Interior designer Julia Newman specializes in accessible design for people of all abilities
By Shanee Edwards
“Once I started to see discrimination in design, I couldn’t stop seeing it everywhere,” recalls local interior designer Julia Newman, who now specializes in crafting beautiful living spaces around the specific needs of clients with mobility challenges.
Newman has several degrees, including one from Loyola Marymount University and Cambridge University in England. But she loved the area around LMU so much that she moved nearby and began her career here.
For each interior design project Newman is hired to do, she finds a project that allows her to give back to the community.
“A lot of my friends who are interior designers, their goal is to design for celebrities,” she says. “That’s never been my motivation.”
Newman quickly found a nonprofit organization called Furnishing Hope, based in Orange County. “They work with Wounded Warriors who are veterans with varying abilities. We furnish their homes in ways that works for them,” she explains.
From there, Newman became interested in “accessible design” and took on pro bono clients recently diagnosed with a disability to help their needs, she says. “I’ve also worked with the city to do accessory dwelling units — like granny flats in the back of people’s property for people who were formerly homeless.”
Newman says she gets so much joy out of working with each individual.
“Not everyone is in a wheelchair, not everyone has the same needs. I have one client right now that has a very rare degenerative neurological disorder. She’s able to walk now with a walker, but she’s going to need a wheelchair pretty soon.”
This client has lived in a nearby community for 30 years and doesn’t want to move, “but her house has two steps down into the living room and one step into the kitchen,” says Newman. “Entertaining has always been important to her, so we rearranged her house to make her dining room her living room, added a stair lift to the bedroom, and we removed cabinet doors under the sink so she can wheel in to use the sink.”
It’s no surprise there’s a growing need for this kind of design work as Baby Boomers age.
“Most people want to age at home, so what does that look like? Unfortunately, it’s a lot less expensive to build new homes keeping in mind that they have to be open to changes for accessibility than it is to change existing homes.”
When Newman isn’t using her talents to help those with varying abilities, she’s busy using them in Playa Vista.
“My favorite clients come from Playa Vista,” she says. “One of the things I’ve noticed with almost all my clients in here, they’re often moving from more traditional homes into very contemporary spaces.”
Newman’s design goal is to synthesize the two.
“Some bring all their beautiful antiques, but it’s about finding pieces that make it transitional. One thing that’s unique to Playa Vista is that a lot of homes have the same floor plan or they have a similar look in one building, so it’s a challenge to make it feel individual. It’s truly about listening to what the client wants, seeing what they already have and figuring out how to bridge those pieces.”
A recent client of Newman’s moved to Playa Vista from a large, Spanish-style home in Palos Verdes.
“His family owns an auction house so he had many antiques. A lot of their furniture was too heavy and ornate and didn’t make sense in the Playa Vista home. We kept a lot of the artwork but in terms of the furniture, we simplified. We did a lot of cleaner lines, softer colors – things that really worked in the space.”
As much as she loves her clients in Playa Vista, she hopes the future of design in all communities becomes more accessible.
“People have this assumption that designing for accessibility has to sacrifice aesthetics, that it’s all ramps and hand rails. But for me, it’s a fun challenge to combine function with beauty.”
Contact Julia Newman and view
additional work at juliaadeledesign.com.