Intrepid designer, Hannah Oravec dismisses expected conventions to achieve a chill Cape Cod vibe.
When Mumi and Ahn Phan purchased a property in the coastal Cape town of Mashpee last fall, they wanted this home to be a family retreat for the upcoming holidays—a tall order with the holiday season under 10 weeks away. Thankfully, Lawless Design, an interior design firm in Plymouth, was fearless in taking on this substantial task.
The Mashpee home is a clean, modern aesthetic, built in the last decade, but what it lacked in heritage, it made up for with potential. The Phans purchased the property with the goal of having the home’s interior fully updated, furnished, and finished by Thanksgiving, 2020. Measurements were taken by the design firm at the end of September, the Phan’s closed on the home in October, and from there the clock was ticking.
The full-service design firm, founded in 2016 by Hannah Oravec, specializes in residential projects. The firm’s namesake is taken directly from Oravec’s family lineage: her great-grandmother’s maiden name. The Lawless name holds dual meaning to Oravec, one being the familial ties, the other representing Oravec’s approach to design style.
“I like to work with clients and say, ‘There are no rules! We can take risks and do different things,’” Oravec says. “I think that’s what is fun about design—being innovative and not just doing everything completely cookie cutter.”
The company name is not the only familial influence Oravec had in creating Lawless; her childhood was filled with experiences watching her father renovate their home and helping where her little hands could. This grounded in her a love for creating, and she knew from a young age her future career would be one of creativity and design.
What distinguishes Lawless from other firms is its commitment to incorporating wellness into design. Oravec is accredited with WELL, an organization focused on, “Advancing health and well-being in buildings globally…[and] improving health and human experience through design.” Choices like using low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paint, sourcing locally when possible, and reusing vintage furnishings in the designs, make the final product healthier for clients and for the planet.
Oravec earned degrees in design and business from Endicott College in Beverly, MA. In 2016, Oravec took the leap and officially established Lawless Design. It operates out of her home that she shares with her husband—and at times their barn—in Plymouth. While Oravec is the mastermind behind Lawless Design, her visions and designs would not be made possible without the skilled assistance of others, which is especially true for this project.
Designers Services, based in Woburn received all large furniture deliveries for the project, even assembling the items upon delivery to the Mashpee home. The herculean tasks of repainting the entirety of the interior and stripping and refinishing the floors was taken on by experts referred by the clients. This was a necessary first step for the redesign; the existing paint and floors were, according to Oravec, a mess compounded by the previous owner’s many animals. Her trusted electrician and handyman were brought in to handle wiring, repairs, and installation of lighting, built-in features, and other minor finishing projects.
The rapid timetable for the project’s completion made setting a tone of trust and decisiveness with her clients essential from the get-go. The Phan’s had a thematic design going into the project: “Cape Chill” as Mumi coined it, which focused on a bright and casual scheme that evoked the Cape’s style without wading into cliché territory. Neutral tones provided a backdrop for accents of colors reflecting the blues of the nearby ocean and Cape Cod summer skies. It is a quiet design, sophisticated-yet-livable, and equally suited for the home’s use as a family retreat and as a rental property, a purpose the clients wanted considered into the design.
To achieve “Cape Chill,” common spaces were painted in a crisp decorator’s white for the walls, with white trim and ceilings to match, while bedrooms received a softer off-white paint. Multiple seating options—sofas, armchairs, benches and dining chairs—all in hazy beach tones pepper the open living spaces. Oravec joked that the client’s wanted to fit in as many beds as possible into the home, and with four beds and a convertible daybed in the study, there certainly are many options for resting one’s head. The matching double beds in the children’s room and the upholstered headboard of the queen guest bed are finished in palettes of sun-bleached driftwood and sand, while the master bedroom’s simple black canopy frame of the bed is offset by the neutral upholstered headboard.
To meet the deadline, Oravec needed to find furnishings and decor from retailers that were in stock and ready to ship, no easy feat for a project with over 60 items of furniture and a matching volume of accessories. A favorite find for Oravec is the bean-shaped couch in the den, while the kids adore the upholstered chairs placed opposite, endearingly naming them the “chunky chairs.”
The Phans wanted this home to be a place they and their kids could really live in and enjoy, as well as open it up to the wear and tear of renters. Understanding that the furniture needed to stand up to lots of use informed Oravec on the type of upholstery chosen. Performance fabrics, durable, high-traffic fabrics that are often both oil and water-resistant, were selected when available, something Oravec recommends as an option not just for those with children, but for anyone who wants to worry less and enjoy their furniture more.
Oravec sources local businesses as much as possible for finding finishing touches that turn a concept into a home. This also supports her commitment to wellness by sourcing locally; cutting down shipping miles ultimately reduces carbon emissions, while putting money directly back into the local economy. A unique sister-run shop called Elburne, with locations in Dennis and Hanover, was the source for accent pillows and throws, while Myrth Ceramics in Somerville provided elegant hand-crafted decor. Linens for the many beds came mainly from New England-based Garnet Hill. Vintage bits and baubles found by Oravec round out the home’s styling. With clean walls and open, light-filled spaces, these closely-curated touches provide moments of interest for the eye upon which to rest and reflect, without cluttering the space.
With Lawless Design, Oravec masterfully incorporates influences of different eras and styles into one concept for her clients, without compromising the integrity of the final design, evident in how she combined shapes and styles in dynamic and cohesive ways in the styling of the Phan’s home. The starkly elegant and geometric pendant lights contrast with the more classically styled farmhouse dining tables they hang above. A contemporary coffee table—a faceted rectangle in dark wood—sits between a minimal fireplace mantle and a pair of wood and upholstered chairs with lines echoing the Mad Men era.
“I just love the eclectic. I love mixing and matching different styles, so it also seems timeless and not like you’re stuck in one period. I think that’s what’s really fun about design is kind of coming up with something a little bit different with pieces,” said Oravec “I think there’s cohesion in materials too… I think that’s what helps mix styles together, when there’s some kind of cohesion in material or shape.”
Artwork on the walls is sparse, yet thoughtfully placed, focusing the attention on individual items rather than crowded tableaus of decor. Playful graphic prints of whales and a surfer van center over the headboards of the beds in the children’s and guest rooms, and simple botanical prints hang above the head of the master bed. Photographs by a New England studio, Lost is Found showcase the famous Cape land and seascape. It is interesting without being overdone—in a word, chill.
While the abbreviated schedule was a challenge, the final result speaks to the skill and professionalism provided by Lawless Design. It should come as no surprise that after the makeover of the Mashpee house, the Phans are already in conversation with Oravec to have her work the same magic on their year-round home. For Oravec, it is another fun design challenge she is excited to take on. Oravec creates beautiful, livable, homes for her clients, and feels she has found her calling in her work and in the connections she makes through it.
“My favorite part is working with the clients. I think that’s part of why I wanted to start a business, to help create this sense of space for people,” said Oravec. “It’s like you just created a place in their home, where they’re able to feel comfortable and relaxed. And I love building those relationships.”
Visit lawless-design.com to learn more.