Lunch with Lisa Conrad is a lesson in the quick pace of her creative spirit. Moments in, she’s using my scarf to demonstrate at least a half dozen chic Parisian ways to tie it. As a model, Saks Fifth Avenue personal shopper/stylist, jewelry maker and photographer, she has plenty of ways to express her talents. It’s not surprising that her home, half of a tree-shaded bungalow double, reflects them.
Art and collected pieces surrounding the bedroom mantle include a set of vases from Saks Fifth Avenue, a painting of Conrad and her previous dogs (Beau and Luc) by Justin Forbes, and a trilogy of beach photos; table from Scandinavia Inc., coffee table books from Saks.
Raised in Santa Barbara, California, New Mexico and Pennsylvania before setting out on her own at 18, the statuesque blonde with a west-meets-east-coast sensibility began her career in front of the camera as a model, appearing in such high-profile gigs as Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation video and posing for such renowned photographers as the Starn Twins and Ellen von Unwerth.
Lisa Conrad and Laken, one of her two rescue dogs (from the North Shore Humane Society), in the back yard of her Uptown home; both are wearing pieces of Conrad’s BohoNolaJewelry.
In the early 1990s, she found that she also had a place behind the camera when a good friend gave her a Canon Rebel.
“It was like somebody put a paintbrush in your hand, realizing you are an artist,” she said. “I took a roll of film and was so excited by how it came out. I learned how to manipulate light during my years as a model.”
Soon her photographs were being shown in a home design store on Chartres Street and featured in the windows of the Gucci store on Canal Street.
Conrad’s love of nature, the beach, outdoor sports, dogs, and travel all inform her work and her aesthetic. She says she’s happiest with her toes in the sand and a dog by her side. Along with her two lovable black lab rescues, Sadie and Lakin, Conrad makes four trips to Florida each year where she paddle boards and finds the Zen center that enables her to take gorgeous images of landscapes and wild life.
Conrad’s photographs are prominently displayed in the house. The photo above the mantle, entitled “Jane Doe”, was taken in Austria; the herons on either side have been described as Modern Day Audubons and were taken in Boca Grande, Florida; her “San Diego” watercolor print framed in silver wood molding sits on the mantle; small pieces framing the mantle, by Matteo Neivert; at the foot of the fireplace, glass jars hold sand and shells; Conrad made the decorative balls covered with shells.
Her décor, like her fashion style, which often combines high-end designer pieces with beachy boho necklaces that she makes, is an eclectic mix.
The look consists of minimalist Danish Modern furniture, hip on-trend appointments, and a 1970s California-surfer girl-coastal vibe. Sea shells, ocean-side photographs, and surfboards are all part of the design scheme.
“There are pieces of the beach everywhere,” said Conrad, who keeps a drawer stocked with bikinis and is devoted to wearing one daily as a way of reminding herself to keep in shape. “Whether buoys and oars from Apalachicola Bay or shells on my mantle partnered with a mannequin hand from my job.”
An orange wool and linen throw from Saks Fifth Avenue, where Conrad has worked for more than 17 years as a personal shopper and stylist, echoes the sunset color of Conrad’s “Vegas” photograph above the bed; she took the photograph from an airplane window looking back at the Las Vegas hills; her photograph “La Femme” hangs at left and “Aruba” at right.
In the backyard she’s used color, cacti and aquatic themes to create an outdoor haven with obvious ties to both her Southwest roots and her frequent beach destinations. Inspiration for the cactus garden also came from her love of architect Frank Ghery, whose own Santa Monica bungalow was seminal. The interior of the home is fragranced with a favorite pinon-scented incense that reminds her of New Mexico and evidence of her jewelry sideline is scattered atop a kitchen table turned workspace. Three separate wardrobes and two closets are neatly organized with a clothing collection accumulated over decades in the fashion industry.
Conrad created her outdoor haven to be part New Orleans, part beach, two of her favorite places.
Conrad has exhibited her work at local galleries, The CAC and New Orleans Auction, as well as in other cities, including New York and Boston. They’ve also appeared in major films – “Twilight,” “Breaking” and “Girls’ Trip.” But, these days Conrad uses her home as the primary showplace for her photographs, all printed, mounted and framed with archival quality materials.
“At this stage, I prefer selling out of my home or working with interior decorators,” she said.
“In my home, people like to sit and have a glass of wine and experience my art as they would in their own homes, so it creates a more personal experience.”
Almond croissants and sparkling sodas in the kitchen near a display of Conrad’s handmade necklaces; blue bucket from Pottery Barn, the yellow ice bucket was a gift from a friend; Conrad’s jewelry is available on her Etsy page – BohoNolaJewelry, by appt. at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Drift 30A in Inlet Beach, Florida.
Works by other artists and photographers including Sean Yseult, Matteo Neivert, David Halliday and Barbara Brainard, all friends, are also displayed for Conrad’s enjoyment.
Like her photographs, Conrad’s home base – likely not to be the last for this self-described “nomad at heart” – tells a story about an occupant engaged in the art of living life to the fullest and using her artistry to share her passions.
“When I take a photograph, I’m capturing a moment in time that meant something to me and then it’s my job to convey that emotion as best I can.”
Conrad’s photograph entitled “Alys” hangs above a large chest; Kartell tray and papier maché bird, from Perch.