2021 is predicted to be quite a fashionable year. And that includes the kind that gleams with fabulousness from an in-home photograph.
“The residential industry is exploding. We’ve never had as many inquiries pouring in as we’ve had this past year,” says Lori Paranjape, a celebrated interior designer and Instagram sensation who organically grew a modest, solo venture into a four-person team that now champions multi-million dollar new construction and renovation projects all over North America.
But Paranjape’s life hasn’t always summoned her to lavish quarters. A Cincinnati native who later relocated to Memphis, she was once a successful TV news reporter before leaving the workforce for motherhood.
“When I was home taking care of my family and being a full-time mom, my husband and I spent a lot of time dreaming and talking about what my second career might be and look like. I was ambitious and felt there was something else out there for me,” says Paranjape.
After her second child was out of diapers, that vision slowly clicked into focus. Home design, while a distant realm from her original career, piqued her interest. And she realized she could call upon her communication skills to burrow into the hearts and minds of her prospective clients. She could help them discover how they wanted their living spaces to feel, and inspire and serve them day-to-day.
In 2009, not long after enrolling her youngest child, her son, into kindergarten, Paranjape vowed to learn everything she could about her new industry. “I started out taking any job I could get. I’d charge $35 to pick out paint colors for people,” she says.
Shortly after, when the family of four departed Memphis for the Nashville area, she poured all of her creative resources into her fledgling dream. Though, at first, it wasn’t exactly the picture of prestige.
Paranjape would learn a discomforting yet non-negotiable lesson–one that all of the greats have learned since the dawn of time: In order to become an expert in your venue, you have to be willing to be a beginner. Which means you have to be willing to embarrass yourself on occasion, and do things that you must later apologize for, and fumble despite having the best of intentions.
She admits to having traveled through a roster of highs and lows, especially early on. There were stretches of downtime with no calls or emails coming in. Setbacks and learning curves that felt like catastrophes in the moment. Jobs that almost were but never materialized. Communication breakdowns that blew up in her face.
“During those days, it wasn’t terribly unusual for me to get a frustrated text from a client on a Friday afternoon, worried that we’d gone over budget. Then I’d be upset all weekend,” says Paranjape. “But I forced myself to listen, address the issues and sharpen my process in order to grow.”
She continued honing her eye for design, more deeply understanding how to work with the
lighting in a given space, add the right amount of texture or tone and create an atmosphere that influenced mood in a desirable way. She continued making homes beautiful, enticing and livable, dousing them with her magical flair, all the while fine-tuning her business model. Eventually, small jobs turned into extravagant jobs.
“The success is in sorting through the failures. You continue to fail in the things you don’t address,” says Paranjape. “While not all of my early projects were failures, when they were, I used those experiences as my training ground to build the successful, scalable, living, breathing practice that I have today–one that’s built on ease, grace and transparency.”
While further streamlining her business model and building a catalogue of elated clients, Paranjape took to Instagram, filling her grid with gorgeous photographs of her sumptuous handiwork: A powdery pink closet. A sleek, sun-soaked bathroom. A crisp, white kitchen with elegant chandeliers. A dark and swanky wet bar so visually commanding, you can almost smell the whiskey.
Soon, all of Instagram was swooning. Potential customers began landing in comments and direct messages at a head-turning rate. The growth was so explosive, she realized she needed to assemble a team. And, to her amazement, she’d soon be featured in prestigious media sources like Architectural Digest, House Beautiful and Elle Decor, and her expertise would be requested across distant landscapes and borders–from the Hudson Valley in New York to Mexico.
Paranjape’s career, though a slow progression at first, has become an extraordinary undertaking
that’s only amplified in sophistication. She’s partnered with Redo Home + Design, a posh furnishings boutique on Sidco Drive in Nashville, and built a rolodex of high-profile clients, including Bachelorette stars JoJo Fletcher and Jordan Rodgers, country music royalty and numerous A-list athletes.
“Instagram is the piece of my business that’s been most integral to our widespread success,” says Paranjape. “I share anecdotes and tidbits of my life. I share the ugly parts and the beautiful parts, because I genuinely want people to feel connected to us and to our work. For me, that’s the heart of it all.”
Along the way, she’s done some commercial projects as well, including e.Allen Boutique in The Gulch, Skin Pharm locations in Nashville, Atlanta and a pending location in Dallas, and various other projects. Still, the majority of her work remains residential, which she says is her true love.
Last year, a successful young couple in Boston commissioned Paranjape and her team to champion a gut renovation and addition project on their historic 1920’s three-story brick home. It would take an entire year to complete, and she considers it one of her most beloved to date.
“We pushed the boundaries of design, even curating a fresh art collection for them. When the job was done, we lit candles, turned on music, poured the champagne and met them at the door, welcoming them inside. Getting texts from them in the following week was so gratifying, especially when they asked, ‘How did you know? I can’t believe this is ours,’” she says.
But, despite having become an empress of home design, Paranjape swears it’ll never be about anything but the people. The celebrations of their milestones and the precious moments in between–from the mother waking up in the middle of the night to nurse her baby comfortably in a cradling, serene space to the couple relaxing in their breakfast nook, sipping coffee and soaking up the early morning light. It’s a responsibility she doesn’t take lightly, because she understands that her work serves as a backdrop to their lives and is woven through the tapestry of their unique stories.
“I always fall in love with my clients. Their projects become like children to me,” she says. “When my clients are happy, it’s the ultimate satisfaction. Mostly, it’s special to think that I’m able to continue the relationships I’ve built with them in their day-to-day lives, specifically through my designs.”