For Thomas Lavin, the desire to become an interior designer started early. Very early, in fact, and thanks largely to his grandfather, Richard Irvine, the Academy Award-nominated art director and later Disney executive whose lavishly appointed Pacific Palisades home enchanted the young Thomas. After graduating from UCLA with a B.A. in Art History, Thomas explored the world of event planning before embarking on a career in design. Recognizing a void in the market, he opened his first furniture showroom in the spring of 2000, offering an array of new and little-known designers. The business was such a success that Thomas relocated to an 11,000-square-foot showroom at the Pacific Design Center just five years later. Most recently, the designer opened a dramatic, glass-walled showroom at the Laguna Design Center. Known for his perfectionist eye, Thomas’ pieces can often be spotted in leading design magazines like Elle Décor and Traditional Home. Last fall, he participated in the Built to Last panel at WestEdge, joining Kathryn Ireland, Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Christopher Farr and our own Russ Diamond for a discussion on developing brand identity. We had such a good time listening to his thoughts that we couldn’t wait to engage him for our Designers We Love column.
What is your design aesthetic? At home, it’s pared down and spare, with a nod to the past. Contemporary art always plays an important part in the finishing touch—art is the passementerie for the walls.
How did you get started in the business? The meanest boss in the world told me to go into interior design. I followed his advice.
Where do you derive your design inspiration? In the convergence of fashion and architecture. Think Antwerp meets Tokyo, Commes des Garçons on Omotesando, or Dries van Noten housed in Belle Époque. How many times have you gotten the answer “travel and fashion”? It is unavoidable. Architecture, fashion and design are all interconnected.
If you could reside on a Hollywood movie set from any era, what would it be and why? Anything Cedric Gibbons because how could I not? Organza curtains over blinds reside in a certain moment in time.
What do your clients like best about working with you?
Gosh, you should ask them! But if I were my client, what I'd be drawn to is my theatrical dress—let’s call it dandyism—and my exuberant and gregarious welcome. It’s always a show.
What takes a kitchen or bath from ordinary to extraordinary?
Ideas like wrapping an entire bath in tile to make it like a jewel box.
All images courtesy of the designer