Designer Spotlight: Grace Lee-Lim

Photo by Natalie Park

Where are you based? Do you offer virtual design services?

Napa, CA. Majority of my clients are located elsewhere, spanning from Nor. Cal to So. Cal and some in different states, and yes, I do offer virtual design services!

Why Interior Design?

I studied fashion design at the School of the Art institute of Chicago, worked for both womens and menswear designers in NY, and moved back to Chicago to have my own line as well. Though I loved it, the process of creating and manufacturing was becoming increasingly difficult with fast fashion and production overseas, not to mention the lack of sustainability in so many ways, so I made the move to pivot careers into interior design.
I’ve always loved the transformative power of being in a well-designed space — how some places give you immediate energy, while others bring calm and promote serenity. I longed to take part in something that could create change for the daily lives of people who yearn for that same spirit in their homes but have a hard time doing so on their own.

I began my foray into interiors working at several boutique residential firms in Chicago, where I quickly learned the ropes of the technical side of the industry and all the layered details that go into designing a space. I loved collaborating with workrooms and seeing the experts in each respective field (window treatment vendors, woodworkers, upholsters etc.) brought so much incredible knowledge and insight to each project. There's no way that a designer can do or know everything on their own! Learning to depend on the expertise of the workrooms to make a client's project come to life was something I thoroughly enjoyed.

Portrait by Rachel Loewen

How would you define your design style?

A mix of the balanced Korean sensibility with an American energy. I love incorporating my Korean heritage as often as I can, be it in a vintage painting or color palette.

Where or who do you draw inspiration from ?

I draw so much inspiration from my Korean culture and heritage, as well as a myriad of other Asian countries and their influences. I feel that Asian cultures in general aren't highlighted enough in American design, and want to highlight the beauty and essence of it so that it becomes normalized.

Photo by Rachel Loewen

What is something you see your clients struggle with most when it comes to designing their homes?

Pulling together an overall feel that is cohesive and balanced. Many times clients send me images of single pieces of furniture that look great on their own, but once they’re pulled together in a room it feels very piecemealed and disproportional. Another challenge is when clients are against certain colors or materials but the space needs that accent to complete it. So much of what we do is helping our clients visualize something they never would have thought could work together in a harmonious way.

How do you tackle Window Treatments and what are some tips that have helped you figure out the perfect Window Treatments for your projects?

I think first and foremost about the practicality of the treatments and the space. I love drapes and want them almost everywhere, but If the client needs more privacy and doesn’t want to have to close their drapes all the time we have to think about what other options can suit their lifestyle and daily needs. Figuring out the real usage and needs of the clients upfront has been really helpful. I also love looking to the work of companies - such as Everhem - for inspiration and ideas, as it can be so hard to visualize the perfect treatment or custom trim for a space until you see it done in a breathtaking way elsewhere.

What are your favorite colors/fabrics Everhem offers? What room in a home would you style them in and why?

I love a beautiful, Cloud white linen blend (guilty as charged) -- the functional-seeking part of me loves that the luxe material has a little more forgiveness for projects where the clients want a bit of the relaxed look without all of the easily wrinkling that comes with 100% linen. I also have really been into woven wood shades as well, and I'm itching to use the Onyx colorway in a room with a little more masculinity! I'm constantly trying to blend both the masculine and feminine in spaces I design, and the Onyx woven woods would be the perfect touch to softly add that edge to a space.

What is something you’re looking forward to in the next year both personally and professionally?

I’m ready to be more client-facing this year! I’ve been so fortunate to have so many remote/virtual clients, but it's definitely been really challenging not to be on site as frequently and not feeling safe traveling to different locations or meeting with vendors and clients.
I also eagerly look forward to returning to our favorite wineries and restaurants in Napa when it’s much safer to be out and about -- our town's economy is driven on tourism and it's been so heartbreaking to see all the small businesses suffer incredibly due to the pandemic.

Check out more of Grace's work HERE!

Drawing by Grace Lee-Lim