The Elizabethtown gallery owner and designer shares the firm’s passion for adaptive reuse and urban revitalization.
When she was a kid, Lisa Clemens once drew floor plans for an old VW bus so she could map out how to pack everything for an imaginary cross-country adventure she was planning.
When playing Barbies with friends, she’d spend more time decorating the doll’s living spaces than staging weddings or playing house with the dolls.
Clemens fell in love with interior design at age 12, when a neighbor lady started passing on old copies of Architectural Digest.
“I was always rearranging my own space – much to my mother’s chagrin,” she said.
Today, the Elizabethtown native is bringing her lifelong passion for design to Murphy & Dittenhafer Interiors as the firm’s new Senior Interior Designer.
Building a career in design
Clemens graduated from Bridgewater College in 1983 with a major in home economics and a minor in art. She married and had children, but she always kept her feet in creative pursuits.
She opened Bedenbaugh Designs in 1985, where she did calligraphy, custom framing, and graphic design. In 2000, she partnered with Lancaster Galleries, opening a second location in Elizabethtown.
Three years later, she bought out her partners, and Lancaster Galleries West became Lynden Gallery, where she offered custom framing, fine art procurement, and interior design services.
Throughout her career, Clemens has fostered her passion for interiors. She’s tackled various projects: restoring a dilapidated 1900s-era Victorian home; adaptive reuse of the fire hall that houses Lynden Gallery; and designing office suites for The Hershey Company.
A major part of her interest in interior design comes from listening to clients and learning what they’re about so she can translate it into good design. She loves the eclectic nature of design – melding contemporary art with found objects, putting things people care about together.
A desire to better understand the language and tools of interior design drove Clemens to get her Master’s in Interior Architecture and Design from Drexel University in 2013.
“Creating spaces, knocking down walls and rethinking spaces is what gets me up in the morning,” she said.
The perfect next step
Clemens met Frank Dittenhafer II, FAIA, LEED AP, and his wife, Sue Ann Kline, in 2001. Over the years, she and Dittenhafer would express envy about the work one or the other was doing – both share an interest in adaptive reuse and urban revitalization.
Clemens would mention to Dittenhafer off-hand that if his firm ever needed a designer, he should let her know.
Then, in early January, Clemens was stopping in York to assist with some new framing installations in Murphy & Dittenhafer’s Hotel Codorus and “c o d” buildings, and Dittenhafer mentioned an opening for a Senior Interior Designer.
“When the position to co-lead Murphy & Dittenhafer Interiors (with Frank) became available, I immediately thought of Lisa,” he said.
Dittenhafer said, “Lisa and I have very similar design sensibilities – including a passion for transforming older structures, reinvigorating downtown urban areas, infusing interior environments with color, pattern and texture – and creating visually engaging places that not only function well but inspire those who use the space. We are both passionately committed to creating Interiors where people want to spend time.”
Initially, Clemens figured she could help out part time while still running her gallery. But she quickly realized M&D Interiors needed someone for a full-time position, and she knew she wanted to be that someone.
“This is the job I would’ve gone looking for,” she said.
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Now, Clemens is hoping to find a buyer for her gallery so that it can live on without her. Leaving behind the business she’s invested in for the past 16 years is bittersweet, she said. But she’s eager to start collaborating with other creative individuals after having spent so many years on her own.
“I’m looking forward to doing all the things I used to, only on a larger scale,” she said. “I’m just so excited to be here – it feels like the perfect next step.”
Dittenhafer is also looking forward to their collaboration.
“Lisa Clemens brings the talent, skill sets, energy and design sensibilities that Murphy & Dittenhafer Interiors clients throughout the Mid-Atlantic region have come to expect and have consistently received for many years,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for Lisa and for M&D.”