The Meaning of Place: A Chat with Jennifer Laraia Design

Wedding Planner, Interior Designer, and – of course – Small Business Owner, Jennifer Laraia of Jennifer Laraia Design wears many hats. Perhaps she’s best described as a designer of settings, whether it’s the setting of your wedding day or your everyday.

To understand her process and glean sage advice, we chatted with the Founder + Creative Director about weddings, interiors, and what inspires her unique marriage of industries. Whether you’re planning a wedding or considering a home revamp, this is a must-read.

The Scout Guide Knoxville: Jennifer Laraia Design offers a unique combination of services – events/weddings and interiors – can you speak to this breadth of offerings?
Jennifer Laraia: I’ve always been interested in how spaces/environments make you feel. Even as a child, I was keenly aware of the aesthetic of my surroundings and how they could make me feel happy or sad. Energized or tired. Anxious or relaxed. I was always moving things around in the house, “redesigning” with what we had. It drove my parents crazy! So, my love of design began at an early age. After college, I began my career in corporate event planning, followed by corporate sales jobs in the pharmaceutical and tech industries. But I found myself longing for something more creative. I decided to go back to school to get my Masters Degree in Interior Design, and during that time had the opportunity to help friends plan and design their weddings. A light bulb went off. I realized that designing and producing events was very similar to designing interiors. So, I decided to create a business that offers both! This gives me the unique opportunity to combine my experience in corporate sales and event planning with my love for interior design.

TSG Knoxville: What inspired you to take the entrepreneurial leap and start Jennifer Laraia Design?
JL: My parents owned a floral shop so I grew up surrounded by an entrepreneurial spirit, spending days at the store, and watching my mother design flowers for weddings and special occasions.   Through the support of my husband, I had already started the transition into residential design. So, that was the first leap! Then my super talented photographer friend, Natalie Watson, recommended me for several wedding design projects. I did the first few for free just to break into the industry. I was so grateful for any opportunity. The wedding side of my business grew quickly. Over the past nine years, I’ve worked in some of the most amazing places with the most amazing clients!  

TSG Knoxville: Let’s chat about specifics, why should individuals hire a designer for interiors or for events/weddings?
JL: Whether you’re remodeling or event planning, the reasons to hire a designer are the same: designers have access to more resources and experts. Designers speak the industry language, so we can negotiate contracts and get the best pricing. And experienced designers can guide your decisions to help you avoid unnecessary mistakes, troubleshoot problems, and manage the moving pieces. Finally, designers will carefully oversee the installation, production, and execution of the project or event so you can enjoy the journey and the destination.

TSG Knoxville: What should individuals consider before hiring a designer?
JL: It’s always best to consider the overall budget. Presenting your designer with at least an approximate budget helps them set expectations and make the appropriate recommendations from the beginning.

TSG Knoxville: What’s your process if someone wants to work with you?
JL: We begin with an in-person or virtual consultation that’s followed by a discovery process and assessment of needs and vision. This allows us to create a customized proposal. Although we love to come in before any major decisions are made, we can jump in at any phase of planning.

TSG Knoxville: Who is the ideal Jennifer Laraia Design client?
JL: Clients that like to have fun, trust our process, and create something beautiful together. We’re the client’s advocate so they can worry less and enjoy more.

TSG Knoxville: What’s the best part of your work as a designer?
JL: I love that I get to be creative every day. I love that every project is different. I love to manage checklists. But, my favorite part is making people happy. Whether it’s creating a space that makes clients feel comfortable or creating an event that leaves clients with beautiful memories, I love being a small part of those stories and the happiness it brings.

Jennifer Laraia Design is a Volume 6 Member of The Scout Guide Knoxville. A local creative and expert, she’s a top-tier choice for your next project – whether it’s an interiors or event undertaking. Learn more about her work and schedule a consultation here. Don’t forget to tell her Scout sent you!