In the manner of someone who studied at the Parsons School of Design and worked at several AD100 architectural and interior design firms, Meg Lavalette was on track and eager to open her own bespoke design studio. And so it was in 2015, when she started LAVA Interiors in her New York City apartment. Her self-described mission: “to create unique, personalized spaces that truly reflect the individuals who make their lives in them.” The full-service firm oversees every phase of a project, from design conception through completion.
Over time, LAVA’s design footprint has gotten larger, to include the Catskills region. “After living in the city for 10 years, I moved to Franklin in 2018 to live on a 40-acre farm,” says Lavalette. The tiny village is on the National Register of Historic Places and has a low-key celebrity connection: singer/ songwriter and peace activist Yoko Ono now lives full time on the 600-acre Franklin farm she and John Lennon bought back in the 1970s. “Our neighbors have told us stories of pumping gas years ago at the only station in town and looking over to see Yoko filling up her yellow convertible.”
Nestled in a valley, Lavalette’s 19th-century stone farmhouse is surrounded by woods, meadows, two barns, and a picturesque stream. “Pure bliss,” she says. The design pro started renovations before the pandemic but then placed her own house projects on hold to co-invest in two properties in the historic village: a 12,000-square-foot mixed-use brick structure from the 1860s on Main Street with her best friend, and then a circa-1840s six-bedroom Victorian a couple of blocks away with her boyfriend.
The building on Main houses her seasonal shop, LAVA atelier, in one of the two storefronts that opened in August 2022. Open seasonally on weekends starting on Memorial Day, it contains mostly vintage and antique pieces and lighting from her global travels, along with handmade furniture and art from local fabricators and artists. “This year I’m adding furniture and lighting I’ve designed to the mix,” she says. “The space itself is a workshop for me to explore objects and materials from across the world and through various periods of time.”
LAVA loft, a shoppable Airbnb that’s filled with furniture and lighting, is directly above the atelier. “We took the loft down to the studs and updated all the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing, but kept and restored the original pine floors,” Lavalette points out. “We opened up the space by removing walls and enlarging openings to give it a true open loft concept, so the space feels expansive.”
In the back of the building, Good Taste Epicurean Food Market, offers specialty foods and craft beer as the proprietors await their liquor license to have Franklin’s first wine and liquor shop. And now, Lavalette is looking for a restaurateur to operate Franklin’s first restaurant with a bar in the storefront adjacent to LAVA atelier. “The dry laws being lifted [in 2019] was the impetus to initially explore purchasing this building, so we’re reserving the space for someone who has vision and can execute a food and beverage program that will serve the community and focus on quality and authenticity,” she says. “There’s another open space directly above the vacant storefront, and I’ve been scouting Pilates instructors. Personally, I’d love to have a wellness center to round out the building.”
But Lavalette had more than the Main Street building in mind. “I knew I wanted to invest in a village house for short-term rentals, so families could come stay upstate and experience what we’ve fallen in love with,” she says. “Most of the historic houses here had been sold by the fall of 2021, but there was one on Center Street that never came to market. I told my boyfriend I felt strongly we should find the owner and make an offer as he didn’t even live here full time, but serendipity intervened, and our realtor Susan Barnett came to me the following day and asked if I wanted to see a historic house in the village that wasn’t listed yet.” She literally walked Lavalette over to that very house. They closed on the property a couple of months later and immediately began renovations to restore the Victorian charmer, which is also listed on Airbnb. “Historic restoration and preservation are close to my heart,” she shares. “The properties just needed love.”
“It’s gratifying beyond measure to be the steward of these structures and to have the opportunity to restore and preserve them, keeping our history intact.”