Inspirations: Interview with CoCo Design Partner Lisa Hershman

First in our Inspirations interview series, we introduce a CoCo Design Partner, Lisa Hershman of Abaca Interiors. A boutique design firm specializing in high end residential interiors, Abaca has completed four successful years in business. 

Lisa tells CoCo Gallery about what inspires her, and working with clients and artists. Her work has been featured in Domino.com, Style at Home Magazine, Redbook Magazine, and Apartment Therapy, among others. The CoCo team could not be happier to have her on board as a partner.

CoCo: What inspired you to become a designer?
Lisa: I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family that placed a high value on the arts and culture. From a young age, I’ve enjoyed spending my free time in museums and reading books about art and design. I grew up surrounded by art and artists – both my mother and grandmother are quite talented. My biggest influence, however, was my grandmother. At a time when very few women worked outside the home, my grandmother owned a successful interior design firm. Some of my happiest memories involve sorting through finish samples in the backseat of her Cadillac and visiting showrooms with her at the D and D as her “assistant” for the day.

 The Abaca office.

The Abaca office.

CoCo: Tell us about your training and experience in design.
Lisa: I’ve been taking art classes since I was a young child. And while I have taken formal classes in interior design, I find that most of my work relies on basic artistic elements. Still, I feel like I am always “in training.”  I am avid reader; I usually have 2-3 design books on my nightstand at a time. And I am constantly observing the world around me – sketching things that catch my eye, noticing the way that people interact with their environments. It’s those everyday observations, and thinking about how they fit together with what’s come before, that excite me and influence my approach to interiors more than anything else. 

CoCo: What sorts of work/projects do you take on?
Lisa: High end residential interiors. In particular, I love working with young families. I develop close relationships with my clients. There’s no greater compliment than being asked to decorate a new home, new nursery or vacation home for past clients. It is both rewarding and humbling to grow alongside my clients and accompany them on their path through life.  

CoCo: How would you describe the style of your work?
Lisa: Bespoke modern – I made that one up! But I think it captures what I generally try to achieve with my clients: In some instances, modern design can read as cold and impersonal. My goal is to combine the clean lines and natural elements of modernism with the needs and lifestyles of my clients. I find that rigid adherence to a particular philosophy is less important than creating a beautiful and functional home that people long to return to at the end of the day. 

CoCo: Tell us about one of your favorite projects.
Lisa: I would have to say that my favorite project has been designing my own for my family. It doesn’t get more personal – or fun – than that! We moved into our current home four years ago and, while our tastes and needs have changed through the years, my home continues to soothe me, excite me, and surround me with warmth each time I walk through the door.

CoCo: How important is art in your work?
Lisa: Art is extremely important in my work. It gives a space depth and meaning. Art helps us remember who we are, where we’ve been, and what we aspire to accomplish. I’ve heard art described as the jewelry for a room, but I think of it more as its soul. I always try to make sure there’s room for art in a project budget, but it’s not something you can rush. I tell clients that sometimes you just have to be content with an empty wall, knowing that one day you will find that piece that speaks to you. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to feel “right.” It can be a long wait, but it’s worth it. 

 A wall of art in Lisa's home.

A wall of art in Lisa's home.

CoCo: What do you think is the key to working successfully with an artist?
Lisa: I think the key to working successfully with an artist is to feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and hopes for a particular piece. Don’t be afraid to explain what drew you to that particular artist; what you are hoping they will capture with this piece; what you like about their work; and what parts of their work are not for you. At the same time, there has to be a respect for the artist’s intuition and process. There’s an inherent give and take; it’s a delicate balance. As a commissioner, you have to be comfortable with that. There’s also a healthy dose of “unknown,” but that’s what makes the process of commissioning a piece so exciting.