This interview was originally published on Warburg Realty’s Agent Spotlight, a new series that sits down with agents to get to learn their likes and dislikes about the industry, hobbies and passions, how they spend their down time, and much more.
Named a top 5 broker for 5 consecutive years, Lisa Larson has an unyielding commitment to her clients’ needs. Paramount to Lisa’s success has been her reputation as a trusted advisor. Her ability to build and maintain loyal relationships along with her tireless work ethic have been responsible for her rapid success in real estate. Today we sit down with Lisa to learn about her passion for running, her paint color of choice and how she spearheaded a thoughtful renovation on her Nantucket home.
Warburg Realty (WR): How did you enter the real estate industry?
Lisa Larson (LL): The beauty of this business is the fact that, like me, most of my colleagues came from other careers. After contemplating a life in academia, I pivoted from a Ph.D. program to an early career in retail buying. The lure of the academic world was strong, however, and when I got an invitation to join a small environmental engineering consulting firm — an opportunity that combined academic research with business — I jumped at the offer. I managed, then later owned and grew the company, so it was also my first taste of entrepreneurship, and I loved that my decisions had an almost immediate effect on the business.
Eventually, I craved something that would allow me to work more directly with people while still offering the thrill of running my own business. Having renovated several apartments and houses in different cities, I always had a passion for design and architecture. In fact, I often spent Sunday afternoons going to open houses “just for fun.” It happened so often that my husband would tease me, saying I should at least get paid for spending Sunday afternoons away from the family.
With that, I took the plunge. I interviewed at several firms, but the moment I met Fred Peters, I knew Warburg was the place for me. Not only did he remind me of my father (he has a very professorial vibe), but having run a business myself, I was impressed by his boots-on-the-ground commitment to his agents.
WR: On your down time, where can you be found?
LL: Running laps around the Central Park Reservoir, preferably at sunrise. I have been running since I was 12 years old when I had to join the boys’ middle school cross-country team because there were not enough girls to field a group of our own. After college, the thrill of competing wore off, but my addiction was deep-seated, and running continued to be as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth. Today, I cherish my runs as the only time during the day that is truly my own, and I love that my daughter shares my running passion. (My son is a work in progress.) I am fortunate to serve on the board of directors of the USA Track & Field Foundation, which helps elite athletes and Olympic hopefuls develop and fulfill their potential on the world stage. The organization also supports new and innovative track and field programs and educational initiatives that encourage young runners, promoting character building and providing opportunities regardless of socio-economic boundaries.
WR: What inspired you to choose Nantucket for your second home?
LL: At the risk of sounding cheesy, I believe that everyone has a “happy place.” A place where the demands of daily life simply fade away. Nantucket is that for me, and while only a 45-minute plane ride away, it feels like a million miles away from Manhattan. My parents and my entire extended family were born and raised in Boston, and I spent summers visiting my grandparents, so being in New England makes me feel rooted. My husband is from California, which culturally is about as different from the Northeast as you can get. Nantucket, with its windswept landscape and beautiful beaches, has become the perfect marriage of our diverse childhood experiences and has allowed us to create traditions and memories for our children that are distinct to our nuclear family. Plus, the light on the island is nothing short of magic. You literally cannot take a bad picture there.
We have been lucky enough to have spent more than 20 years going to Nantucket. We started by staying in B&B’s, then we rented, and later we bought a small cottage. Finally, two years ago, we purchased the house we hope to have for the long term. It was in need of serious TLC and it became my latest project. Nantucket has some of the strictest historic preservation laws in the country, and, for that, I am grateful because it helps maintain the integrity of the island. Renovating has always been a huge thrill for me, but this time I really loved the challenge of working within the confines of the existing structure, instead of knocking it down and starting fresh. Our house is just quirky enough for me (one single room has a combination of a pitched, flat and slanted ceiling) to give it a soul.
WR: What is your favorite paint color?
LL: Only Natural or Modest White by Sherwin-Williams. I’m guessing most would pick a “real” color, but I love all-white interiors. Its warm white with a blush to it. Whether seen by the light of a wood-burning fireplace or in direct sunlight, the paint is calming and radiant all at once. To be sure, it needs to be mixed with interesting furniture. I like to get a sense of an owner’s personality when I walk into a home. For me, that is a mix of vintage furnishings and new, organic materials like wood and metal, and fabrics in smoky amethyst and different shades of gray from blackish stone to cloud gray.
WR: What’s your perfect weekend in Manhattan?
LL: This is easy, and it’s fairly simple. I’ll take a stab at an abbreviated and personal “36 hours in…”
Saturday, 7 a.m. — Wake up, run the Central Park Reservoir, and end at Yura, my neighborhood café, to get my morning coffee. I’ve always enjoyed grabbing coffee while I’m out. In fact, I only own a coffeemaker so that my house guests don’t feel deprived. It tastes best after a long run or walk, especially when sipped while sitting on a bench and people-watching. There is no better people-watching than in NYC (with apologies and a nod to my previous favorite: Berkeley, California).
Saturday, 10 a.m. — Head downtown with my family and meander, usually on the Lower East Side, the neighborhood which is home to my favorite museum in Manhattan — The Tenement Museum. I have a master’s degree in history and relatives who immigrated from Italy, so that may color my affection for it.
Saturday, 1 p.m. — Lunch at Westville, at the original location on West 10th Street.
Saturday, 3 p.m. — Stroll the Chelsea art galleries, hoping to spot one of Lu Cong’s paintings. He is my current favorite artist, and so it’s a thrill to see his work up close and personal.
Saturday, 6:30 p.m. — Drinks at Norwood Club on West 14th Street, either in the back garden in warm weather, or by one of its 13 marble fireplaces. I love the history of this gorgeous 1847 house. With its curving staircase, mahogany interior doors, and elaborate plaster ceiling moldings, every room is a work of art.
Saturday, 8 p.m. — Dinner at Sushi Nakazawa. It’s the more friendly and slower-paced Jiro, the famed sushi restaurant in Tokyo, where Chef Nakazawa apprenticed and which inspired the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Saturday, 10 p.m. — Music at Irving Plaza, Bowery Ballroom or Webster Hall, depending on who is headlining.
Saturday, Midnight — Sleep at Lafayette House. It is technically a hotel, but it is more like staying at your own impeccably designed 1848 four-story brownstone in the heart of downtown Manhattan. There is no lobby at which to check-in, instead you pick up your key at the lounge/bar down the street and let yourself into one of their 15 rooms, all filled with gorgeous oriental rugs and antiques and wood-burning fireplaces. It’s definitely not a place to be seen, and it offers no amenities aside from a lovely rooftop terrace and outdoor garden, but it is old world luxury without being stuffy. And it does have Wi-Fi!
Sunday — I’m usually working, but if I’m not, I’d be on Randall’s Island watching my son play soccer. I prefer to walk over the footbridge instead of getting in a car or taxi. Bring your running shoes, since some fields can be far. After the game, I’d head to lunch back in my neighborhood on Museum Mile, most likely at Bluestone Lane, located in a historic 19th-century church right across the street from the Engineer’s Gate 90th Street entrance to Central Park. I love how the dramatic sandstone archways contrast with the blue subway-tiled counter. They offer outdoor seating in nice weather, so I can bring my two dogs with me.