Without question, Lillian Lim commands many roles: an Associate Partner at Partners Trust, philanthropist, swim/surf/snowboard mentor and, lest we forget, mother to a 10-week-old baby girl. After working as a television producer for 20 years, traveling the country, Lillian always cherished coming back to a place she could call her own, a passion that has just recently taken shape as one additional role—that of an interior designer.
Spanning from a surf-inspired baby nursery to a studio flush with custom finishes and tucked-away treats, Lillian has fused her passion for “place” with impeccable taste and motherhood. Inspired by simple, sleek and thoughtful designs, she imbued her Mar Vista home with an ambiance of modernity and comfort, transforming traditional spaces into posh environments that embrace her lifestyle and serve her family in more ways than one.
Read on and witness Lillian’s many talents, get a sneak peek into the making of these unique spaces and discover how she balances it all.
When did you develop a talent for interior design and what do you find most gratifying about the process?
My love for interior design began when I was 25 and bought my first home, a 4th floor walkup apartment in Chelsea / Manhattan. I’m dating myself, but this was before Google, Pinterest and Houzz so you had to make an effort to look through art books, magazines, and visit stores to get inspired. I was on a budget and the apartment was only 800 square-feet, so I bought a few interesting Scandinavian and mid-century knockoffs from Ikea and the Chelsea Flea Market, and to this day I’m still a minimalist.
The “after” is always gratifying, but I also love the discovery of a new furniture designer or style combination I’ve never seen before.
How would you describe your home style?
Our home is modern mixed with mid-century, plus a very small touch of “kawaii” (Japanese for cute). I do admit, I fall into that Asian stereotype of loving Hello Kitty and Totoro, but it’s subtly expressed through semi-hidden animal accents that are like little “Easter eggs” to discover around the house.
Tell us about any recent renovations you’ve made to your home.
I’m a new mom with a 10-week old baby girl and I turned one of the guest rooms into an unconventional nursery with an edgier, surf-inspired motif using black, white, and pops of magenta.
While I was pregnant, I also completely overhauled our studio and turned it into a home office with custom cabinetry by Gabe Farrar, a fantastic cabinetmaker who did Maya Lin’s NY architecture office. I love having a great workspace that gives me flexibility with the baby now, and we use it to play music and practice yoga as well.
The studio flows into a renovated patio area with a cantilevered pergola. The cantilevering added to the budget, but eliminating two extra posts that traditional pergolas have keeps the limited space open and airy.
Give us three adjectives that would best describe your daughter’s new nursery.
Fun, Rad, Surfy
What inspired the color choices?
I actually like pink but I didn’t want the room to be too “girly” or soft like a traditional nursery. Plus, honestly, I didn’t want to have to repaint in a couple years! I’m hoping we can keep the neutral black and white for a long time, and it turns out babies respond to black and white because the high contrast is what they see best in the first months. My daughter stares at all the elements around the room.
How has your recently-transformed studio shaped your life and the life of your family?
Our house is less than 1800 square-feet so the new studio has given us more living space. With California weather, we can keep the sliding doors of the living room and the studio open all day so it’s a pretty seamless extension of the house – just two steps across the deck.
*Image courtesy of Ariana Page Russell
What’s next? Is there another room in the house you have your eyes on?
Luckily we’re finished with the house for a while. I don’t want to juggle renovation and a baby again. The studio wasn’t done until three weeks after my daughter was born and that was tough managing both a newborn and a construction crew! Maybe in a year we’ll add a privacy fence to the front yard and upgrade our landscaping.
What is your favorite room in the house at this present moment?
My favorite room is the nursery because I love watching my daughter look around and react to different areas, and seeing how that evolves each week. At 6-weeks old she started cooing and baby talking to the lightning bolts above her changing table. I call them her “friends.” It’s really cute.
What are the challenges and joys of balancing two jobs at once – both as a new mother and an agent?
Time management and energy are the biggest challenges. Nursing a baby is a full time, round-the-clock job so it takes a lot of effort to get any personal or professional tasks done during the short nap windows I get in the day. I just do my best to keep communicating with my clients, even if my emails sometimes get sent later in the night. Fortunately they understand the first few months with a baby are precious and I need to be fully present for my little girl. I am loving this sweet time with her and I feel so lucky to be her mom.