Tapping intuition can be a thorny inner journey. But once the connection is made, it is worth its weight in gold. Edward Lobrano, the celebrated interior designer and former senior designer for Bunny Williams, was a successful business executive for many years – including a stint as a vice president of a leading brokerage firm at the age of 28 – when he suddenly jumped ship in his early 40s and followed his inner voice to a career creating artful rooms.
Today, Lobrano’s stellar 25-year career is evidenced by a long list of private clients, both in the United States and abroad. “In interior design, I think you either get it, or you don’t. I get it,” he says with understated aplomb.
Lobrano designs are impeccably timeless. “I think a house done 10 years ago should look like it was done yesterday,” remarks the New York City-based designer, a member of the Design Leadership Network, a community of interior designers, architects, landscape designers and construction managers who are among the highest- producing professionals in their industries.
He elaborates with his pink sport coat story: “You wear the coat to the first cocktail party, and everybody says, ‘Wow, that’s terrific.’ The second time, they say, ‘There’s that sport coat; we love that sport coat.’ By the third time, they say, ‘Oh no, here he comes again in that pink sport coat!’ ” Lobrano laughs. “A great room should get better with age, not tiresome with age.”
Timeless design, he insists, doesn’t have to equate with money. “There are great things in inexpensive product lines,” he says, noting that he has shopped in Restoration Hardware and purchased beds from Pottery Barn and repainted them. “It’s about choosing the right things from those lines that have a certain level and look of quality.”
Whatever the client’s budget, a meeting of the minds can make all the difference. One of Lobrano’s recent projects, a plantation-style house in Nassau in the Bahamas for a couple with a small daughter, is a perfect example.
“We communicated well,” Lobrano says of his clients, who are originally from Toronto. “That’s how you do great design, with clients who are willing to take a chance and spend the time to talk with you. That’s the key.”
While the house is on the ocean, the couple didn’t want a traditional beach house. This home is their main residence, so, as Lobrano says, “it needed to be casual but still dressed up, serious but not overly formal.”
The clients, though, had their own ideas about tone. “He’s very traditional, she is much more edgy and part of my job is to make everyone happy,” says Lobrano, who loves pushing boundaries to find a happy middle point. “I’m always looking for a challenge. That’s what makes this business fun.”
By marrying tradition with artful details, Lobrano has created a masterful work in the Nassau house. Every room in the two-story, 19,000-square-foot residence, designed by the late James Carmo of the Palm Beach, Fla., firm of Bridges, Marsh & Associates, is an experience of quiet fascination.
With soaring 22-foot ceilings, French plaster wall finishes, creamy colors and classic touches such as coquina stone door surrounds, this is a space to sink into. Amid the tranquility of the living room, raw silk drapes in soft aqua add a shot of color. Unexpected pieces – a large custom-made shell mirror, an 18th- century Italian chandelier and a cream-colored, brown-flecked rug by Stark – draw the eye.
In similar fashion, the entry hall is decorated with imposing – and somewhat offbeat pieces – including an antique Karabagh Caucasian rug, sourced from New York City’s renowned Beauvais Carpets, and a gilded bronze chandelier by the artist-designer Herve? Van der Straeten.
“I love quirkiness,” Lobrano says. “Rooms should be a little quirky and layered. They have to be interesting, not static.”
Lobrano’s nontraditional approach fits with his core beliefs; after all, it takes a brave spirit to walk away from a thriving career. When Lobrano left the business world, he was enjoying success as the vice president of a real estate syndication company.
“I was very good at it, and I liked it,” he says. “But I wasn’t passionate about it. I love furniture and I love antiques. I came home from work and didn’t read real estate magazines; I read home magazines.”
He credits the late Antony Childs – the acclaimed neoclassicist interior designer who lived in Washington, D.C., and Lobrano’s friend – with leading him towards a career in design.
Childs surely must have appreciated Lobrano’s eagerness to embrace a new path to creativity. As Lobrano sums up his own view of life: “Learn everything you can, and see as much as you can see.” edwardlobrano.com
Image Credits: Photo courtesy of Edward Lobrano.