by Lisa Stewart of Lisa Stewart Design, local Raleigh-based interior designer 

My signature style tends to include a feeling of luxury, a blend of elegant finishes that look high end (even when they’re not) and a sophisticated mix of furnishings that reveal a unique personal look. In new construction, I love to fulfill homeowners’ dreams while working within the practicalities of what builders can and can’t do. Building a new home is exciting, but it can be overwhelming – so many details!

Working with an experienced designer, teamed with your builder, can help control costs while upgrading creativity so you end up with a distinctive home that flows beautifully throughout. Here are some reasons why you’d want to hire a professional interior designer, and things to consider when designing a new home.

interior designer

photo by Cat Wilbourne

5 ways a designer can help

1. Couples don’t always agree. Designers can reconcile conflicting styles and make unlike things work together in surprising ways. This featured home has a grand, palatial European exterior cocooning a modern glam interior that seems to have wings. I collaborated successfully with the couple and builder Kevin Mangum of Mangum Design Build to make it work.

2. Designers keep up with the latest trends and techniques in building construction. We come up with beautiful creative ideas and solutions that you would never think about. Builders appreciate what we bring to the table.

3. Interior designers know when to splurge and how to save without sacrificing style. Allowances can be blown easily, so designers can oversee selections of cabinetry, lighting and other items to help keep you on track. I revised the budget in countless ways to help free up money for investing in worthwhile custom features.

4. Designers know the best sources. Most designers have access to unusual items not available to the public. To warm up the entry and living room areas of the project shown, we ordered beautiful, hand-knotted rugs. They’re due to arrive any day now.

5. Designers use common sense. There are so many gorgeous things out there. You can become emotional when trying make multiple important decisions at one time. “I love this. And I love that!” Feeling overwhelmed, the temptation is to admit defeat and let the builder or sales staff choose. Really? Designers are in the best position to help you make decisions that are practical and that beautifully contribute to the overall design vision.

Lisa’s Must-Haves in New Construction

interior designer

photo by Cat Wilbourne

Build stunning decorative ceiling trims. Use 1-inch-by-6-inch lumber. It’s a great money-saving alternative to coffered ceilings.

Skip the heavy, expensive built-in cabinetry flanking the fireplace. We lightened up those nooks with a one-of-kind art installation, matching furniture and gorgeous sconces.

Continue the kitchen countertop material right up the wall. This visually enlarges the space. Hide unsightly outlets and switches by using products that install under the upper cabinets. Order extra-light rail molding for the cabinetry to hide it nicely. Consider adding USB ports and device holders to handle your phones, tablets and other devices. See kitchen photo.

Make room for artwork. Nothing personalizes your home like your art collection. It can be anything from creations by children and family members to commissioned pieces. In this project, three local artists followed my design direction, and their work was better than I ever imagined. On the fireplace walls, you see Peggy Lee

interior designer

photo by Cat Wilbourne

Mead’s artwork and Ginger Dorr’s custom florals. Dan Campbell’s tryptic in the breakfast nook daily reminds the homeowners of their beach trips.

Find furniture that suits your family. The Triangle is filled with wonderful furniture stores to suit every price point. The comfy mink- and sand-colored living room furnishings are from Arhaus, and the modern dining table is from Z Gallerie. Both have local stores that make it easy to sit, feel fabrics and take advantage of sales.

Remember lighting. It can make or break a space. That’s why I always use a lighting expert to help create a lighting plan. Together we design lighting features for you to live comfortably in the home. Light stairways for safety. Place outlets in the floor for lamps on tables in the middle of the room. Put dimmers on everything for relaxing evening entertaining. Consider adding above-cabinet lighting to supplement standard under-cabinet lighting. Add toe-kick lighting in kitchens and baths for perfect night lights. Use beautiful chandeliers, sconces, lamps and more to finish the space off with personality.

The Bottom Line

Hiring an interior designer can give you that divine dwelling you’ve dreamed of and more value for your money. And there’s no need to stress about cost: Consulting fees are typically 1 to 1.5 percent of the total project cost. By engaging an interior designer before construction starts, as my client did in this project, you will benefit by gaining a more interesting design and by using your dollars wisely


interior designer

photo by Cat Wilbourne

interior designer

Lisa Stewart, Owner of Lisa Stewart Design







Contact Lisa Stewart Design at 919-275-2212,

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