Tuning into your inner self is not easy in our world of constant connectivity, but for Lisa Kahn, work begins only after her mind, body and spirit are nurtured. That’s why she is careful to protect a way of life that has helped her become the go-to interior designer for sanctuary spaces. Her Naples, Fla.-based design firm, Lisa Kahn Designs, specializes in residential design that channels peace and restfulness of spirit, which is evident in the soft blues and gentle curves that thread a consistent aesthetic throughout their projects.
When you work with Lisa Kahn Designs, you work with a team that subscribes to an ethos of bringing kindness, laughter, and gratitude to its work and to the world at large. That’s why we were so excited to sit down with Lisa for our latest addition to Design Manager’s Creative Conversations series, as she showed us how spirituality guides her creative process from beginning to end.
A Routine That Starts with the Body-Mind Connection
Many professionals, designers included, start their days lured to the siren songs of their cell phone. Calls, emails, and social media notifications accumulate through the night, creating a pile of distractions that can quickly shape the direction of the day, despite one’s initial best intentions.
Not for Lisa, who has developed a system for protecting her mind space that allows her to maintain control of her time:
“I start my day with a routine that I developed specifically to help me meet the challenges of my days. I walk my sweet, Springer spaniels around the lake behind my house, catching the sunrise whenever I can. We all love the exercise, and I find the gentleness of morning out in the natural world to be particularly inspiring.”
Once she returns home, her work day begins in a decidedly non-digital way: Instead of turning to her phone, Lisa meditates, then settles down with a cup of her favorite coffee, lit candles, and soft music to hand write several pages in her journal.
“I don’t turn on my phone until I’m ready to jump in the shower. I find this careful structure to my morning fosters balance and equilibrium. It helps me achieve a harmony that fosters the kind of resilience I need to run a busy, thriving design firm and to meet my many commitments. I carefully guard my time and my headspace early in the morning.”
Structuring Her Schedule to Meet Her Needs
Lisa and her team of six work closely together to bring the highest level of quality to their clients’ projects. By only taking on a few large projects at a time, they are able to focus their energy on executing every task to their best ability.
Having structure is essential to protecting Lisa’s philosophy, and she follows a strict system to help her maintain order.
“The one time I don’t take any meetings is on Monday mornings. I work from home that morning to organize my week and my calendar and keep my productivity system weeded, watered and pruned. I am in love with [author] David Allen’s system of “Getting Things Done.” Monday morning is my time for my own weekly project review. What comes out of that precious time is the workload that trickles down to my team and this is how they know what is a priority.”
Because an interior designer’s schedule is dependent on the external factors of her clients and their projects, Lisa keeps other parts of her week flexible for site visits and meetings with vendors. While she is always in close contact with her team, they also have a weekly project review together, where they share the progress of the various parts of each project and review the current work in progress. Then they create weekly client email updates so that everyone can be on the same page.
A core tenant of Lisa Kahn Designs is designing peace into the outer environment to inspire peace within ourselves. Lisa explains,
“I infuse all of my spaces with the highest vibration energy that I possibly can. My spaces cradle my mind, my body and my spirit. This keeps me feeling calm and gets me back to a place of relaxation and organization within myself. I activate my spaces (and my ability to feel good) by keeping things around me neat and tidy. I also use tools like crystals, candles, and soft music”.
Instead of quickly moving from one thing to the next during her days, Lisa allows herself the time to absorb her prior experience and let it find its place in her memory, where it can inform her future actions.
“I pause — stopping for a few minutes between conversations, phone calls and meetings. I sit on the floor and pet my dogs. I immerse myself in the natural world.”
Traveling is another way Lisa lets inspiration take hold of her. She says, “I appreciate the shift in perspective that comes from changing the scenery and seeking sanctuary in other parts of the world. I also love the mountains. I always feel at home when I’m there.” France is one of her favorite international destinations, where she has been many times. She has also had transformative experiences in Ireland, South Africa, Germany, and much of the Caribbean.
How Challenges Drive Her Success
Lisa is immensely grateful to the people in her life who support and inspire her. Yet, her personal struggles have created her most meaningful times of growth. She says,
“There are many things that make me successful — my team for sure, my supportive husband, my inspiring, entrepreneurial father, my strong work ethic. But honestly it has been such a fascinating journey finding my true self amidst the tangents and more challenging experiences along my path. It’s been the darkest days and the most painful points of struggle that have brought me to the most transcendent moments and the biggest expressions of success. I also love learning and I think that keeping an open, curious mind has contributed enormously to my whole life experience.”
Lisa believes in breathing in resilience and breathing out creativity. Her approach of protecting her inner voice is a valuable example for interior designers trying to maintain their individuality while appeasing not only their colleagues and clients, but their social media audiences, too. Lisa knows that what makes her successful as an interior designer is her spirit within, and nurturing her wellbeing is the best thing she can do for herself professionally. She leaves us with one of her favorite quotes:
“I have found that Julia Cameron was correct in The Artist’s Way when she wrote that, ‘Treating myself like a precious object makes me strong.’”