We love a project with a “make it work” mentality. Construction and layout aren’t always items that can change, and when that happens it takes a skilled designer to work magic. When Jacob Laws took on a project in a highrise condo in the historic and vibrant Central West End in St. Louis, MO, he had to work with the space as is. “I redesigned and rebuilt the space within the construction confines and restrictions of a 26 story building. I couldn't move any walls or reconfigure the space, so instead I gave a new life, new purpose. I gave it the ‘JLID business’." Indeed he did.
text by Shani Silver
photography by Suzy Gorman / Suzy Gorman Studio
how do you begin planning a project like this?
First I like to get oriented with the space. In this case it was what it was as far as the floor plan. However, I have to imagine myself and my client living in the space, using it, entertaining in it. That starts a story in my crazy creative brain. I go from there. I'm already conceptualizing a finished product that has my stamp on it but more importantly is a space that reflects my client- their personality, their style as I interpret it. It's really important that where you live and where you call home is a reflection of yourself.
what is your personal favorite part of the design process?
My favorite part of the design process is mentally deconstructing a space and reimagining it it my mind’s eye. So, the creative aspect of it. As a creative- and I think any one of us will say- that we're all dreamers. That's our purpose. Now, bringing a design to life and having someone else enjoy it and love it just makes the process that much sweeter. Aside from that finding all of the elements that make a space have substance and become more than just a "decorated room" but more of a curated space. It's the thrill of the hunt. I love a juxtaposition of old and new, traditional and modern create visual interest and contribute to creating a refined, collected aesthetic.
did your client have specific goals in mind or did they leave it all to you?
From the first time we met, the only objective she had was that it felt modern but not trend-driven, and comfortable. Not too sterile. Other than that she said (with a wink) "I've seen your work. You don't have to show me every option. I trust you." She (and her husband) are pretty wonderful.
what was the biggest challenge in this space?
The biggest challenge in this space were the structural restrictions solely based on what kind of building it was in. There are only so many things you can do structurally with already existing systems and logistics. I had a moment of feeling like my hands might be tied, then I said "screw it. I can make this work."
what is your personal favorite item/room in this space?
I love the kitchen island. Not only from a functional perspective, but because it's the link between both of the public areas. It's the design element in the space that effortlessly creates a relationship between the areas instead of separating them. In doing that it creates a relationship between whomever is in the space, too.
what is the best design advice you've ever been given?
Live with pieces you love because it will influence your quality of life- that kind of goes hand in hand with my "a space should be a reflection of who you are" philosophy. And that "Good taste is timeless. You can't fake that." That is something that I picked up from my late Uncle Phillip who was also an incredible interior designer who worked all over the world that I always looked up to. That was his thing, but I'm keeping the legacy going I suppose. The perfect gift from him.
what design advice do you consistently give others?
It's funny that some clients will say that they don't really know what their "personal style" is. Then we begin working together and it becomes this metamorphosis. You see their style actually take shape and become this tangible manifestation with any given selection or their reaction to any design element. It was there all along, it just needed some facilitating. It's like peeling an onion sometimes. I'm a believer in design, and a space should have a little sense of humor. And invest in good art. Art will make or break a room.