Designer Interview: Jean Larette

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We had the fortune to sit down with our very talented interior designer at Parkmerced, Jean Larette, to get to know what influences her style, how she stays inspired and to learn more about the design process.

Were you always interested in design? 

Always. I started my career in fashion and have inherently felt the crossover from fashion to interiors. I love the balance of color, texture, pattern to create an intriguing palette.

How did you get into it? 

I was living in Malibu at the top of Las Flores Canyon. We were purchasing an array of pricey Craftsman pieces and I wanted to learn more about what we were purchasing. I enrolled in the UCLA design program to educate myself. Once our home was completed, I had a number of friends who asked me to help them with their homes. My design firm was launched in 1999.  One of the highlights of my career was when I was asked years later to teach a class at UC Berkeley in their design program. I created a class called Layers of Luxury. Many of my students have gone on to have successful careers in the design industry. I found teaching to be enormously gratifying.

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How would you describe your style? 

My personal style is modern, restrained and edited.

Has it changed over the years? Can you give any examples? 

My very favorite clients whom I have worked with for years on all of their properties, have a very traditional home in Pacific Heights in San Francisco which we furnished in a style to compliment their existing architecture, art and taste. They purchased a property in the wine country where we built a very contemporary main house, guest house and barn that can accommodate 60 guests for dinner parties. The art and furnishings in the wine country was a huge departure from their San Francisco home. It taught me that even within the same client I can create an environment that suits their particular taste within an array of styles.

What inspires you? 

I am always inspired by traveling. Marrakesh, Berlin, Copenhagen, Kyoto. Off the beaten track. I love exploring the small galleries in neighborhoods in transition. I love discovering new talent.  Emerging artists. Handmade. Unique.

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Do you ever hit road blocks? How do you overcome them? 

I was told that the best projects need to have three ingredients. Time, taste and budget. You usually only have two of the three and you have to make the best of them. When you have all three: the time to have custom pieces created, the client who trusts your taste, and the budget to purchase quality pieces you have the most successful projects.

Do you have any rules? 

I strive to please, educate and deliver. 

How has the economy affected your work? 

I would say access to the internet has affected the design trade. I believe there is great value in an interior designer's knowledge, taste and understanding of the client's needs that cannot be replicated on internet searches.

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Do clients comparison shop? What should they look for in a design partner? 

Yes. Clients are always looking for competitive pricing. I believe the best clients have an understanding of what they envision, can communicate that desire to their designer and the designer in turn can create an environment that satisfies their vision within the parameters of their budget. No matter the wealth of the client everyone wants to feel they are getting a fair price which I strive to deliver.

What is the best piece of advice you were ever given? 

Listen closely. Deliver.

What is the best piece of advice you can give? 

Trust your instincts. Explore. Add the unexpected. Mix high and low, old and new, rough and smooth.  Don't be afraid of color or, the absence of color.

Any closing thoughts? 

Continue to educate yourself. Frequent museums, galleries, libraries, bookstores, open houses, runways shows. Notice the lighting. Open the menu and appreciate the font. Patronize the small shops with emerging artists. Put down your phone and breathe it in. Great design is all around us. 

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JEAN LARETTE: Since establishing Larette Design in the San Francisco Bay Area Jean Larette has been included in the House Beautiful list of the Top Designers in America multiple times. Her project was chosen by Architectural Digest as the winner in the California Open Audition. She was chosen as a finalist in the Benjamin Moore Hue Awards.  Jean was selected to the House Beautiful list of the 25 Top Young Designers in America.

Her work has been published in House Beautiful, Elle Décor, California Home & Design, C Magazine, San Francisco Magazine, Decorating Spaces, European Home & Gardens, Paper City, 7x7 and The San Francisco Chronicle among other prestigious publications. 

Jean has spoken on the topic of design at the San Francisco Design Center, The Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, Canada College, the CCA, the San Francisco Mart, at Citi Bank Smith Barney. She was the featured speaker at  the FTSE conference, at Bernhardt Furniture and at the Michael Taylor showroom during the House Beautiful Color Institute.

After teaching a class for the UC Berkeley interior design program entitled “Layers of Luxury - Creating your own Style" she was invited to become a member of the UC Berkeley design advisory council.

Jean was the featured design and color consultant for the Pottery Barn coffee table book entitled “Home.”  Her work is included in the design books “Choosing Blue” and “The Neutral Palette.”

Jean's projects include a number of residential developments for Related properties including The Paramount in San Francisco and The Westminster in New York. Her current projects include The Parkmerced, The Cove and Serenity. Her recent residential projects include homes in Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, SOMA, Hillsborough, Napa, St. Helena, Pacific Palisades, Lake Tahoe and Jackson, Wyoming and at the Mauna Kea in Kamuela, Hawaii. 

Jean has recently launched Larette Design Floorcoverings which are hand woven in Nepal using custom wool and silk combinations with The Cocktail Collection exclusively available through the Donghia US showrooms.

You can see more or Jean’s work on her websites: www.larettedesign.com and www.larettedesigncollection.com.

Ashley Olson