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Chester County Press

The Maximalist Aesthetic of Lauren Francis

05/20/2021 12:04PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
Photography by Jie Deng
Text by Richard L. Gaw

The creative journey of interior designer and curator Lauren Francis is descendent from the matriarchs on her mother’s side of the family, and it is this handed-down gift that all came together in the home she lived in for seven years.

When she first walked into the 2,035-square-foot house in the Borough of West Chester -- originally built in 1912 – Francis saw past the badly-needed renovations to the canvas she wished to create, and over time, transformed neglect into beauty. Rooms became reflections of her love for design, for food and for friendships, and on every wall and in every crevice rested the patchwork quilt of art that she had collected from places as far away as Germany and London to as close as a thrift shop in Bryn Mawr.

There it was; the delicate balance between the choice of a wallpaper and the vases against the vanity mirror, and in the unlikely and eclectic marriage of a 1930s oil painting and a Crate and Barrel coffee table.

Within the old house, Lauren Francis became the self-driven DIY curator of her wildest dreams, manifested in what she calls Maximalist Aesthetic.

“Maximalism in design is about extravagance, excess, and redundancy in the best possible way,” said Francis, who was raised in Chadds Ford. “It is about layering patterns, color and a texture in a space to tell a unique story.”

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Lauren Francis was raised on the arm of influences and developed her artistic vision through the osmosis of visiting places. As a child, she would join her mother – the artist Lorraine Thorpe, who owned Lorraine’s Frame Cellar in Unionville – on trips to museums, art galleries, antique stores and through the fur department at Bloomingdale’s. Throughout her upbringing, her mother’s side of the family -- aunts and cousins from the Italian neighborhoods of South Philadelphia – who would arrive at family events dressed impeccably in a fashion that spoke of flair, boldness and originality.

“A lot of the Italian culture is maximalist in nature, and while it’s also old school and proper and over the top in some instances, it is always rooted in love and experience,” Francis said. “I use a lot of textured metal, marble and art, and all of those are reminiscent of those matriarchs.”

As Francis grew older, her passion for art, paintings and found objects intensified, and she purchased her first oil at a thrift store in Bryn Mawr for the price of $26. In terms of preference, she gravitates toward pre-1950s Impressionistic art, and in her current collection of 60 pieces there is a wide variety of pastels, watercolors, pencil drawings and oil paintings.

Francis credits her position in corporate America with helping to cultivate her off-hours work in design and curation.

“I work for an incredible company that has given me the resources to really indulge and cultivate that which makes me feel full of light in my personal life,” she said. “My career has taken me around the country and throughout Europe, from where I draw a lot of my influences. What happens in the spaces I design and curate derives a lot from those travels and experiences in living among those other cultures.”

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The future may hold a full-time curation and design business for Francis, but for now, she has a day job and a 1900s lake house renovation to keep her busy as well as select clients she provides specialized consulting services for -- her passion has already gone 24/7, and led her to a life that finds the beauty of art in all of the non-traditional places, preserves the life of the art she purchases and illuminates the vision of the artist.

“Certainly, I have creatives in my lineage and my memories with them inspire me everyday. The other piece is just innately who I am I suppose – someone who flourishes in a meaningful environment that feels safe and beautiful, and perhaps somewhat like an art museum.”

“It’s more than just hanging the paintings on the walls,” she added. “It’s more than simply aesthetics. It’s telling the story of the artist. It’s about achieving some level of legacy, not just for me and how I render space, but in making that art and that artist live on in a new way.”

To learn more about Lauren Francis and to see examples of her interior design, visit her on Instagram @francis_sky_inspired_interiors or e-mail her at [email protected].

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