The Style Files: Joe Lucas

joe lucas headshot

Joe Lucas is the co-founder of Lucas Studio, a high-end interior design firm based in Los Angeles as well as the proprietor of Harbinger, a favorite design destination in the heart of L.A.’s La Cienega Design Quarter. Hailing from New Jersey, Joe moved to L.A. to pursue his acting career (I totally emailed him one night while watching reruns of Will & Grace— “Was that you, Joe?!”– It sure was!). While his future was ultimately destined for design, Joe applied his East Coast sensibility to the relaxed atmosphere of Southern California, creating spaces that are relaxed, inviting, and polished. Before founding his design firm, Joe worked for Michael S Smith, where he would meet his future business partner, Parrish Chilcoat.

Since establishing the design firm in 2005, Joe and Parrish have completed countless beautiful projects, have cemented themselves among the top design talent in Los Angeles, and have had their work featured in House Beautiful, Traditional Home, ELLE DECOR, Veranda, and Luxe. In 2011, Harbinger moved from a cozy spot in charming Almont Yard to a much larger space on La Cienega Boulevard, while Joe expanded the product selection to include chic fabrics, wallcoverings, and unique finds from all over the globe becoming a go-to resource for designers across the country. To know Joe is to love his wicked sense of humor and to be inspired by his talent and generous spirit. Joe and I recently had a conversation about work, travel, and the constant quest for inspiration. Enjoy!


Paloma Contreras: How would you describe your style?
Joe Lucas: This is always the hardest question to answer. I usually say we, and by WE I am referring to my business partner in Lucas Studio, Inc. Parrish Chilcoat…we usually say we are East Coast Traditional with a West Coast modern edge. We both grew up back east and much of our work is grounded in that sensibility but we love the more modern laid back vibe of the West Coast so it really is a combination of the two. You will pretty rarely see a room of all white linen modern furniture out of us, but at the same time we probably won’t give you an en suite chintz bedroom either. It’s all about the best of both worlds.

Joe Lucas Parrish Chilcoat Profile Shot Patrick Cline Photo Credit{Joe Lucas and Parrish Chilcoat}

PC: What does your home say about you?

JL: It says a lot actually. I am never really happy with how it looks so that says I work too much and don’t focus on my own home! Ha. My better half David and I have somewhat different tastes. He’s more spare and deliberate and I love to layer and collect so our home has become a mix of these two styles. It is nice to have someone to edit you at home too. We have two dogs and they make themselves very comfortable on our furniture so nothing is too precious. But we have filled it with a lot of our favorite finds from our travels.

lucas studio4

{A Vignette in Joe’s Dining Room as featured in Traditional Home}

PC: Where do you turn for inspiration?

JL: Definitely from my travels. I am constantly taking pictures when I am away of details….doors, paint colors, textures of trees to recreate as a finish on a table, architectural details…anything I see that I just love and need to remember. My iPhone has tens of thousands of photos on it!


{A Beautiful Doorway that Joe Captured and Posted to his Instagram during a Recent Trip to Scotland}

PC: Who are your personal style icons?

JL: I absolutely love anything and everything that my friend Steven Gambrel touches. I think he is sort of a genius. I had the absolute pleasure of staying at his home in Sag Harbor and I told him it was the only house I would ever consider buying and moving into and wouldn’t move a single item he has in it. Well maybe I would buy new sheets for the master.

Steven Gambrel Sag Harbor Kitchen

{Steven Gambrel’s Stunning Sag Harbor Kitchen}

PC: What is your guilty pleasure?

JL: Fried Chicken, Chocolate Chip Cookies and So You Think You Can Dance. Put all three together and it is basically the dream night.

lucas studio 6

{Dining Room Designed by Lucas Studio– Fried Chicken and Chocolate Chip Cookies are Optional}

PC: What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

JL: I am very proud of what Parrish and I have built in our business. Leaving an incredibly famous design firm like Michael Smith Inc and going out on your own is very scary but we are so glad we did it. In nine years we have built a very solid client base and completed projects across the country in California, Florida, Montana, Illinois, Tennessee, New York and New Jersey. We also started Harbinger and grew it from a tiny little closet of a showroom to its current 5000sf space in the heart of the La Cienega Design Quarter representing over 40 lines of furniture, fabric, lighting and more. Parrish focuses solely on the design side of the business with me now while I run Harbinger on my own, but to see where we came from and to not only survive the recession but come out thriving feels incredibly good.

lucas studio living room resized

{A Chic Lucas Studio-Designed Living Room}

PC: Finish this sentence: Before I die, I’d like to___________________.

JL: Travel to all seven continents. I know that is not very exciting but there are so many places I would love to see and there is just so little time to get away. Especially in a business like this where we can gain so much inspiration from the places we go and see.


{If you follow Joe on Instagram, then you know how frequently he travels. I have a feeling he will definitely make it to all seven continents sooner rather than later.}

PC: Who/what has been your greatest professional influence?

