For almost two decades, Elizabeth Lowrey Clapp has helped Elkus/Manfredi grow
Melissa A. Salce -- Interior Design, 7/1/2007 12:00:00 AM
Interior designer Elizabeth Lowrey Clapp says she "got the bug early." Perhaps that's because her artist parents—one trained as an architect, the other as an industrial designer—were constantly redecorating her childhood home in Athens, Georgia. Regardless, after earning her BA in interior architecture from Alabama's Auburn University, she relocated to Boston in 1983, eventually landing as a designer at Elkus/Manfredi Architects.
She became director of interior architecture in 1996 and a principal in 2002. In her current role, she's responsible for overseeing the planning and design of the firm's major interiors work, including Boston's largest historic-preservation project.
What first drew you to your chosen profession?
Growing up with two parents who were practicing artists, we traveled a lot, and I was exposed to a lot. We spent quite a bit of time in museums.
What aspects of interior design do you value most?
Learning all you can about someone else's industry, about specific clients and their goals. I realized early that interior design is a service that involves listening, interpreting, and reaffirming as well as producing.
How has the practice changed in 18 years?
It's much more respected as a serious profession. Education and the industry are more in line, and architecture firms integrate interiors throughout the design process.
Do you have any comment on the licensing issue?
Oh, I totally support it. Our firm as a whole supports it. We all need to be responsible for professional services.
Have you focused on corporate and retail?
Our work with corporate identity and branding is the overarching connection. Also, all our work is experiential, meaning we develop an attitude about a space and how people feel in it. That transcends all project types, whether it's a corporate interior, store, residential lobby, or laboratory.
Tell us more about the historic-preservation project.
It's the renovation and adaptive reuse of two buildings—the 1912 Daniel Burnham Building and the 1905 Jones, McDuffee & Stratton Co. Building—plus new construction. The adjacent, integrated high-rise will house 150 condominiums, offices, and a hotel. Together, everything will be known as 1 Franklin Street.
The hotel is part of your firm's move into hospitality?
It's been a natural transition from our work with branding and identity and many related projects in retail, sports clubs, and residential. After developing our knowledge in designing the Peninsula Chicago and InterContinental Boston, which both integrated our architectural and interiors disciplines, we're looking at prototypes for five-star, extended-stay, and cruise-ship settings. Our goal is to move into the entire space and "complete the story," both inside and outside.
How does hospitality work differ from offices?
Hospitality is all about service and experience. Even sleeping is an element of the guests' experience. And then there's memory. What memory are you creating?
The design also has to speak to a wider audience. With hospitality, there are business travelers, vacationers, singles, families. With corporate interiors, you've got a better idea of who will be using the space.
Your bio lists several restaurants.
Yes, I've worked on a fair share—some of which, like Via Matta in Boston and the Rock Center Café in New York, have become real destinations. Each needs to have a defined personality, especially when there's a celebrity chef.
Any other jobs you're really excited about?
We've recently been doing a large number of property-improvement plans for TIAA-CREF, Broadway Real Estate, and Boston Properties. We brainstorm with building owners to improve the value of their portfolio by designing spaces that reposition a building to resonate with the target market.
What's been your most rewarding project?
All of them!