Michelle Parenteau, Lead Principal, MICHELLE LEE DESIGNS

Leading Ladies 2024


High above 295 south-bound, Michelle Parenteau smiles against a backdrop of orange. The intrepid entrepreneur is celebrating 20 years in the interior design business, and she’s stopping traffic with her very own billboard. Since founding Michelle Lee Designs, the energetic artist and mom has brought both fun and functionality to a long list of residential and commercial clients, including securing a spot in the restaurant lane.

“As someone on the go a great deal of the time, I don’t often have the time to cook,” Michelle shares. “Ever since childhood, I enjoyed going out to eat. As a patron, I’m drawn to a dining experience. I am looking not only for great food and service, but also for atmosphere.” Michelle relays that as an interior designer, she holds a particular fondness for restaurants because she herself is always looking for “magical” dining experiences. “All elements must work together to make the customer want to return.”

“When I design a restaurant, I create a destination place through the use of bold colors and textures,” Michelle explains. While each finished project speaks to its owner’s vibe, there are tell-tale signs of a Michelle Lee Designs project. Textures abound whether in open lattice on chair backs or ceilings, tufted seating, or shiny tile. There are also patterns on wallpaper or fireplace surrounds, and of course color: bold hues in contrasting or tonal color stories.

While some designers are connected to a single location, Michelle’s portfolio covers all of Rhode Island. Recent projects include Nathaniel’s Bistro, Lincoln; Drip Coffee House, East Greenwich; and Mew’s Tavern, Wakefield. She’s busy at work designing a brick-and-mortar for mobile caterer Ja Patty, and renovating 10 Prime Steak and Sushi, both in Providence. Michelle’s mojo extends from bistro to bedroom: “I help make people’s dreams become a reality.” In a recent work-in-progress peek on Instagram, she posted triumphantly “Goodbye, gray; hello Sherwin-Williams Oceanside!”


1200 Hartford Avenue, Johnston