• Luis Hernandez, owner of Lewis & Co

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Q&A: Luis Hernandez

The owner of Lewis & Co on shopping, functionality and Olivia Harrison’s mansion

Interview: Ellie Costigan
Images: Joseph Fox

How did you get into interior design?
I was born in Puerto Rico. I always had an inclination toward design and drawing, but growing up my parents wanted me to be a lawyer, so for a time I pursued that. I went to law school but took some evening classes in design at the same time. After one year I thought, this is not for me. So I decided to study design at Parsons in New York.

After that I went to work for a design company in LA. I got some experience, and I had a great mentor who taught me the dos and don’ts. I already had two very high profile clients who got me connected immediately. It worked out great—I’ve been doing this for 15 years now.

What brought you to the UK?
I wanted to live in Europe. There’s a whole different mentality over here, the architecture is different—it’s more stimulating. I wanted to see different things. One of my clients had a property in London and she recommended me to other friends here, so that’s how it took off.

How did the Marylebone boutique come about?
When I decided to move to London, I spent some time checking out all the different neighbourhoods. We came to Marylebone for dinner one night, then afterwards went for a walk and I loved this sense of it being like a small village. Four years ago there wasn’t a design studio in Marylebone—not in the way mine is set up, at least—so I thought it would work well here.

In terms of the boutique, when I go shopping for different projects I always see beautiful furnishings and accessories that don’t necessarily work for that particular project, but might in future. By having the shop I am able to find a place for it. I live on Gloucester Place, so I have a seven-minute commute, which is great! But it also means I can be very flexible when it comes to meeting clients, I am happy to meet after hours. I love what I do. 

Bowls at Lewis & Co

What’s the most interesting project you’ve worked on recently?
I have just finished up a safari house in Kenya. The family were visiting the daughter in London when they passed the shop, and they loved it. The house is actually part of a game reserve. It’s just amazing—you can just see giraffes passing by.

I am also working on Olivia Harrison’s country home, a castle in Henley. Like you do! But she is so down to earth and very nice. It has something like 100 rooms, 30 bathrooms—it’s really big. The house was built in the 1800s, so there’s all this history. But I don’t take things just because they’re big. If I like the project and know it’s going to be great, I develop a relationship with the client and take it from there.

What’s the process?
We meet the client, get a feel for the house and the room, then design the concept. Then we select the pieces, where they’re going to go, the fabrics we are going to use and the colour palette. It can take months. Sometimes a client will say, “Just send me what you think”—which is really nice but quite nerve-wracking! Others will want to be totally involved.

How would you describe your taste?
I am adaptable, but my personal taste is organic, natural fabrics, a natural colour palette but with vibrant accessories, and very relaxing. It needs to be stylish, but comfortable and functional. When I talk to my client at the end of a project, I want them to feel like they have exactly what they want. I want it to look beautiful, but not like: “I don’t want to sit in that chair, it’s too pretty!” It has to be used. It’s about getting that balance.

Where do you get everything?
I have my own line of upholstery so we can do bespoke sofas, chairs, and my own raw steel collection so we can make anything you want with that. In terms of accessories and lighting, I go to shows twice a year: one in Paris, one in Milan and I get it all from there. Everything is made in Europe. 

What do you look for in a piece?
I like things that are interesting, maybe a bit unusual, but they have to be practical, long-lasting and I try to be as eco-friendly as I possibly can. I try to stay away from ‘trendy’ things. I don’t use anything from animals either—those are my values.

What’s changed in the five years you’ve been here?
We have grown a lot since we opened. I now have an online shop, I have Sarah working with me full-time, and we are very busy. I like to be involved—that is the difference between me and the bigger brands. I am independent, so there’s a bit more of a personal touch.

We establish a relationship, and if someone comes in the shop a second time I will remember them and say, “How was that candle?” They’re not just a number. But I do want to expand, both out the back of this shop and internationally. I would love that.

How often do you decorate your own home?
I don’t change it as often as I would like, but I will change cushions and move everything around. Everything in the shop I like and could have in my own home. That leather dresser by the window? I am dying to have that; I already know exactly where it would go. My partner doesn’t want to leave me alone. Whenever I am going shopping he will say, “Is that for a client?” Oh yeah, of course...