When Lisa Kreiling of LTK Interiors walks into a home to remodel or redesign it, first she looks around. Then she listens. She takes in the history, architectural flow, craftsmanship and, of course, the client’s intended use of the space. It’s all part of the dance of being an interior designer — blending what the house needs with what the client wants.
But given the opportunity to redesign her own North Fork home? That’s when the real magic happens.
Kreiling, 41, grew up in Greenport, attended art school at New York University, then further trained her artistic eye working for a fashion photography studio in New York City. After relocating to Boston, she learned the ropes of the design industry at an architectural/design firm, ultimately launching her own company in 2009. Today, she focuses mainly on high-end residential work in the Boston area, but she puts as much effort into lower-budget jobs as she does into multi-million-dollar projects.
“It really pays to spend the money up front to hire a professional, even for small jobs, so you don’t end up making any costly mistakes,” she advises. “It actually saves you money.”
Despite her thriving Boston business and the fact that most Bostonians prefer to vacation on the Cape, Kreiling can’t resist the pull of her native North Fork. She continues to spend summers and weekends in Orient. “Yes, it can take four hours to get here,” she admits, conceding the unconventional commute. “But the second we hit the ferry, the vacation starts. It’s so relaxing and, as a designer, the sky and water are so inspirational.”
It was that personal pull that drew her to own a piece of land, too. Kreiling had rented summer homes in Greenport and Orient for 15 years, but when it was time to buy, selecting a certain historic house on Orient’s picturesque Village Lane was a no-brainer. “I’d had my eye on this house — an early 1800s cedar shake captain’s house — since I was a kid taking sailing classes at Orient Yacht Club.” It was also a dream, as she got to use her personal style as a designer 100%.
First, though, she had to hear what the house was telling her.
I do have an underlying aesthetic, but first I listen. What is the architecture telling me? What is the property telling me? The water? The light? I truly believe in having the house dictate how it wants to play.Lisa Kreiling, LTK Interiors
Kreiling loves an old house but is adamant that she’s not a period restoration designer, preferring the “push-pull” of something traditional with contemporary. “Like contrast colors, contrast design elements speak to each other in a nice balance, making each one shine,” she said. “Modern details add the contrast of age and provenance.”
Plus, she noted, modern families function in a different way — preferring more light, exposed kitchens and open flow so they can see their kids — so there needs to be a balance to preserve that historical narration. Vaulting the ceiling for light but retaining original exposed beams is one such strategy. Collecting eclectic items is another.
Luckily, the North Fork has an abundance of antique stores to help Kreiling source found objects. “I always joke that I would really like to be a minimalist, but I’m just not,” she said, even though she draws the line at extreme maximalism. “I prefer things pared down a bit.”
She pops into Greenport’s Beall & Bell religiously after yoga practice to buy for clients (North Fork Yoga Shala is just upstairs) but admits she always ends up buying something for herself. “I have a tendency to collect.”
The key for a decorator, she said, is making a place feel “collected and designed” without looking contrived. “You don’t want it to look like a decorator went in and created a page out of a catalog. The trick is using objects like furniture, art and funky things from different eras that are mixed in a way that’s dictated by the environment — like an overall color palette or the way the house flows.”
Kreiling advises people against doing too much too soon, especially if they’ve just moved in. “It takes time to get to know your house and see how you’re going to use the space. I’ve seen people spend a lot of money on an area of the house they end up never using. Ideally, you’d want to see what the light is like in all seasons, but designers are trained to study a property and light and figure these things out.” Indeed, lighting is key to Kreiling’s aesthetic, and if there are two words that can make or break a room, they are: light fixtures.
“I call them the jewelry of the house,” she said. “Adding a fun and quirky lighting fixture is the best quick trick to a refresh beyond a fresh coat of paint. It’s more noticeable than you think, can become a focal point and feels permanent even when it’s not.”
Seeing a home’s potential beyond how the previous owners used it is another important skill. “When we bought the place in Orient, this low-ceilinged room had been used as a second family room, but that didn’t make sense to me. No one needs two living rooms, especially when the other has a double-height ceiling with fireplace and view of the water.” She turned that family room into a dining room with a dramatic long table, then transformed the “stuffier” formal dining room into a TV room and painted it black — a bold move for a beachside home. “And you know what? It’s like a dark cave and it’s the best room in the house!”
Clearly, Kreiling isn’t afraid to take risks. And no matter how contemporary her designs, she’s adamant about preserving “the bones” of a beautiful old house. “You can open a space to make it more useful for everyday life, but when you pair old exposed beams with more contemporary furniture, you get a really nice push-pull,” she said, noting that perceived “flaws” often end up being points of interest. “We call our Orient home ‘the drunk house’ because the wide-plank floors are like waves at this point. They’re all dinged up and nothing is plumb, but everyone loves and comments on them.”
For inspiration, Kreiling is drawn to the North Fork’s trails and beaches, the way the light changes on the water and the pretty palette of rocks along the shore. She’s also inspired by the design creations and renovations of local North Fork restaurants and hotels. “Above everything, I really appreciate what they did with The Halyard. They kept it nautical without being theme- y, didn’t overdo the fixtures and it’s just so comfortable. Plus they kept that one dark room in the back. I would hope to achieve something so perfect with everything I do!”
She might get her chance. After over a decade working in the Boston area, Kreiling is toying with the idea of opening a North Fork design studio so she can live part-time in Orient and help locals and the influx of second-home owners find their design potential. “There are so many hipsters moving onto the North Fork and they bring their cool sense of style with them,” she said. And if you ever wanted to experience living in a real designer home, know that Kreil- ing plans to rent out her renovated Orient home each summer, which, at presstime, was still available for the coming season.