Lisa Buyuk: From Drab to Fab!

When it comes to a full-room makeover look no further than Lisa Buyuk, who uses intelligent design to turn your spaces from sad and drab to fab!

Thanks for joining us, Lisa! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.

I graduated from college with a Bachelors Degree in Art History and French Language and Literature.  I knew that I didn’t want to go the traditional route and get a job in a museum or auction house.  I prefer working with objects the way that a sculptor or painter works with their medium.  Being in such institutionalized environments felt stifling to me. Understanding this, I worked for a time selling French and English antiques and contemporary art at two prominent galleries in Boston.  I finally got my big break when a gallery owner refereed me to work for an established design firm.  From there I spent several years working for two of Boston’s top interior design firms.  As a result, I was exposed to some incredible design projects.  Those years were a lot of fun…  Of course there is a big difference between working for a designer and having your own firm, so I invested the time in my education, obtaining my Master’s Degree in Interior Design and completing the NCIDQ exam.  At the end of the day Interior Design is a profession.  My early work experience with licensed design professionals and my credentials are the foundation for my success as an Interior Designer.

What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist, or is it a meet and greet to feel out their personality?

When I first meet with a client in their space there is generally a lot to absorb.  Communication is paramount.  For this reason I look to see if their words and descriptions are matching what they are showing me.  Understanding how a client communicates is the key to meeting expectations.  Once you understand how they use their words the design that follows is effortless.

Working as a designer is committing to a career filled with difficult challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Clients or space? Do you have a method to work through those problems?

There are always going to be problems – clients or spaces.  Luckily I consider myself to be a problem solver and I find inspiration in challenges.  With any problem it is important to establish what is not working and why.  For a room the problem can be spatial disorganization.  For a client the problem might be difficulty visualizing change.  Having a clear understanding of the problem allows you to implement the right tools for a solution.

Design shows are very popular on television right now. How have they influenced your business? In what ways do your clients now interact with you that they might not have before the popularity of the shows?

I think that design shows have excited the public and made design more accessible.  Of course, as with anything “Hollywood” there is often a suspension of reality and a distortion of the actual amount of time that it takes to achieve results.  Because of this some clients operate under the impression that once a decision is made the design should be complete a week later.  They forget that things take time and coordination.  These shows have massive production teams that operate behind the scenes to coordinate everything.  Educating the homeowner about all that is involved from design concept the completion and the value of the interior design professional’s role is paramount.

From the outside it seems like New England focuses on incorporating it’s rich history into many designs! Is that something many clients want? Describe if/how you might incorporate a sense of history into your designs.

Design in New England can be a challenge.  Our nation’s history began here and in some ways we are the heart of the proverbial “melting pot”.  More than anything I think that clients want their homes to be personal.  As a designer, this means that I have a responsibility to use objects, colors and textiles that speak to the personalities and heritage of my clients.  Because New England is culturally diverse and rich in history I get to pull my resources from a bigger “toy box.”  Design could not be more fun!

Do you have a design project you are most proud to have completed? What did it look like before? After?

In the preceding question you asked about the rich history of New England.  For this reason I think that this project is a wonderful example of the challenges that a designer can face and the power of the creative eye.  It is also a great segue way into your next question about rugs…

A young homeowner purchased a condominium in a new construction urban high rise.  She had some existing traditional oak furniture pieces that had tremendous sentimental value and family history and despite another designer’s council, she refused to toss them for more modern items.  The challenge was to honor the client’s feelings and integrate the traditional pieces in a modern built environment.


Before: Drab and sad

Before 1   Before 2











After: Cool and Serene

After 1










The problem was how to make something old, new again.  With a little imagination, some stain, new upholstery and a nod to modern living the transformation was miraculous.  A cool color palette plays off of the richness of the newly stained pieces.  Tailored window treatments and the use of the hide rug keep this room from feeling heavy and dated.  The client was so happy with the transformation of this room that we moved on to other areas of her home.

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your designs? Are there designs where you’re more likely to use a rug? Less?

Rugs are wonderful.  They can be wonderful tools for spatial organization.  In the example above I selected a hide rug.  Had I chosen a traditional rectangular rug in a wool or silk it would have weighed the room down.  The client’s existing furniture was heavy and rich in detail.  I needed to find a way to provide some warmth underfoot without weighing the room down.  The organic shape of the hide was the perfect solution.

Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable?

I think that you have to have an understanding of the use of the room when specifying rugs.  A custom woven silk rug might be durable (silk is the strongest natural fiber), but it is not appropriate for a high traffic walk off matt in a mud room.  For this application I might suggest a modern vinyl weave (like Bolon) or perhaps a natural coco fiber matt…  Context is everything.  Once you know the context, application of the material is easy.

We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price?

I recently faced this problem when designing a bachelor pad for a young finance professional.  He has a great apartment overlooking Boston Common in Beacon Hill.  Because his background is in finance, every decision was weighed for profitability over long term use.  In this scenario, the apartment was going to be flipped for a better investment in 5 years.  The challenge was to furnish it with meaningful pieces that would grow as my client grew.  Unfortunately, for our budget this meant that the woven leather and horsehair rug that I wanted to specify for his living area was cost prohibitive.  The compromise resulted in re-using his traditional 5×7 Oriental and layering it over less expensive carpet tiles to give the warmth and coverage that we needed.  The look is cool and modern and in budget!

Thanks for your time today! Any more hints for our readers!

For personalized solutions to you your design problems contact me at!


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