Formerly a professional opera singer, Lane McNab has taken her artistic talents to the interior design world – and we are so glad she did! She creates spaces that are fresh, inviting and balanced. With her attention to detail and her dedication to making the design process easy and fun for her clients – it’s no wonder she gets rave reviews. From her career change to who influences her, as well as some invaluable design tips – we were excited for the opportunity to learn more about Lane. Check out the interview!
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got started in interior design?
I grew up in the South in Tallahassee, Florida and completed my undergrad studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee where I met my husband. We moved to San Francisco after college so I could attend the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where I graduated with advanced degrees in vocal performance after which I was lucky enough to spend several years performing leading operatic soprano roles.
During this time, in my twenties, I took several trips to Europe including summer studies at Oxford University and at the Il Globo Instituto in Italy. I also took a trip to Japan and all of this travel inspired a love of design and architecture that has never abated. Plus, living in architecturally significant American cities like San Francisco, Charleston, SC, Memphis, and now Berkeley, created a lifetime love of the relation between a home’s past and present. Right as my singing career was gaining traction my husband and I started a family and with the growing demands of three kids it all became too hard to manage. After taking time off from singing I began to focus entirely on my other passion: designing interiors.
I began by working with a contractor friend who ran a design and contracting firm and I assisted on several projects as a designer and assistant project manager which gave me an amazing hands-on education. This was after renovating several spaces of my own, digging into the process, asking a million annoying questions, but also accumulating a multitude of contacts and connections with vendors and tradespeople. Finally in 2012 I founded my own firm and now have three employees, dozens of projects under my belt, accolades, and a growing client roster. I feel so lucky that I get to have this other incredibly rewarding and fulfilling creative career and move forward doing something I truly love.
What is your design philosophy?
Honest, beautiful design. For me that means the design is grounded in the space and environment in which it exists which requires me as a designer to pay attention to context. Design is an evolution and my clients are a part of that, and the freedom in that, if done well, means authenticity is always achievable for a quality, beautiful, interior. This authenticity comes from acknowledging a home’s environment and past, understanding its present, and collaborating with the people who live there now. For instance modern furnishings can work beautifully in an historic home if the people who live there love modern and love their home. A vintage rug can look completely right in a modern home if it’s part of the homeowner’s collected life. It’s all part of an evolution, part of a story.
Lane’s Design Studio (above).
How would you describe your personal decor style?
Right now, in my own house, I’m all about beauty and practicality! I have three kids ages 6, 9 and 11 and nothing can be too precious or it won’t last long. Having said that I’m only willing to compromise so much. We have a white slipcovered sofa that gets washed a lot–especially before guests come over. A lot of our wood tones have a degree of patina and wear to to them so that spilled paint or over-zealous art projects don’t stress me out. I have white leather dining room chairs which clean up pretty easily and I use durable fabrics as much as possible but also strive for elegance and intention. It’s definitely a balancing act but also a necessary part of having kids. I think it’s important for them to feel comfortable in their own home, but also learn to respect their home and care for it.
Lane’s Design Studio (above).
Who influences your work?
I love great artisans. I have used Tania Johnson’s rugs a few times and they are absolutely works of art. I love the new furniture and lighting designs from Quintus Home and the textiles they carry too.
I always love Nate Berkus’ interiors and Ryan White and recently have been drawn to the designs from Studio McGee. But for true inspiration I look to the energy and power of seasoned female designers who I’m drawn to for even more than their actual design aesthetic. Clodagh and Kelly Hoppen both have a powerful entrepreneurial spirit and confidence that I feel deeply connected to.
Lane’s work on a commercial photography studio (above).
What are some design tips you can give our readers to help them create sanctuary in their own spaces?
It’s been said a hundred times but a fresh coat of paint can immediately transform a space. People used to say don’t be afraid of color but I say don’t be afraid of whites and neutrals. They are the perfect backdrop to layer in the colors you love through textiles, art and accessories and this will immediately feel fresh and contemporary. I have talked so many clients into a color they were sure was too white until they saw it on the walls. And when you are choosing a neutral pay very close attention to the undertones which can make or break a design.
Also, for anyone out there buying their dream home or planning a remodel, calculate the cost of furnishings and details into the budget when you first start planning how to finance it.
And if something in your home feels wrong or bugs you and you have the ability to fix it or tweak it – go for it! I feel like life’s too short and so often we all fall victim to inertia.
A bedroom from Lane’s update on a contemporary craftsman home (above).
What is one small design change that can make a big impact?
Try hanging your shades above the windows and have the side edges stop just outside your window trim. This way, if they are roman shades, when they’re open they will clear more of the window and give you more light and when they’re closed the shades cover the casings and give you a clean textural look with less visual clutter.
Also, if you are building or remodeling, consider taking your doors all the way up to 8’. Your house will feel so much more open and it will transfer light around the house so much better.
Lane’s colorful office design for a tech company (above).
What’s current or upcoming projects are you working on?
We just finished a 2.5 year project on a beautiful home here in Berkeley that was recently honored with a place on the AIA tour. We are also starting on two separate kitchen designs for clients that I can’t wait to see come together. I’m really in love with both designs and luckily the clients are too! We’re also wrapping up a long term client project on a multi-level house renovation after a fire and it’s an interesting mix of traditional and contemporary.
The living room from Lane’s update on a contemporary craftsman home (above).
What is your Modern Sanctuary? What space brings you joy, peace, and comfort? And why?
Last year my family invested in a super rustic getaway house in Northern California near Mount Shasta and although the cabin and property are both in need of a serious facelift, I couldn’t love it more. It’s so removed from everything with wildlife everywhere and has views of the mountain. It’s just what our family needed to take a break from our regular over-scheduled lives. I also look forward to working on it over the coming years to make it feel like it’s really ours. That’s definitely our sanctuary. I miss it as soon as we leave and can’t wait to start planning our next trip up.