Rachel Cannon Lewis: From the Perfect Storm to the Perfect Circle
One week in July of 2009 proved to be the perfect storm for LSU interior design alumna Rachel Cannon Lewis. The waves of the 2008 economic downturn led to a devastating Monday for Lewis, when the firm where she’d worked for five years had to downsize and let her go. It just so happened that Lewis and her husband were closing on their first home on Friday of the same week. At that time, life was not looking ideal for Lewis, but little did she know, things were unfolding just as they were supposed to.
Lewis has that rare gift—the gift of knowing what you are meant to do in life the minute you encounter it. For Lewis, her encounter happened as a third-year graphic design major at LSU. She was sitting in a history of interior design class and knew within the first week that interior design was the perfect fit for her. “That is when I changed my major,” Lewis said. The change pushed back Lewis’s graduation date by three years. “I think that just shows how convicted and compelled I was,” Lewis recalled. Her father, also an LSU alumnus, shared his wisdom with her: “It’s not a race.” With her parents’ support, she made the switch and never looked back.
After graduating from the interior design program in 2004, Lewis worked at a local commercial design firm in Baton Rouge. While there, she obtained her NCIDQ license and Louisiana Registered Interior Designer status, she also became the lead project designer for the firm until she was laid off that fateful week five years later. When she began her own business in 2009, she focused on the kind of design and experience she would offer to her clients. Her firm, Rachel Cannon Lewis Interiors, is focused on creating full-service, luxury design for a clientele of professionals with demanding schedules. “We like to focus on the little details as well as the big picture for our clients. While we offer services that address the entire home, it is the experience that we give our clients that sets us apart,” said Lewis. “We love surprising them with things that delight and intrigue them. They’re busy running businesses, raising families, and traveling, so we do all we can to simplify the process of designing and furnishing an entire home on a custom level so that all they have to do is open the door and enjoy it,” she added.
As the owner of her own firm, Lewis began to hone in on her own branding and aesthetic as a designer. “My design aesthetic is rooted in my love of art history,” Lewis continued. “What I do best is bridge the gap between the old and the new, working with inherited artwork, heirloom antiques, and sentimental items, and pairing them with furnishings that work for today’s lifestyles. The look is really a mix of traditional and modern.”
Once Rachel Cannon Lewis Interiors was off the ground, a number of other opportunities started to come Lewis’s way. As a frequent reader of House & Home, Lewis was interested in pitching a few ideas to the magazine. “I proposed a piece that would be called Postcards from the World of Design,” Lewis said. The purpose of the series is for readers to see what designers are doing around the world. She thought it would add diversity as well as a fresh perspective to the magazine. Needless to say, the publisher loved the idea and asked Lewis to not only write the piece but to join the magazine as a contributing editor. (Read more at houseandhomemagazine.net.)
“The funny thing about the magazine coming along is that I always said in high school that I wanted to be a journalist,” she said. “I was the editor of my yearbook, and I always had an interest in writing.” The position as editor at House & Home led to a regular segment on Talk 107.3 FM’s Saturday Style with Karen Profita, where Lewis brings in expert guests for design discussions the first Saturday of each month. Lewis’s exploration into journalism did not stop there. She received a phone call one Friday from the station manager at WBRZ, who approached her to pitch several ideas for a design segment. This led to Lewis becoming the program’s resident design expert. (View past segments here.) “In a way radio prepared me for television, but it was still very different,” Lewis said. “I love interacting with the callers on the radio show and answering their questions, but I am able to explain design more effectively on television because I am able to demonstrate ideas through visual media.”
One of Lewis’s residential projects was featured on HGTV’s website. (View the HGTV project here.) Lewis believes what made the work notable was her use of color. The area featured was a living room that consisted of a mostly neutral color palette with strategically placed accents of color. “I’m not afraid of color, but I also know when to dial it back,” Lewis said. “My clients want rooms and homes that are tailored, sophisticated, and timeless.” Lewis credits the LSU School of Interior Design for giving her the knowledge to create and implement the plan to provide the best service to her clients. “The process of design is consistent, whether you are working on a commercial project or a residential one. That linear path from programming, schematic design, design development, and more, is very much present in everything I do in my work for clients.
“Looking back on my time at LSU, I am thankful that it was not solely a technical focus,” Lewis continued. “As interior design students, we were required to take art history classes to give us a broader view of the past, and I appreciate that so much more now.” To this day, Lewis has not sold back any of her text books that she bought while studying interior design. “I use them frequently as reference books,” she said.
When asked about her best memory while at LSU, Lewis said it was her personal epiphany. “That moment when I figured out what I was supposed to be doing with my life,” she explained. “Also, the lifelong friends that I made while in the program.” Lewis still keeps in touch with many of the students in her class, and they embrace the relatively small design community within Baton Rouge.
“I was 100 percent prepared by the interior design program to get a real job, but I never dreamed I would own my own business by the time I was 30. It was always a long-term goal, but the economic downturn made it a reality a lot sooner than I thought,” Lewis said. Doing the work to identify the clients with whom she is meant to work, defining her aesthetic, and going a step further to offer a luxury experience to her clients has all unfolded it should.
“There is no other profession like interior design; you can interact with people and impact how they live their lives,” Lewis said. “Having an interest in people is an essential part of what designers do. I have really big goals for my company, and I’m excited for what the future holds.”
Lewis is grateful for everything she has experienced thus far, and it all goes back to that moment in her third year at LSU in that history of interior design class. “I have never told the full story out loud before; it’s making me realize luck truly is the meeting of preparation and opportunity,” she said. Without a doubt things have come full circle for Lewis, but there are hints that another circle is about to start.
Visit rachelcannonlewis.com for more information about Rachel Cannon Lewis Interiors.