“The key is to really get under their skin,” says Lauren Lozano Ziol, co-founder of Chicago-based interior design firm SKIN. “This is at the core of where the creativity starts flowing.” Lozano Ziol is referring to the 12-page questionnaire and face-to-face interview that kick-starts every new project the studio takes on. It may seem intimidating but getting to know her clients intimately is part of her method – and what makes her so successful as an interior designer.
Lozano Ziol has been working in Chicago’s high-end interior design industry for 25 years. She got her start with leading design firm Leslie Jones and architect Scott Himmel – as well as auction houses and antique stores in Europe – before launching her own independent studio in 2002. A few years later, a conversation with long-term friend Michelle Jolas, an entrepreneur and graphic artist who was managing campaigns for international luxury brands at the time, sparked an idea that would change the course of both of their lives.
“I’d always admired Michelle for her creativity and work ethic, and at dinner parties we’d often brainstorm about fun things we could do together. One day, she said, ‘let’s do a wallpaper line and call it SKIN’. We kept talking about it and instead decided to merge our businesses to create something really provocative and special,” reveals Lozano Ziol.
In 2016, the pair took the leap and boutique interior design firm SKIN was born. “We’re always pushing each other and pushing boundaries as a business,” says Lozano Ziol. “I come from a very formal design background. I studied art history so I love classical things, while Michelle is very edgy and graphic. She pushes me to combine styles.”
Describing the studio’s signature style as “timeless, classic, chic – with an edge,” Lozano Ziol says they’re not afraid to push the boundaries of design: “We would easily combine a Louis XIV table with Milo Baughman chairs.”
The artistic duo love to source vintage furniture and enjoy pairing iconic, historic pieces with eclectic, contemporary wallpapers, rugs and artworks. Lozano Ziol – who has a background in art history and furniture design – reveals she has a passion for finding and enhancing the beauty of unique pieces, whether this is reupholstering an antique chair or reviving a piece of furniture a client has been gifted by their grandparents.
A great example is a Chicago-based project which Lozano Ziol calls Breaking Trad: “This project was really fun. She’s a super fun client and was happy to be like ‘let’s do it, let’s be bold’. We revitalised antiques pieces, we painted a lot, we used tonnes of colour and had fun with it.”
The pair are able to be so bold thanks to their innate understanding of their clients. Their interview process strips back the layers of a client’s personality and enables them to dive into a client’s lifestyle, tastes and budgets – the questionnaire reveals the answers to defining questions such as how far they’re willing to be pushed out of their comfort zone. “It is really empowering,” Lozano Ziol says, adding that she likes to help clients create a space for the person they aspire to become or the life they’re manifesting.
In Chicago, it’s beautiful work, but you can only push so far. I want to be exposed to things that can inspire my creativity
Lauren Lozano Ziol, co-founder of SKIN
After 25 years in Chicago, Lozano Ziol decided it’s time for a change and started looking for an opportunity to expand internationally. “In Chicago, it’s beautiful work, but we want to push ourselves to grow. When I go to Paris and Milan and design shows around the world, I see that there’s so much going on and it makes me realise I don’t want to be stuck in one place. The world is so big and there are so many cool things going on. I want to be exposed to things that can inspire my creativity.”
In 2020, SKIN planned to launch new studios in New York and London but the New York plan was cancelled in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Plans for London continued, however, and the team is currently preparing to launch SKIn 2020, SKIN planned to launch new studios in New York and London but the New York plan was cancelled in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Plans for London continued, however, and the team is currently preparing to launch SKIN London at a new space near Chelsea Harbour.
“I’m really excited to come to London and break into this new market. I think what’s going on there is exciting and I’m super inspired by the beautiful and top design in the city,” Lozano Ziol says, adding: “We’re focusing on London right now but we’ll launch another office in the States, in addition to Chicago, sometime next year. It might be New York, San Francisco, Miami or the Hamptons. We don’t know yet.”
By setting up shop in London, Lozano Ziol is also hoping to progress into large budget projects with new clients, including hospitality groups as well as private residences. “Every designer dreams about jobs that are carte blanche where you can really do what you want,” she says. “For me, part of the move is about stepping up to that higher level of budget and going a step further with our projects so we can explore our creativity more. We want to branch into hospitality, too, because you can do very funky and unique things in hospitality.”
Part of the reason for choosing London was also to be closer to the fairs and markets of Europe which Lozano Ziol fell in love with when she lived in Paris from 2011 to 2014. This is also where she loves to take her clients on shopping excursions. “One of our passions is educating our clients,” she says. “I love to teach them about furniture and antiques and take them shopping in antique markets such as Portobello Road in London or flea markets in Paris.”
After all, SKIN is more than a design firm. It’s also a lifestyle brand with myriad projects in the pipeline including a design hotel concept in the south of France, a book on the transformative power of interior design, and a non-profit organisation called Project SKIN that transforms the spaces of other non-profits through design services and in-kind donations. “Our lifestyle brand philosophy is that environments influence how you feel, so if your home and space please you, you can excel in other areas of your life,” says Lozano Ziol. “We love to make the process transformational, which means making it about wellbeing as well as design.”
Effect Magazine is brought to you by The Bruno Effect