JL: I think the time I spent working at Michael Smith Inc had a huge influence on me. Not just Michael’s talent and the ability to work on such high profile and beautiful homes, but the group of people that I worked WITH at the time. It was a special time there and it was like we were in a fraternity together or something. In the thick of it all and we worked our butts off but still made sure to find the time to laugh and joke about what it was we were doing. It’s not like we are curing Cancer. God I wish we were. But it can be an incredibly stressful job with the pressure and the deadlines and the details. So the more you can rely on the people you work with everyday and really create a family atmosphere, the better you become. We are all still very good friends and it is exciting to follow everyone’s careers since that time.

lucas studio 3

{East Coast meets West Coast in a Living Room Designed by Lucas Studio}

PC: What is your idea of living “la dolce vita”?

JL: Oh the sweet life….wouldn’t that be nice? I am not far off from it actually. I have a career, a man, two dogs, a family and so many friends that I love. I live in a beautiful city with incredible weather. It doesn’t get too much better. I wouldn’t never say no to a few really big exciting projects to add to the mix. Oh and the month of August off like the Europeans. A they really know how to live la dolce vita!


{Joe and his Partner, David share two sweet Dogs, Fred and Harry}

PC: What can we look forward to next from you?

JL: We actually have a lot of great projects we are working on right now. Almost all of them are ground up construction in either California or New Jersey as people rebuild from the devastation of Super Storm Sandy. The most exciting thing that will be completed this Fall is a project near and dear to my heart that we have been working on and that is the historic restoration of the Bay Head Yacht Club. I grew up at the club and am currently a member. The club had a lot of structural damage from Sandy and over the last year has been going through a $17 million dollar restoration and I was honored to be asked to do the interiors of the 25,000 square foot building. We will hopefully install in October and I can’t wait to see it all come together.


{A Rendering Revealing Joe’s Plans for One of the Dining Rooms at the Bay Head Yacht Club via Instagram}



Go-To Outfit: Blazer, tie, chinos, Chuck Taylors

Style Mantra: Clean, Classic, Comfortable

Scent: Burberry Brit because it’s what David wears

Piece of Jewelry: My brass Giles & Brother Railroad Spike cuff that David gave me for Christmas engraved with my Instagram handle name @Joeyluke.

Color I Never Tire Of: Blue. Or Gray. Or both.

Flower: Gardenia

Indispensable Design Element: The throw pillow. We always say “It’s the backbone of the design industry!”

Era for Design: Now! Because we can combine the best of everything.

Dream Project:  Not one specific thing. A dream project is the perfect storm of a killer architect, an easy going builder, a beautiful home and a fun client who trusts you explicitly. Take the word budget out of the vocabulary and then it goes from a Dream to the 8th Wonder of the World!

Fabric/Textile: I am constantly obsessed with Idarica Gazzoni’s wallpaper and textiles from Milan that was the first line I took to represent at Harbinger.

Hostess Gift: A bottle of Mount Gay Rum…because then I know it will be at the house for me the next time!

Meal: Lobster because it reminds of of special family meals during the summer at the shore.

Drink: Mount Gay Rum & Tonic.

Way to Unwind after a Long Day at Work: See above. Haha. I also tend to go to mindless tv like The Bachelor to wash the day away.


3 Things I Love About My City: The weather. The food. Knowing the beach and mountains are so close…even though I never have time to go to them I just like knowing they are there if I wanted to.

Weekend Destination: Sunday brunch at Soho House

Hotel: The Estancia Vik in Uruguay and Soho House Shoreditch in London

City: I fell in love with Amsterdam last year but I will always love New York City.

Artist: I have a new obsession with José Trujillo from Maldonado, Uruguay so much that I am sponsoring him in LA this summer to paint and then do a show at Harbinger in September. He is amazing.

Song that Always Puts Me in a Great Mood: Landslide by Stevie Nicks. I know it’s not a particularly upbeat song but it will always make me happy and brings back so many memories.

Actor/Actress: Ryan Gosling because well…you know. Cate Blanchett.

Prized Possession: My Grandfather’s 1920’s Hamilton watch.

Risk Worth Taking: Building your business. Every time we decided to grow our business it was always at the worst times financially and personally and it always worked because we had faith in what we were doing.

Greatest Extravagance: Ironed sheets. It is literally my favorite five seconds of the day when I get into bed.

Go-To Color Palette: Grays, blues and greens.

Rule to Break: All of them. Except too small of a rug. That is never ok.

Movie Set Design: Tilda Swinton’s home in Milan in “I Am Love.” Bury my body there please.



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  1. An inspiring interview with a brilliant designer. As someone trying to find their footing in as a decorator, I am near the beginning of the learning curve; reading more about other designers/decorators is very motivational. Thank you for sharing, Paloma.

    1. Jeff, I am so glad you enjoyed the interview and that you are also a fan of Joe’s work. I can attest to the fact that having mentors in the industry and a network of fellow designers is invaluable and allows us to grow and hone our craft while strengthening the industry as a whole.

    1. Thank you, Kristine! I enjoy doing these interviews so very much. So much goes into them, but I feel like this series probably gives the readers a lot in return. I know I learn something valuable with each interview!