Q&A: Lisa Schmitz

Can you tell us about yourself?

I grew up with grandparents who were artists, including a grandparent who built his entire home with hand tools. I really think that was a big influence on how our family has lived our lives, both through art and architecture. I think this influence also led to me becoming an interior designer, after seeing how they created spaces so much differently than others I had seen growing up.

I started my own design firm after having my daughter, after realizing the place I was working was just not working. So, I left. I didn’t really have a plan, I just thought we would figure it out as we went.  I was on my maternity leave, so I took that as a time to see what would happen.

Projects started falling in my lap and I started realizing it was a really nice mix of being able to balance family and business and creativity. It started with five hours a week, and my daughter was recently born so we’d go to jobsites together!

Since then, the business has just grown. We now have 3 designers on staff, including a business manager, and we have developed our business by hiring those who wish for flexibility in their lives, whether it’s to travel, or whether they’re flexible to balance life with their kids.

My kids have also grown up surrounded by art, they’re very creative. They both make things, whether it’s my son or my daughter. It’s fun to see the influences of art with my kids doing that in their lives.

Can you tell us about your involvement with DFAD?

It was the very first DFAD contest that got me involved. I had won the regional contest by doing horsepower, which was a therapeutic horse-riding group that would take kids in that had trauma. They would teach empathy and care by riding horses.

We completed their check in and office space, and through winning that, I got to go to Spokane with Mark and the whole DFAD crowd. We were designing and refurbishing a transitional home for women and their children who were recovering from homelessness.

Currently, I am working on a Ronald McDonald House project in Kansas City to create a spa where families who are coming into the region can have the opportunity to be pampered. Kids going through chemo can also get fitted for wigs and find the best option for them. There’s a hair washing station, a mani-pedi station, and they can get their hair cut and styled.

I also had a connection to a domestic violence home where we remodeled a TV room and a family room. We made it bright and colorful and welcoming since there was no furniture in the room. We gathered some donations of toys and accessories to make it fun and then we provided some furnishings.

What’s a MUST HAVE in your home?

The first is natural light–large windows and light and supplementing that with lamps – I love lamps. Table lamps, floor lamps that add ambience kind of at eye level, which adds a sense of coziness more than ceiling fixtures can.

The other thing is that perfect spot to curl up with a book. In my house it’s a chair in a corner, it’s comfy and then I have everything right there where I want, a table for my magazines, and a spot to set my tea.

I also love sharpies – they’re in my pocket and every bag. They’re everywhere. They have to be the ultra fine-point sharpies!

How has DFAD changed your life?

As a family, before DFAD, we had started working at a local soup kitchen where we got to go in and we walked in and they said, “here’s the ingredients – this is what we’re going to make for dinner,” and we had to make it. The kids helped with that and then also had to serve those who came in to eat.

We would make up the trays and our kids would serve them as if they were waitresses and waiters. It really gave us the ability to be face to face with those in need and to see their struggles, and I think it’s rare where we feel a little sheltered, but DFAD allows us to bring our skills to do the same.

What is your favorite thing about DFAD and the projects you have worked on?

The project in Spokane brought the women involved a sense of pride in understanding that someone did care about them. We were able to help provide something for them to make their lives a little bit happier and better. I think doing things like that is something I don’t get to do all the time, so to be able to both provide that and to see their reaction and their appreciation of what design can do for others is amazing. I think there’s a lot of talk out there about how design can improve your life, but I think this is a direct gift to those in need.

I see client’s faces light up all the time, but they have the means to do a new design, so it’s a whole different world with DFAD. With DFAD, I am able to provide something to those who might not otherwise have access to it, and to see their appreciation of being able to bring something nice to them.

About Lisa Schmitz

Lisa Schmitz is an interior designer based out of Kansas City who believes that interiors are the backdrop for the art and people you love. She is heavily involved with DFAD in Kansas City, and has made a phenomenal impact on several DFAD projects.