Paradigm Design Group’s Lisa Haude on uncharted paths

Inspired by her clients’ cultures, histories, and locations, Lisa Haude creates bold and completely original spaces for some of the most recognized hotel chains around the globe.

Specializing in hospitality design, Lisa founded Paradigm Design Group more than 15 years ago and has since worked with some of the major hotel brands, including Marriott International and Hilton Hotels and Resorts, around the world to create designs that speak to each location’s surroundings, culture, and history. In all of her projects, Lisa approaches each design concept as though there’s a story waiting to be told. In telling her clients' stories through interior design, Lisa places great importance on truly making each project a collaborative effort. Taking into consideration her clients’ design preferences, ideas, and backgrounds, Lisa creates designs that marry her upscale vision with culture and comfort.

Lisa and her business partner husband Carl live in Geneva, just west of Chicago, with their daughter Isabella. Between work and family life, the Haudes enjoy relaxing at home or traveling the world.

The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Louisiana

The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Louisiana

Can you tell me how you started your career as an interior design professional?

My first interior design job started during my senior year of high school. I entered a work/ study program at school and convinced the small business owner of a local interior design firm that she needed to hire me as her personal assistant. Luckily, she agreed, and I stayed with her until my junior year of college. I eagerly learned everything I possibly could during those years with her and continued to strengthen my artistic skills (drawing, sketching, making design selections, and learning how to work with clients.) This truly inspired me to continue to strive to do better and learn more and helped reinforce my love of design.

And how did Paradigm Design Group come to be?

I truly loved design and felt that I had so much more to offer my clients. My husband, who happens to be my biggest cheerleader, offered to quit his high-profile international job and become my business partner to help manage and build our company. Finally, in August 2001, I had enough courage to do so and Paradigm Design Group was formed.

Renovated bedroom at Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront

Renovated bedroom at Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront, Oregon

What have been some of the most momentous experiences in your career?

The biggest challenge happened on 9/11—a mere 10 days after my husband quit his job and we were slated to begin our first big project. As we watched the towers fall, we sat in shock as we mourned for our nation and prayed about what to do next. We were both unemployed and all of our prospects that we had lined up had just disappeared. Motivated to move past this setback, we developed a marketing plan and pushed through. We made countless sacrifices, yet we grew closer together each day as we created the building blocks to the company we have today.

And what challenges and pitfalls have you come across since then?

We certainly have encountered our fair share of challenges! Hiring employees, dealing with client or employee-related issues, finding new projects, worrying about expenses, juggling parenthood and family life—we have seen it all. Yet, with every challenge that came our way, we worked together to figure it out, and in the end I became a stronger person, a better designer, and owner, and most of all, a better wife and momma. Each new challenge became an opportunity to learn something. It allowed me to adapt and grow and become open to new ideas. It also allowed me to create an environment where I was able to hire a team of talented designers and architects and surround myself with amazing clients—all of whom I cherish and am privileged to work with each day.

Lisa with her business partner husband Carl and their daughter Isabella

Lisa with her business partner husband Carl and their daughter Isabella

From Day One to present day, what significant changes have you observed in hotel designs?

The role of the interior designer has certainly changed. While we have always strived to design a unique and inviting space, we are now challenged to create a more seamless approach that blends interiors with architecture. Every detail must be clearly thought through, and high levels of creativity must be employed as our timelines and budgets get tighter and tighter.

Your prediction on how the hotels of future will look in terms of design?

I believe the hotel of the future will be one that inspires, comforts, and nurtures the guest. It should be a haven where a family on vacation can have the ultimate ability to relax and unwind—yet still be connected to the outside world if needed. Yet, the business traveler has the ability to stay connected and seamlessly work from anywhere.

While we have always strived to design a unique and inviting space, we are now challenged to create a more seamless approach that blends interiors with architecture.

What dernier cris are on the horizon?

I believe that guests want a unique experience when they visit a hotel. They expect attention to detail and beautiful yet tasteful items implemented around them.

What are your ideas and tips on optimum space management for different areas of a property, say lobbies, guestrooms, bathrooms, etc.?

Every space in the hotel should have a purpose and a function. Guests today want areas that allow them to unwind or be productive, yet also be pampered and surrounded in a beautiful setting. We as designers must achieve that balance like a carefully conducted orchestra to ensure the best experience possible for that guest.

We see many hotel brands eliminating bathtubs and rethinking traditional furniture as we know it. What do you adamantly believe should never be compromised in the process of space optimization?

I believe we should never sacrifice comfort or quality. You could have the most beautiful design, but if you have poor execution (i.e. uncomfortable seating, noisy conditions, or materials that don’t wear well,) it will not do well in the end. We should always strive to push our clients to make smart choices with their funds and ensure that the product installed is one that we would truly be proud of.

Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay lobby

Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay lobby

You have worked with some of the top hotel brands. Any favorite projects? Why?

We have worked on so many great projects over the years, yet there are a few that will always have a special place in my heart:

The Roosevelt, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana:

We brought this property back to life after Hurricane Katrina. This project provided so much inspiration to me as I watched the people of New Orleans fill with joy as they watched this iconic property come back to life after so much devastation. It continues to inspire me today.

Bar at Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria

Bar at Roosevelt Waldorf Astoria

The Chef’s Cottage at Cliff House in Cape Neddick, Maine:

Inspired by the breathtaking views of coastal Maine, we restored an antique home that was once the Innkeepers summer place into a modern coastal getaway. The natural beauty of the area with its breathtaking views, laid-back style, and welcoming people was so inspiring for this project and many more to come.

Cliff House Maine

Cliff House Maine

Cliff House Maine

Cliff House Maine

The Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront Hotel in Portland, Oregon:

Who does not love Portland, Oregon, and all that the city and its surrounding areas have to offer? This project was just plain fun to work on as we were allowed to unleash our creativity without many restrictions and created a spectacular space that truly captures the look and feel of the city.

What’s next for PDG?

I continue to see our firm evolving, just like design, as we continue to venture into uncharted territories and develop meaningful relationships with new and existing clients. I have an amazing team of professionals that surround me and inspire me to continue to do better each day.

I also hope that my firm provides inspiration to young professionals that are searching to figure out how they fit into this world. Just like I was inspired so long ago by many great interior design firms, I hope that they too can look up to us and find that spark they need to carry us into the future.

You probably get this a lot, but how is it being a woman leader in the industry? Any advice for others trying to make their way?

Running a majority woman owned business is tough. We have so many plates that we have to juggle on a daily basis that it can be overwhelming at times. I recommend that you have perseverance, stamina, and a “never give up” type of attitude. You also must be willing to learn from your mistakes and be open to new ideas or advice when needed. Above all, you should be honest, fair, trustworthy, and respectful to all parties. No matter how angry you may be, always lead with grace and give others the respect they deserve.

  • The Roosevelt, New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria hotel
  • Hyatt Valencia, California
  • Marriott Redmond/Seattle, Washington
  • Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront, Oregon
  • Oakland Marriott City Center, California
  • Hilton Alexandria Mark Center, Virginia
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Erbil, Iraq
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Suites Houston by the Galleria, Texas
  • Sheraton Iowa City, Iowa
  • Sheraton Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Hilton Garden Inn Constitution Square, Washington, D.C.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay, Hawaii
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites New York Midtown Manhattan, New York
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Cheyenne Southwest/ Downtown Area, Wyoming
  • Holiday Inn Express Portland West/ Hillsboro, Oregon

Images courtesy of Paradigm Design Group.

By Najook Pandya