Making it Work in Bellingham: Lisa Staton, interior designer

I grew up in Whatcom County but have lived the majority of my adult life in Seattle. Three years ago, we moved to Bellingham for a better pace of life. My husband is a creative director and product designer in the tech industry, so as you can imagine, more job opportunities for him exist in Seattle. However, Seattle developed just a bit of a frenzy that just didn't jive with our lifestyle after having kids. I know a lot of people must feel this way because lately when I do open houses, the majority of people are people trying to leave Seattle. 

What do people do for work in Bellingham?

That's the big question, am I right? Since moving to Bellingham, I've met so many interesting professionals who have built amazing careers for themselves in Bellingham. A lot of people have finagled remote work opportunities, and many also work for themselves. I love learning about creative and entrepreneurial people in this small town, so I'm starting a blog series called Making it Work in Bellingham. I'll be interviewing inspiring people who love Bellingham and have made beautiful lives and homes here in our community. I hope these stories inspire people that you can work where you love to live!

My first interview is with Lisa Staton, who lives right down the street from me on South Hill. I first met Lisa through our kids who both go to the same elementary school. I was excited to learn that she also moved to Bellingham from Seattle in the last few years. I've since learned that Lisa is a sought after interior designer who has garnered quite a reputation in Seattle and beyond.

The first time I went to her home, I just about fainted from pure minimalist delight. She's completely reworked a gorgeous Tudor home that I remember touring and falling in love with for its potential – and to see it now after her refresh is quite inspiring. If I could describe her home's aesthetic, I would say modern meets comfortable, natural meets refined, traditional meets unexpected. Enjoy this first interview in an ongoing series!

South Hill homes Bellingham
South Hill Homes Bellingham

Coming from Seattle and other urban places, what do you love most about Bellingham?

I grew up on the East Coast and spent my summers in Maine.  The ocean, the islands, the rocky coast. It reminds me a lot of Maine.  The pace here is different. Bellingham slows me down, reminds me to take a deep breath, and get out and enjoy nature. But I am also very much a "city girl" at heart, and so the quick access to Seattle and Vancouver satisfies that "fix."  

We also loved the idea of the kids growing up in a "college town" with the cultural and educational influences that a school like Western brings to a community.  

Did anything surprise you about this town?

We had made a quick trip to Bellingham before moving here, and of course I knew it was on the water, but the days we visited before moving happened to be especially rainy and foggy (even by Northwest standards).  So I did not fully grasp just how amazing the natural surroundings are.  This sounds dorky, but I literally feel taken by surprise often by the scenic views...and those sunsets! 

Bellingham historic homes
South Hill homes Bellingham

What do you love about the South Hill neighborhood? Did you consider any other neighborhoods when you moved here?

My husband is a professor at WWU, and so we really wanted to live on South Hill so he could walk to campus. We also loved that the neighborhood  elementary school is tucked in amongst the houses, and that our children could walk to school through high school.  (That is one of the things I really love about Bellingham, there is not a big private school culture here. And I feel that means families of all backgrounds and interests stay involved and engaged in the public school system which keeps it strong and well supported both fiscally and at the grass roots level with the PTA and lots of parental involvement and volunteering.) 

Classic homes in South Hill Bellingham

I often tell my clients that there's a certain feeling when you're in the right home. Did you immediately see the vision with your home?

I agree. We all start with a list of number of bedrooms, size of yard, garage, etc. But there is a certain emotion that can't be quantified when house shopping. That said, for myself, I am actually pretty pragmatic when buying a house. It's my job to solve the "puzzle" of making a home live well and be beautiful on a daily basis. I work in a range of styles (both modern and traditional). But the bones must be good. I would much rather take on a house that has not yet been renovated but has good bones than one that has had a poorly planned renovation or cheaply added on layers.  

We have moved many times and renovated many old houses. When this house came on the market we were in the planning stages of adding on to an old Victorian home two blocks down the street. My husband gets full credit for our buying this house. He loved it the day it went on the market, but I knew the amount of work that had to be done and was hesitant to take it on until the price dropped to a point where it made sense. It's good to remember that sometimes it's time to buy another house then try to make a current house more than it can easily (or fiscally) be. 

South Hill Bellingham real estate
South Hill Bellingham real estate

As an interior designer (and someone with an obvious touch for making a home what I like to call a "heart home") what would you advise a home shopper to focus on when looking? 

Location, location location first!  And then be really clear on the parts of the home where you spend most of your time and shop for a house that meets those needs. Many clients think they need big huge houses, when the majority of families only really actively live in smaller percentage of their house, even if the house is much bigger. Also, don't be afraid of renovating, and also doing it in stages. As long as you have a "plan," it can be done over time. If the basics are in good shape (foundation, roof, electrical and plumbing), all the rest can happen over time. 

Thank you to Lisa Staton for the fun interview, and to the Seattle-duo Belathée Photography for the beautiful photography.

If you need help finding your perfect home in Bellingham, please reach out!

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