research it and figure out if we can incorporate it. If we can’t, it’s my responsibility to say, “I don’t think this is going to work.”
Q: What inspired you to pursue such a creative and unique career?
LA: You know, I think early on I realized that the left brain is really good. I’m good at math and good at science—this is what I want to do. It wasn’t until I went into the sciences that I realized I needed more people interaction. I think I needed a little bit more creativeness in what I was doing. That prompted me to get my MBA. From there I thought I would be able to marry the business and the science but I think there was still something lacking. I got the opportunity to work in a design firm, and I was on the operation side and saw at that time kitchens were flourishing. It was all the rage. We’d get the occasional call asking, “Do you do closets?” and at that moment, I thought, “I want to do this, so I’m going to study this.” I wanted to do it at a level that hadn’t been done before.
Q: What do you strive for when it comes to your designs?
LA: I think that the client wants to be in the space. When they first see it, it evokes an emotion that just beats their expectations. I believe I am a hard driver, so I feel like, not only am I trying to meet their expectations, but mine too. I think luxury, and I think closets…it needs to bring about that emotion whether you cry or whether you scream because you can’t believe it. That makes me feel good. I think at the end of the day that says a job well done.
Q: How do you incorporate luxury and sophistication into any closet?
LA: To me, luxury is creating that emotion, and I think you can speak to luxury as a purchase—such as leather and different elements like that, where you touch and feel it. I think it’s also the feeling when you go into a luxury boutique or when you go into a luxury car—you smell and you feel. I think it’s also lighting. When you go into a high-end boutique, it’s well-lit. You can see everything. It’s not cluttered. I think editing and purging are also very important, so you’re not at the end of the day with a new closet jamming everything in.
Q: You have designed closets that are high-tech and environmentally conscious. What would a high-tech closet incorporate?
LA: I would say anything where technology improves the lives for my clients. So, whether that is inputting things into an iPad where they’ve got a catalog of their clothes, whether it’s turning on the lights a certain way—anything that really enhances or improves the lifestyle in the closet space. Whether that is a pop-up safe that comes up electronically or automatic wardrobe lifts that pull the clothes down, I think all of those things really help my clients.
Q: How do you challenge yourself as a designer to stay current and on top of trends?
LA: First and foremost, I love it. I don’t know if I feel like it’s my obligation. It’s just fun. When the right project comes to you, you think, that’s it. To make every project so unique, so special for that particular client…I think that’s why our design process takes a while. It’s not just churning out a design in one day; it’s really looking, researching, trying to figure out what would be best for the client and then presenting them with new options and different materials.
Q: How do you overcome challenges during the design process?
LA: Every project has its own challenge, whether it’s the room itself, during the demo process or the construction process—you always kind of uncover. Inevitably, there’s always something that comes up, or with the client, where there might be a challenge. They either can’t see it or don’t want something You kind of just go through that. You have to plug away; you have to make sure you get through it. It’s about figuring out different solutions and different options for people and making sure that it works for the client.
Q: With all of your designs, has there been one that you’re proudest of?
LA: It would be the three-story client. I mean that just blew my mind away. I didn’t ever think that was possible. Every floor had its own island. The third floor was the casual clothing, shoes and accessories. The second floor was tailored clothing and had its own island with tailored shoes and tailored bags. Then the first floor would be kind of seasonal. It had a jewelry safe. It was mind-blowing because of the level of detail. It took a lot of hard work but at the end of the day, it was just beautiful.
Q: What do you feel is the most exciting and fun part of your job?
LA: It’s the people, it’s improving their lives, it’s the fashion element, and it’s the design. That combination makes it fun. Meeting the different people and seeing what they have. It’s such an intimate space, too, so getting to be involved at that intimate level with the client, you know that’s a privilege. Everybody is so unique. Everybody has their own collectables. You go into the space, and you just don’t judge, but take it all in because everybody is different, and everybody has their different value of money, and everybody collects different things. It’s just so cool to see.
Q: How would you describe your own closet’s style?
LA: It’s a modern style that’s organized with feminine touches. But my style changes and evolves because I appreciate different styles. Mine right now has suede and platinum touches and a jean bar. I love purses and shoes so those are displayed as well.
Q: What has been the best advice you’ve received as a designer?
LA: I would say not to stay in the box; always be thinking outside of it. Also, to not judge people. I think that’s really important—to really go in and be open-minded, to listen to what the clients are saying and to be able to deliver these spaces.
Q: Who would be your dream client to work with?
LA: I would say Kobe Bryant or Sarah Jessica Parker. I feel like there is this idea of Sarah Jessica Parker, and I would love to go in and see if that’s for real. But I also think she has beautiful things so I would want to be able to kind of display it and make her closet beautiful.
Q: Do you believe organization in one area, such as a closet, can make for a more organized lifestyle?
LA: Absolutely. I think it helps people. I think it makes them feel good, and it empowers them. For us, the closet is really the first place you start your day off in, and I think a lot of clients feel completely overwhelmed, underwhelmed and just stressed in their closet if it’s not done properly. But if it’s organized, if things have a place, they can set outfits the night before.
Q: Do you have any advice and tips for anyone looking to add a little more space in their closets without taking on a full renovation?
LA: I would say add lighting. There are lighted rods I sell on my website. I think adding base and crown molding always finishes a closet, so if it stops short of the ceiling, I would take it to the top because that already looks like it’s a custom closet. Pull out hooks—I love those—so that when you pack, you have these little valet hooks throughout your closet. It just makes getting dressed easier. What else? I think hangers—everyone says it, but it just makes a world of difference just to be consistent with hangers. Whatever one you want to use just make sure you’re using all of them instead of some dry cleaning hangers, or some plastic hangers. Getting consistent with that already improves the look of the closet.
Q: Where would you like to see LA Closet Design in the next five years?
LA: I love what I do now, so I think it’s just continuing to do these closets for people—and maybe pushing myself. When I started seven years ago, I wasn’t doing three-story closets. I want everybody to wake up in the morning and just feel organized and uncluttered and happy in their closet space, so I think ultimately that’s my goal.