Nature & Nurture
As a direct descendant of Deep South cotton pickers and German Jews who fled Nazi oppression, Cory realized her inherent privilege early on as an only child being raised in an affluent San Francisco Bay Area suburb of California. Surrounded by artfully crafted estates sprawled across manicured landscaping, Cory gained a natural appreciation for architecture and home design. Alluring details among the Mediterranean villas, French chateaus, rustic Craftsmans, English tudors and Japanese-styled mid centuries created no room for discrimination as Cory developed a fondness for each of their unique characteristics.
Cory’s keen eye developed picking up on colors, textures, lines, shapes, weights — and how those elements worked with one another to create a synergy. She was also taken with the astounding effect these various environments had on their dwellers and the various feelings which were evoked from these spaces. Cory credits her eye for design to her natural gift as well as her nurtured upbringing. Each day Cory is humbled with gratitude as she is thankful for the path she walks, which was cleared for her by her family.
Exedra Plaza in Piedmont Park, Piedmont, Ca showcasing the city's iconic vase and arch by Albert Farr 1922
From the start Cory was a visual learner and gravitated towards creative expression through drawing and collaging. She adored her middle school art director who exemplified joyfulness brought by a zest for life, but more clearly to Cory, an enjoyed career. It was at this time Cory came to the resolution she would only be happy if she followed a creative avenue, and pursued art in education and occupation. Her affection for art led to studying Studio Art and Art History at UC Davis where she savored sampling an array of art emphases. She found lithography and serigraphy fascinating – practicing the antiquated methods of printing from etching imagery onto stone plates, and layering colors via silk-screening was an enchanting experience, and delightful way to cohere with early artisans.
While she explored many mediums, she also studied several aspects and eras of art history. She was privileged to take a course led by an artist she always admired, Wayne Thiebaud, who proved to be a creative, gentle, caring and wise soul. He engaged his students with tremendous insight, and encouraged them with excitement for their futures by speaking through his experienced lens as a successful and renowned working artist. At the close of each class, Professor Thiebaud would recite poetry and his adoring class of young minds would pause in silence and awe, much like they would, cherishing his iconic pastry paintings as sugar-hungry children.
Though subjects like Pop Art, Impressionism and Boroque peaked much interest , Cory found her enthusiasm was drawn to courses pertaining to the home. Discovering legendary architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Julia Morgan was eye-opening, but in particular, Cory was impressed by a class called The American Home, which focused on how the layout, furnishings and accessories of the American home was originated and developed from Coloinal Times though the 1960s. Plans were shaped by socioeconomic conditions and largely the women's role as domestic leaders, which resonated with Cory.
Cory's evolutionary passion for interiors refined her career focus to interior design, and to progress her education, Cory completed coursework through UC Berkeley's Interior Design Program.
From Left: "Cut Meringues" by Wayne Thiebaud, 1961; Chloe Dresser by Pottery Barn, ©Pottery Barn/Williams-Sonoma, Inc.; Jiun Ho Stuido; Early morning view from Cory's desk at LMBI office in downtown Oakland, Ca, which is of the Young Women's Christian Association building (ironically where Cory attended Montessori School), beautifully designed by Julia Morgan; A shot of Cory's Montclair Project; Cory (R) with Veranda's Editor-In-Chief, Steele Marcoux at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, Ca for Westweek
Cory held positions at two Bay Area design firms when she was offered the exciting opportunity to work at Pottery Barn's corporate headquarters in San Francisco. Cory joined the Product Development Team which focussed on bedroom furnishings, bath vanities, lighting and hardware. The fast-pace environment was thrilling for Cory, and seeing her concepts come to life in Pottery Barn catalogs felt like quite an accomplishment at 23 years old.
However almost 4 years and 12 retail seasons later, Cory had a yearning to return to residential design. She missed the cultivation of relationships formed by collaborating with clients in their own home, and creating spaces that felt uniquely reflective of that individual. It was a tough decision to walk away from Pottery Barn, but Cory felt her career and personal growth would best be continued through residential design.
Return To Residential
To dip her toes back into residential, Cory moved into contract work at various firms including Jiun Ho, Laura Martin Bovard and Suzanne's Interiors. With a specialized role at each firm, Cory exercised her various skill sets. When Suzanne entrusted Cory to become her lead designer however, Cory flourished and attained a newfound confidence in her design and business expertise.
Cory's project management at Suzanne's encouraged her to pursue her dream of opening her own firm, so she departed Suzanne's with gratitude to officially establish Cory Alisa Fine Arts & Interior Design.
Since 2015 Cory has fortuitously accomplished projects in sophisticated East Bay neighborhoods including Piedmont, Montclair, Claremont and the Berkeley Hills. Cory's eagerness to connect with those she collaborates with has fostered an intimate community of clients, artisans, vendors, brands and of course, fellow designers.
One's path is a compilation of personal experiences and how they are influenced by the experiences which impact them most profoundly. Cory is grateful for the educators, creators and designers that have inspired her, and shaped her journey.
From the archives: Cory standing at the entrance to Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Inc., HQ in San Francisco, CA