Interior Designer Christine Markatos Lowe Relies On Her Artist’s Eye To Create Welcoming, Accessible Interiors
When it comes to interior design, talent is only one part of the equation. It must be polished to a sheen with training and experience. Witness the beautifully balanced color palette, pleasing proportions and calming atmosphere that permeates Christine Markatos Lowe’s work. From the Los Angeles bathroom bathed in blue (shown here) and the feminine peach office she created for a writer of young adult novels, both are grounded in her art school background and her impeccable design pedigree.
Graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with an MFA in sculpture, Lowe stumbled into a job, via an ad in the New York Times, with acclaimed architect Peter Marino. She rapidly rose from junior assistant to Senior Designer. “I learned the business from the ground up,” she shares, “I would type up all the paperwork for everyone — I was the only one who knew how to use a computer — and I learned the language. Each step of the way I got more and more training and I never looked back.” Leaving the art world behind, she fell in love with the interior design business.
She credits Marino with instilling in her a sense of proportion and an exquisite level of attention to detail. “No one reproduces or creates detail the way he does,” Lowe raves. She left New York to move to Los Angeles and a long stint with interior designer Michael S. Smith. “I traveled extensively with him,” she remembers, “working on Spielberg, all his big clients. I probably had fourteen projects while I was working with him. With one assistant.” Under Smith, she refined her attention to mood and ambiance. “For him, it’s about the overall effect.” She capped off her bonafides with The Wiseman Group in San Francisco. “There I learned so much about how to manage a team and how to manage clients.” That training served her well when a temporary move back to New York prompted her to hang out her own shingle.
In the fifteen years since, she’s honed her own unique point of view. “I think one of the things that distinguishes my work is an unusual use of color,” admits Lowe. “It’s part of the joy of doing the job for me.” With a focus on residential, she begins each project with a color palette inspiration — “Is this going to be a soft house? Is this going to be a brighter house?” — taking into account the client and their lifestyle. “Sometimes that comes from the client. They’ll have a picture or a piece of art that they love that you want to make sure gets incorporated.” Her keen eye picks up on a client’s style. “Even if they want to replace all the furnishings, you can still kind of tell from the things that they picked before” she explains, “and that gives you a little bit of a direction. You have to look for clues.” The architecture of the house solidifies the direction. “Our job is to serve as an editor. We take our clients’ ideas and refine them.,” she says “I definitely don't have a one size fits all philosophy.”
A coterie of Los Angeles artisans, like Joel Brown of L’Artigano,” is her secret weapon for achieving great design on a reasonable budget. “Most of our work is custom fabricated,” she says. Grounded by a sprinkling of catalog pieces, she’s learned how to master the mix, a fact that’s proven by a long list of happy clients. “I pride myself on never repeating anything,” boasts Lowe, “It keeps the process challenging and enjoyable.” She’s not a sprinter; her training’s prepared her for the long haul.
* All Photos courtesy of Manolo Langis, Christine Markatos Design