Transgender remodeler Reilley Lawrence changes rooms — and preconceptions
By Jef Tingley
For 47-year-old home remodeler Reilley Lawrence, life is a series of risks and rewards — both personally and professionally.
Before making the decision to live and work as a transgender woman, Reilley was a self-proclaimed, über-macho military guy parachuting out of airplanes and participating in Operation Desert Storm.
She attributes this “jump in and learn” attitude with helping her hone and perfect her home renovation skills, ultimately leading to her business, Deco Design & Remodel, which she started seven years ago.
Taking another personal risk to be true to herself, about two years ago Reilley began dressing as a woman even when meeting with clients. And despite “a few haters,” once again the risk paid off.
“My [gender identity] has really been a nonissue for my clients,” she says. “I’m very outgoing, and my personality and knowledge overshadow any other issues. In fact, I’ve actually found my business has increased since I started dressing full time.”
But being transgender is only incidental to the approach she takes to working on a remodel.
A big believer in the impact colors can have on a space, Reilley begins new project assessments by aligning color choices with the personalities of the homeowners.
“Reds, oranges and yellows work well for vibrant personalities,” she says. “I have a lot of these in my own home.”
For a more peaceful vibe, she recommends blues and greens or earth tones for the yet-to-decide.
“I did an exterior paint project for this very outgoing, fiery couple,” she explains about one of her favorite projects — painting a craftsman home a vibrant collection of brick red, cream, dark green and pistachio accents. “They loved it. That’s the sign of a successful renovation, you should pull up to your house after a long day, and it should make you happy.”
Remodeling can add value, of course, but it can also put you out while in the process. And sometimes, one room needs it more than another. So when helping clients determine which room to remodel, Reilley recommends those in which homeowners spend the most time to get the biggest “bang for the buck.”
“Home is supposed to be a retreat where you can recharge,” she says. “It should be a space that’s comforting, but also kind of hooks you up to jumper cables.”
She cautions, however, that often times cosmetic changes can go just as far as structural and be much easier on the wallet.
“Tearing down walls sounds good until you see the cost,” she says. To help clients overcome this sticker shock, she walks them through cost effective options that can bring immediate change to make a space more inviting such as paint and trim.
While some clients come to Reilley with a complete vision in mind, others need much more guidance. Reilley recommends the uninspired homeowner look at magazines or take photos of rooms they like to piece together elements of what they want. From there, she even sketches out a rendering of what the finished product might look like.
“I’ll do anything to help get them to stop staring at four white walls,” she says.
A good remodel comes down to being true to your personal aesthetic and creating the space that’s authentic and enjoyable. Having accomplished this in real life, Reilley now helps others down this same inspired path — a fiery yellow one for the outgoing and a peaceful blue one for the more subdued.
For more information, contact Deco Design & Remodel, 972-371-9200. DangerReilley@gmail.com.
Nate Berkus, Oprah’s fave designer, has a new competition show on NBC. Read all about the out hottie in this week’s Dallas Voice and on DallasVoice.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 25, 2014.