“I always knew I wanted to own an interior design business. However, I thought that would only come with 20- or 30-years’ experience,” Hannah (Cushman) Oravec ’14 admitted. Instead, just two years after graduating from Endicott, she founded her Plymouth, Mass., firm Lawless Design, named to honor her great-grandmother and the legacy of growing up in an artistic family. Just this month, Oravec was named a winner of the 2022 New England Home Magazine “5 Under 40” prize, a prestigious award that has previously gone to some of the region’s most creative design and architecture professionals.
While starting her own business felt scary at first, “the good thing about choosing interior design is there weren’t any overhead or startup costs involved,” said Oravec.
Everything she needed was inside her laptop—and imagination. First, she built a website with sample mockups, 3D models, and renderings. Remarkably, clients found her next.
“They didn’t see any of my work—but they saw what I could do,” she said. “It was really awesome that they allowed me to have the opportunity to show them what I was capable of.”
One of those early chances was the renovation and redesign of a 1940’s home originally designed by Bauhaus school founder Walter Gropius, who fled World War II-era Berlin to teach at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. The project helped Oravec make a name for her firm in sustainable design.
Oravec retained the home’s original walnut paneling but added contemporary comforts, like a wildly fun ball pit for the family’s young children in the living room.
“It was a dream of an opportunity, and the clients were really excited about sustainability, and they pushed me,” she remembered.
Oravec credits Endicott’s Interior Architecture program with preparing her to rise so quickly. The coursework was intense, far beyond just learning how to arrange pretty things in a room, and the hands-on experience was life-changing.
“The internships were the most imperative experience at Endicott—the real-world work learning was just so vital,” Oravec said. A concentration in sustainable design paired with a business administration minor landed her solid internships with prestigious commercial design firms. The mentoring that followed was indispensable.
After graduation, Oravec worked for two big commercial design firms, living that cubicle desktop life while helping to design part of Logan Airport. “I missed that client interaction so much,” she said. “I was just designing on the computer.”
She’d planned to climb her way up the ladder until she met her (future) husband, Mike, who already owned his own successful business. “I asked him, ‘What do you mean, you have a business?’” she recalled. She started Lawless a few years later.
Other recent projects include an eco-retreat bathroom, a Beacon Hill living room with original bow windows playing off contemporary materials and artwork that reference the ocean on an overcast morning, and a Scandinavian cottage-style kitchen complete with a cozy electric fireplace.
“For one couple, we found these old, salvaged doors from an antique shop in Maine instead of buying brand new doors,” she said. “Yes, they saved a ton of money, but the choice also added real character to their space and brought out the history of the 150-year-old home.”
It’s these eco-conscious yet stylish ideas that make Oravec’s designs stand out in the New England design scene.
Her parting advice to Endicott’s emerging interior designers? “Know your values,” she said, “but always remember that you’re designing for the clients, and they need to love it, too.”