01.09.23

Designer Liz Caan: Perfectly Imperfect

 

Based in Newtown, Massachusetts, Liz Caan has been transforming the homes of her clients into spaces that reflect her namesake firm’s signature aesthetic of a “relaxed luxury and new traditional” style since the firm was established in 2005. While her work has been nationally recognized in highly regarded publications such as Elle Décor and The New York Times, she remains focused on bringing “engaging, charismatic and beautiful homes” to her clients along with her dedicated team. In fact, each project she works on is very much a team effort. As Liz puts it “Low in ego, high in support, we’re constantly turning to each other and asking, “How can we accomplish it all?” The response never changes: Together.”

Cape Cod Oceanfront | Photo by Tim Williams

A self-described “fearless traditional” in terms of style, Liz attributes her analog childhood filled with imagination for sparking her creative flame. “I was always making things like clothes and forts and painting and drawing. I did not live in a beautiful home or in a beautiful town and there were not the distractions of today with technology. We didn’t even have cable television! I was able to dream and explore and learn hands on. We would go and visit my aunt who lived in Chicago and she had a really colorful and modern home that was inspiring to me and made me think about how great and energized I felt in her home which made me acutely aware of how spaces could affect how you feel… something I have always paid attention to and to how I have held on to many memories.”

Cape Cod Oceanfront | Photo by Tim Williams

Her journey to becoming a designer began when she moved to Boston and was faced with a project of her own: furnishing and decorating a Georgian Colonial in a historic neighborhood that she was to move into. “I didn’t want to make expensive mistakes and I knew I had a lot to learn, so I went to work for a seasoned designer and fell in love with this industry that lets you use sales, business, problem solving and creative skills at the same time.”

Cape Cod Oceanfront | Photo by Tim Williams

Seven years later, she had begun working on her own as a designer. “I had a great client that I worked with for about 2 years renovating and expanding their historic Carriage House in Chestnut Hill. I had it photographed and it was published and then the phone started ringing so I hired an assistant and rented office space and we have been growing ever since.”

Cape Cod Oceanfront | Photo by Tim Williams

Today, she aims to create that feeling of being energized in a home for others by tapping into three “gravitational pulls.” “Well made things created by gifted artisans, meaningful details that bring out each space’s personality, and storytelling expressed through materials, as well as pattern, texture and color.”

Cape Cod Oceanfront | Photo by Tim Williams

All three of these pulls are apt descriptions for the antiques and vintage items that grace her work on a regular basis both in the homes of her clients as well as her own. “Antiques and vintage pieces play many roles… they add character, personality, provenance and soul to a home. They also bring history and patina that many new homes today desperately need to feel layered and interesting and more approachable. Personally, the antiques in my home have been acquired from family, travel and just personally finding things I love from a specific period. My favorite is a Georgian Secretary lined in moire silk that we inherited from my mother-in-law. She used to house her finest China in it. We stocked ours with barware and use it as a bar.”

Cape Cod Oceanfront | Photo by Tim Williams

The designer offers this advice to those seeking to integrate vintage into the home. “Start looking around and educate yourself. Write down the names or time periods of the pieces you are gravitating towards and learn more about the designer who created them, then you can really start to see what you like and what the value really is for pieces of that period or style and you can make some educated decisions about what you are buying and how it will play a role in your home. I also think it’s important to think about how you might integrate an older piece in your home. I always think repurposing is a great way to integrate antiques like a vintage drapers table as an island in a kitchen.”

Chestnut Hill Historic | Photo by Eric Roth

While finding the right piece or finding the right spot for piece you already have can mean doing some searching, the payoff is well worth the effort. “I am currently sitting at a desk we inherited from my husband’s grandfather who owned car dealerships in the Midwest. It is a large executive desk with simple lines and a few small details. It was a shiny dark mahogany. We had it stripped and stained a matte ebony and updated the hardware on the 2 drawers and it is a truly unique piece we enjoy and I utilize every day. It’s a timeless piece that is not overly precious and represents generations of entrepreneurs. I also love the Georgian secretary we use as a bar and my 2 salvaged steel and brass doors from the Liberty of London store that are in our kitchen.”

Wellesley Colonial | Photo by Jared Kuzia

Being open to finding that special piece is an important component to shopping for vintage and antiques, but it doesn’t hurt to have an eye out for some particular styles as well. Liz’s current favorite styles to watch for include vintage floral patterns that were created in the 40’s and 60’s, “I love re-coloring them and playing with their scale” and pieces from the William and Mary time period. “I love the enlarged turned details of the William and Mary time period.. details that really cannot and are not reproduced today. I am also inspired by the collaborative materials and styles of the Anglo-Indian and Aesthetic Movement time periods.”

Wellesley Colonial | Photo by Jared Kuzia

Another part of her work that brings her joy? Giving back. “One of my career highlights has been the ability to give back. About 2 years ago, I was part if a small group of architects and designers across the country who founded the Design Leadership Foundation. Our goal is to foster a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion within the fields of architecture and design. We have partnered with Mississippi State University and it has been so rewarding watching these students gain experiences via our professional advisory clinics, travel programs and internships. We also help supplement their educational needs so they can afford to stay in these programs. We hope to be able to partner with more schools across the country.”

A worthy goal indeed.

 

Click here to shop Liz’s TLV Favorites

5 Quick Questions with Designer Liz Caan

TLV: Who or what are some of your design influences?
LC:
1. Travel: It always inspires and influences my work.
2. Renzo Mongiardino: A famous Italian architect and designer who was a brilliant master at creating drama, illusion and splendor in his interiors.
3. Beauport: The Sleeper-McCann House by Henry Davis Sleeper in Gloucester, MA is so inspiring….it represents individualism, true collaboration between designer and architect and is chock full of fascinating collections.

TLV: Where do you look for inspiration when you feel blocked?
LC: I go back and look at the photos I have taken on trips… they always seem to spark a little fire.

TLV: What is the best piece of career advice you have received?
LC: Perfection does not exist. Sheldon Tager used to say this all the time.

TLV: What is the best piece of life advice you have received?
LC: Two quotes have always stayed with me which I find helpful in almost every life scenario.

“Comparison the thief of joy,” by Theodore Roosevelt

“Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional” by Haruki Murakami

TLV: Favorite way to unwind after a long week?
LC: A cocktail and a warm fire.

Photos Courtesy of Liz Caan | Text by Liana Hayles Newton

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